A Hard Time of It

At breakfast New Year’s morning following the South End’s annual Alcatraz swim, a mutual friend told me she’s having a hard with it. Sorry to say I’m glad she is. I hope she has a hard time with it for a very long time. Like forever.

Even bolters must have a conscience.  Even bolters must know when they’ve hurt someone.

Even bolters must sometimes regret in the deep armored recesses of their dark hearts that they cast off a man who loved them.

Even bolters must fear dying alone.

I’m glad to be leaving her orbit. Her distance, denial, and disassociation are wounding.

I’m not glad to be leaving my life here. Not glad to be leaving Adam. Not glad to be leaving close friends. Not glad to be leaving the South End. Not glad to be leaving Cow Hollow. I’m having a hard time with it.

But I’m glad to be moving back to New England, familiar and new at the same time. I’m not at home Out West.

Yesterday afternoon we went to see Greta Gerwig’s new film Little Women, set largely in what purported to be Concord and the Massachusetts countryside, so beautiful. I’ve many memories in those towns and hills of the Berkshires. I had a life there, too. The architecture looks right to me, the way California houses however elegant never have. The golden hills have never sparked joy the way the Hudson flowing past Midwood does, with the blue Catskills in the distance. Or cresting Silver Mountain Road, with the Southern Berkshires meeting the Hudson Valley in the distance. Or the Maine coast cut out of rocks and pines and shingled houses.


I’ve experienced two romantic kisses in my life—kisses that filled my entire body with bliss, kisses I remember, will always remember. Kisses that lifted me from my body. Out of the thousands of kisses I’ve given and received these two remain etched in gold.

One on a cold snowy December night in front of the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. One on a warm spring evening in front of the Balboa Café on Fillmore Street in San Francisco. Many, many years apart. One marked an end, one a beginning.

I think of that night in the Berkshires, when love and fear gripped me equally, when opportunity opened and closed in a kiss as tender and sweet as d’Yquem. I think what might have been had I been braver;  I think because it reminds me of her of the loveliest of love poems by Kenneth Rexroth, set on a New England afternoon in another season:

We lie here in the bee filled, ruinous

Orchard of a decayed New England farm,

Summer in our hair, and the smell

Of summer in our twined bodies,

Summer in our mouths, and summer

In the luminous, fragmentary words

Of this dead Greek woman.

Stop reading. Lean back. Give me your mouth.

Your grace is as beautiful as sleep.

You move against me like a wave

That moves in sleep.

Your body spreads across my brain

Like a bird filled summer;

Not like a body, not like a separate thing,

But like a nimbus that hovers

Over every other thing in all the world.

Lean back. You are beautiful,

As beautiful as the folding

Of your hands in sleep.



The second kiss opened and blossomed. There were summers, and autumn afternoons. Our hands did fold in sleep.


         See. The sun has fallen away.

Now there are amber

Long lights on the shattered

Boles of the ancient apple trees.

Our bodies move to each other

As bodies move in sleep;

At once filled and exhausted,

As the summer moves to autumn,

As we, with Sappho, move towards death.

My eyelids sink toward sleep in the hot

Autumn of your uncoiled hair.

Your body moves in my arms

On the verge of sleep;

And it is as though I held

In my arms the bird filled

Evening sky of summer.

I wonder if she remembers, too.

Maybe I should have married those women. Maybe those two kisses ought to have been a warning, a signal signifying how a romance begins. And if it doesn’t, don’t go there.

It didn’t go there.

I leave San Francisco tomorrow. This has been my last full day living in California. I had lunch with Josh, and dinner with Kevin—two close friends, both friends for life. In between I walked around the city, thinking about being new here eleven and a half years ago. Thinking this was where I would stay.

Life didn’t turn out that way.

It’s okay.

The winter will move to spring in a different place. There will be snow, then sunshine.

She will fade. She will never disappear.

Version 2

What Friendship Looks Like



It’s the end of the year, the end of the decade, and the end of my time in San Francisco.

The past year hasn’t been the best, with two unanticipated and unwanted life situations hurling major personal dislocation and stricken fatherly worry: my wife’s decision to end our marriage and my youngest son’s cancer diagnosis.

The past decade, and my time in California being nearly the same—I moved to San Francisco in mid-2008– has been as Life Experience goes a significant chapter.

