In the midst of his dementia, Dick seemed to sense the deep connections that he and I retained for our past loves. “Wally and Ruth are in Mexico,” he’d declare. I’d remind him that Ruth, his first wife, had visited Mexico but lived in Minneapolis—and that she was not married to Wally. Wally, my former lover, resided with his wife in California. Days later, he’d announce, “Wally and Ruth are in New Mexico.” He couldn’t seem to pin them down.
The Russian language has a pair of words—palyubit’ and razlyubit’—for falling into and out of love. English doesn’t have such a concise way of putting it.
Palyubit’: Dick and Ruth met and married in their twenties. They were attractive, bright, and idealistic. They debated politics and Plato, listened to jazz, and danced. They were young. They were ardent. And they were fierce.
During college, I’d had a tempestuous affair with Wally. He wooed me with a note he’d placed in my campus mailbox. He quoted a passage from Joyce’s Ulysses, which begins, “I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me.” We were young, ardent, and fierce.
Razlyubit’: Then, over a span of just four years, Jenny, Anna, and Joe were born. Ruth felt depressed, isolated in the suburbs with three small children. In 1973, she left him after fifteen years of marriage.
Wally and I broke up during my senior year, in 1971. “Always know where the door is,” he’d tell me. I got the message.
“Wally and Ruth are in Mexico.” Our lost loves had gone far away. In Dick’s mind, they were joined by the joyous abandon of palyubit’ and the heartbreak of razlyubit’. His. And mine.
Featured image: Dick & Ruth (1957); Wally & Me (1970)