This is a love letter. By a man whose wife has left him. Read it and you’ll understand. It’s by Manhattan executive Bob Brody, author of the memoir “Playing Catch with Strangers: A Family Guy (Reluctantly) Comes of Age.” Bob is coming to terms with a long-distance marriage. Very long-distance. He calls it “Apart, Together.”
My wife has left me. Some family and friends probably suspect she has “left me left me.” But they’re mistaken.
Rather, Elvira, my wife of 38 years, has decided to live elsewhere most of the year. Far from our apartment in Forest Hills, Queens, New York. 4,387 miles away, in fact. In southern Italy.
So now ours is a long-distance marriage. We’ve never spent more than about a week apart since our wedding. Until now.
It all started because our daughter, Caroline, decided to live in Italy year-round. She discovered an ancient hillside town, Guardia Sanframondi, about 50 miles north of Naples, and bought herself a house.
Soon, Elvira expressed her wish to shop for a house in the same town. It would be, she said, for both of us.
She kept telling me how much she loved Guardia-– the leisurely tempo, the neighborliness, the stars visible in the night sky. I saw with sudden clarity that her happiness meant everything to me, more than my own. So I said okay.
Almost two years ago, Elvira found the house she liked. Together we decided to buy it. Last December, I stayed with her in our Italy house for three weeks.
Each morning we walked to a little café for capuccini and cornetti. We visited our daughter and her boyfriend. All of us watched Christmas movies together over a homemade dinner. We ushered in the new year sipping prosecco on a terrace as fireworks blazed over a nearby church. In our new house, we looked out from our top floor at dawn, the sun casting a golden radiance over the vineyards and olive fields in the valley below and onto the mountains beyond.
Better still, Elvira and I came together as if never apart. We communicated in the code only she and I know. I took every opportunity to hold her hand and tell her how much I loved being there with her. And she told me the same.
So, I thought, this is how our life here could be. I could do this. I could definitely do this.
Then I returned to Forest Hills. And our new arrangement as husband and wife really hit home for me.
More and more now I miss Elvira. I talk to the photos of her when they come through on Facebook. I listen to the voicemail she left me from the airport years ago. I miss everything about her– her face, her voice, the taste of her neck. She’s feeling the same pangs.
Being apart is hardly perfect. In fact, it’s turned out to be harder than I imagined, and it threatens to get harder still. But I also connect more than before now with other family, friends, colleagues, clients, neighbors. Elvira, too, is managing fine, getting together with new friends, trying new restaurants, discovering surrounding towns.
This December I’ll again stay in our house in Italy for about three weeks. Then next year, I’ll try to visit her at least twice a year and she’ll do the same, possibly for longer stretches. For the next five years or so, we’ll each lead a double life, one together and the other apart. All the while, I’ll somehow manage to be happy here knowing she’s happy there.
After all, we’re still married, and she’s waiting for me. In due course, I’ll ease out of my current life alone into a new one back with her. Just as she left me gradually, so we’ll reunite gradually. And we’ll stay put in that little Italian town, happy with all the time we still have left together.