I wrote this story originally about three years ago and back then, it was about one-third the length. I gave it to a critique group I belonged to at the time, which has since disbanded, and then to a professional editor. It wasn’t well-received and everyone had a lot of suggestions for improvements, which I never made. Like most of my other work, I abandoned it…until a few months ago.
When I finally dusted it off for another look, I knew everyone was right. It wasn’t good. The writing was mediocre and the main character was superficial. But I still believed in the core idea of the story and thought it worth working on. So I did. The story grew and grew and the plot got the in-depth treatment it deserved. Believe it or not, I feel good recognizing that my earlier writing was not great. It means I’ve grown as a writer. And the work I’ve put into my craft and this story paid off in publication in the Adelaide Literary Magazine. This is my third publication, but the first one you can buy in print. Very exciting! You can also read it online here.
The Story Behind the Story: The inspiration for this story was two fold. First, when I moved to Boulder, my soon-to-be friend Liz Embry put together a Meetup group called “Women Without Children.” It was for people like me who wanted to meet women who read, travel, have interesting hobbies, and have lots and lots of subjects to talk about that don’t involve children because they don’t have children and don’t want them.
If you’ve ever participated in the Meetup world, you know that people habitually RSVP for Meetups and never show up. Through this group, I went to a brunch that six people had said they would attend, but only myself and one other woman in her early sixties showed up. I didn’t mind. She was fascinating. She had moved to Boulder from New York City in the 80s and had many stories to tell about moving here alone as a young woman at that time and starting a career in the catering business. She also had more recent stories to tell, and one of them was about a man she was currently dating. The man, who was slightly older than her, was still married, but his wife had severe health issues and was living in an assisted care facility. He loved her and would never divorce her and would always make sure she was cared for, but that didn’t mean he had to live without affection and tangible reciprocation of love for the rest of his life.
Around the same time, I read an article similar to this one about former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. When her husband got dementia, she put him in assisted living. He fell in love with someone else there. Sad? Absolutely. Cheating? No. He didn’t remember O’Connor anymore. He didn’t know he was married. She still took care of him. She still loved him. Whether she subsequently began dating, I don’t know, but she wasn’t upset at her husband.
These stories made me start thinking about the many forms that love can take in practice, especially as we get older and live in circumstances that are not considered in the traditional vision of love as a monogamous couple. True, lasting love doesn’t have to involve sacrificing one’s own happiness or sense of self as a person who is deserving of being loved. And so this story was born.