The Stone Bridge

Since I started working at the zoo, almost every day as I left work, I’d call Mark when I got to the old stone bridge that leads to the employee parking lot.

I’d say, “Hey, it’s me.”

“Hey, me.” He’d say, almost every time.

Just checking in. Not usually an in-depth conversation, just a “so how’s your day been, what time are you leaving work, have you talked to the boys, are they home yet, do you mind if I go out, do you mind if I go write?” kind of communication. Sometimes Mark had time to chat, oftentimes not.

It was just a thing we did.

During the cancer journey, the conversation was usually more towards “how’s your pain, did you get some sleep, have you heard from the doctor, did you take your (drug) yet, what time’s your appointment tomorrow, do I need to stop by the pharmacy and pick up anything?”

Whatever. Here’s the short-cut to the lesson of this post: DON’T GET TOO BUSY FOR EACH OTHER.

Right after Mark died, since I wasn’t there with him as he was dying, I was desperate to find some message, some communication from him, something that would affirm…. Something. Everything. I didn’t find it, except in a couple of texts that Mark had sent me from his hospital room in the final weeks.

It wasn’t enough. I was obsessed. I prowled through his backpack, through his books that he had with him in the hospital. I looked at his journals, a couple of them. (Note: Do not do this. Ever. EVER.) I looked through all of our email correspondence. I keep emails forever, so I had access to messages from cancerville and pre-cancerville days. He’d sent me a joke. He’d sent me some stuff he needed for work. He’d told me that he wanted to send money to some family members who were hurting.

And most of the rest of it, especially my emails to Mark, were about what were we doing. Mostly me asking, “are you okay if I go?” …to write, to see a show, to visit a friend, to this, to that, to this, to that.

What I see now, and most long-married people will get this, is not two people growing apart, as much as two people who had stopped growing together. We were workaholics. We were too busy.  We – again, especially me – spent a lot of time going places and doing things without him.

I am not looking for comfort, or reassurance, or advice. I’m not chastising myself here.

What I am driven to tell you is that today as I crossed the old stone bridge, and felt the familiar ping of Mark’s absence, there also came a clear message to my heart.


This is what I am supposed to tell you. Time with friends and hobbies and work and events are very important. Time alone is very, very important.

Just don’t get too busy for each other.



The “Oh-One” bridge



About Vicki Caroline Cheatwood

Writerly. Rebooting. Evolving. Searching for great chicken salad.
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4 Responses to The Stone Bridge

  1. The infamous bridge is my light at the end of the work day. I hope you saw the light today as you recovered from the day.

  2. At some point after my mother died, at one of those moments when I wanted to call her, I realized that though I used to think I was calling her for her benefit, to satisfy some need in her, I was really calling her for my benefit, because I needed to connect with her. Some moments just don’t sink in until later. They just don’t.

    • I understand that, boy oh boy. There’s something shocking about these “little” moments in life. Grieving, realize that we aren’t living some shallow life but one that’s full of depth. And depth charges. And underwater mines.

  3. Lorie M says:

    Got the message, dearie. Thanks for the shoutout. I find myself sometimes working hard to “tune in” to K’s debrief of his day, his worries, his frustrations, observations. But, I remember a note that a great friend of mine wrote in a little note-to-the-soon-to-be-newlyweds at our rehearsal dinner. She wrote that it was important to listen to your spouse, so s/he feels heard, even if it’s a topic that’s a yawner — i.e. her husband, a farmer at the time, shared every detail about the corn crop and harvest, which she described as ‘boooring,’ but she’d tune in to her best to show that she cared and respected him. Whenever K regales me with blow-by-blow’s about machining, I think, “corn,” and do my best to tune in and really listen and discuss! Not that I’m always successful, especially with our 5-year-old hopping about simultaneously. 🙂 XO

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