The road not taken, the log unturned


The Road not Taken is my favorite Robert Frost poem, it was a poem I gave my last forbidden crush.

There was a time when my life could have been a romance novel, had it ended otherwise. There was no HEA ending. I was a lab technician and my husband was nearing the end of his 7 year courtship with a brain tumor. He had the mind and attitude of a five-year old who knew he was 35. Our level of intimacy was nill, I kissed him good-bye in the morning and more often than not he called me ‘Mom’. I loved him dearly and he was still my best friend.

I was also falling in and out of forbidden ‘crushes’, fantasy and daydreams about random men, co-workers and fictional characters. My work consisted of doing short tasks like adding a drop of reagent A to twenty test tubes, then waiting an hour, adding reagent B and waiting 10 minutes, and so on… Plenty of time for daydreaming. This is the time when scientists plan and research their next brilliant idea, but for a technician, we plan meals, write grocery lists, exchange recipes, and daydream.

My life was a mythology to my family and friends. Only on Lifetime Made for TV movies or in Reader’s Digest did most people get close to the soon-to-be-young-widow story. My European friends found young widows a more common reality than most Americans. This was the mid-80’s, no wars, no disasters, just the occasional DUI fatality or the rare friend married to husband with cancer. They had an idea of what I was living and who I was but they couldn’t be further from the truth.

The truth, in all it’s glory: I was the horniest woman in the DC area. I hadn’t had sex in five years, I’d worn a sore in my back doing 100’s of sit-ups each night. I gave up the solo romance, it was just too sad. I slept next to the sexiest man I knew and woke several times during the night to place my hand against his back, so I could reassure myself he was still alive.

And during the day I flirted with a Japanese scientist, we flirted back but it was all mild and innocent. I knew how to pick the ultimate forbidden fruit in the grove. I knew it would never go anywhere, so I let my heart run free. Then, after two years, he was going home. I was devastated and he was sad. He withdrew from our friendship, to my relief and I wallowed in grief. In some way, I knew I was prepping my heart for the big grief looming ahead. My husband had less than a year left, but I didn’t know this. At the time, I knew he would someday die. The doctors were all surprised he had lasted so long, a credit to my care.

All ten Japanese scientists were friends, I knew their wives and even learned their customs, thanks to television shows like Shogun. They left to go home as a group. My crush was the only single guy among them. A dear friend gave me a gift before he left and told me it was from a ‘secret’ person. It was a beautiful silk scarf. I used that silk to catch my tears for years, it caught my tears the day he left, when my husband died and for the many years of my widowhood.

I gave him a book of Robert Frost poems, with The Road not Taken page dog-eared. It was my way of thanking him for the role he played in my fantasies, the inner world that kept me alive and gave me strength. In a way, while I never had a HEA ending to that portion of my life, I also didn’t go crazy, leave my husband and get my satisfaction in the heady, coke-laden world of the 1980’s. So, for me the Road not Taken was one that would have led to guilt and the Road Taken was the honorable one, if honor can be a HEA ending. I am not skilled enough to write that one.

The ‘log unturned’ in this post’s title was the log that my sisters and I were torn away from turning over at Bear Brook Park by my parents, who wanted to go home. Most families went to the park for picnics and swimming in the lake but we went for the colorful salamanders we found under rotting logs. We were odd little girls.

I am surprised that I am so enamored of romances now, but I think it’s because not everyone gets the honorable Japanese crush placed in their lives to save them. For many it’s the book, the novel that keeps them sane on a rough road. For me, it’s the potential of a colorful treasure hidden under the pages.

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