That’s a Don Rhymer word. After he got sick, and would travel to New York for business, he would call and tell me he felt untethered. He described feeling like he was hanging out there on his own with nothing to hold on to. We had become so accustomed to being together during his treatment. And there he was across the country and I wasn’t with him.
I just returned from a whirlwind trip to Boston to see Carrie in the final play of her Emerson College career. She was brilliant in a show written by her wonderfully talented friend Dan. Her southern accent would have made her dad so proud. Jill flew up for one performance, and Kelly, Don’s sister, came to town to see the show as well. It even snowed on opening night. We were all sure it was a sign that Don wanted us to know that he was indeed right there with us.
After meeting Carrie for a late lunch Thursday afternoon, I decided to wander through campus on my way back to the hotel. “Campus” is a word used loosely at Emerson, because it is essentially a bunch of buildings across the street from Boston Common. I wandered past the dorm where Carrie lived as a freshman, and remembered unloading an ungodly number of boxes from our rental car. I passed restaurants where we had eaten over the past four years; hotels where Don and I had stayed. The bookstore where we bought countless Emerson sweatshirts. Sitting in the Common on a beautiful spring day. So many memories.
Somewhere along Boylston Street I started to cry. I was alone, undone. Missing Don terribly. I put my head down and quietly wept as I walked. It was pretty cold, and people were bundled up, so I assumed no one would notice me.
All of a sudden a homeless man was in front of me, a paper cup in his hand. I shook my head no, and tried to move past him. He looked me straight in the eye, saw I was crying and said, “Are you ok??” Again, I shook my head no. As I kept walking I heard him behind me say “Give it to God”. Through my tears I shook my head yes.
The humanity of a homeless man had broken through my agony. I saw that my pain, bold and searing, is not the only pain in the world.
I made it back to the hotel, where I had a really good cry with Jill. Carrie was brilliant again in her next performance. Kelly and I spent our last night with cosmopolitans and cucumber drinks crying over memories and telling stories.
I now understand what Don meant by feeling “untethered”. I feel I am grasping at something to hold on to; something to make me feel secure and safe. And I am beginning to understand that pain and sadness are in some profound way what is connecting me to him right now. There is laughter, and there are stories, but it’s the acuteness of the pain that I need to feel. The deepness of the love we had for each other. For now, that’s my tether.
And the homeless man with the empty Starbucks cup? He’s a simple reminder that life is much bigger than my own little corner of the world.