New Gumbo

On this day four months ago my wife of many years, who I had been with for two thirds of my life, passed away. I have dealt with my grief many ways. I have stayed busy with chores, done those things which I avoided doing with her (like eat red meat, she couldn’t, eating shrimp, she was allergic), spent more time with my son and his family, cleaned the house, and did the things I normally do as well as those things I haven’t in a long time (e.g. cooking and going to the gym.) Many friends, colleagues and former students have reached out to console me and they have my sincere gratitude. Time and all of those things have dulled the edge of grief. As is my wont I think I’ll try thinking and writing about it too.

A long time ago I read something by C.S. Lewis to the effect that humans are the only ones who want to repeat a pleasure exactly. Not to just have another pleasure or another version of that pleasure, but to have that specific pleasure with all its feelings, smells, tastes, and sounds exactly the same. This is of course impossible, just as you can never step in the same stream twice. Time has gone on, circumstances have moved on, and that experience is now part of you thus changing you forever. I met my wife when I was 22 years old. I will never be 22 again. I am now entering the last stage of my life, older, more experienced and I hope wiser. More to the point I now have 45 years of experience living with someone else who was usually wiser than I, sometimes funnier than I, and always more practical than I. Those lessons and experiences now shape all that I do. They shape how I approach life now.

I made some gumbo the other day. I loved both the making and the eating of it. I am making it again today and following the same recipe. I have tweaked it a little; I have added some new ingredients (Hatch green chilies which are a great delicacy here in New Mexico) and left out a few (black pepper.) The gumbo I cook today will be different from the one I cooked last week. I will try to look at it not relatively (better or worse than last week’s) but as an entire new experience (a new pleasure I hope.) So will be my new life without her. I can no longer have the blush of first love nor the deepening experience of sharing one’s life with another for over 40 years. Of course that does not mean I cannot have an enjoyable, productive, and still meaningful life, nor that I will never smile or laugh again. I must admit I feel that way sometimes, but my granddaughter will do something surprising and a smile comes unbidden to my face.

So I will reorganize some cabinets,  rearrange the house, take care of the finances, and move on as she wanted me too. We always knew one of us was going to have to go on without the other. I didn’t think it would happen this soon nor that I would be the one. She would probably be better at it than me. I will do my best to build a new life, to cook a new gumbo with tweaked ingredients, but just as satisfying. I choose to believe she is somewhere saying “bon appetit.”

7 Comments

  • Lance

    I’m sad that you have to through this Randy. Time heals All they say…

    I just can’t imagine loosing the love of my life.

    God Speed Randy

  • David Doyle

    Like you, your words are nonpareil. May each day bring you continued strength and the recognition that you have meant so much to so many.

  • Cindy Jenson-Elliott

    This is lovely, Randy. It’s a long road you’re on.

  • Phyllis Goodnow

    So lovely!

  • Randy (Author)

    Thanks David.

  • Paul Irwin

    Dear Randy,

    Tom Spear recently sent me an enthusiastic reference to your blog. He has very fine words to write about it. And now that I have been reading in it here and there I too am enthusiastic (Tom’s word is “entranced”). But even more than your wise words on culture and politics I was hit powerfully by the ugly news that your wife has died. Catherine was a fine person. I can hardly imagine the loss you must feel. I am so sorry.

    I realize that this is probably an inappropriate way to contact you but couldn’t find an email address. Do forgive me. And do know that memories of you are still alive.

    Paul

  • Randy (Author)

    Thanks Paul. I have replied more extensively by email. Hope to keep in touch.

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