Pat's Latest Column

Multiple Marriages Bring Multiple Perspectives

August 17th, 2017

I couldn’t resist. After writing a (pretty bad) poem that spoofed the elaborate strategies for perfect eclipse viewing, I am myself headed to a spot two hours south of Portland, Oregon along the Path of Totality.

“The perfect tribute to Bill Hurley!” friends have exclaimed. And they are right. My late husband, an amateur astronomer and believer in Carpe Diem! would have not missed the August 21 event. Since he died last August, it does make the perfect anniversary tribute.

The more I thought about my adventure, though, the more I had to smile. The Bill mode of eclipse-viewing vs. the Pat mode is strikingly different.

With Bill, it would have been precise advance calculations, escape plans via low-traffic highways in case of cloud cover, sleeping bag, tent, telescope. I know this because he was already planning it.

With me, it is a hotel departure in an air-conditioned motor coach with bathroom (I asked), box breakfast, quick hike to the viewing site, then off for lunch at a winery.

I could say I’m taking the easy way because I don’t have the necessary skill or equipment to do it the hard way, and that would be partially true.

But the real truth is, at this stage of the game there’s more to the story. My mode of eclipse-viewing – and many other modes – is influenced by being married 40 years and not to the same man. To three, to be exact.

While Husband #3 inspired a love of stargazing and carpe diem adventure, twenty-six years with late Husband #2 inspired an appreciation for keeping it simple.

“Knock yourself out,” he’d say when I came up with some cockamamie scheme. “Tell me how it all worked out.” This passion for simplification extended to grocery lists ordered according to supermarket aisles and written vacation post mortems designed to plan the perfect experience in the exact same location the following year.

Somehow, living with these two different styles has morphed me into a weird sort of hybrid that I’ve gotten to like. Isn’t the box breakfast on the air-conditioned bus on the way to an eclipse actually the best of both worlds? Haven’t multiple marriages sort of taken things to the next level?

At least that’s what I tell myself as I stare longingly – twice widowed and once divorced – at the Facebook couples from my high school class who are celebrating 50 years of wedded bliss, all to the same person.

I count backwards and realize that if I’d stayed with Husband #1 (the high school ex) all these years, I’d have been inching my way toward 50 next year. His death this summer caused me to call up long-forgotten conversations from our too-early marriage, a tutorial sort of relationship that too much resembled the likes of Eliza Doolittle and Professor Henry Higgins.

At one point – I can still see it – he scribbled instructions to Drink More Water! on a legal pad. It was actually not bad advice.

Maybe in #1’s honor, when I board the bus on my carpe diem adventure, I will knock myself out and pack a water bottle in addition to the provided breakfast.

But only if I write it on a list ahead of time.

Copyright 2017 Pat Snyder


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