Whether true or not, I often think of myself as slow to recognize situations developing. I’ll let the evidence presented below speak for itself.
My mother-in-law visited us in Tucson for her first winter without her husband. They had been married since he had returned from his second stint with the Navy, this time in Korea, and had done everything together. His loss had been devastating, but she was a tough woman, someone who had been through a lot and had always kept a fairly wicked sense of humor.
On her wedding anniversary my wife had to work, all day. As a grad student/instructor, I didn’t (on that day), and so I thought I’d do my best to help her through the day. She and I had bonded after a rough first meeting, mostly through a shared love of 30’s and 40’s Hollywood, and although I didn’t know what I had to offer I figured I’d at least try.
We headed east, to Saguaro National Park. I knew that it had a loop drive that would be perfect, and despite the day being cloudy and cold for Tucson I guessed that staying in the house would not be conducive to her mental state. In our little blue Toyota two-wheel drive pickup we started on the trail, and were immediately exposed to the wonder of the desert: roadrunners, quail, beautiful flowers, tall saguaro, all punctuated by the smell of creosote brought on by a rare desert rain. The trail is perfect for slow vehicle traffic, as its gravel surface barely allows for one lane, and it hugs the ridges and hills of the desert foothills below the Rincon mountains.
There are occasional turn-outs, set at places of remarkable views so that drivers can stop their vehicles and admire. After about twenty minutes we stopped, and got out. I wandered a bit, determined to show her just how wonderful the desert can be, but she stayed close to the vehicle. This particular turn-out was set on top of an arroyo, and with just a bit of work I got to the next flat spot below the truck. I had seen what looked like a beautiful flower, but upon arriving I grew even more excited: scat! And better yet, coyote scat, full of bones and fur and coyote fruit seeds and all kinds of fun stuff. I kept woo-hooing, digging at it with a stick while I searched for even more treasure.
Meanwhile, up above and unbeknownst to me, my mother-in-law was having an out-of-body experience. A young couple from New Jersey had pulled up beside, gotten out of the truck to enjoy the view, and fireworks ensured. As I climbed back to the vehicle, all excited to talk about shit, I witnessed the three of them hugging each other tightly in a circle, dancing and weeping and laughing and shouting. The young man had just proposed, and my mother-in-law, still aware and conscious despite her haze of grief, had heard and had come over crying, blessing them and telling them the story of her own marriage. They welcomed her with open arms, and this was the scene as I arrived.
At first I was embarrassed at having missed this, and even upon retelling the story I think I feel a bit sheepish and leary of my own blindness. I know, though, especially since my mother-in-law has since passed on, that I wasn’t supposed to be there. Her blessing was for them, because on a day filled with pain and longing and fear, they had shared in their momentous occasion. I will always believe that she felt as blessed as they.