Driving home alone in my Jeep after my first date with Shay, I actually said out loud, “I’m going to marry her.” At the time, if she had heard me, she would have disagreed. But, I was persistent and ultimately I was right. We were really still newlyweds when we discovered the pain in her foot was cancer and that her leg would have to be amputated. At that time, we were both afraid she was going to die. We lied on the bed in our condo in midtown and cried for an afternoon. Then we went to Spaghetti Factory. It was surreal sitting in that train car in the middle of the restaurant eating that little bullshit spumoni dessert they give you and facing that daunting news. That memory is as vivid for me now as if it had happened this afternoon. There have been a few other days like that along the way. Not as many as you’d think.
That was twelve years ago. At the time, if we’d been told how much time we would have together, I don’t know if today would have seemed distant or if we would have recognized that it would go by as fast as it did. But, I do know that we would not have done anything differently.
When Shay lost her leg and did not yet have a prosthetic, she would put on a skirt and grab her crutches and we’d go out to the Alsatian restaurant near our house where they sing La Marseillaise on Bastille Day. Vacations were timed around chemo. Shay ran a successful business, sometimes from a hospital bed. She gave me a beautiful son and set him on a path that I know she’d be proud to see if she had the chance. She insisted on making Aidan’s lunch every day (he’s never seen a “Lunchable”.) When she was into Iron Chef, we flew to Philadelphia and ate at Morimoto. Then, it was Top Chef and we spent two days cooking with Hugh Acheson. Right up until the end, she wanted to get someone at HGTV to renovate our bathroom. Why not? She wanted chickens. So we have a coop in our suburban backyard.
She lived hard and she played hard, as they say.
The point is she lived. A lot. As a consequence I did, too. I’m sad about what I’ve lost. And I’m sad about everything she is going to miss. Not just the big stuff either. I’m sad she’s going to miss this year’s HGTV Dream Home or the next season of Orphan Black. Stupid stuff like that. But, I have no regrets or doubts about the way we used the time we had. We made all of those days count.
Shay made sure of it. She used her time wisely. This is especially true where Aidan is concerned. Her imprint is indelible, endearing (and at times even a little frustrating!) I can’t know all the ways this tremendous loss will color his life. But, I know he’s going to be OK. I know he’s growing up surrounded by love and I can see that he embodies all of the traits and values that I admired and loved in Shay. I hope some of those characteristics have rubbed off on me, too. She was an amazing mother, the finest person I ever knew, my best friend, and the love of my life. I miss her terribly.
Shay’s motto was “suck it up and deal with it.” That’s what we’re going to do.