Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

New connection to an old friend

May 3, 2017

You think you know someone. Forty plus years of being friends, starting in college. Years of jaunts to the ski slopes, museums, countless parks and restaurants and you’re pretty sure you’ve got the goods on your pal. We’ve known each other prior to each of our marriages, have been there for births, deaths, illness, the full gamut of what life offers to friends.

Then one day my pally calls up and puts it out there: “I’ve really wanted to go to Patagonia (news to me) and George is just not interested; he travels so much for work. Do you want to go? I’ve been working with a travel agent to organize it.” (Says the consummate planner).

I feel this kind of trip deserves some serious consideration. We’re talking two full weeks and considerable expense. I’ve never traveled more than a weekend without family so I take a full seventeen seconds before shouting, “OF COURSE I WANT TO GO!” There are a couple of details she runs by me before finalizing the itinerary. All I know is that we will be doing lots of hiking (something we have never done together) while we visit glaciers and the stark Patagonian steppe and mountains.

I’m so in, helpless to resist an opportunity to move my body and immerse myself in the outdoors. We know we will be able to give each other space when necessary. Our biggest concern is that I like to sleep in a cool room (read less than sixty degrees), while Susan is cold once the temperature dips below seventy-five.

I learned that Susan’s determination to have something “just right” means that she will walk beyond her hunger danger zone to find just the right place to eat. I learned that when she says “I’m just going to have my coffee and relax” in the morning that I should open the door and then wait fifteen minutes before joining her.

I have known that despite her diminutive stature (five foot one and a size two or zero) she is wiry and strong, but hiking fourteen miles together without flagging demonstrates it in an altogether more graphic way.

We both expressed some concern about the cruise portion of our trip. A small boat designed to navigate the fiords for three days takes us down “glacier alley” and around Cape Horn. We worried about our ability to remain friendly and civil in close quarters with other people (let alone each other) and an hour and half into the cruise Susan turns to me at dinner and utters, “I don’t think I’ll ever do another cruise again.” We both burst out laughing at the absurdity of this preemptive optimism, and there proves to be sufficient excursions and hikes to crush our claustrophobic tendencies.

I become completely absorbed in the vast steppe of the Patagonian landscape, its openness and predictable sighting of guanaco, rhea (ostrich), the occasional fox or condor and the elusive puma. I could not get enough of the jagged, glacier topped mountains which jut up from almost wherever we walk, ride, or sit. Their enduring presence promotes a deep abiding sense of peace and fullness of spirit.

Although we never talk about it, I realize that this is true for Susan, too. We discuss everything from our children to our own childhoods, but this sense of connection to our planet is an underlying, unspoken, and all encompassing theme. It is the cord that binds us to each other, and to the beauty of our world. It was there all along, but it took us to the southern most point of South America for this to emerge in my consciousness.

One does not stumble upon Patagonia. It takes a determined and committed effort to get there. So, too, does enduring friendship require us to navigate periodic cross currents, sun, and downpours. I am deeply grateful to experience both.

An image of youthful daring nurtured

November 15, 2016

I knew before walking into the gallery that the images greeting me would be spectacular. Even in their mini version online they are captivating: complete, compelling and fulfilling. Rendered large they command the space, emanating a sense of wonder at the beauty that exists on our planet. The lines and color and juxtaposition of hues at once capture a very specific moment in time as well as an eternity, an enduring sense of timelessness. Photographer Seth Resnick talks about his interaction with his subjects both human and not, the exchange of energy that he allows and encourages. This reflects in the mages that emerge. They are rich, full of intention and respect. Paired with glass sculptures by master Peter Bremers, which offer a gorgeous complementary interpretation of similar themes, the exhibit is an extraordinary treat.

I am reminded of a long ago tennis instruction to swing through the ball, not to just meet it. Using the body and a full swing gives the ball much more power and impact. Same with music. Even with an instrument such as piano, where the notes are struck, one can imbue deep meaning by allowing emotion to flow through and convey feeling.

So too, with the click of a shutter a great is transmitted which draws upon selection, pattern, and a sense that is only developed through experience and constant attention.

