Mel and I were driving home from the doctor when I asked if she’d remarry if I died.
Mel was driving. We were in our van, the kids at home with a sitter.
I’d been sick for over a week, and when I went to the doctor, they tested me for a million things. Everything from infection to cancer, and as the doctor listed all the things they were testing me for, I focused on anything that was terminal.
“You know,” I said. “They are testing me for cancer. Until those tests come in, I potentially have cancer. I could die.”
Mel let out a breath. This was not the first time we’d talked about death as a married couple.
We’d been married for ten years, and it seems like at least once a year we have this conversation, usually instigated by me, and honestly, I know the answer. I know that Mel would remarry if I died. How could she not? She is beautiful, and sweet, and wonderful. But there are also the practical applications. I doubt that she wants to raise our three children as a single mother simply because she can’t get over my death and move on. I know this. I know that if I died, she’d find someone else. But thinking about that makes me ill. In fact, it has become the worst part of thinking about my own death.
Mel rolled her eyes. “You aren’t going to die.”
“You aren’t answering my question,” I said.
Mel squirmed in her seat. She moved her right hand upon the wheel. She was in jeans and a pink t-shirt, her hair pulled back. “Every time you ask this question I always tell you that I would remarry. Do you really expect me to be a single mom?”
It was then that I realized just how morbid this conversation was.
She turned, and looked at me, and gave me a slanted, sarcastic smile. Then she said, “What are you so worried about anyway?”
Before Mel, I feared death. But it was more of a fear of the unknown, and a feeling that I still had life to live. Now it’s something different.
I let out a breath. “I don’t know. I guess I fear that you will find someone more charming, better in bed, makes more money… and realize, fully, that I am, in fact a dumbass.”
Mel laughed. Then she said, “What about you? If I died, would you remarry?”
I thought about what she said, and I knew, in my heart, that I would. Eventually I would. I had no idea how long it would take, but I have to assume that I’d find someone else. It’s just the natural thing to do. But at the same time, I don’t know if I could find someone that I love as much as I love my wife. There is also the simple fact that I’d have to start over.
In marriage, that means learning how to live together again. Learning the other person’s little irritations and how to avoid them. Figuring out what they like, and giving it to them. Figuring out what is worth fighting over, and what isn’t. It has taken Mel and I a really long time to learn how to live together. In fact, we are still figuring it out, and the thought of having to do that with someone else sounds exhausting.
It feels like a long shot. There are so many gears that have to turn to make a marriage work, that I don’t know if I could figure them all out again with another person. And when I think about that, I think that really is the scariest part of my wife dying. I’ve learned how to live with her without hating her. In fact, I’ve fallen more in love with her. I don’t know if I could do that with anyone else, ever again. And in that van, as we drove home, chatting about death, I didn’t ever want to have to try with someone else because what we had was something that took years to build. We fell in love, yes. But over the years we’d built a relationship
“Would I have to remarry,” I said.
“Well… no,” she said. “But I don’t know if you would want to take care of the kids alone. I mean, that’s why I would remarry. I love the kids, but they are a lot of work. I don’t think it would have to do with love. It would have to do with the kids. I just wouldn’t want to take care of them alone.”
“Wait,” I said. I put my hands up. “So if you got married again it wouldn’t be for love? It would be for practical reasons? Purely a business transaction?”
Mel laughed, and shrugged, and said, “Well… yeah. Does that make you feel better?”
“A little,” I said. “But what about this. Let’s say I was a billionaire, and when I died, you would have the means to easily care for the kids. You could hire what help you needed. Would you still remarry?
Mel thought about it for a moment. Then she shrugged. “Probably not.”
“Really!?” I said. So I just need to become a billionaire…”
“Listen,” Mel said. “I don’t know why you think about this stuff. Stop thinking about what I’m going to do if you die. How about you worry about what you are doing now, while we are here. I love you. You love me. I will always love you. It’s what I signed on for. Does that make you feel better?”
I smiled and said, “Yes. It does. But I still don’t want to die. And I still wouldn’t mind being a billionaire.
“I know,” she said while patting my leg. “I know.”