Conversation with My Wife (47)

We couldn’t bring you with us, so we brought a piece back

Pretty reddish rocks (photo by author)

Deb and her parents always vacationed together. Okay, not always, but since her second divorce many years ago. Initially it started as a way to help Deb get over her divorce and give her a way to take a break without having to travel alone or with strangers; as the years went along, it turned into a tradition. Deb and her mom loved to plan; Dad would make his preferences known, but mostly let the women work out the details. Trips would be a week or so, spring or summer or fall depending on schedules.

When I joined the family, I joined in with the vacations. By this point, Dad had been through a heart attack, while Mom had her knees replaced; having another driver or someone else to carry the luggage was a blessing. Deb and Mom still handled the planning details.Then Dad died in 2010. We still did vacations with Mom, up until she was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer in 2015 right after we got back from the Thousand Islands. She died the next year, and we didn’t really have a vacation that year.

So this year we went to the Hudson River area around Poughkeepsie, NY. Deb had been there many years ago (before we got married) with her parents, had enjoyed it, and wanted to see it again with me (and Dad and Mom) at some point. But there were always slightly more attractive locations in previous years, and so when we finally made it, it was just the two of us.

A rock from the Holiday Inn Express. If they need it back, they know where to get hold of us.

The grounds of our Holiday Inn Express had these reddish rocks in the flower beds around the hotel, which were kind of odd, since the stonework in the area is blue-tinged. But it made for a pretty effect, all the more so since it was a little startling (see the photo at the beginning of this story).

We like to pick up souvenirs on our travels: admission tickets, postcards, mugs, seashells, pretty rocks, whatever. Hey! I should pick one up, I thought; so I did, just reaching down and grabbing one at random.

DEB: Jackster, what are you doing?

ME: (aware that when my spouse is asking a question that is patently obvious, the question being voiced is NOT the question being asked) Aren’t these rocks pretty?

DEB: (aware of the same rule, so in a voice committing to nothing) Uh-huh.

ME: I thought one of these would make a nice souvenir. We’ve never seen ones like them. (I drop it in my pocket)

DEB: (relieved it wasn’t something weird, because: it’s me) Oh! Sure. We can put it with the shells on the shelf.

ME: Or…

I look at Deb with eyes that are suddenly moist.

ME: …we could…

DEB: (also now a little tearful) Yes.*

I bend down and choose another rock, this time a little more carefully, looking for just the right size and color.

We’re not Jewish. But I went to a high school that had a high enough Jewish population that we got the High Holidays off,** and some things rubbed off.*** So when, at some point in our marriage, we were in a cemetery with Jewish graves that had small stones on the gravestones, I could explain to Deb that this was a Jewish custom to leave small rocks or large pebbles when visiting the grave of someone. Deb thought this was neat, so she started bringing stones along whenever we’d visit Mom & Dad’s grave.

Stones of top of the headstone for Deb’s parents, from earlier visits.

And now we have another one to bring along.

*We sometimes communicate with few words. It’s a couples thing, I think.

**Officially they were “snow days.” Sure, people; we get lots of blizzards in Illinois in September and October.

***Also a number of Yiddish words and phrases. Many, it turned out, not the sort to use in polite conversation (teenagers — what were the odds?) as I found years later, when I had an Israeli boss, who had a rather shocked look on his face when I expressed my displeasure at a piece of software that wasn’t behaving.

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