Charles Dickens said better than I can:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

My eyes fill up with tears, I don’t know why. These were after all, in part, the best of times.

I discovered love at first sight, shot straight in the heart by Cupid’s arrow. Never before or since—maybe only once in a lifetime. Candles don’t burn brightly forever.

I made lifelong friends. I found my best friend. He will remain so.

I married a woman I loved. That she ended our marriage doesn’t take away the loveliness of the beginning.

The world of open water swimming opened up to me.

I joined the South End Rowing Club and found a new community. They, too, will remain if distantly.

My Cow Hollow men’s group has been a foundation and source of much joy. I will return.

I loved a sweet little dog. He’s gone from me, but held dear.

I created a new career in teaching, taking me to a future that hadn’t existed before.


It seems remarkable that all of this happened in one decade long lifespan. Many people never experience all of this in their entire lives.

One time, to know that it’s real.
One time, to know how it feels.
That’s all.

It was an epoch of belief, it was an epoch of incredulity. I believed in love. It was real. I knew how it felt. Two different romantic loves. One might have lasted, one should have lasted. Neither did.

What if it hurts, what then?
What do we do, what do you say?
Don’t throw your lifeline away

Do I still believe in love?


Samuel Johnson in his Dictionary of the English Language, defines love five ways:

  1. To regard with passionate affection, as that of one sex to the other.
  2. To regard with the affection of a friend.
  3. To regard with parental tenderness.
  4. To be pleased with.
  5. To regard with reverent unwillingness to offend.

I love my sons with deep parental tenderness. I have a few friends I hold close in loving affection. I love to read, to swim, to paint, to impart to my students what I’ve learned in my life. There are many I am unwilling to offend.

Do I dare risk passionate affection again? Loving commitment?

Is heartbreak too steep a price to pay? Does love always have to end, for me?

Don’t throw your lifeline away

One time, just once in my life.
Yeah one time, to know it can’t happen twice.
One shot on a clear blue sky.
One look, I see the reasons why you cared.

One chance to get back to the point where everything starts.
One chance to keep it together,
Things fall apart.

There’s a future that doesn’t yet exist for me. I can’t pull the past into that future.

So, yes, the risk is OK.

Let what life brings come.

What if we do, what now?
What do you say, how do I know?
Don’t let your lifeline go.

Don’t let your lifeline go.


Spear-carrier in someone else’s opera

“When you can recognize a person’s story as their story, you begin to have access to their version of the story, so that you’re not stuck with, you don’t have to resign yourself to, their version of the story.”

“You can’t ask questions like ‘True?’ about people’s stories. There’s no such thing as ‘true stories.’ A story’s a story. People get into trouble in life because they start believing their stories. Even worse, you start believing someone else’s story—makes you a spear-carrier in someone else’s opera. This is not a good way to live.”                                  Werner Erhard


What happened: we got married. I asked her to marry me, and she said yes. There was no hesitation: yes, I will marry you. It was an afternoon in the early spring of 2014. We were on the bed talking about things and I think she asked me if I could imagine living with her, in her house. I said, yes, and then asked “Will you marry me?” She said yes. We chose to get married.

As proposals, and acceptances, go, it was pretty cut and dry. There wasn’t any romance to it. I don’t think we kissed one another, embraced, definitely didn’t make love. We talked about the practicalities: health insurance, protecting assets with a prenuptial agreement, dates for the wedding. Then the day went on as any other day at home.

What happened? We got married. Then there’s this whole story. And they’re distinct from one another. Mostly our stories are constituted by our reasons. We live the kind of life that people would have if they lived out of a story.

My wife’s story is about leaving. She was already always leaving. Her story about leaving owned her. She left her childhood, her home, her family, her husbands, her lovers. Years and years and years of leaving. She was always already leaving. Oh, she had reasons. And her reasons confirmed that her story was the true story. She believed her reasons and her story and those reasons and the story she told herself validated her leaving.

Her story left no clearing to have a new possibility in her life. Her future was constituted by her past, and her past was always already leaving. Its obviousness was apparent to anyone who looked closely. That’s why so many of her friends, afterwards, told me that was her history. She left her men. The two who immediately preceded me, the two between husband number two and husband number three, perplexed many. One I know; one I don’t. Both, I’m told, were hurt by her leaving. The one man I know, and like, has only very recently opened up to me. His polite reserve prevented him from ever saying anything while my wife and I were together. It wouldn’t have been appropriate. Or kind.

