This time I went looking for him.
I thought I had overheard two women saying Bill had quit his job but I didn't pay too much attention until I spotted the FOR SALE sign in his front yard as I drove into town.
You may recall I first mentioned Bill when he described his early experiences with Al-Anon, the support organization for family and friends of those addicted to alcohol, drugs or anything else. I then recounted his joy when Kathryn stopped drinking and their life together evened out and then the utter despair when she returned to her old habits and Bill hit emotional bottom. Of course at that time Al-Anon became even more important to him.
Then, last I'd heard, things were going well for them both with Kathryn in AA and sober once again.
But what now? Leave an excellent position and the community that had been home for as long as I'd known him? Call me a busybody but I had to find out.
Bill greeted me cordially. I wasn't surprised he was equally as open as he'd been before.
He scoffed at my concerned demeanor. "It's hardly the end of the world, Susan. If anything, I'd expect you to be happy for me. I've already found a position similar to what I had here, even paying considerably better though I'm told the difference will disappear with the higher costs of California living."
So . . . all the way to California? Turned out he had a brother there I hadn't even known about. Bill's excitement was contagious as he pulled out pictures of the homes he was considering. This was obviously a positive advance for him.
But what of Kathryn?
"There's really nothing more I can do," he assured me. "I can't make her change. I see that now. And Al-Anon helped me to see that I need to take care of myself, to put my needs first. And," he continued, "I feel starting afresh is what's best for me. It wasn't an easy decision to make but I know it's for the best. I'm really looking forward to a new life," he added with a smile.
"As for Kathryn, may I tell you something, Susan? I saw her recently early, when she was still sober. We chatted amiably for quite a while. I still picture standing there and watching her walk away. She's still beautiful, you know, and as smartly dressed as ever.
"I was suddenly overwhelmed with memories: trips we'd taken, special things we'd shared, a few of the times when we were both doubled over with laughter, a sunset walk along the beach with our arms around each other, stopping to smooch." He caught himself. "Well, you get the idea."
I did indeed. I thought I was watching a man very much in love with his wife.
"Oh, Bill, I'm so sorry," I interjected.
"No, don't be," he went on. "I wasn't finished.
"This was indeed the woman I loved. And I'll always have those magic moments to treasure. But sadness? Not really. It's more like finishing a novel you really enjoyed. The book ends, like it or not. So did that life. The Kathryn I loved is gone, you see. There's a stranger there now. She has a personality I don't recognize and habits I simply could never accept.
"To be honest," he continued, "realizing that made it all the easier for me to move on."
Bill flashed that dazzling smile I had always treasured. I'll try to remember it.
He'll be thousands of miles away but I won't forget Bill.
Susan Crossett is a Cassadaga resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org