The part after forever
My last trip
A year ago I was flying from Cleveland to Cluj in Romania through Washington DC and Munich.
I had a great visit that included speaking and giving a workshop at an iOS conference, taking a walking tour of the city, and meeting up for coffee and wonderful meals with friends.
I flew back, threw my clothes in the washer and drier, kept an appointment with a sleep doctor, and flew to Phoenix to teach at USAA.
A friend had encouraged me to fly in early enough on Sunday to attend a Spring training game of Cleveland vs Kansas City. I’m so glad I did.
I taught for three days, flew back to Cleveland, and I’ve been here ever since.
It was completely crazy to travel the way I had been. Romania on Thursday. Phoenix on Sunday.
But I haven’t wandered far from my house in nearly a year.
I haven’t seen friends in what seems like forever.
This weekend was both the Lunar New Year and Valentine’s Day.
It’s funny. Kim and I always celebrated the former and almost never celebrated the latter.
There was a year that we joined our friends Lori and Marshall for dinner, but he had some deal at a club and they wanted to share good food with people who would appreciate it. Lori wasn’t sick yet - at least not outwardly. It’s the last meal I remember sharing with her where she really enjoyed every bite.
There was also the year that I proposed to Kim on Valentine’s Day.
It wasn’t because it was a trite or romantic thing to do.
Kim was terrible with dates. It took her years to remember our wedding anniversary. And even longer to remember my birthday.
On second thought, it’s not that she was terrible with all dates. She remembered the dog’s birthday.
It turns out, there wasn’t a lesson in that.
Anyway, Kim had known since before we dated that if we dated we’d get married. I figured it out along the way. And so, on the eve of Valentine’s Day 1993 I took her to work with me.
As a radio DJ I often worked on holidays. That year I was hosting a special party for our listeners at a late night comedy show at the Cleveland Improv. Kim often came with me and chatted with the listeners while I disappeared backstage to prepare for a quick intro of the evening’s performers.
I could never see much from the stage with the lights in my eyes but I always felt better when I knew Kim was out there.
I always wanted her to be out there.
And so I proposed.
Not from the stage. Not even at the club. But the next morning - and in our own way.
Kim loved sign language. So I had found a finger spelling font and enlisted a friend to print out my sign which spelled out “Will you marry me”.
I’d taped it to her bathroom mirror before leaving her apartment after the show.
In the morning I met a friend at the gym and Kim went to church. After, we met for breakfast at Big Als.
She came in, sat down, and signed, “yes”.
That was it.
Forever starts just like that.
She ordered her usual pecan waffles. I ordered my usual corned beef hash.
In some ways forever isn’t much different than it was last week when we met for breakfast.
Except now we were engaged.
One of the things that has made this last year feel like forever is that there is no end in sight.
If people had just done what they were asked to do, this could have been over months ago.
If our government had just done what they were elected to do, half a million lives could have been saved.
We see no end in sight and so we lose hope.
That’s certainly one side of forever.
Being married to Kim was the other side of forever.
But when you get married they often say to you “forever and ever”.
After this pandemic is over and this forever comes to an end, how will you live the rest of your life?
After Kim was killed I had to answer that question before I was able.
When that forever comes to an end, how will you live the rest of your life?
That’s the “and ever” part.
This Valentine’s Day I didn’t do anything special.
Kim and I almost never did.
But I thought of her.
And I thought of her sitting across from me signing “yes” and then taking my hand in hers as we turned to the waitress and ordered a pecan waffle and corned beef hash.
And as short as forever is and can be, “and ever” never ends.
Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 47. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe