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Oct. 19, 2019 | Saturday
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Writers' Circle: The Gift – My resolution
Icecream. (sourced photo)

Hermine Steinberg

NOTL Writers’ Circle

In the previous instalments of The Gift, I shared a story about my friends and I encountering a magical spirit. She gave us an enchanted tea that could transform us to the idealized version of ourselves at half our age. We were given three days to decide whether we would accept the gift. This is the final chapter.

It was no surprise that Frank was in his workshop when I got home Friday evening after my astounding experience in The Commons. I could hear the whir of his drill.

Since retiring last year, he spent most of his time working on his 1967 MGB convertible. His older brother had given it to him in 1971 when he was drafted. A few months later, his brother came back from Vietnam in a body bag.

When Frank went off to university the following year, he proudly drove his gleaming red car to Toronto. His decision to leave the United States and ultimately work for Doctors Without Borders were ways to honour his brother and give purpose to his senseless death.

I met Frank in second year of university at a peace rally. It was love at first sight. We were soulmates, determined to make a difference in the world and live a life filled with adventure, passion and meaning. We planned to take the MGB on the greatest road trip of all time, discovering incredible places that lay off the beaten path across the continent. We got married under a covered bridge on a farm just outside the city.

I entered the Foreign Service and Frank became a pediatric surgeon. The car was put in storage and for a few years we travelled the world, together and separately. But we eventually became disillusioned, beaten down by bureaucracy and the very real harshness of life in the regions where we were trying to provide aid.

We returned to Toronto, had two beautiful children, busy schedules, and enjoyed our lives. Our focus shifted to routines, obligations, and away from each other. Our passions were redirected to our children and jobs.

Now as I sat in our “dream home’’ in the place we both believed would be the perfect spot to spend the rest of our days, I wondered why I was so excited by this magical gift. Was it because I wanted to look younger or feel more energetic? Did I just want a do-over? Although those things did have some appeal, they paled in comparison to the feelings that were evoked by my memory of me and Frank.

The profound intimacy that once was the foundation of our relationship had faded over the years. Although we remained good friends, nothing could replace it. As time went on, just like a black hole in space, my void become incredibly dense with such strong gravitational pull that even light couldn’t escape its grasp.

Loving moments shared by us were drained of their joy, feeling empty and superficial in comparison to the deep and powerful connection we once had. Everything I read and heard confirmed that this was the normal evolution of any long-term relationship. I knew I was fortunate in so many ways. I should be happy. And I often was, but my loss was undeniable.

In the past I didn’t want to rock the boat with what I believed was some immature longing. But now it occurred to me that maybe the magical gift was intended to make me realize how important it was to regain the intimacy Frank and I had lost, and the enchanted tea couldn’t accomplish that. Only Frank and I could.

When I walked into the workshop, Frank was cleaning up his tools. He looked up and smiled, his eyes twinkling in a way I hadn’t seen in years. “Well, what do you think?”

“It looks amazing!” I moved closer to inspect the vehicle. “Does that mean it’s finally done?”

He patted the hood of the car. “This baby is ready to go. Time to celebrate.”

I worried whether this would be the best time to bring up the tea, my secret grief, and our future. I didn’t want to destroy this moment for him.

Frank led me back to the kitchen where he opened the freezer. “Pick your poison. Jamoca Almond Fudge or Rocky Road?”

“So, are you planning to take her out this summer?” I grabbed a couple of bowls from the cupboard.

He sat down at the table and handed me a spoon. “No, I want to go on a road trip. Leave next month.” He looked at me expectantly. “We’ve put it off way too long … let time and feelings get away from us.” He sounded hesitant. “That’s why I’ve been so focused on getting the car ready,”

I sat glued to my chair, speechless as he waited … and waited. Frank finally put a large spoon full of ice cream in his mouth and swallowed the whole thing. “I’m sorry. I thought you were probably feeling the same way as I was.”

After dipping the spoon into the bowl and slowly licking it clean, I took a deep breath. “I never really considered that we both were feeling the same sense of loss.” I looked up at Frank. When our eyes met, I clearly saw his anguish.

“Frank, I need to tell you what happened to me earlier this evening,” I began slowly. “I need you to believe me, no matter how crazy it sounds. I want to get back to that place where we really trusted and were open with each other, connected so deeply that our hearts, minds and bodies seemed to be in sync.”

Frank leaned back in his chair. “I remember feeling that way.” He sighed, shaking his head. “We might be chasing a dream.” He then reached across the table and took my hand. “Didn’t we always used to say that we needed to fight for our dreams. So, let’s start with you telling me what happened today.”

And I did. The next day we started preparing for our road trip. We didn’t know when or if we’d be coming back. I texted the girls to let them know I was leaving and that I decided to turn down the gift.

But then I realized that the gift may have not actually been the tea, nor only intended for us. After all, isn’t magic really about transformation.

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