I’m sorry, I loved you.

I’m sorry, I loved you. I’m sorry I loved you. The comma changes everything. Sorry for you, sorry for me.

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It’s Thanksgiving 2019. I’m having dinner with Adam and Rachel, and Rachel’s family at her parent’s house. It’s been a tradition for ten years, before I was married, with my wife, and now without her.   In years past, the family gathered at Rachel’s grandparents, her father’s parents, at their marvelous house in Lafayette. Her grandmother Nancy loved holidays—all holidays and especially Thanksgiving. Nancy died this past September, only a few weeks after Adam’s lymphoma diagnosis. It was not unexpected. She had been slowly failing from liver cancer for more than two years, holding on far longer than her doctors predicted. Still, it will be sad this year without her. And sad without my wife.

Will she think of it, too?

We have endured so much change since last Thanksgiving. I was happy then. Yet, on our 4th anniversary the month before, my wife told me she was sorry our marriage hadn’t turned out the way we both had hoped. I said I wasn’t unhappy. That wasn’t entirely true. She said to me in the car as we drove to have an anniversary dinner at Greens, “you’re a good man.” I heard the past sad tense but remained silent.

I should have known then that the end, for her, had come.

I’m sorry, I loved you. I knew what was then unspoken, but couldn’t admit that things couldn’t change, that closeness might come again, intimacy, touching, saying what needed to be said. I wanted it so dearly. I thought there was hope, closer times ahead.

I’m sorry, I loved you.

Thanksgiving is a day to be grateful. Give thanks. Be with our families, the people we love. On past Thanksgivings with my wife I began the day with the annual South End Thanksgiving Alcatraz swim. I was so pleased to share this, even when she wasn’t swimming. My most memorable Alcatraz—a swim I don’t like very much—was four years ago very early on a cold clear dark morning when the entire crossing was in moonlight. It was magical. Being married to my wife, for a while, was magical.

I’m grateful to be with Adam today, that his early treatment results are positive. The chemicals are working, the tumors undetectable. I would trade my life for him to be well. If it only worked that way.

I’m grateful for Sam and David, and their families. Maybe someday there will be a Thanksgiving when we’re all together. Still, there’s a broken branch even then.

I envy families who have kept it all together. My wife always told me we create our own families who may or may not have a biological bond. I guess I’ve never had that, having only ever conceived of my family as people I’m related to one way or another.

I wonder if she remembers our Thanksgivings together. Of course she remembers, what I mean is with fondness—or just an obligation she couldn’t easily avoid. Thanksgiving last year must have been more poignant than I realized, since she knew then she would ask me to leave. There are no photos of us.

I’m sorry, I loved you. I’m sorry, I think too much about all of this. Yesterday signing all ten marriage dissolution documents at my wife’s attorney’s office my heart beat too quickly, too deeply. The finality of the circumstance hit hard. Ironic the signing occurred the day before the day of giving thanks. Like the irony of February 9th, the dreaded 9th of February, doubly ironic being Bobby Roper’s memorial. Cold water mixed with sadness mixed with heartbreak: a tragic cocktail. I don’t think the irony occurred to her.

For the last three years of our marriage she never let me see her naked, even in bed, the woman who would swim in her birthday suit on her birthday at the South End, who placed little to no value on propriety. Signs I saw, and kept inside.

Good times, sad times.

I’m sorry I loved you.

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