When we first lived together, we took a summer in her sister’s cabin on the Delaware River. Visiting a stone-carver’s studio one day, we impulsively paid to have our names carved together into a hunk of rough granite, sort of like love, but also, we joked, somewhat like a gravestone. She reached into her purse as I reached into my wallet. The whole thing unnerved her. What would she do with the rock after her younger man left?
When she said, I’m moving to Montana, I packed a van and drove two thousand miles, and we moved in together to a small yellow house hard against a gasoline station. We tucked the Venema Downs stone into a small garden near the front porch steps. We cooked chicken and beans together, slept together on a fold-out futon, walked the dog together – but we kept separate checking accounts. Sheri worked part time, and I worked full time, and she didn’t want to owe her younger man anything. We shared dreams sooner than money.
Then we got married, and we moved our rough granite to Arkansas where I could learn about literature and barbecue. We bought a house together and put the stone in the front yard. We cooked together, slept together, walked the dogs, Ozark and Tinker, each of us with a leash. Eventually she said, “We own a house together. It’s silly to keep separate checking accounts.”
Now, the Venema Downs stone sits in front of our house in Baltimore. Our names are on the house where we live, on our checks, and, for the first time, on advance directives, powers of attorney, wills. What’s hers is mine, what’s mine is hers – permanence in rock now as well in paper, so we know what will happen after one of us leaves.