PROLOGUE of THE BEST OF US
On the Fourth of July weekend three years ago, at the age of fifty-nine, I married the first true partner I had ever known.
We spoke our vows on a New Hampshire hillside with friends and children gathered, as fireworks exploded over us and a band backed us up for a duet on a John Prine song. That night we talked about the trips we'd take, the olive trees we would plant, the grandchildren we might share. We would know, in our sixties, the love we had yearned for in our youth. Each of us had been divorced almost twenty-five years. How lucky, everyone said, that we had found each other when we did.
Not long after our one-year anniversary, my husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Nineteen months later, having shared a struggle that consumed both our lives in equal though different measure, I lay beside him in our bed when he took his last breath.
I had once supposed I was done with marriage. A few decades of disappointments and failures had left me reluctant to try again. Then I got married that second time—to Jim—but with the belief still that nothing, and no man—not even one I dearly loved—could alter my course of fierce and resolute independence. I came and went, always happy to see him when he picked me up off a plane, but happy to hop on the next one that would take me away again. I had my life, he had his. Sometimes we’d share them. That was my idea, though never my husband’s.
Not until we learned of his illness, and we walked the path of that terrible struggle together, did I understand what it meant to be a couple—to be a true partner and to have one. I only learned the full meaning of marriage as mine was drawing to a close. I discovered what love was as mine departed the world.
This is our story.
AUTHOR FACT: Joyce always creates a playlist of music to listen to when she writes.