Claire will be here in a few hours! Her mom and dad are ripping out old carpet today and new carpet will be laid tomorrow, and since tacking and 2 1/2-year-old feet are not compatible, Claire will spend a few days with Grammy Lynn.
I thought since I will be disposed for a few days, I’d post an essay I wrote in December 2006. Saturday would be my 28th wedding anniversary, and thankfully April 3 will end another year of anniversaries. All the more reason to love spring.
“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”
I forget his face sometimes. I try really hard and shut my eyes tight and I can sense his body, but I can’t see his face. I guess it’s because I never thought to remember those everyday moments of seeing someone I thought would be there forever.
I know I looked in Bruce’s eyes at our wedding when we said our vows. I know I was holding his hands. I know I kissed him at the reception every time someone clinked their glasses. But I don’t remember looking into his eyes.
I remember stopping at the bowling alley on our way to the Holiday Inn in Sioux Falls and eating hamburgers while still dressed in our wedding clothes. I remember taking the dozens of hair pins out of my hair that night and him laughing at the sticking up curly mess they left. I know we made love, but I can’t see his face.
I know Bruce’s eyes when I see them in photographs. They were soft and brown like a puppy’s, but because I can’t see them in my mind’s eye, I fear we never were. Did Bruce really exist or did his death take our history? Our daughter is real and her eyes look like his, but when I look at her I see Carlene, not Bruce.
Then, on a dark, gray, rainy morning more than 23 years later, listening to Roberta Flack sing “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” a small detail emerged. It unfolded in my mind like a delicate piece of paper. The detail was so small, and yet I burst into tears in the parking lot of the gym – happy it was there and so sad that he wasn’t.
I remembered the softness of the hair on his chest.
What happened next was a cascade of remembering. One thought created a flood of memories I never wanted to forget again, and so I wrote them down on deposit slips from my checkbook because I had no paper with me.
I remembered how we’d lay on our bed and talk for hours listening to music with just the light from the stereo shining on us. I loved to touch his hair lightly and run my fingers across his muscles while my head rested just below his shoulder.
I remembered the feeling of missing him when he was away at work, the thrill of hearing his truck pull into the drive, holding his hand while we drove, watching him drum the steering wheel to “Juke Box Hero” while driving our red Citation.
I remembered watching him feed cows and vaccinate pigs and sitting with him in the tractor in the pitch dark waiting for his brother to return from combining beans. We sang “Endless Love” at the top of our lungs – he singing Diana Ross’s part and me Lionel Ritchie’s.
I remembered taking off my shirt one Sunday afternoon in spring as we walked through the pasture and the freedom of making love to him in the sunshine.
I remembered the night a few days before Carlene was born when I was watching TV alone and suddenly went cold inside. I had a feeling Bruce was dead. He was bowling (it was league night) and I called the bowling alley. They got him on the phone and I said, “I know this sounds stupid, but would you come home?” Five minutes later I heard a train whistle. I started crying, convinced he’d not heard it. A few minutes later, his headlights shined on our garage. I greeted him at the door, bawling, and he laughed lightly and reassured me he was fine. We blamed it on hormones and sat on the couch and watched the last episode of MASH. Two weeks later, he was killed by a train.
Sometimes I think I’ve clogged my life with so much busyness that I don’t know which moments are truly important enough to remember. Thank god Roberta Flack and her bittersweet song helped me remember that long ago there was a boy who made me feel unlike anyone ever has, and that he had soft hair on his chest.