The added dimension of delight in this exhibit is that I have known Seth since birth. Our mothers were friends who started a preschool when we were three (which we evidently ruled until we left for kindergarten). We spent many contented hours at play and I recall Seth’s passion and zeal for whatever he did. His fascination with rocks was evident as a child and he used the tumbler to polish the stones to a glittering shine. We dragged lawn chairs in front of the house at night to gaze at the sky, and this early devotion to the natural world has clearly carried through to the work he produces today. Seth worked at a pet store as a teenager and created elaborate fish tanks at home, perhaps nurturing his eye for color, form and pattern.

Most fun all is that although we were largely not in the same classes in our enormous high school, we both took photography for the first time as seniors. Our overcrowded school was on split sessions and there were a number of us who enjoyed countless unscheduled hours in the lab perfecting our prints. Who could have known that this nascent time experimenting in photography would be the thread that would power Seth’s career. My own experience in the darkroom was that time became irrelevant, and I would often find that hours elapsed before being willing to stop and take a break.

Seth’s singularity of focus, dedication to his craft, and eagerness to engage with the world have coalesced in the sophisticated artist he is today. His continued fixation with light, texture, shape and openness to understand what he encounters distill the images to exquisite, dramatic moments.

Visiting his exhibit at the Sohn Gallery in Lenox was a deeply satisfying look at a prolific and influential leader in photography today. And for me, it was a reconnection with my childhood pal and seeing how the exuberance of youth, nurtured and developed by family and education can illuminate a path to international expertise. It inspires us to be the best of who we are, open to possibility, embracing opportunity with the confidence that new experience determines who we can be as much as we influence what we find. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Valentine Presence

February 26, 2016

We moved our daughter into an apartment yesterday. She’s 25, and excited about this move, ready to get to know a new town that has to this point been a place she has visited a bunch of times. The apartment is perfectly situated near the center of town, with easy access to the highway as well as public transportation. It’s spacious and light, and she will share it with two other friends.

None of this sounds so unusual. What is unusual is the proximity to our town. She will be less than a half hour away. While she has been living at home since Christmas, before that she had been in Spain for three months, and apart from a summer in New Haven, had been in Colombia for a year and half prior to that. All of this followed college, which was three hours away, so a town as close as thirty minutes presents unlimited possibilities.

She’s close enough to meet for coffee, to shop for work clothes, have dinner together at either of our houses. She can stay with our still-getting-used-to-Massachusetts dogs, go to movies, walk through the woods with or without pups— all things that we usually do when she is around, but at least for the next few months, we don’t have to be concerned with cramming them all in during the week or two that she usually lands at home.

I am well aware that she is applying jobs that may or may not be in this area. One cannot determine where teaching posts will be for Spanish in the way that she is excited about teaching, and I know that the right job is more important than where it is, at least at this point. We’ll see what pops open, where actual offers come from, and how the factors shake down.

I realize that with her travel in places that have often been remote and not easy to contact or access, or that have involved some level of risk, that I have held myself just a little in check. While my love for her is constant, and our communication is positive, I have been unable to count on more than sporadic conversations and visits only a few times a year. It is always possible to maintain the thread of a relationship, but it takes more concerted effort when someone is hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. Even with the multiple options available today, technology will never replace proximity. And who would want it to?

At least from here, it seems that her next job will be Stateside, so although I cannot count on meeting at the bakery around the corner from her new apartment, I can at least be assured of reliable internet, and a flight of less than six hours, as well as a few months of this nearby arrangement while she sorts it out. Seems like as good a Valentine’s gift as I can conceive of. I’ll gladly take it.

Death is not convenient

January 29, 2016

Death is not convenient. It does not wait, tarry, ask permission, or discriminate against age, race or gender. The place and time are a secret agreement with every person and are revealed in its own time, in ways dramatic and quiet, public and private, violent and peaceful.

When I learned of the death of my childhood friend’s father, I was saddened for him and his brothers and their families. I was coming off a long week’s work with meetings after work on Monday and Tuesday, a day long out of town conference on Wednesday and a ten hour workday on Thursday. So when I learned Friday morning about Herb’s passing, and the service on Sunday, I did not immediately assume I was going. It was over three hours away, and I couldn’t imagine it. Even though Herb was 91, it was a surprise for them, as he had been in fine health, exercising regularly, and still living at home.