Three times in my life I have confused an interesting, compelling story with an interesting, compelling person. One would think I might have learned the difference, even the hard way. But that’s the danger of stories. Stories captivate the listener as they imprison the teller.

Then, as Werner warned, you become a spear-carrier in someone else’s opera. Tragic opera.

And sometimes the spear-carrier gets speared in the story.

It’s bloody, and bloody awful.


What Matters Most is Friendship After All

I leave San Francisco in twenty days, Boston bound. In twenty days my California adventure will come to an end. It wasn’t a chapter in my life that I intended to be temporary. I moved from New York in mid 2008 to create a new life, away from the turmoil and drama of an ugly divorce and unmanageable behavior. A new job in San Francisco facilitated the move.

I have created a new life here in this city on the Bay, the bay being a huge part of the life I’ve created. I have loved my life here, and yet, again, I am moving away to change the music following another painful, if less ugly, divorce. Failed marriages seem to be my catalysts for change: the first one an urgent necessary, the second not: calmer and sadder. It needn’t have been.

What I have come to realize, and appreciate, is that the friendships I have here are more important and more lasting than the two romantic relationships that occurred during these eleven and a half years. My friends will remain my friends forever; the two women are gone from my life. Forever.

Last night my closest friends Josh and his wife Peggy hosted a farewell dinner. My two friends whom I’ve known the longest in San Francisco, Michael and Ray were there. New friends Ross and his husband Greg, and Alan and Zena were there, too. Old friends meeting new friends, all present at the dining table for me.

Adapting the lyrics from Barbra Streisand’s beautiful song by Marilyn and Alan Bergman  called “What Matters Most,” Ross wrote and sang his version to me:

It’s not how many swims shared in the bay

What matters are the friends who swam together

It’s not how far we traveled on our way

But what we found to say

It’s not the springs we’ve seen

But all the shades of green.


It’s not how far apart our homes may be

What matters is how sweet the years together

It’s not how many summer times we had to give to fall

The laughter and the smiles we gratefully recall

What matters most is friendship after all.


I’m not ashamed to say it made me cry.

What matters most is friendship after all.

She can’t take that away from me. She can upend my life, but she can’t take away friendship. My friendships.

Josh, Michael, Ray, these three men in my life—each so different from one another and each occupying such large swathes of geography in my heart. I love these men in a way that romantic love can’t equate. My love for them is like the foundation of a building, on top of which romance builds a house. The house blew down in a storm—it was made of straw– but the foundation remains rock solid and secure.

The irony, if irony is what it is, is that my friendship, my best friendship friendship, with Josh came about because she was friends with him; he swam with her for years before meeting me. She introduced us and asked Josh to take me on my first South End bay swim. We swam out of the Cove and behind the Balclutha. Of the many things for which I’m grateful that she gave me—there are many—my friendship with Josh touches most deeply.

Version 4

It’s rare when later in life you meet a new friend, another man, who comes to occupy so important a place in your life, as though friends since birth. Josh was the first person I called after she told me she no longer loved me and wanted to end our marriage, that clear cold day in February when I biked to the center of the Golden Gate Bridge and stared down at the dark water for an hour, realizing that my life could be renewed in ways I couldn’t yet imagine. He and Peggy came immediately, and have been there for and with me every single day.

She can’t take that away, what she gave to me she can’t take away from me. Only herself.

Part of the sadness that pervades the dissolution of our marriage and the resulting disassociation is that I can’t share my gratitude for what she gave me. She closed that door. She won’t speak to me, pretends not to see me when I’m a few feet away.

She broke my heart, yet provided the tools for its mending. My friends, and the life I created being with her.

Also at dinner last night Peggy, too, composed and sang a song, to the melody of Silver Bells. Many stanzas, with these sweet refrains:


It’s almost time for departing

Off you go, to the snow

Soon it will be sub-zero!



It’s almost time that you’re heading

To the east, take your fleece

You’ll be a Bostonian!



Soon you’ll betaking your leaving

The Club will care, you’re not there

You will be missed everywhere!



It’s almost time for departing

Soon you’ll go, to our woe

Maybe you’ll find a new beau!



Do stay in touch with your old friends

We implore, so therefore

You must comeback evermore!


