Sometimes, going with the flow requires more strength than canoeing against the rapids
Who among us has not lost love to another? Author Elizabeth Sloan writes in this poignant entry of losing love not to another woman, but to the ravages of time, to memory gone awry. Are we not each a tributary in search of a river in which our lives converge with another kindred spirit, sharing eddies and waterfalls and broad lazy days of floating towards a shared destiny? But while some rivers carry us together, others just carry us away. Here is the
River of Life
by E.M. Sloan
It’s usually a simple trigger. Waiting at the bank when the Friday coffee cart is rolled out. That feeling of nostalgia, knowing how much Alex would enjoy wandering over to snag a couple cookies and cup of coffee.
We were romantic, once upon a time. He was my anchor following the end of an unhealthy marriage. Alex was never judgmental, always unconditional; a steadfast guarantee. He introduced my daughter and me to canoeing and rafting on wild Idaho rivers. I literally trusted our lives to him. He devoted his life to us.
But paths diverged. I moved and went to grad school. Alex continued winter travel to Central America, delivering medical supplies and building homes. Summers he returned to his river cabin, and we remained dear friends. For years, he waited patiently for my passion to return.
A few summers ago I decided to see if becoming a couple again was an option. We drove to the Midwest to visit our families. At a ma-and-pa motel, we played with the idea of having a physical relationship again. But Alex kneeled above me (both of us still pajama clad) and exclaimed, “This is like being at the top of a soap box derby!”
“Uh, that’s not going to work for me. Let’s go have breakfast.”
Over our shared omelet, Alex held my hand. “I’m sorry, sweetie. I just don’t seem to know how to do these things anymore.”
My mind flashed to him not able to put gas in the car, or even choose his own food from a menu.
“You’ve been living in Mexico so long, you just forget how to function back in the U.S.”
In Missouri we stayed with his brother. When Alex was in the shower, his brother and wife asked how he was doing.
“Oh, you know how hard-headed he can be!” I smiled.
They admitted that over the past couple years, they noticed him “not getting things.”
Damn. Now the subtle forgetfulness, disconnection, and feeling lost made sense. Our steadfast denial of his family “legacy” had to be addressed.
For three summers, I helped Alex maneuver along his jumbled journey. One day I said, “Hey, I need a good boatman to help me drape this tarp to keep the rain waters away.” We were transforming an abandoned jungle gym into an outdoor sleep space.
He earnestly set about zig-zagging the line of rope until the space was so enclosed it looked like a giant djembe drum. I asked what was the point of sleeping outside if only to be enveloped in a blue plastic wrap? He said I really needed to put the air mattress in the dog kennel so I could lock the gate and be safe inside.
Last summer we realized that travel is too upsetting. He won’t be able to return to the cabin, affectionately named Rio Vida. My hope is that the sanctuary of the waters will provide safe harbor until the river takes him home.