Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Settling Back In

The window in our apartment in rural Alaska, which I stared out of in the afternoons, anxiously awaiting Curtis's return home.

Curtis couldn't sleep last night, and I awoke in the middle of the night to an empty bed. In the midst of the middle-of-the-night haze, I could not remember if he was supposed to be home or not. Was he at the hospital? The middle of nowhere Alaska? Doing something else I should remember? He has never been as consistent of a sleeper as I have, prone to getting up in the middle of the night to read for a while, cuddled up on the couch. I guess I never knew that people did this before I was married. I assumed that all adults, once tucked into bed for the evening, stayed there as they had been trained to as children-- until the acceptable time to get up had arrived.

I am finding that this summer's separation has sent me into a nostalgic, reflective state about our marriage, which marked four years while we were hundreds of miles apart. Perhaps the old adage is true: absence makes the heart grow fonder. I would also add that it reminds you of all the things you used to have control of while you were single, and all the ways you have grown to accommodate another once you share the same home.

One of my professors in college lost her husband to an unexpected health tragedy before I met her, leaving her as a single mom with two small children. One of her friends painted a watercolor series to represent this experience in her life, characterizing two trees that grew together, only to have one fade away. I was always haunted by this artwork as a student visiting her house, and I continue to remember this visual--especially as I have a spouse of my own that I have become intertwined with. The absence of what has become a fixture truly changes the way one operates in life, no matter how much I try to convince myself that my independence leaves me largely unaffected.

One of my coworkers was reunited with her husband after seeing him only once this last year. His military absence, the third they have endured in over twenty years of marriage, strains their relationship to say the least. Yet this coworker is quick to remark about how much better things are now than they were in the past--Skype alone has revolutionized what it means to be across the world or across the state.

Sometimes my students remark on the beauty that will be their lives someday, when homework is a thing of the past, as will be parental boundaries, mandatory dress codes and other restraints by which they feel stifled. When they remark about this future perfection I try to remind them with stories of my own that life is never perfect: there is always someone telling you what to do, how to dress, and restraining your "ideal" with reality. This world we live in is beautiful and fulfilling, but it is also broken.

I guess that is the beauty of a separation that has finally come to an end; it leaves me so thankful for the struggles that come in sharing living space, because they are also accompanied with joy. This morning I asked my coworker how married life was treating her these days. She commented quickly that she's never been so happy to be frustrated with her spouse. "It's glorious," she stated.

And even though our two month separation isn't anything close to a year, I would surely agree.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. That bit about the painting is now going to haunt me, too. I can't even imagine.

    love you.