We wish you sweet adventures

Paint more art, mend your heart

Swim in Boston Harbor!


Eyes again filled with tears, and smiles.

 Michael wrote, “I have always liked the Michael I saw through your eyes.”  Michael was my very first friend I made in San Francisco, beginning before I even moved here. I learned the city through his generosity of time and friendship. His six years at Tassajara and subsequent life commitment to the San Francisco Zen Center have been a beacon of integrity, hope, and a model for life, one I could never achieve but so admire. The Michael I saw, and see today, is a man for all seasons, all ages–wise, funny, generous, kind, intelligent, with a voice I could listen to forever. I hope I do.

And Ray, dear Ray, for whom 2019 has been a year of health emergencies and hardship, what can I say. I spent my first California Thanksgiving with Ray, scooped up when he hardly knew me to not be alone on this first holiday in a new city. Michael and Ray have seen me through both romantic break-ups, have been there even when the “there” was histrionic and overwrought. They never judged. Ray knows me I suspect better than I know myself. And smiles.

They will be there long after. She can’t take them away from me.

My friends live all over the world: Janine in Australia, Sean in Germany, Alan in France, John in Chicago, Richard in New York.

Now three in San Francisco.

They will all be with me long after this. They come with me to Boston, to what life will bring, to what new future that doesn’t yet exist.

May I honor them and keep their love and respect.

What matters most is friendship after all.


It’s not how long we held each other’s hand
What matters is how well we loved each other
It’s not how far we traveled on our way
Of what we found to say
It’s not the spring you see, but all the shades of green
It’s not how long I held you in my arms
What matters is how sweet the years together
It’s not how many summer times we had to give to fall
The early morning smiles we tearfully recall
What matters most is that we loved at all.
It’s not how many summer times we had to give to fall
The early morning smiles we tearfully recall
What matters most is that we loved at all.
What matters most is that we loved at all.




What Would Completion Look Like?


As the year draws to a close, this year of divorce, dislocation, sickness, surgery, and global malaise, what would completeness look like? What would complete the conversation with her, the woman I loved and who ended our marriage? What words might be said? Setting all leftover rancor, bitterness, and the nasty threatening cease and desist order aside, what communication remains that would end the year if not in joy and happiness, at least not in sorrow and regret?

Our experience of things, of the world and relationships and even love, exists in language. When language is absent, all that’s left are emotions, our internal states disconnected from what’s actually happening, drawing on the past, and pulling that past into the present. There can be no future lived in a new possibility when there is no language to declare the way forward. There’s only stalemate, and all the old regrets. It’s like leaving a brick wall behind.

I don’t know what we would say to one another. That, yes, we did love one another once? That we were sorry our marriage ended this way? “I’m sorry our marriage has ended this way” was the last thing she said to me, standing in the living room, moments before she walked out the door and out of my life forever. I believe she was sorry. Perhaps no more, now that the dissociation is total, that the only communication from her arrives in lawyer’s letters. (She had only to call and ask. Talk…words.)

All that I might want to say I have written. And I would no longer want to say these things that I have written. The past needs to be put in the past.

But some words, maybe even kind words, need to be said for there to be some kind of completion to this marriage ending. She told me many times in our final months together, those strange painful months of packing up and moving out when nothing was said of any consequence, that she had to withhold compassion because it was what I wanted. I never said I wanted her to be compassionate but of course I did. I would have been grateful for any table scrap of kindness. And maybe she was right: to have been kind to me might have given me false hope that there was a glimmer of salvation.

No, those words need not be said now. No rehashing, no rationales, no what if’s, maybe’s, might have beens.

But something. To part, finally, these four months after my moving out, with no words, no language, no looking into one another’s eyes, maybe even a smile of recognition, is sad, deeply sad. To remember the person who more than five years ago was the light of my life. To say goodbye. No I’m sorry’s.

Just goodbye and good luck.

It would be nice.

It would be complete.


Silence is never golden

Of all the things I find unfathomable about my wife’s decision to end our marriage—and there are many incomprehensible things—all these many months since she first told me she no longer loved me—it is her refusal to speak to me, now even to acknowledge my presence. I have become a ghost in the corner. She told me once during the dissolving of our marriage that she was a better friend than a partner. This has turned out like much else not to be true. She could no longer find a way to be a partner, and now isn’t a friend. Friends talk to one another.

