For Janice

The love of my life

I persuaded a friend to steer me to a Juneteenth celebration in north Minneapolis. My first children’s book had been published a couple of weeks before, the weather was actually warm, and I was on a roll.

Roy and I had just arrived when I saw a lovely woman and a little boy coming toward us. She walked up and hugged Roy, and they began to chat. I was only five years out of Chicago, where people didn’t hug without a good reason. If there had been something between Roy and her I thought I would’ve known about it. I was glad for him and hoped that this was just Minnesota nice and didn’t mean anything serious.

I thought all that because I’d fallen in love. I fell in love readily back then, with all sorts of women for all sorts of reasons, nearly all of them superficial. This one was different. I’m calling it falling in love, but it was more than that. I recognized her. Roy introduced us and her voice was lovely, too. Bam.

I was a children’s book editor, and she was an artist who wanted to illustrate children’s books. Pow. We exchanged numbers so she could bring her portfolio to my office the next week to be considered for an assignment. She left soon after for a previous commitment and promised to call me for an appointment.

Roy then told me that she had made the painting over the sofa in his living room, the picture I had asked about. Boing.

She showed me her book the next week, and I promised to get her work. We exchanged business cards, and on hers she wrote, “Call me anytime.” For two months I looked at that every day on my cork board at work, knowing that calling her wasn’t gonna be like calling anybody else, and I didn’t until mid-August, when I threw a party so I could invite her. She smelled like coconut that evening. I let her use my favorite mug, and she sat on my bed. A month later I asked her to marry me (music swells). That was the summer of 1990.

After 21 years of marriage, two more sons, and 20-odd children’s books, the love of my life is living with stage-four breast cancer and doing her best not to make me a widower, and that’s where you come in. She’s currently at a cancer clinic in Arizona and can’t afford to stay long enough to make the most difference. Please, help at Now. Or not.