The year was 2002. It was significant in a number of ways. My husband, Dennis, retired from his career of over three decades. We were building our dream retirement home, a log house on water in the Adirondacks.
It also brought the thirtieth anniversary of the accidental death, in 1972, of my then fiancé – a life-altering event for me. And I was five years past my personal vow to turn my experience of his death into a story about loss and grief – and the sometimes aberrant ways we deal with them. And about why it’s so important to let the important people in our lives know that we care about and love them – because in the blink of an eye that opportunity could be lost forever.
I had started the story so many times. I could still recall, vividly and viscerally, my feelings on that October day and the days that followed. I could re-live the gut-wrenching ache and emptiness. And the anger – at him, at God, at anyone who wasn’t at that moment living with that unbearable pain. The disbelief that I’d never see him again. The thrill when a car pulled up in front of our house, because surely it was him and all this had been but a horrible nightmare.
But I seemed incapable of putting the words to the page in any way that would matter to anyone besides me.
As the year progressed, and we prepared for our imminent move from our home for the past twenty-five years, we began sorting through boxes and drawers, deciding what to keep and what to toss. It was then that I unearthed my “Paul box,” the box that contained the bits and pieces of our time together and the things we’d shared – the album I created of my memories and emotions, photos, music of that time. And the forgotten journal.
Two months after Paul died, I started writing everything I could remember about him, about our first encounter, about our time together. I think I was afraid, even after such a short time, that those memories would be lost to me over time. And that would be like his dying all over again or – worse – like he had just been a fleeting soul on this earth to begin with.
Finding that journal, with its raw pain mixed with joyful memories, was the catalyst for finding my voice for Autumn Colors.