By Saturday morning, however, with a more typical day on Friday, I couldn’t imagine missing it. This was the husband of my mother’s partner with whom she ran a school for 25 years. Their son, Seth and I were founding (and dominating) students at age three, and I had spent countless hours at their house growing up. We laid out under the stars, filmed movies riding their St. Bernard, or in pretend cars on their long, steep, winding driveway. We played the board game Shenanigans by the hour and wolfed down lunches Shirley cooked up before running outside again. This was my second home and it has become a museum for the family, displaying photographs by my friend who became an internationally renown photographer, paintings by his older brother and family photos of the past fifty years.

It was the end of an era for me, but mostly for the three sons who stood together as each spoke about the dedication and steady influence of their father who I didn’t know as well. Their arms on each other’s shoulders, they were a living representation of that steadiness and of the respect and love that infused their relationships.

The link to the future was evidenced in their children, ranging in age from 25 to 3, and as I watched them host a meal afterward in that historic home built in 1881, I thought about the joining links from parent to child, parent to child. Herb’s death marks a passage for them and others, but they will navigate this wave with the connection to each other, and perhaps the next time they collect from the corners of the United States will be a celebration: a graduation, a wedding or a birthday.

What will become of the seventeen room house that I remember as the most intimidating place to play hide and seek I could imagine? None of them live near there now. They are all ensconced in their lives in California or Florida.

As time warps, creating the topsy turvy disorientation following the death of a close and beloved family member I wish them time to sit with their thoughts, with the fullness of their feelings, and allow the length and breadth of their memories to float forward. May the waves of joy of a long life well lived waft in, smoothing the tearful bumps that will inevitably surface as well. Their straightforward relationships mean a deep wound that will heal cleanly with time. May this first holiday time bring some welcome distraction, if not quite yet the start of new traditions as they move forward in this next stage of life.

A Young Life Lost to Drugs

August 20, 2015

We had last seen Garrett about ten years ago. He was a big, strong boy of 12 with lots of energy. My husband remembers that he swam across Long Lake, our local swimming hole around 2/3 the size of Walden Pond. The four kids in his family were members of the swim team which seemed a good fit for them. I remember thinking how these were the right parents to have four children. Organized, structured and loving, they channeled the kids’ excess zest into positive places. It took a lot of focus, and they were up to the task. Both of them came from big families, and their constellation of four was welcome.

Although we hadn’t seen the whole family recently, Bret, my husband’s close high school buddy, came to visit a few times. He told us that Garrett had had some trouble with drugs. We knew he had done some jail time, and had also taken the fall for a friend. He had been clean for 2 1/2 years when he evidently felt a pull for the drug, and took too much. Which killed him. We are stunned to think about a world without him in it.

We didn’t learn about his death until recently, and I’m not sure, even, exactly when it occurred. Bret had not had the space to make the call, and so we found out when my husband happened to pick up the phone to check in with his buddy. There are no words to adequately express the depth of sadness of a loss of this magnitude. Nothing can bring a child back, or a brother. Nothing can rewind the clock, or create another chance. The pain of losing such a young person runs deep; there is not a way to short cut the process of grief, or move through the dense brush of unreality and surrealism.

The family must rearrange themselves, reorient to a new way of living, of including their absent family member in ways that feel possible, doable, without feeling cloying, distantly unreal or false. They bore witness to his difficulties, and on some level may have known that with the way he behaved in the world, his largeness could lead to dramatic events, including the loss of his life. He was not a person of moderation by nature, so anything done on a big scale could tip events in unintended ways. But the searing truth of his loss must also stop them short, bring them to their knees at unexpected times. I feel the jolt.

Our hearts reach out to them. I know that their large families enfolded them, and held them close. We wish to do the same, sending them the wind to lift their wings as they navigate this unknown and frightening territory, whose landscape is so unfamiliar and without softness. The unpredictability of negotiating grief is always surprising, tipping our stable carts when we least expect it, upending the calmest of days and catapulting us into a whirlpool of transition. It takes time to resettle into a new rhythm, to reach a new equilibrium, and to recognize it when it happens. I wish for them to stay connected with each other, to allow their grief to join and not separate them, which sometimes happens. And I hope that they are not blaming themselves, or each other, as there is no winning from this. If love alone could give them solace, they would be consoled. If support could transform their sadness, they would no longer be sad. They must each make their own journey through the mire and choose what helps them. We can listen for the call, and be there with hearts and arms open.

