It’s the eve of the Jewish New Year. Another first without Ronen. He loved the holidays: all of them. Looked forward to services even. I’ve never met anyone who loved being Jewish more. And what a surprise for me, to fall in love with and marry this person. I’ve always valued my religion, felt it in my bones as my identity, but by the time I got to know Ronen, when I was thirty, I had long since given up on marrying a Jew. To say that my track record suggested otherwise, that it pointed to marriage at all, would be a grand understatement.
I think about him pretty much every minute of every day. But lately, even more, as we head into a new year. The depth of this missing – I am sorry if you know it, too. It’s a well with no bottom – reaching deep, deep, down into the beginning of time. Sometimes I fight for air; to breathe; the missing is so suffocating.
Today, my thoughts of him led me to thoughts of the me before him. How was I fortunate enough to usher him into my life in the first place? A lot of you know the story of how he was my subway crush for many, many years. How I could never work up the nerve to say hello to him for fear of who knows what. How one morning I even scribbled him a message on a tiny piece of notebook paper, intending to pass it to him as I slipped through the F train doors, only to chicken out.
But fate came for us anyway. My friend Lana introduced us one day on that same train. And click. Click is the best verb to describe it I think, although it took a minute for us to settle in. Ronen was an over-analyzer and I was not. He would weigh the pros and cons and maybes and maybe not’s until his eyes crossed. I was and am a gut person. It was him. It had always been him, somehow. Let’s go, already.
But if I think even further back than that subway encounter, I remember the me who never valued myself. Every pseudo relationship I was in was me trying to play it cool instead of being myself. Or, in some cases, being myself at exactly the wrong moment to the nth degree.
The relationship I was in before Ronen had progressed in exactly the same way they all had. The writing had been on the wall since the beginning. I was reading the paper instead. But then something happened. I got my first “book deal”. Two Bratz mysteries, but still. Finally, I was doing what I loved to do. Confidence was not about my weight or my clothes or my hair, I discovered. It was about actively pursuing my passion.
Time went on. Oh, thinking back on my behavior, I cringe. Yeesh. But my newfound confidence brought about a change. I remember vividly, telling this person the last time we saw each other. “You don’t adore me. I’m not mad at you for that, but that’s what I need. That’s what I deserve.” And then all my memory conjures up is walking into a purple sunset in Brooklyn, away from that mess of before. It sounds corny as hell, I know. But it really happened.
And then. A few more missteps but none that I was too invested in and voila: Ronen. That adoration I craved and finally knew I deserved. There he was.
Once, he held the subway doors open for me as the train was trying to pull away from the station, evoking snarls and yells, maybe even barking from fellow passengers. I got on in the nick of time, warmed by that sunbeam of a smile. Adored.
I am going to try to remember that feeling this week as my boys and I experience yet another first, instead of the crushing sadness of his missing. And I am going to wish it to everyone reading this. You should all be so lucky.
A wonderful panel at The Decatur Book Festival with fellow authors Patti Callahan Henry and Mary Alice Monroe, moderated by Kathie Bennett this afternoon. Thanks to everyone who came out.
And afterwards, popsicles with some of my favorite peepsicles.
In the months since Ronen left us, the kindness and selflessness of friends and family has been incredibly humbling. Meals and cards, donations and hugs. Friends for weekends to play, feed and love on my kids; to lend me shoulders to cry on; to hold my hand. To carry us as best they can.