Fire crackled in the fireplace as Nina puttered in the kitchen. Life in our little Cutten cottage was simple and beautiful.
Then, smoke from the fire would billow out through the house, alarms in every room erupting in a symphony of distress. I had built the fire for Nina, but I lacked her finesse for stacking wood. Once again, I had set the world on fire.
Still, that little place was ours, tranquil and loving. With champagne and candles, we celebrated our first home together. We shared our world with loving neighbors, deer, raccoons and bears—and Ted and Susan.
I missed it, even though our house on Buhne Street was so much bigger. It even had a fireplace, gas-fueled so I couldn’t mess it up. She loved new houses, though she waited until the last minute to tell me where my personal space would be. “Just show me where to stow my gear,” I said.
We passed many happy hours there too, me typing away in the sunroom, Nina watching Korean soap-operas. She would rake the leaves as I barked encouragement from a safe distance. She was so much better at raking.
I knew how to work little and look busy. Wash one dish in a sink full of them and she would say, “Thank you, my man.” She knew she was married to a slacker, but real love can tolerate anything—even me.
That changed when I lost her in that crosswalk just outside our bedroom window. In the months that followed, I tried to make the best of it. I switched around the living room couch so I could fall asleep watching something other than my front door. I can still see headlights flashing on the ceiling.
Change is frightening. This summer, I wondered where I would live and work and who would look out for me. I have often wondered such things—but not at the same time, and not at my age. Losing job, wife and home all at once is frightening—until the numbness sets in. My Nina would have said, “We’ll figure something.” And somehow we did.
Her last intentions for me—where and how I would live– were not clear and not binding. It was up to her family and me to figure it out. That we have– in one tense and, I hope, forgiving day.
With our attorneys, we met in separate rooms. A mediator, a retired judge, shuffled back and forth, his posture worsening by the hour. Outside was bitter cold. Inside, the devil was in the details. You’ve heard the expression, “a snowball’s chance in hell.” This was the hell they were talking about.
With their attorneys and mine, Peter Martin, we hacked away at the things that divide us– speaking not a word to each other directly. I love them still –and so miss their mother.
Maybe the feeling is mutual. By the end of the day, we agreed to what I always wanted, return to the little Cutten house for the rest of my life. After that, it is theirs. I suggest a Dave’s Graceland, museum of my sports memorabilia and useless junk. Also a meditation room to reflect on my dingbat decisions. That’s up to them.
So it is home where Nina and I began a beautiful life—home where my heart is.