Loving what is

I moved to Minnesota in August 1985. Mike had told me about a job at the software company he worked for, and 10 days later I was sleeping in his basement and working as a shipping clerk.

On Thanksgiving I met Anne. Her husband had just left her after 16 years and three children in order to spend more time with his secretary.

Anne would make you look at her when she walked into a room. Never mind whatever you were doing when she showed up, fella, because now you’re looking at Anne.

She was fine, smart, she had cute children, and her long-time husband had left her anyway. One of them was obviously crazy.

The software outfit fired me—no matter what you hear, never hire me as a shipping clerk—so I reverted to fixing bikes to get by. I had seen Anne a time or two over the year since we’d met, and I was always glad to see her. I’d be glad to see her now. She’s like that. This time I’d keep my body fluids to myself.

When she walked into the shop that afternoon to ask if I wanted to ride in the Minnesota Ironman—she wanted to try, and she knew I was a rider—I was ready for her.

Anne and I rode the Ironman in the spring and each other that summer. By Labor Day I knew why her husband had thought of something better to do with his life.

Anne was crazy. Once, when Mike’s wife expressed her incredulity at Anne’s having been abandoned like that, Mike had said, “Maybe she’s a bitch.” It was sheer speculation, but he did open up the discussion.

I didn’t know her as a bitch. I knew her as a loony, later independently confirmed by the same Mike, whose wife of 21 years asked him please to go away, and he did. He said Anne was a great date—attractive, smart and funny—and seriously “fucked in the head.” Mike’s had a lot of therapy and knows the technical terms.

Without specifics and many years later, I think of Anne’s particular craziness as “not counting your blessings” or a similar cliché of your choice. It’s a kind of obsessing on what’s wrong in any given situation, a lot like my mother. Anne and my mother could drain the joy out of anything, trying to make it better.

Wanting something you don’t have is perfectly natural, but eventually I realized that if I didn’t learn to love what is—what’s right here in front of me—I’d never love at all, and I didn’t like the sound of that.

The last I heard, Anne was doing the same things and hoping for different results. At least her children are speaking to her again. That’s a good thing. I wonder if she knows it.