Three of Us
“My Gutsy Story®” by Jon Magidsohn
My ten-month-old son, Myles, and I had been on the road for two weeks by the time we crossed the border from Kansas to Colorado. After hours driving through blanched wheat fields, the landscape suddenly turned green; rambling stands of cottonwood trees sprouted from the moist woodlands, which drank from the streams fed by constant mountain run-off. Myles, rear-facing in his car seat, watched the great plains drifting away into his horizon while, about eighty miles in front of me, I could see the approaching Sangre de Cristo mountains fading into view, the red sandstone dotted with blue-green Piñon Pines as it arched its way down toward New Mexico. Having endured nearly a week of featureless views, I welcomed the sight of the mountains like they were a long-absent parent. My thoughts, which had been as arid as the prairies this mid-summer, were rejuvenated by Colorado’s verdant vista.
Sue had died less than four months earlier, ten months after her breast cancer diagnosis and nearly a year after we learned she was pregnant with our first child. Impending parenthood and countless visits to doctors of various specialities had inured me against recognizing the signs of normal. After she died, normal simply evaporated. What I did recognize, being a widower now miles from home, was that I didn’t just grieve for my wife; I also mourned the loss of the future we were supposed to have had together. My instinct as a single dad told me to kick-start the discovery of my new life by taking it on the road. Myles and I had left Toronto in late July with a car filled like a jar of jelly-beans and little in the way of a plan. We were moving forward.
Driving had taken on a new characteristic by the time we reached Colorado. It was no longer simply meditative and cathartic; it had become an inevitability, each leg of the journey fulfilling an insatiable urge to be satisfied. Being in the car with my son was as necessary as breathing. To drive was to be. The silver Rav4 had become a part of our mobile family; an extension of me and Myles that sheltered and guided us and in return deserved our love and respect.
We were a threesome again, like the trio Myles, Sue and I never had the chance to explore. We could have been the exemplar of families. Sue and I might have raised Myles to be the perfect combination of his parents; from me he’d be patient, musical, light-hearted; from his mother shrewd, dedicated and fiery. Even before Sue was diagnosed – before the medical incentives – we never wanted a second child. As a threesome we would be complete.
Maybe it was the endless stretch of grey road winding through America, because even though I’d told myself this excursion was all about forward momentum, it began to feel like I wasn’t going anywhere. The one-sided conversations with Myles in the back seat did little to distract me from the empty seat next to me. I’d spent so much time with myself recently, I was beginning to forget what it was like to have a partner.
Loneliness crept up on me like a fiend. I thought I was coping well; I thought I was doing everything right. The reverberating blows of death would eventually dissipate, I assumed, but I didn’t think I could endure the loneliness. I understood that so-called ‘successful’ people can be some of the loneliest; movie stars with trampling entourages at their disposal, the embarrassingly rich, princesses. But I considered myself a success simply because I’d chosen to marry Sue. I had neither fame nor wealth nor royal blood but I did have intimacy and companionship. When Sue died she took all the fruits of my success with her.
So this was where the strange contradiction started. Deep down at the bottom of that dark empty hole that Sue left sat jolly young Myles stretching his little arms out as wide as he could and saying to me in his own wordless way, ‘Here I am Daddy and I love you and I’ll hold your hand when you’re feeling lonely and I’ll listen to your secrets and I’ll let you cry on my shoulder and we can be a family.’ And if that hole wasn’t in the process of growing persistently larger he might just have been able to fill it up.
Myles had served as the ever present counterbalance to the weight of sadness since before he was born. The anticipation of his birth gave Sue and me something to look forward to during the months of cancer management. He’d saved us from the constant burden of fear and doubt.
After Sue died he kept fulfilling his duty as my protector. The grief was manageable because of Myles, whether we were at home or driving through the middle of Middle America. I had to look after him so that he’d still be able to look after me. I needed those moments when he’d wrap his arms around my neck with unquestionable affection; those moments talking to him when he’d smile like a faithful companion. And the moments when he’d look at me with his bright, trusting eyes and I’d know there was love in my life.
After Colorado we’d spend ten days driving through the desert before reaching the west coast. Each region had its own unique effect on my moods and the reflections that accompanied them. By the time we returned home to Toronto, almost two months after we left, we’d covered more than 10,000 miles through 23 states and 2 provinces, four time zones and back, gotten two oil changes and emptied one jumbo box of Cheerios one ‘O’ at a time. I still had a long way to travel before the worst was behind me, but I was confident that my son and I were headed in the right direction.
JON MAGIDSOHN: is originally from Toronto, Canada. He’s written about fatherhood for dadzclub.com, the Good Men Project, Today’s Parent and Mummy and Me magazines. He’s also been featured on Chicago Literati and the What’s Your Story?-Memoir Anthology (Lifetales) and currently publishes three blogs. He’s been an actor, singer, waiter, upholsterer, sales representative, handyman and writer. He moved to London, UK in 2005 where he received an MA in Creative Non-Fiction from City University. Jon, his wife, Deborah, and their son, Myles, are now in Bangalore, India, where Jon writes full time. www.jonmagidsohn.com
Please follow Jon on Twitter: @JonMagidsohn
SONIA MARSH SAYS: Jon, your story and your words bring out so many emotions from love, to loss, to love. What a powerful and beautifully written “My Gutsy Story®.”
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