A Mutter’s Day Tail

May 9, 2015

My husband and I have lived with dogs for 27 years together and both of us had dogs as kids. But all that did not prepare us for the adoption process with Livvie, our newly rescued pup. And I feel like a new mom in very foreign territory.

I have only lived with rescue dogs, but none of them remotely like Olivia. I had been thinking that autumn would be a good time to welcome a new critter into our home after our menagerie had dwindled to zero in March. But my husband sent a link to a site with an adorable dog for adoption. It turned out that she was spoken for by the next day, but I was already in search mode and my heart went out to Olivia’s sweet furry yellow face with the deep brown eyes and little whiskers that characterize some type of Terrier background.

So commenced the process of application, references, plus veterinary reference, and a home check. At first we were a bit indignant, ignorant as we were about the new standard screening through the Adopt-a-Pet website. It all checked out and two weeks later I brought shy Livvie into our home. We expected shy, but we were not prepared for the level of patience that will clearly be required for her to become comfortable with us, and trust that after the many transitions that started in Louisiana, that she can stay here without having to compete for food or attention.

Where Charlie, our last rescue from Puerto Rico marked every room and pinged off the walls at first, Livvie has barely ventured out of her crate-even to eat. She started to eat and drink after a day, if it was brought directly to her, but will not seek it out. She quakes when we go outside and freezes, never mind considering this a good place to play or pee.

It’s early days, less than a week, and people remind us to give her a couple of weeks to really see who she is.

I am remembering the importance of patience and this being her schedule and timeframe, not my wish for how it should be. She will need enough structure without there being too much, and consistent loving through it all. We will learn from having her in our family as she will learn from being here. As with children, we set the tone, and she will take her cues from us. Her past four and half months will affect how readily she can move past the multiple transitions and mistrust that this is just another stop along the way, or worse, that we could visit some kind of harm on her. We must pay attention to what the new baby is telling us, as we make clear what she can expect from us, and how predictable we are. We could not have anticipated our pup would be this kind of baby, but here she is, and it is certainly not her fault that we didn’t know who she would be. No parent can know what a child will be like.

We will all adjust together, taking one step at a time, appreciating each small progression, knowing that there is no hurrying it, and no need to rush.

This Mother’s Day, feeling so connected with my own two daughters who are exploring other parts of the world, I will hold our furry new pooch on my lap, and welcome another journey that is ours to navigate, with all its unknowns, hopes, unpredictability and time to evolve. I am ready.

Double Cat Indemnity

April 15, 2015

I have begun to write this column dozens of times. Usually once I have a topic it writes itself, tumbling out faster than my fingers can accommodate. This time, I have been stymied by my difficulty finding a way in. Or by the preponderance of ways in. Or by the fact that my grief overtakes me and I am afraid that I will just sob onto my keyboard.

Last month, in a stunning demonstration of the laws of impermanence, we lost both of our cats in the same week. Neither of them was young, but neither terribly old by cat standards–12 and 14 respectively. We had been on borrowed time with the younger one, Daphne, who had been bearing up nobly with a neurological issue for over two years. It made her wobbly, bolder, more interactive and affectionate.

A miscalculated jump resulted in a broken paw, and within days she was in congestive heart failure, forcing our decision to part with her rather than subject her to extensive treatment.

We had already planned a long weekend in New Orleans to lick our wounds from the protracted illness and death of my father in law on Superbowl Sunday. Since that time our older cat, Bob, had a long day at the emergency vet with a sudden worsening of his cardiac issues. Our one night away in the beginning of March proved to be traumatic for him, demonstrated by the multiple messes he delivered. If one day was like a week for him, how would he survive five days? It would be an eternity and certain cardiac failure by the time of our return, so two days after losing Daphne, we dragged our heavy hearts to spare Bob this trauma, and bade our farewells to him.

New Orleans welcomed us with its warm weather, rich food, beautiful architecture and music brimming from corners and cafes. The balm of the time away was healing, but did not make walking in the door to our empty home any less easy. We realized that for the first time in 27 years there was no one else sharing our living space. It has been an adjustment in many ways, of course. The gentle presence of the cats was always welcome. Their outstretched paws in greeting or gratitude for scratching, and unreserved delight for treats, or the right toy to mangle unfailingly disarmed our most challenging day.

