Which One?-Part 17-Conclusion (Image: “Penny for your thoughts”)

I dropped my bags to the floor while continuing to walk forward. We threw our arms around each other and the vacuous emptiness of 42 years of apartness began to fade. Joanie was no longer a sweet memory and a voice on the phone—she was a real woman who wanted to be in my arms.

Teary and in that daze of unreality I’d experienced as the plane was readying for take-off, I kissed her passionately. She felt so perfect in my arms—the end of my searching. The notion that this girl is the standard all other females are measured against was not an understanding—now it was a physical sensation. She fit my arms so perfectly. I also had this peculiar feeling that another, much younger version of myself had joined me. I decided that was how coming full-circle felt.

That weekend together was pure magic. One of the few good things about getting older is perspective. Looking back across my life, I cannot remember a more beautiful brief period of time than that weekend. Those several days were spent getting to know Barbie again and her husband John and meeting other members of Joanie’s family. The snow finally stopped and we drove all over the area visiting places we used to go as kids, laughing and reminiscing.

We talked endlessly about our lives—all that had happened since we split up. Joanie took me to places she had lived over the years. I wanted to visit her parent’s graves and pay my respects to the two people who brought the perfect woman (for me) into the world and because I had such fond memories of the good people that they were. But the cemetery they were buried in was large and complex and the deep snow made finding the graves virtually impossible.

Several months later—in the spring—Joanie came down to central Virginia to check out the community, my home, meet my kids and learn a little about the encompassing region. Again—another magical weekend. A few months after that I flew up to Upstate New York on a one-way ticket. We rented a U-haul truck, filled it with Joanie’s stuff and drove it back to Central VA. The agreement was to co-habit for a year then decide whether or not to make it a permanent arrangement. A year later there was no real decision to make and we were married in the living room of our home with my kids and Joanie’s family in attendance. Joanie’s sister Barbie finally came to the conclusion I can be trusted after all and she and I get along very well now.

That was almost 6 years ago and while I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a perfect marriage—I do believe ours comes as close as is humanly possible. I am very happy with my life with the perfect woman for me.

We’ve been back a number of times to Upstate to visit and each time we go I’m able to let go of a little more anger and resentment for what is actually a beautiful and unique region of the United States that I very much enjoy photographing. I am much more at peace with who I am now that I have finally embraced and nightly lie next to the beautiful essence of my origins. As Peter and I discussed on the plane and Eliot said so profoundly,

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

End part 17–End story

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