I saw my wife last night at our South End Rowing Club’s holiday party. “Saw” is the operative word, because she didn’t acknowledge me, or say hello, or ask after my son Adam’s health. Her disassociation is complete. It is purposeful, and intentionally hurtful. She knows and finds some kind of perverse satisfaction withholding communication. It’s because I want it that she withholds it. It’s the one power she retains. She held all the cards, played them, and now that the game is over has shut down the gaming hall. Her gamble is complete. She won. Let us hope it’s not a Pyrrhic victory—though as she once said to me that she was destined to die a lonely old woman.

It didn’t have to be so. And perhaps she’ll find yet another man to be with, briefly. There have been many–all without the foreknowledge of her expiration date.

She also said to me months ago that she couldn’t talk to me because I write about our conversations. If she talked to me maybe I would not have to write about it; maybe I would know and not obsess. Genuine communication—a practice we were never good achieving—would resolve so many questions, would make things complete. Completion wasn’t her goal; only ending.

Thinking about how she’s behaving, I have to ask myself the question, why do I care? What did I expect would happen? Why did I harbor any misguided illusion that she might turn out to be genuine, to be a warm, compassionate woman? It was my fantasy, what I wanted so passionately to be so, when it was so evidently not so. Ever. The trauma in her life prevented it. Her default attitude is distrust, especially men, and people in general. So when I failed to perform to her expectations, the thin veneer of trust vanished. She called me untrustworthy. In truth, there was no trust from the beginning.

I didn’t expect to be disappeared.

I know, now, that my decision to move is beyond doubt the right decision. Continuing to share with my wife the life I created here, so much of it with her, is emotionally impossible. Yes, my emotions are internal states that I inflict on what’s happening. Putting them away, far back in the past drawer, will be so much easier on the other side of the country.

I imagine she’ll be grateful, too. She has told me many times that she is not the cause of anything I’m feeling, or decisions I’m making; that these emotions, these decisions are mine alone. And they are. Yet to deny being the cause in the matter, the match that lit the fire, is yet more evidence of her disassociation—from me, from her life, from life. It’s a denial of possibility, a wall constructed to block out any light that might, just might, shine in.

I walked out of her house on September 1st and her life returned to how it had been before she ever met me—but for five years past and the specter of Niland still haunting our common pathways. Very soon that specter will be gone, and she can be free of being purposefully furtive, evasive, avoiding the places I might show up, not “seeing” me when I’m there.

She wounded me, and has found a way to twist the knife. She knows how much this causes me despair. I doubt it makes her happy.

Moving will be my healing. I sacrifice much leaving the life I have created here, but good friends will remain good friends, and new places and people will come to replace the old ones. She cannot take these things away from me. She took one kind of life away from me, but not my actual, as-lived way of being who I am. I realize I am more who I am without her. I had hoped to be more of who I am with her.

In two weeks it will be Christmas, a holiday my wife hates on so many levels, and did everything within the limits of family acceptability to ignore. She permitted a celebration, one dinner, with our children and sometimes a friend. She very reluctantly participated in gift giving. She disliked that I enjoyed Christmas, enjoyed giving gifts. Among the reasons she gave to end our marriage was that I spent money on Christmas gifts for her, and my sons, when I was otherwise short on contributions. I think my wife did try to make the holiday acceptable–she liked giving us experiences instead of things–but at base Christmas was a bone that stuck in her throat. And she resented it.

Will Christmas come this year to her with any memories of our Christmas dinners past, when together with our children and friends we feasted on the elaborate labor of love dinner I prepared, setting the table with all the “good” china and silver, an orchestrated holiday meal meant to surpass the year before? Did she enjoy those times, or see them as an obligation she couldn’t avoid? I know she saw my enthusiasm as an indulgence, something to endure rather than be delighted.

This being Christmas I end this very last piece I will ever write about my marriage to this woman, a marriage I do not regret but for all the things I failed to see, with my sadness over one Christmas gift delivered a year late. It was promised, and after much trial and a lot of error, finally accomplished. I know it was received, opened, and the packaging discarded. Yet when I asked whether this package had been received, more than a week after it was delivered and verified by the PO, I was told no. I don’t know why she would lie to me.

It’s unfathomable, and sad. It tells me something I don’t want to know.

Time to move, move on. Onward and upward!

A clearing

What do you do with information you would rather not know?