It is not possible to completely appreciate the nature of the rhythm of living with animals until that rhythm is interrupted. My mornings had been marked recently with dispensing the variety of medications they had accrued, as well as ensure the cat fountain was filled. We no longer need to be so aware of our comings and goings. But just as our care taking responsibilities are alleviated so too, our onsite happiness radiators were removed. Bob, particularly, emanated his profound unwavering confidence that the world would produce exactly what he needed at any given time. The depth of his trust was contagious, as was his unadulterated delight in having someone sleep near him. He literally would purr for fifteen minutes when someone would cuddle up with him, or he would request it either by climbing onto a lap (at 22 pounds, he overflowed most laps), or by curling up in the crook of a TV watcher’s knees.

I’m realizing that as I allow in these memories, they will gradually replace the ache that currently dwells in my heart. The tears make room for the joys of having lived with the love that only animals can convey to the pack with whom they reside. We benefit from the privilege of sharing their space, appreciating their antics, singing with them, rolling around on the floor, and holding them close.

Goodbye sweet cats. We know we will welcome both new canine and feline creatures into our home at some point. We need the time to be ready for their presence after working through the absence of the family animals we raised with our two daughters. All in its time. All in the current that brings new life as unpredictably as it claims those who have completed their particular cycle. How fortunate we are to have overlapped with such magnificent beings in our personal sphere.

And in the end…

March 14, 2015

My father in law died a few weeks ago. It was not a surprise, as he had been failing steadily for years, really and acutely for the past months. I was angry, at first, that he steadfastly refused to talk about his state of health. As much as a week before he died, when someone came to visit at the nursing home where he spent his last two months, he would immediately say, “let’s all go out to dinner!” even though he had not eaten more than a few bites a day for weeks, and could barely stand, much less remain upright and free of stomach problems through an entire meal.

I have come to see our close proximity and ability to be with him frequently for short visits as a privilege, and am grateful for his inadvertent teachings. I know beyond a doubt that he lived his life as he believed he should, which meant ignoring the extent of his multiple illnesses and level of needed care. His yearning to be home and doing what he loved best, watching political news on MSNBC with his beloved third wife, and prowling in the night for sweets kept him ever focussed in that direction.

It didn’t matter that when he procured his cookies and milk that he more and more frequently fell, necessitating a visit from the tirelessly cheerful EMTs, and sometimes a swing by the emergency room. It was only when one of these escapades resulted in a broken neck that we intervened and insisted that despite his wishes, he could not return home. This required some finesse on my husband’s part in convincing him of this, because even though most of the time at the ER my father in law was on assignment in some foreign land in 1996, at the time of his formal assessment they deemed him competent to make his own decisions.

We watched the love story unfold between my father in law and his bride of not yet three years, as she struggled to balance how much care he needed with how much he would allow. She would rest easy running out to the store knowing an aide was with him, only to return to find that my father in law had dismissed the unwitting young woman.

Ultimately it was not ever a question of what was right, but what was possible, and what he and we could endure. He had started on dialysis only a year and a half earlier, too late for it to really help a lot, but he did this because although he had previously refused it, he now wanted to squeeze every possible minute with his new love.

When it became obvious to health care workers and to us that dialysis was no longer working, but only driving an increase in hospital visits, discomfort and deep unease, we were able to cease the treatment, thus giving him a week of greater clarity and presence to be with anyone who visited. This gift to all was followed by a week of more agitated time, and finally the day he took a bite of steak, (and a sip of milk), greeted his wife with “I love you,” looked his son square in the eye, and took his leave. His way, his timing, his departure.

I will continue to ponder the choices we are all afforded, but it was clear to me that the most I could do for him was remain a peaceful, loving presence, wishing him the best the world had to offer at that moment, and for all moments going forward. I can only hope it was enough.

The human challenges of health care decisions

People say that physicians can play God. The same might be said of a health care proxy who must make decisions on behalf of someone who is no longer able to do this for him or herself. As I have watched my husband assume the role of health care proxy for his father, I am profoundly struck by just how intensely human a role this is.

We agreed that it made sense for my mother in law, who has been married to my father in law for not yet three years, to switch this job to my husband. She stated that she knows herself well enough to realize that this delicate position would be too difficult to manage when the time came to invoke it.

