Once upon a time I was married and things were not going well. I was forty-nine and all sorts of things started happening in my life at once. I had to have a hysterectomy, at the same time my stepmother died in New York City and that brought up all these things about my biological father and then a woman at work died suddenly and she was just twenty-six. All this just hit me.
My husband and I had been fine, we were married for twelve years and together for twenty-two years, we had just settled in and we were living our own separate lives. But after all the crises I started crying every single day. I know it was the grief of my step mother and reliving the grief of my father’s death and my change of life as I was instantly menopausal after the hysterectomy. I looked at my husband and I thought, “Oh my God, this is what my life will be.” I just couldn’t envision any kind of changes. I didn’t know what to do and I was miserable for three years. Crying every day and things were just not good between us.
Meanwhile I started this ukulele group at the library. My friend Amy and I were playing ukulele together and I was learning to play it. The group had been going on for a year and a half and it was getting bigger and bigger and one day these two women walked in. One of them was tall and when I first looked at her I could tell she was queer.
We went around and she introduced herself as Christine. She came back the following month and then I didn’t see her for a couple of months. Then I remembered, “Wait a minute, I know her, she does the radio show I listen to every Saturday morning!” So, I called her and she answered the phone at the radio station and I said, “Is this Christine? And she said, “Yes.” And I said, “Do you play the ukulele and she said, “Yes.”
I told her who I was and we laughed. About six months before I had bought a t-shirt from the radio station. Christine had designed it and so we had a prior connection that neither one of us really knew about. We started hanging out. I thought, “This is a woman who is so positive and has so much light and life.” And I stopped crying.
During this time, it was maybe six to seven or eight months after I started hanging out with Christine, my half-sister from France came to visit. I had seen her two years before but before that it had been thirty years. So, we didn’t know each other very well. I was so excited that she was coming to visit and stay with me. I was lying in bed upstairs and she was downstairs and I was thinking, “It is so great that my half-sister is here.” But all I could really think about was Christine. I thought, “WHAT IS THAT ABOUT?”
I had a big party for Jennifer, my half-sister, and I invited family and friends. I invited Christine. When the party was over I walked her down the driveway and I gave Christine a hug good bye and it gave me butterflies in my stomach. I walked away and I thought, “WHAT WAS THAT ABOUT?” I had never had those feelings for a woman before. It really surprised me.
Meanwhile, my marriage was deteriorating. I remember my husband saying to me, “Is there anything we can do?” I had said the same thing to him three or four years before but at that time he wasn’t willing to go there. We never got better. Before I even knew what was going to come out of my mouth, I said, “I love you but I want a divorce.”
And then inside myself, I went, “Oh my God, is that even true? Is that true?” I guess it was because I never took back my words. He moved out about six months later and we got a divorce about a year later. A year after that, Christine moved in.
I have been in this happy relationship for five, six years, maybe more… I am not really sure. The beginning is fuzzy because, I am unhappy to say, I didn’t end my marriage before I started my relationship with Christine. I wish I had been more courageous than that, but I wasn’t. So, I don’t like to look at that overlap and I don’t really start keeping time.
It hasn’t been breezy, easy, two women living together who both of us are messy and all we want to do is to go into our art rooms and make art instead of clean the house. Christine is a few years younger than I am and she is into music and has opened up a music world to me that I really love and we encourage each other’s art.
Christine was just this surprise of my life. I would never have thought that when I was looking down that unhappy tunnel wondering, “Is this it? Is this all there is?” That Christine would be at the end of it. This is not what I would have imagined as a change. But that is what happened and I am happy. We are each other’s favorite person.
Debra Wuliger, figurative artist working with color, texture and pattern to celebrate life.
Image silhouetted with story. Ready for hanging.