The year my first book came out — the year I turned 60 — my 21-year marriage crashed and burned. My husband left me for reasons he couldn’t explain and I couldn’t understand. And he was my second husband—two strikes you’re out? It sure seemed that way.
I cratered. He was the straw that broke this camel’s back and here’s why:
I tied—let’s call it gently— his departure to my writing. My first book, The Woman Who Never Cooked, had won Mid-List Press’s First Series award for fiction and my husband took a walk. My sense of abandonment went deep because that walk came on top of my mother’s, my only sister’s and my father’s deaths — in that order—all from long, tortuous and serious illnesses. The writing came late because the illnesses and the dying took time and life from my parents and sister, and from me too, though I remained well and strong.
Here’s how I did the math: Whatever light that shone on me when that first book was published must have driven my husband away. It was as if lightning had struck. I was done.
Repair came through an odd route and another book, the memoir (Re)Making Love: A Sex after Sixty Story. That book began, believe it or not, as a blog entitled Sex After Sixty. I can’t believe I called it that as what I wrote was hardly erotica and that title might make you think that. I was on a real, live, often foolhardy dash through the hazards of internet dating and all of the loving and illusions that came along with that. I wrote about all of it. And I had readers — a lot of them — on every continent except Antarctica. While I lived through loss and the antics of my own romantic comedy, I stayed afloat on the sea of my readers’ belief.
Here’s a brief excerpt of the blog that became a book you can find most everywhere, including Amazon and the iPad bookstore.
So let the Rom-Coms roll. (For those of you not schooled in the chick-flick, a Rom-Com is a romantic comedy.)
I turn to the Rom-Com for answers. Don’t be quick to discount: Wisdom comes where you look. I have watched Hitch more times than I can count. I’m obsessed with this movie and many others—Four Weddings and a Funeral, for another. Here’s how the best ones work: In Hitch, for example, two cynics meet, neither believes love works, one or both have been hurt or screwed by believing that the open heart is a good thing. So one, or in this case both, have closed off that option: closed heart, closed heart.
Open heart, open heart lying behind the little box we carry in our chests. Who’s got the key to the box? I think, LOVE? Doesn’t exist. I’ve got the key to my box. I can shoot hoops (double entendre: look it up) while I wait, but I can look and look I do.
On JDate, I meet m., a real-estate developer. He’s my age, a bit overweight, a widower, who reminds me of D. Not the body—D.’s body, slim and hard and tight—but m.’s height, the blue eyes, the open face. He has two teenage girls, a newly built house he and his wife had bought and designed before she fell ill with a pernicious form of breast cancer. She died three months after her diagnosis.
We meet at Oya in downtown D.C. and have dinner at a hard-to-get table he has finagled and talk about grief. He tells me that, after his wife died, he quit his job to take care of his girls, and now works as a consultant so that he has flexible hours. He says he’s not in typical mourning because he and his wife were about to separate before she fell ill. A lot revealed on a first date and we wrap-around each other in understanding. I’m not good at being the cynic and tell him about the loss of D. He listens quietly.
He asks, “Do I need to take care of you?” He has come over in the afternoon the day after the first date. He tells me he has a girlfriend, but that relationship is ending. He wants to make love. So do I. He’s one of the good guys, I think (and still do.) I have the key to my box. I can do this. I answer him firmly, “I can take care of myself.”
Website and blog: http://www.maryltabor.com