Mizpah

I bought a pin on TradeMe (New Zealand’s version of EBay). No one else bid on it, perhaps because it wasn’t terribly attractive – a bit of silver in the ungainly shape of a horseshoe with a piece of purple glass that’s supposed to be amethyst but looks a lot like purple glass. I like purple, but that wasn’t the reason I bought it.

This wee pin has a phrase engraved in the back, “mizpah.” You can barely make out the letters. Mizpah. It’s meanings reach back into antiquity. While some say it’s more complicated, mizpah describes the emotional tie between people who love each other when they are separated by distance or death. As in Genesis 31:43, “And mizpah; for he [Laban] said, “The Lord watch over me and thee, when we are absent from one another.” So I bought the pin.

Missing my partner isn’t a constant experience for me. It’s sometimes predictable, as when I go to a movie without him. This has been true for the nearly three decades we’ve known each other — “known” in both senses, but that’s something else again. Part of realizing he was the one for me came when we had just started dating. Don’t tell, but I went to a movie with another man who was perfectly decent – even intelligent. After the movie I tingled with anticipation, ready to launch into my analysis and reaction and eager to compare it with his. But that wasn’t to be. “It was nice.” was about all my companion had in him. So going to a movie without my partner is less. Much less, than going with him. I always miss him after watching a movie, even when we’re in the same town. Other predictable moments: when there’s trouble at work or with the kids. When I can’t remember something I know he would know. When I prepare dinner for myself and find that I’ve cooked for two. When I look at art. When I’m afraid. Most of the time I don’t think it shows. The man in the street wouldn’t notice the tightness deep inside my chest.

It’s the unpredictable moments that throw me. Yesterday in the produce section I found myself gazing at the male pattern baldness on the back of a stranger’s head. Good thing he didn’t turn around and catch the look in my eye! It took me a while to locate the longing and chuckle at this new manifestation of age. There I was, yearning for the little bald spot on my partner’s head –a sweet vulnerable spot that reveals his lumpy skull to the world without his knowing. So there I was for the rest of the afternoon. Missing that wee bald spot on the head of my partner, my husband, my Larry.

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