February 23rd, 1942. My parents, James Albert Bowden and Edith Madge Henderson, get married after Daddy graduates from Officer Candidate School. He is a Second Lieutenant of Infantry and his unit is on maneuvers near Yuma, Arizona. Both grandmother matriarchs of the clans – Florence Ellen Maley Bowden (West Tennessee) and Robert “Bobby” – [ yes, named Robert for her uncle killed at Battle of Seven Pines, VA] Malvina Holland League (Upcountry South Carolina) attend.
February 23rd, 1980. My Father, age 60, dies from his 3rd heart attack since age 47 – on their 38th wedding anniversary in Leesburg, VA. That night, I see him in a dream unlike any dream I’ve ever had. He assures me, “I’m all right, I’m okay.” He is concerned about my well-being.
February 23rd, 1999. We move our family into the house we’ve built a couple of blocks from where we’ve lived for 9 years in Poquoson, VA. My wife made a number of additions and changes to the builder’s design. She had looked at over a thousand plans. We walked through a house being built a few doors down and she said, “This works.” It was her house she made our home. It’s the house she has always wanted. We gave thanks continually to God for the resources to have it. We opened it to others. She mentioned, for the umpteenth time, how much she loved her home the day before her stroke.
February 23rd, 2014. I came home to a house new to me - after my wife’s burial at Arlington National Cemetery. I took a picture of my new back yard. Nellie Katherine had instructed me to not do anything major – I called it don’t do anything stupid – for 2 years should she proceed me in death. This move didn’t break the rule. It is about 2 miles from our former home – in the same town. We had looked at this property together. She would never have left her home for this. But, it’s a financially compelling deal. All my kids support it – thank you. It’s a smart downsize to the esthetics I care about the most.
After our place sells, I’ll do the math and see how much of a writing studio I can build on top of this 1973 rambler house. Thank You, Lord.
This February 23rd is another red letter transition date like the other February 23rds.
I got a precious sympathy card from one of my Mother’s youngest first cousins – Alva Ann – today. She was a young psychiatric nurse who spent significant time visiting my Mother when I was a teenager. She wrote lovely, accurate words about my wife.
And she wrote, “I know it is gong to be difficult to discover your identity without her.” She’s right. This is the transition without a road map. Same guide, though, the good Shepherd – Lord Jesus Christ. I’m absolutely clear about my continuing hierarchy of duties – minus husband – and my work “you will read and write.”
No idea who I will be without my lifelong wife and companion. No idea how long. No idea where – other than to this new place in the same town. No idea how individual days unfold on this 2 year walk to the new “normal.”
As grateful as I am for our time together, I am sad to be apart. Equal measures it seems.
Already, I know I will love this house. I know I will cherish this new backyard. My tears tell how much I wish it were not so.