Information so startlingly in opposition to what you have been led to believe that it throws into stark relief everything else you once thought you understood, about another person: a person who defines herself as a rock of integrity; truth and honesty being the hallmarks of her self-professed identity.

What do you do when you know she lied to you? That when asked a question that only required a yes or no, she said no when the truth was yes; to not acknowledge the receipt of a debt repaid, however emotion laden. Or unwanted.

I would have never expected it. Now, knowing it, I wish I didn’t know. I may not have liked many of the things she said to me, but I never assumed any of those things was a lie.

No greeting. No inquiring after Adam’s health. Perfunctory mail delivery. Then no, when the truth was yes.

I was apprehensive seeing her. I don’t know what I expected. I didn’t expect this. Perhaps the time wasn’t right to say anything. Perhaps the place wasn’t right, the people there not right. Time could have been made if anything was needing to be said, wanting to be said. Instead, she was awkward, furtive, expressionless, saying as few words as possible, and only the no to my question. She could not have tried harder to not connect, to not acknowledge, to negate, to suppress any feelings of any description.

What she left behind was smallness: smallness of stature, smallness of character. Not the person I married those five years ago. Not the person I loved.

Maybe that was her intention: give him no satisfaction, no compassion. Give him nothing but his mail. It would not have been the first time.

Information I now know, and wish I didn’t know. I know now that I loved an image of someone who wasn’t there, an idea that lived in my head, and in my heart for a while.

I am sad, for both of us. But my sadness is with newly open eyes about a person I hardly knew.

My sadness is an opening–a clearing beyond the closed door of the past.

Last November

It is the last day of November, the last November I’ll be in California. I move ‘back east” in January. I loved California because people I loved loved California. And those people have let me down.


I am more and more convinced, sure in my heart, that filing for divorce is a supreme act of cowardice and defeat. It is the Get Out of Jail Free card of life. Barring guns and abuse, filing for divorce is not trying to learn how to live, how to be a human being, an imperfect, fallible, all-too-human, human being. When filing for divorce unilaterally, inflicting unwanted misery on another person, a person presumably once loved, it is doubly dishonorable. It is a moral failure, a failure of character, compassion, a lack of courage and fortitude.

The law makes it so easy. Yes, it costs money, and time, and many notarized signatures, but in the end, it’s just paperwork. There’s no emotion in forms, and declarations, and lawyer’s conference rooms. The legal assistant processing the dissolution of our marriage was courteous to the point of embarrassment on Wednesday when I signed the ten documents handing over my consent to end our marriage without contest. Perhaps he had some notion of the unfairness, to me, of the entire proceeding; he was after all Brenda’s attorney’s assistant. I was the object, not the subject.

I heard tonight from a man who had been with my wife prior to me. She had ended that relationship, too. I was touched to hear from him, and surprised since while swim club friends, we have never been close, perhaps because of the mutual relationship with the same woman. He reached out to say to me I would be missed once I had moved back east.

I like being a couple; I wanted to be a couple. I like the togetherness being a couple implies. I blame myself for not realizing that being a couple was exactly what my wife did not want to be. She felt emphatically constrained by the very idea of coupledom. She saw it as a violation, a metaphorical rape of her being. She ought never to have agreed to marry me, to be married to me. Perhaps she sought to overcome her own demons.  But she had to end it. She told me never to introduce her as my wife, that it meant she was my property.

When one commits to marriage it is an agreement to find possibility out of the limitless ways two people can discover common and uncommon ground together. To file for divorce is to negate that possibility, to limit connection, to end an experiment in living that has no end but death. It’s not about happiness or unhappiness. It’s not even about sex. It’s about a mountain with no top, the journey not the arrival, with all its twist and turns and dead ends and speedways.

Marriage, too, is a bulwark against a world gone mad. Things have fallen apart. It’s true what Yeats wrote, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity.”

Filing for divorce is a lack of all conviction; it’s a failure of imagination.

It is singular and arbitrary and hurtful. And those who inflict it are singular, arbitrary, hurtful, and wrong. Though she justified her decision based on clarity of vision, it’s blindness not right sightedness.

The prayer I invoke is not for reversal of decisions, or fortune–that time has past–but for eternal regret. That may be a vain hope. My sadness may not be shared sadness. The gulf is deep and wide. She was clear about that.

So be it.


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.


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.