Absent Partners: A Story and a Writing Prompt

Seven years ago, Cathy and I pointed her Mustang GT westward, our sights set on Lubbock, Texas. We were at a time in our lives when we didn’t quite know where we were going to end up. I’d just walked out of a long-term marriage. Cathy had left her own marriage five years prior. We’d reunited thirty-four years after dating when Cathy was sixteen and I was eighteen, but there was no promise that the two of us would last. All we knew the day we left Illinois and crossed the Mississippi River at St. Louis was we were going to Lubbock. The occasion? The wedding of one of my cherished former students. We were going to witness and celebrate the love she and her soon-to-be husband had for each other.

Cathy and I spent the first night of our 989-mile trip just outside Oklahoma City. The next day, somewhere in the Texas panhandle, the rain came. Torrential rain, the kind that obscures the visibility and makes you think about pulling over until the storm passes. We kept going, Cathy at the wheel. We made it to Lubbock with just enough time to change our clothes and drive to the wedding venue. The ceremony was supposed to take place outside, but the rain came again, and after a delay, the bride and groom decided to move the service inside. The ceremony, of course, turned out to be lovely—the exquisite bride, the eager groom, the this and the that. By evening’s end, we’d all been lifted by their I-do’s.

The anniversary of this marriage happens to be occurring at a time when Cathy is recovering from bronchitis. (Yes, we did indeed last; two years after the Lubbock wedding, we got married). Cathy spent the better part of this past week in bed while I carried on the best I could. I fed the cats, I watered the plants, I prepared food, I ran errands, I tended our vegetable garden. All the while, I was acutely aware of how much I missed my partner. The things we usually did together were no longer possible.

Writing Prompt:  A loved one is absent due to whatever circumstances you choose. What happens for the other half of the couple? What do they miss most about their absent partner?

Today, for the first time in a week, Cathy felt like a little outing, so we drove to one of our favorite produce markets to buy locally grown strawberries, new potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow squash, and zucchini. Nothing out of the ordinary happened, but it was an extraordinary day because once again I had Cathy by my side. I imagine we all take too much for granted—small graces like a ride in the country to buy produce, a meal shared, chores divided, the time we spend with those we love.

I’m also aware today of those whose lives have been turned upside down, either by illness or trauma, so I guess I’m sentimental about my memories of that trip to Lubbock. At one point during the reception, Cathy and I thought we were off by ourselves, dancing to the music, but a friend found us and took our photo. That photo is one of my favorites of Cathy and me. We’re in each other’s arms, and she’s looking at me with what I can only call adoration. Her eyes and her smile promise wonderful things to come.

The next day, we’re late leaving Lubbock and in the darkness of Oklahoma the rain comes again. This time, I’m driving. We’re on I-44, just east of Tulsa. A low concrete wall divides the east and west-bound traffic lanes. The spray from trucks on the other side of that wall is blinding. I’m white-knuckling it, and Cathy’s checking the weather radar on her phone. “We’re going to run out of it soon,” she says, and all I can do is trust what she’s telling me. “It won’t be long,” she says. “We’ll be in the clear.”

And eventually we are, and we keep driving, each mile moving us further into our future, bringing us closer to what will one day be our home.






  1. Pam Lynn on May 27, 2024 at 7:50 am

    Love your description of this day.

  2. Robert on June 2, 2024 at 11:00 am

    Felt that I made the trip with you…the love was palpable!

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