It’s 2013. I move one more year away from Dennis, forever in 2011.
I’m making the usual resolutions, losing weight, writing more, being prudent with my money.
To a point.
Looking back on our time together, I’m so grateful we didn’t always live within our means. After he died, I was so glad we stood before the Eiffel Tower and wandered through the West Bank of Paris when we had no business putting that trip on a credit card.
Suze Orman would kill me, but I believe there are times when the privilege of having an experience transcends the need to be wise and prudent.
When my struggling newspaper actually sent me to Paris in 2007 when it could barely afford to send a reporter to Bakersfield, we knew this was one of those times.
“I’m going along,” Dennis said. “We can’t afford it and I don’t care.”
“I know,” I said. “I don’t either.”
During the week after he died, our memories in Paris were some of the first that bubbled up for me. The chocolate croissants. Lighting a candle in Notre Dame. Watching the boats rumble by on the Seine River. The sheer awe of the shadowed statues in the Louvre, staring through centuries.
We bought a sailboat in the early 1990s. We could not afford a sailboat. But we had been landlocked in Tucson for years and here we were, living on a glittering coastline.
“We have no business getting a sailboat,” Dennis said. “But I think we need to do it.”
I didn’t even have a full-time job at the time. I was a freelancer for the Star.
“I think so, too,” I said.
We were all sails, no rudder. And it was glorious.
We took sailing lessons and learned that every single issue in your marriage comes out when you’re crewing a boat.
“How come YOU always get to be the skipper?”
“Ow! Why didn’t you tell me the boom was swinging?”
We made every mistake novice sailors can make, ramming the boat into the dock by accident, nearing capsizing in the Santa Barbara Channel, disrupting a harbor wedding when our motor died and we had to hit the airhorn to summon help.
The monthly slip fee kept us in debt.
Many is the time we couldn’t afford to go to dinner, but we did. Those unexpected times when the conversation over wine is warm and deep. When the waiter is funny and the chicken piccata is perfect.
We couldn’t afford tickets to the Ahmanson Theater, but we bought them. Season tickets. The plays got us talking about concepts, possibilities, so far beyond the usual marital patter of “did you take the trash out?” or “How was work?”
His eyes lit up during the tap number of “42nd Street” and I thanked him for being gay enough to appreciate a well-synchronized ensemble tap dance.
“I’m definitely that gay,” he said.
We fretted and lay awake some nights, worried about money.
And I’d do it all over again.
Those times were worth it because I can still visit them. I still go there. I sit with Dennis in our tiny room on the West Bank while we drink coffee on the balcony and consider what we’ll do that day.
I can go back to the boat and watch him pull his cap down as he gazes over the bow. I hear his voice. His laugh. I watch him stick a toothpick behind his ear. Create little structures with empty folded Splenda packets on the table of a too-expensive restaurant.
I’m glad we were sometimes really stupid when it came to spending money on experiences. Because experiences are durable. Things are not.
When I think of our time together, I’m so glad I can’t make that dry proclamation: “We always lived within our means.
Instead I can say: “We had a really, really good time.”