Thirteen years ago, I woke to brilliant sunshine after a week straight of rain, with a banging headache, in a hotel room at the O’Callahan on West Street, in Annapolis, MD. My addiction to alcohol would not take full root for several more years, but the previous night had been full of revelry with friends and family. We’d been celebrating in preparation of this day, the day that I would commit my life to the most amazing and beautiful woman I’d ever met. Yes, Mrs. TKD and I were getting married!
We had fretted about the weather for the entire week as it poured rain on Maryland. The forecast had predicted more rain on Saturday but here I was, awake with sun streaming in the window and clear skies as far as I could see. The air crisp and clear, we would have the perfect weather for our October wedding day after all.
The day became a bit of a blur once things got rolling, but at six in the morning I had a lot on my mind and couldn’t go back to sleep. Around seven, I met Mom for breakfast. I took a walk around ten and ate oysters at the Market House in Annapolis, shucked by a kind old black man named Lester Jones.
Lester had known my father and after he died always asked me how Mom was doing. When I shared the plan of the day with Lester his broad smiled showed through his slat and pepper beard and he told me that Dad would be proud. He told me that Dad would be with me that day. And I knew that he was with me in spirit. I carry my dad’s spirit with me everywhere I go, even now.
I’ve been reading a book called Waiting: A nonbeliever’s Higher Power, and one of the central tenets of the book is that we live in the here and now and that the very act of being present with other human beings — the act of communicating and participating in fellowship with other human beings — is in and of itself spiritual. I believe that this sense of community that we find in the rooms is perhaps even more powerful in our recovery than understanding any Higher Power in which we may believe.
I know for me this has been the case. The recognition that we are not alone that comes from spending time with others who seem to understand us vitalizes our lives. Talking about our pains and joys, actively listening to others, and offering our thoughtful suggestions are indeed connections between our spirit and the spirits of others fostered by a common language of struggle and triumph. When I came to understand that I was not alone in the rooms, my world expanded many fold.
Lester’s reminder that my father was with me was no accident. Indeed, I’d gone to get oysters from Lester specifically to spend time with my father’s memory. It was a small way to bring him into the day. I knew, if only subconsciously, that Lester and I would talk about dad and that by talking about him, we would bring his spirit to the day.
I did not know Lester Jones well, but I know a bit about his life. I knew that he’d been born south of Annapolis in a house on Muddy Creek Road in Edgewater, MD. I knew that he’d worked on the water as a younger man. I knew that he’d been married and divorced and that his current woman drove him a bit nutty but that he loved her. I knew that he was in his late fifties (at the time) but looked much older and weathered.
His had not been an easy life but he was a gentleman who had kind words and a smile. I didn’t know his entire life story, but I knew enough to know that his life was very different from my own, and yet, I considered him a friend — someone who was important enough in my family’s story to visit and to share the memory of my father with on my wedding day. I’ll never know if Lester considered me anything more than a customer, but I suspect he did. Lester made connections with people. He never forgot to ask about Mom when I visited his stand.
Today, as I celebrate thirteen years of marriage, I’m thinking about the connection between my spirit and Mrs. TKD’s spirit. I fell in love with her spirit first. It was here spirit that told me the stories of hiking Machu Picchu, of travels in Europe, of wanting to be a cartographer at National Geographic. It was here spirit that showed up on dates in pink and white cow printed sandals, and wore sparkly flip flops on that warm April day in 2003 when I met her. And it is her spirit that lifts me up when I am down. He spirit gave here the strength to never give up on me even in my darkest hours.
Our spirits are forever entwined and changed by the other. They will never be one, but they are close and I hope will never be separated.