“The Journey is Everything.”
That statement is on a towel in our kitchen.
Until recently, it was a pleasant aphorism. Now as I reflect on a coda, played too soon, it takes on a more profound significance. If I foreknew the ending, would I begin? Yes. The bliss I have tasted far outweighs the anguish of loss. I weep for Mnemosyne.
Before time what? What after?
How measure eternity? A nanosecond, an eon? A decade, a moment?
I would be always 7 years old. But then I wasn’t. St. Louis, the forever tenth largest city, fell off of the chart. The Browns, the Cardinals’ poor relations, moved to Baltimore. The French New Wave introduced us to movies that weren’t from Hollywood and were unquestionably art. Johnny Carson moved to Burbank. The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. The Giants moved to San Francisco. Grandma and Grandpa remained the kindest most generous people in the world.
Cosmic events! Save the moment. Ah, the Moment!
After an aimless adolescence, I finished college, got married, started a career in information technology, had two kids, had my kids ripped out of my life, experienced a meandering odyssey, then found my rudder. Some occasions are epiphanies. Truly, I was setting off.
Meanwhile, Carole and her sisters were fulfilling their destinies as the Vets Sanitation Inc. call center. She graduated from OHS then studied dental hygiene at Broome Tech. With her license in hand, Carole went on to practice in New York and California. Life goes on. Then she crossed paths with me in Houston.
After Carole and I connected in Houston, we took a number of steps on our shared path. Her first was noticing me at a party. I was oblivious. So it goes. Mine happened in the fullness of time when I landed an elbow on her head in the excitement of a volleyball game. Our first singularly shared event happened when I manipulated history in order to spend a day with her at Surfside Beach and summoned the courage to kiss her.
A few months later, we joined a half dozen friends on an expedition around Copper Canyon in Mexico. I know the exact moment we realized our destiny. It was en route home from that holiday.
Our honeymoon proceeded after a few months, with our blended family taking it in three legs. We stopped at Walt Disney World, Oneonta and St. Louis, which Carole dubbed the land of giants. My dad and his siblings were unusually tall.
A few years passed, and Carole met with an independent oilman. After a brief conversation, he offered to double her salary if she would come to work for him. Too late, we noticed this guy was in the newspapers, first as a defendant in a securities case, then as a key witness in a federal bribery corruption trial. His attorney was wounded in an assassination attempt. She was the office manager at his company. I feared that her seat between the principal and the door put her in the line of fire.
Later, we were both working retirees when we moved to Oneonta to help care for her ailing parents. Time passed. Eventually, Carole experienced difficulty for which she entered inpatient physical therapy. Communication was fraught. This continued for weeks. Then, shortly before she tested positive for COVID, we were holding hands. I saw the spark that occasionally lit her face and she said, “I love you.” “And I you,” I replied. After that encounter, I jotted some thoughts so I could relive the Eternal Moment.
Nonverbal say the healers. Yet you speak. Professing my love, I fix my gaze. Yours comes back. A sweet smile. “I love you.” “And I you.” That reply brings endless joy. Orbits measure time. And so, rotations and their fractions. What metric the moment? Ah, the Moment! Cherish it. It is eternity.
The next week she was gone.
“The Journey is Everything.”