My husband disappears this time of year.
I can still see him. Sometimes he is watching "Jeopardy," or "Law and Order" (the older episodes with Jerry Orbach) or reading "Great Expectations." I tease him, asking him if he is joining Oprah's book club since that is her latest selection. He tells me no, he is not joining Oprah's anything anytime soon. He just feels like reading it. He sits on the couch and works the crossword puzzle in the Washington Post. Sometimes he looks up to ask if I've heard from the kid today...
He misses his daughter terribly. Since she left for college he seems older. Sadder. Especially this time of year.
There is a thread of sadness that has run through him since he was five years old. I learned about it when I met him. It was one of the first things he told me about himself.
It begins on a dark afternoon in November. His mother sends him to the store for some forgotten item. He and his brother have crossed that street dozens of times before.
He yells for his brother to stop. Wait!
The man driving the car gets out and stands in horror over the tiny four year old boy lying in the street. The five year old boy becomes the man with the thread of sadness running through him.
Every year around this time he worries about his own child more. Have you heard from her today?
He is a sturdy man. But this time of year he disappears.
I call him back on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. Sometimes I give up and take my dinner plate into the bedroom. Sometimes he does not want to be called back. He is content with his solitude. It is necessary. He spends time sorting his loose change as he sorts through his private thoughts. He keeps the change in empty "Bonne Maman" jam jars. Dimes in one, nickels in another. Quarters in another.
He is a kind man. He worries about the birds and the squirrels this time of year. I see him take the last slices of bread out the door with him.
I lose him for a little while this time of year.
He brings home a large chocolate cake. Five dollars at Safeway! he tells me. I blink. The cake is big enough for ten people. I give him a look, but try to match his enthusiasm. Yay! Cake for five dollars!
I need to let him have his joy where he finds it.
There are no missed payments. The bills are always paid on time. Tuition check is written out carefully and also on time. The light bulbs are replaced as soon as they burn out and a missed day of work is unthinkable.
He is a sturdy man.
But I lose him for a little while this time of year.