It was serendipity. Really, there’s no other way to describe it.
How else would a woman from upstate New York, still soul-wounded by the death of a fiancé and battered by the aftermath of an abusive relationship (and the abusive childhood that led her not to be able to clearly see the signs that this relationship could become abusive) have met a man from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, who had long since decided he was a confirmed and lifelong bachelor because he wasn’t willing to “settle”, have met at the busser’s station of Moqui Lodge, a scant mile away from the edge of the Grand Canyon – on his thirty-third birthday?
Yes, that’s really how I met my late husband on February 20, 1997, and not a meet-cute plot.
Of course, I didn’t know he was going to be my husband, back then. I honestly didn’t like him. His eyes went to my admittedly generous chest – and stayed there. He was bigger than me, and burly, and I wasn’t sure I could trust him if we met in one of the darker areas of the employee living quarters alone.
I also had him confused with the other lead cook, who was not a person I could ever have found pleasant on any level at all.
But, as time went by, he kept popping into my awareness during off-duty hours. I wanted to hike the trails I was reading about in my Grand Canyon history book. “Big Jim’s the guy. He’s been here twelve years and hiked every trail – most of them more than once.” I was regaled with the information that he’d even taken on the Nankoweap Trail – one I was certain I was never going to try.
I wanted to hang out with quieter people for whom the drinking and partying that was so customary in national park concessioners wasn’t the focus. “Big Jim doesn’t drink or party, and he doesn’t like crowds.”
I wanted to learn to play chess. “Big Jim’s about the best around.”
Every time, I wanted to snap, “But I don’t like Big Jim! He keeps staring at my breasts, and I don’t trust him!”
Then, one night, I made a fateful decision.
I’d been working hard, starting to get the vaguest suggestion of a handle on the financial mess I’d made of my life throughout my early and mid-twenties, and decided I would treat myself to a six-pack of Guinness. It was really a treat, too – things had to be trucked across the desert to the Babbitt’s store in Tusayan, the nearest town, and that six-pack was going to cost me $16.99.
I was so absorbed in the idea of that six-pack, and the treat I was giving myself, that I didn’t remember one very important detail…
I didn’t own a bottle opener.
I realized that when I got home, and there was no way to open
my much-anticipated cold ones. I went off in search of a bottle opener and
happened upon Big Jim by the laundry room. He’d been a recovering alcoholic for
years, but he said there might still be a bottle opener kicking around in the
kitchen of the trailer he shared with a friend. When he said he’d go look, I
impulsively hugged him, and he smiled.
He found the bottle opener and brought it to my dorm a few minutes later… and then we talked for four hours. After that, we were together nearly every evening. He taught me to play chess (more or less, since I don’t have a chess brain), and then let me beat him in a nightly game of Scrabble. And we talked, and talked, and talked…
We talked ourselves into friendship, and love, and marriage. We stopped talking long enough to make a family. We talked until 3 days before his death, when he was no longer conscious enough.
And it was all because of the double serendipity of my landing right where he was, and him having a bottle opener he never used anymore.
Till Next Time!