I was reading the poems and stories critically – today, would I have chosen that word, written that line? – and with distance as if I had never heard of Jennifer Futernick. I’m pleased to say I was proud of the writing, but reading to find out what actually happened in my life was nerve-wracking and wonderful in equal parts. The anxiety I have felt in my youth and adulthood resurfaced through words on the page, and once again it was calmed. Love sublimed from the pages like the best nitrous oxide, and at times I felt giddy. Or perhaps more correctly, once again the bounty of my life seeped in like a balm, and I felt a surprising sense of relief.
But since this memoir was published in December 2011, my family and I have experienced many crises and a soul-tearing tragedy: the death of our eleven-week-old granddaughter, Rowan, from bacterial meningitis. Weeks after Rowan’s death I would give previously scheduled public readings and admit to the audience that I was struggling with the title of my book, trying not to feel it was ironic or cruel. But I explained then and feel it even more deeply now – and certainly through this rereading – that my life is good. Of course there are days and moments when I do not feel that way at all. But now I appreciate that a “good life” may simply be a belief that goodness exists and prevails. At times the good life is embracing the optimism of life itself. Our new granddaughter, Teagan, was born twelve weeks ago.
So last night I was in bed reading my life, reading the Marriage section, “Go With Bob,” like a mystery. Not a whodunit but like a rom-com will-she? Reader, will she marry him? It was the strangest feeling to once again wonder, and delicious to know that the husband I adore was downstairs watching a Giants game. Still, I read my own words about marrying Bob with a sense of nail biting (and laughter and tears). Though I wanted to marry Bob from the moment I met him on October 17, 1969, two hours before attending the play Hair, the truth is I feel amazed that we married. Amazed as in genuinely surprised and amazed as in how did I get so lucky? We have a great marriage but the hardest work of my life is not to feel that our marriage is a mirage and can vanish while we’re in it. Perhaps because the early years of my life were filled with abandonment and fear of abandonment, I have to will myself to relax into this long relationship.
While reading I was thinking: Maybe this simultaneous wondering and knowing is what keeps my love vibrant. In 1969, when I was trying to choose between Bob and a difficult, long-term boyfriend I thought I loved, my fourteen-year-old sister Nancy told me without hesitation, “Go with Bob.” Now, with a private smile and a real sense of goodness – his, and ours together – I tell myself that every day.