My father in law, a once dynamic, charismatic man who commanded a room with his booming voice, colorful language and keen intellect, has slowly left us as his kidneys no longer clean his blood effectively, leaving his thinking and memory more foggy. He started dialysis too late for it to really maintain his health, thus it has put a brake on his decline, but at this point the slide is more rapid, gaining ground every day on his once decisive and knife edged clarity. At times he retreats to meetings from his position with the United Nations in various countries, and further back to his stint in the Navy where he made powerful connections with people who remain loyal to him still.

Although he has been time traveling, (and recently added a son to his actual two) he had been able to answer questions about what he wants with greater coherence, and even at the time when he fell and broke his neck was deemed legally competent much to our dismay as he was insisting he was fine to go home. It took a gentle, direct conversation with my husband to convince him that he was too ill, and his love for his wife was too great to put them both at risk at home.

It has been this disconnect between his actual state of health and how he perceives it that has been the most challenging to manage. His physical decline although so sad, would be simpler if he were able to recognize it and plan accordingly. Although very sweet and sometimes touching that he still suggests we go out to dinner when we visit him at his facility, he eats almost nothing and can barely stand. It is painful because he doesn’t understand our quiet, persistent refusal.

After three professionals from three separate facilities suggested we consider ceasing dialysis and setting up hospice, we had to seriously consider it. This would mean a gentle slide into unconsciousness and a pain free death, the type of end that many people would prefer. It has become a matter of interpretation of his former wish to not be kept alive by extraordinary measures and his more recent proclamations that he is not ready to die. He had stated that he did not want his last days to be like that of his father who had suffered strokes and was alive for two years following that. Would there be a point he would articulate a readiness to die? At what point will dialysis feel like an extraordinary measure? Without an an explicit conversation about this, my husband has elected to continue dialysis for now. As my father in law’s pain from various injuries continues to cause him discomfort, his weight loss leaves him more vulnerable, and his connection with reality more tenuous, there may be a point at which dialysis seems like an extra burden, or cruelty.

For now, we struggle with the extraordinarily human challenge of trying to honor the wishes of a man we love, without clear direction from him. We can only hope that we are doing right by him, and trust that he will be able to give us a signal, if nonverbal, of his readiness to say his final farewells. We must remember to have these conversations with each other, and document them, so that we might provide guidance when our time comes to make this most important and inevitable transition.

Not Standing on Ceremony

September 29, 2014

Weddings are always a reflection of the people starring in the ritual- large or small, formal or casual, with varying emphasis on music, food and presence of a religious tone. The wedding we attended on Saturday at the Crane Estate in Ipswich was no exception. What did take me completely by surprise, however, was the way in which the ceremony was conducted.

The bride and groom were the daughter of the Vice President and the son of the President of the company where my husband has worked for 22 years. They’re both close to 30, and everything about the wedding was driven by their preferences, their choices.

“Uncle” (at 80, actually the groom’s great uncle) became licensed to preside, and anyone connected with the company knew how this translated. For the many (among 400 guests) who were not so well acquainted with Uncle’s charms, what unfolded was nothing short of mind blowing.

Uncle’s demeanor was that of someone hosting perhaps a family reunion cruise ship talent show; he was informal, familiar, telling stories about the couple’s families, the company, letting us know when he was tired and would like to sit. In the middle of one story it occurred to him that he should sing a song. Impromptu, in a lovely baritone, he began, but after a few lines, could not remember the words. He asked for assistance when he lost his place in the program, and was happy to receive help about the timing of inviting the two people to do readings to take the mic. They each spoke for a minute or two, and the couple exchanged vows that they had written. In the middle of the marital pronouncement, he interrupted himself to announce that he remembered the words to the song. Our eyes popped imagining a digression at this point, but he refrained from singing a refrain.

We laughed, we looked uncomfortable, we dropped our jaws in disbelief at what we were witnessing. The two families, though, were clearly loving it, comfortable, welcoming. As my husband pointed out repeatedly, he is a known raconteur, and this was a conscious and deliberate choice.

The couple had invited a level of personalness and humor to what, judging by the storybook cover, had appeared to be a formal occasion. I had read too much into the grandeur of the Great House set atop 2,000 acres that rolled down to the sea.

They knew that they were getting 45 minutes of stand-up, delivered with love from someone they hold dear. They were confident that no matter where the service wandered, it was based in the heart, and would end with a legal and delighted pronouncement of their status as husband and wife. The rest of us were honored to be extras in the movie of their creation.

Meg Stafford can be reached at megstaf@aim.com

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