Round Pegs


The first night in bed in my new apartment I felt alien, out of place, scared of what might lie ahead.  Everything I had come to trust had been called into question. I could fail. I could be fired—came close, in fact. I entered into relationships for all the wrong reasons. I could get sick—in fact, scary sick—after 40 years of never taking a sick day. Accidents could happen that threatened my survival. Even my role as mother had changed and in many ways diminished, as my children moved into establishing their own lives separate from me.

Lying there in my despair, I tried something quite new for me. I talked to Something I didn’t actually believe in.

“Is this all there is? If there is Something out there, anything, please give me some kind of sign. Show me, somehow, that I’m not completely alone.”

I lay still under my heavy blankets, afraid to open my eyes, didn’t want to see a ghost.

Then, as if blown by a warm, benevolent breeze, the covers lifted from around my feet. Lifted completely, several inches, and hovered, bathing my cold feet in a pocket of warm air. I opened my eyes and looked. The blankets were tucked in around the foot of the bed, there were no windows open, no heater on, no air moving. Yet, there was this feet-sized cocoon of warm air holding the blankets a few inches “up in the air” like a small hot air balloon. What could it mean? I had just asked for a sign. Was this it? It had to be.

I felt surrounded by a warm beneficence, felt the room was somehow populated with a benign Unseen. Gradually, the covers over my feet settled back into place.

Now that I was truly, physically alone, I already felt so much more me, more sane, with only the baggage I chose to bring along, and I was finding that place within me which assured me I was never alone.

I had been too long trying to make square pegs fit into round holes. Nothing fit, nothing made sense.

The first round peg dropped into a perfectly round hole, with a click.

Soon, I was asleep, feeling comforted and awed, and wondering.

~ ~ ~

When I went back to work on January 2, 1980, Bob came into my office and sat down. “I hear you’ve moved out.”

“Yes. New Year’s Eve.”

“I kicked Susan out yesterday, as soon as I heard you had left him.” I was stunned speechless. So he had known? I wasn’t just paranoid?

“We need to talk,” he said.  “After work.”

“Come and get me when you’re ready to go,” I said.

We walked to the Penguin, a nearby lounge. Bob bought me a drink and started talking. He had known about their affair from the beginning, in early summer, being incapable of Denial, but capable of watching and waiting until I seemed strong enough to hear the truth. He had seen that I was still reeling from Alaska, from breast cancer, from the accident. He saw that I was unwilling to “know” the truth yet, that I still needed to believe Ralph’s indignant disavowals and even his insistence that I was “paranoid.” Bob had watched and waited, and stayed nearby with his sons, who popped in often to visit me next door.

In the dim bar at The Penguin, Bob quietly confirmed everything I had intuited, everything I thought I had seen. Yes, he had seen that they held hands under his dinner table, and more. I felt as if more round pegs were finally falling into round holes. I felt sane, right-side up, for the first time in many months. Elated, ecstatic. It was over, everything was over, and it was indeed a new year.

The ascending arc of my career had flattened out, and I was finally starting to grow up.

Perhaps I was finally through letting men tell me what was true about me, and what I would do with my own life, especially as it concerned my own body and my health. Perhaps I was done capitulating.

But not quite…

“I have to get some work done now,” Ralph said. I had moved out a month earlier, and had filed for divorce, but he pleaded that the affair was over, and he wanted to “work on our marriage.” Silly me, I still wanted to believe him. How could it hurt to give it a month or two before finalizing the divorce? It was Sunday afternoon, and I had stopped by our house to talk. After an hour, it was time for me to go back to my apartment. He was opening his briefcase, looking busy.

Halfway back across town, it hit me. He wasn’t going to get some work done, he was going to see Susan. I made a U-turn and headed for North Portland, the house where she was living with a girlfriend. There it was, tucked into their driveway—the new Volvo Ralph had bought for his “business,” the color of old, dried blood, picked out by Susan. An orthopedic shoe of a car, in my opinion.

I parked and walked in the neighborhood, searching for something. Found it, a round rock in someone’s parking strip, nearly as big as a bowling ball. I hefted it—yes, I could lift it, as high as my shoulders. I walked back to the Volvo, lugging my rock. Hoisted it, and heaved it through the rear window with a satisfying explosion of shattering glass. Dusted my hands on my jeans, and started for my car. Inside the house, the closed curtains jerked slightly aside.

More round pegs clicked into perfectly round holes.

Driving back across town, I sang a lighthearted song of exhilaration and satisfaction. Truly, now, done! When I walked in, the phone was ringing. It was Ralph.

“You’re paying for that!” he said.

“Paying for what?” The face of innocence.

You know what! That big rock through my car window!”

“Oh my,” I said. “Vandalism? You probably shouldn’t park your car in such sleazy neighborhoods.”

He couldn’t help it. He chuckled, a little, and hung up before he laughed out loud.

I hung up. And continued my lighthearted song, feeling decidedly more light in heart and mind, and now, finally ready to move on to the next chapter in my life.

Denis’ joke: A group of men brought a woman who had committed adultery to Jesus and asked him what he’d do about it. He said, “Let the person without sin cast the first stone.” At the back of the crowd was a little old lady who picked up a huge rock and threw it. Jesus looked at her and said, “Honestly, mother, sometimes you’re just too much!”



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2 responses to “MEMOIR: CHAPTER 19 Round Pegs

  1. Julianne Johnson

    I LOVE IT…this chapter and you…

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