I just returned from a nice weekend in Orange County. My friends invited me to join them for the weekend, which included some surfing time for my son, and a bunco party for the adults. I was promised over and over what a good time I would have, and how it was an opportunity to meet more of their friends.
When I first arrived we were trying to remember the last time I was at their house. I was quite surprised to realize that it had been a very long time. At first I thought maybe a couple of years, then they mentioned that the last time I was there Michael was with me. Not only was he with me, but he was healthy.
Pre-cancer. Pre-tumor. Pre-marriage. Pre-treatments. Pre-death.
It was a sobering realization. The last time I was there, we had our whole future ahead of us. We were carefree. We were so happy. We had no idea what was before us. And, our life, my life, was never the same.
As the guests began to arrive I placed myself in the backyard on a chair, making small talk with a couple of people. As I sat there I had the pleasure of watching couple after couple arrive. As they entered the yard my friends would introduce me to Jim and Bob, Ty and Peg, Eric and John, you get the picture. In time I realized that for one, most of these folks knew each other, and that they all socialized as couples. Why wouldn't they? Right? The other thing that I realized was that since most of them were coupled off, I was for the most part invisible. I sat there on that lawn chair, without much conversation, for a very long time.
As the game began, we went round after round, moving from table to table, and changing game partner to game partner. I began to have a lot of fun. At one point the person I was partnered with was a a 71 year old woman, who my friends had befriended. There was a break in the game, so I decided to engage her in conversation. I learned that she had lost her only son when he was 18 years old. I then learned that she had also lost her husband years earlier as well. I explained to her that I was quite familiar with loss, and shared how I was also widowed. This conversation continued throughout the evening whenever we were seated at the same table. By the end of the night we were the best of friends, and said goodnight with a big hug and kiss.
Both of us had experienced a big loss in our life. Both of us took joy in the fact that even though we lost miserably at bunco that night, we had found each other, and had such a wonderful connection throughout the game.
I imagine that I will continue to feel like the odd man out when around happy couples. It's something that cannot be avoided, and it's something that is honestly getting easier and easier with time. While it used to cut me like a knife to be among those coupled up, it now challenges me to find new ways to connect.
If you are not familiar with bunco, it's basically a game of chance, a roll of the dice. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. Either way, you have to move forward, to a new table, and to a new partner.
Funny, sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. My life is now a game of chance. It's time to move forward. I'm in a new place. Will it mean the arrival of a new partner? I'm not sure, but I remain open to new opportunities to connect.