My Wife’s Death Dominated My 2022
On June 27, 2022, I lost Kathleen, my wife of 45 years, my love, my truest friend, my confidant, my constant companion, my writing mentor and editor, my motivator and champion, and on and on and on.
Death has visited our family many times. When Kathleen was thirteen, her mother succumbed to cancer. Her father passed away a few weeks before our third child was born. In the ensuing decades I lost my great-grandfather, all four of my grandparents, and both of my parents. My mother’s younger brother preceded Mom in death by eight months, the only victim of COVID in our family. (He’d been in poor health to begin with.) And there were others.
But for me, Kathleen’s death was a unique devastation.
Our (abbreviated) social history
We met at Northwestern University on September 20, 1976, on the first day of orientation week for incoming students. Our faculty advisor held a party at his home for his charges featuring food, talk, and a chess board where a few of us pitted ourselves against each other. The hour grew late as I played my one and only game of the evening. Kathleen asked to play me next, but I declined, citing the time. She never let me forget that.
We barely got acquainted that night. The day I truly met her came later in the week when our dorm threw its first party. Not caring for the noise, I took a walk to the twin-towered Lindheimer Astronomical Research Center at the north end of the lake fill. I returned via the dorm’s back door so as to avoid the crowd. Kathleen and her roommate had been to the party, but she tired of it and was returning as I came in. We stood in the hall, just the two of us, talking for fifteen, twenty minutes. I don’t recall a thing she said except one. Before we parted, she asked if I’d been to the university library. I hadn’t, so she offered a personal tour. I took her up on it. We went the next day.
That was so her. Aside from me, two things were her constant companions through life: books and music. She was a knowledge sponge with a passion for languages, history, religion, some sciences, and all manner of arcana. I’d joke that the double armful of books she’d haul from the library would only last her a week.