San Francisco, 1978: Paul rolls out from under a car at his auto repair shop, Chuck asks “Who’s the blonde?” They spend the summer camping, falling in love. Autumn arrives, Chuck ends it: “I’m 20, too young to settle down.” Paul’s devastated. 2010: they run into each other at an RV park. In serious relationships, they reconnect as friends. Within six months, they’re both single. Chuck’s devastated: “I’m 54, who would want this?” Paul hugs him so tight Chuck’s rib cracks. 2017: 39 years after meeting, they marry. Chuck: “I broke your heart, you broke my rib. Call it even?”
My sister’s final goal before 40: run a marathon. So my brothers and I signed up, too. After months of training and planning—triumphs and setbacks shared almost daily to our family text thread—we stood atop a frigid Utah peak at dawn, sloughed off gloves and blankets, hugged good luck, and ran. As Kelly crossed the finish line some hours later, sweaty but smiling, loved ones cheering her name, I thought about our mom, beaming from wherever she is now, proud and in awe of these lives she helped create. 40 years, 26.2 miles, love beyond measure. Happy birthday, Kel.
Chicago to Salt Lake. I’d planned to fly before she invited me on the train. 32 hours, 23 stops, 1,300 miles, aunt and nephew sharing a six by three-and-a-half-foot roomette, sleeping on seats folded into bunks. We hadn’t talked, really talked, in years. Our politics differed, an impasse reached. As we rode over the Mississippi, through the Plains, into the Rockies, we pointed out clouds, deer, mooning kayakers. Just beyond Kremmling I showed her how to apply a charcoal face mask, she poured us wine. We laughed, shared, healed. An American president divided us, America brought us back together.
A three-year affair. Fiery, dizzying, painful. Sunrise runs, seaside hikes, heartbreaks in parked cars; countless I love yous exchanged in secret. Year Four: drunk, he watched his husband kiss me from another room. Voices raised, explanations demanded, a truth revealed: “I have feelings for him, too.” A throuple formed. We made love, I learned cribbage, future plans forged. Puzzled, our children raised questions, neighbors got wind, rumors swirled. Bitter words exchanged, longtime friendships ended, a house sold. Impaired, we hung on for two years, bleeding hope into the ashes. It ended with a text: “You’re right, this isn’t gonna work.”