The Full Catastrophe

My husband and I had the worst day trip ever. It was meant to be a much needed restorative sense of play. But was met with one dead end after another. So increasingly absurd as to render tragedy into comedy. The dark kind. Without pleasure as a distraction.

But I don’t think it was us. I think it was the day.

And as far as suffering goes, we got off easy.
Nothing like some low-grade deprivation to open up one’s heart to the profound ache all around us.

We also drove past not just one but two sets of wild turkey crossing—a single Tom and later four hens; and not just one but two outdoor wedding parties—with only yards between our distress and their joy—the second at the very moment the bride & the groom, facing each other, hands joined, spoke their vows in a dooryard/roadside ceremony; the other during a post ceremony photo shoot on the lawn of an inn where the bridal party crossed in front of us and the groom turned from the camera toward us to smile.

Which is to say~the full catastrophe.


Last week, or was it the week before last, my husband and I went to a concert, and over a beer in the courtyard before the show, it occurred to me that this was our first concert without the kids.

Is that possible?

When I was pregnant with my oldest, it was Michelle Shocked, Tuck & Patti, Sara Hickman, The Dead with Bob Dylan, and then once our first was born (and don’t judge me; I lived in the Rockies as a kid)–it was John Denver, then Bonnie Raitt with Lyle Lovett, James Taylor, The Prairie Home Companion, and somewhere in there Yo-Yo Ma (who played a few songs with Garrison or JT), Paul Simon; Earth, Wind & Fire, and I know I’ve missed some (along with a handful of classical ensembles & symphonies and loads of local bands); but I can’t recall a single major concert without the kids.

How is that possible?

And now Ray LaMontagne (Casey’s choice.) Alone. Like we will be. Forever. Time stretched out before us on a blank canvass. Or at the edge of a cliff.

And while I was pleasantly surprised with MASS MoCA as a performance venue, I resented Casey, not only because I didn’t recognize a single song, and it was too loud, but because we had arrived together at—an end—and there was only him—like a slap in the face.

When I was very pregnant with our first, a colleague invited us over for dinner, and she pulled out an album and began to weep as she looked at the photo of her husband with their newborn.

I immediately understood. She was feeling what I was fearing. The way motherhood would separate me from the man I loved, from the sweetness of our couple-hood—which spanned an entire decade—from the Atlantic to the Rockies to a backpacking summer through Europe to these Green Mountains where we settled just ahead of turning 30. (I’ll be 55 this year.)

But I had misunderstood, and my friend’s response chilled me.

She wasn’t grieving her husband, she was grieving the loss of her newborn. Even while the child nursed on her lap!

My breast and my lap are long empty, and soon my house will be too.

What is the point of it without them? What is the point of us?

I hate Casey.

Last night I found myself crying.

I blame it on Mr. Rogers.

We went to see the documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? where afterward they should have distributed warm washcloths—to wipe our faces and bring us comfort–before exiting the womb of the theater for the brightly lit lobby; which is to say–I was primed for feeling my feelings and thus faced with the departure of my youngest for a week at camp (The Engineering strand of the Governor’s Institute of Vermont at a University), I wept into the future, which we get to rehearse this coming week.

We’ve spent a quarter of a century inside this all-encompassing womb of family life. And suddenly the bright lights are on the horizon. A new beginning. Entirely unknown. Barely considered. (Who has time!) As unfathomable as becoming parents once was.

Road Trip, Part II.

(Part I. Oldies R Us?)

Singing along to songs on the Oldies station, my hands go to my throat, noticing the glands are still swollen from the cold I came down with last week.

“It’s a good thing I’m not a famous singer with a concert tonight,” I say to my  husband as he pulls off the highway. “I have no range.”

Casey approaches the traffic light, without any response.

“What would I do if I was a famous singer with a concert tonight?” I prod him.

“You’d cancel,” he says, as he navigates the left turn onto the coastal route.

“But I would have had to cancel the entire past week,” I say, as we come to another stop.

“Yep,” he says, not a bit concerned.

“That would be really stressful,” I say, “I’m relieved that I don’t have a string of concerts scheduled this week.”

Oldies R Us?

I like audiobooks on Road Trips, especially non-fiction.

My husband prefers the radio.

In an effort to lend greater equity, I scroll the stations and discover that the display on his car provides information on each one in the area:

Top 40’s

None of the Rock Stations have good reception. The Top 40 is nothing we recognize (or want to recognize.) Country is out of the question (for me), and who wants old people’s music. ‘

But then it occurs to me, maybe it’s our music.
Maybe Oldies is US.

It was.

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