A Good Year

It wasn’t meant to be an entire year. Or even a good one. Still the same, it was.

The position would be based in upper state New York, which would mean we’d only see each other on weekends… but we’d done this before and knew it would work. So Rick took the job, which began with a few months of training in San Diego. And in short time, two months became four months, then six and – before we even realized – twelve months. These delays were unforeseen, not intended, and – alas – typical of the intricacies of marrying cutting-edge technology with customer expectations. Rick’s role in the process fell victim to slipped deadlines, and everyone worked hard to accommodate the situation… us included.

The morning he returned home to officially begin his job in New York was six days shy of one year. One entire year. Away from home, from me, save for a brief trip back every six or so weeks. When we added it up, he’d spent only about two of those twelve months at home.

While Rick was gone, people would often say things that, while I am certain were meant in support and sodality, were painful to hear. What a bastard! How can he expect this of you? You need to tell him to find another job and get his ass home! That must be just awful!

They were painful to hear because none of those remarks bore any semblance of truth.

It was hardly fun being without Rick for most of a year. The 2600 miles that existed between us played cruelly on both our hearts. Not having him near me month after month was frustrating, distressing, at times even agonizing. I missed my best friend.

But contrary to the heartless, unsolicited comments I frequently heard, my Rick was not a bastard. Nor did he expect this of me: he asked, we discussed, I agreed. And I would never have told him to find another job. Partly because this was a good job in a great company, partly because – despite the situation – he was enjoying his role, and partly because it took nearly a year in a deplorable economy to secure this job.

It will shock those who insisted that this year must have been awful, but it wasn’t.
In fact, it was a Good Year. Because I learned so much.

For starters, I was entirely responsible for our house and learned, within twelve months’ time, to repair a toilet (yuck!), use a chainsaw (on a fallen tree in the front yard), light the furnace pilot (when it blew out), fire a gun (to scare off a pack of coyotes in the driveway) and herd two heavy, stubborn little bassets into and out of the car for multiple vet and kennel trips. It all may not seem like much to some, but it was far, far more than I’d bargained for or would ever have been willing to take on. I shoveled snow, stacked wood, endured my fear of thunder throughout stormy summer evenings and sat alone in the dark, eery cold when the lights went out. I nursed myself through a sturdy flu and a sprained ankle (acquired while herding said bassets during a winter blizzard). And I soothed my own tears on nights when I didn’t think I could stand the loneliness for a moment longer. Sometimes it wasn’t easy, but I did it. All. By. Myself.

Other times, it was lots easier. Throughout this year, I wandered about for solo adventures, spent time with people I’d not seen in ages and wrote far more than I had in years. Most days, the quiet solitude greeted me as a friend, and I sincerely enjoyed it.

I also learned that I’d grown far too dependent on Rick. And I didn’t like it. In the year prior to this Good one, he’d done nearly everything around the house during his unemployment: dishes, vacuuming, laundry, coffee… everything. Then he left for California and his new job. I went from doing practically nothing to everything. But since we’d assumed it was only for the short term, I didn’t really mind it. By the time two months turned to four, I’d already settled into a comfortable routine. When four months turned to six, I’d just seen the worst of a New Hampshire winter and was happy to  greet Spring. And when six and then eight months turned into ten, I’d grown confident in our ability to bear the delays and was comforted in the knowledge that it was drawing to a close. I missed Rick, but we worked hard to make the best of it. And knowing that I was fine on my own – whether or not it was what we wanted – made the delays more endurable.

By the time our one-year mark approached, I felt elated, proud, amazed, and relieved. Elated that Rick would soon be in the same time zone, just a quick three-hour drive from me. Proud that we’d come through this challenge for the better. Amazed that the experience, while having pulled us physically apart, resulted in our becoming emotionally closer. And relieved that I didn’t know, when it all began, that those two months would morph into twelve. Because I might likely have agreed with those snide remarks made by friends and acquaintances. I cringe at this possibility, yet I acknowledge its truth.

So I have declared this year The Good Year. For that reason and so many others…

Prior to this Good Year, I lacked independence and based too much of my own happiness on Rick’s presence. And I took that presence for granted. Not any more.

I realized so much about my marriage. And how strong – yet flexible – Rick and I are together. Even when together is separated by a vast ravine of geography.

I learned that I don’t need a husband. I just need Rick.

And I was reminded, uncountable times throughout this Good Year, of how very blessed I am.

Mostly, though, I have declared this year The Good Year because I worry that, years from now, Rick and I will annotate the story, leaving ourselves only with memories of the heartbreak and difficulties that resulted from our having been apart.  I want to be certain that we don’t edit out the lessons, the blessings, the good parts. Because those good parts are what made this The Good Year.

Throughout The Good Year, Rick and I relied on Skype; it always soothed me to see his smiling face, momentarily filling the cavernous distance between us. While seated on the sofa in his hotel room, a common, framed print of piano keys hung on the wall behind him. These days, whenever I see that print in a store or office or other hotel room, I’m always reminded of – and truly grateful for – this experience and all that I learned from it.

Because it really was a Good Year.