I don’t buy dresses that zip up the back anymore.  I haven’t for a long time — exactly how long?  I do know that — 17 years, 6 months, 26 days.  It’s been that long since my then-husband moved out of the apartment we shared together and into his own place.

I was too wrapped up in a relationship with a man who was so unsuited to me that I often wonder if his sole purpose was to distract me from my crumbling marriage to a man I still loved so that, when my husband left, I  wouldn’t notice.  It worked for a while.

Fred, my former husband, was the steady hand holding my arm as I walked the tightrope of my life, the vigilant guide that turned down the heat on the pot-boiling-over that was my mind, the brave hero  there to rescue this damsel in distress, whether it was my upset over being a catholic mother trying to train her Jewish son for his Bar Mitzvah, or the quiet reassurance on those days that being in the fashion business was not the glamorous career everyone thought it would be.

We had husband and wife moments like everyone else  — and, none more annoying — and touching — as his checking on me as I would spend forever getting ready to go out.

“How much longer will you be?” he said, standing in the doorway of my bathroom as I applied my mascara, my head up close to the mirror, lips parted in concentration, right arm out to the side as I carefully colored one lash at a time.  “Not too long,” I said between lashes, “Five more minutes.”  I didn’t have my dress on yet, my shoes were strewn about the floor, my hair still had a couple of rollers on the top.  “Just five more minutes, Fred!”  He shook his head and walked away.

This would have happened once or twice or even three times more before I was ready to don my dress and shoes and we could walk out the door to our event.

Ah, my dress.  I’d step into it and slither it up over my hips.   I’d reach my hands behind me and start the zipper up as far as I could with my own hands.  Then…

“Fred!” It was a call out.  “Fred?”  It was a question.  He’d come into the room and I could always tell he liked what I had on – his fretful face would transform to a look of wide-eyed appreciation.  I’d turn so my back was to him, sweep my hair to the side.   “Honey, would you zip me up?”  I could feel him come up behind me, almost too close to do the task at hand.  He put his hands on the back of my dress, sliding down to find the zipper tab and slowly pull it up to the top.  I’d always turn around and reward him with a kiss, “Thanks, Honey!”

After he moved out – I guess it was some months later – I was getting ready to go to a party.  I put on my make-up with no sweet spectator at the door, no one to hurry me along, no one to shake his head in exasperation.  I thought I would like having this time to myself.  Instead, there was a twinge of lonliness – an anticipation of someone who loved me, albeit impatiently, nudging me on.  I looked towards the door – there was no one there.

I slipped on my dress, a sexy, red beaded short dress with a zipper up the back.  I reached behind and zipped up the dress as far as I could on my own – and then I turned in dismay – how was I going to get this dress zipped up by myself?

I tried wild contortions and yoga poses, but nothing worked –  I never could get my hands to meet behind me.

I gave up and sat down on my bed.  While it had already been weeks since he left,  that was the moment I realized he was gone for good.  I put my face in my hands and cried until my make-up was ruined and I was so late for my party that it would have been embarrassing to show up at all.

I slipped out of my dress and hung it on the hanger from which it had come, the curve of the top still sitting in the hook on my closet  door.  It was the last time I would ever  wear  that dress, a dress I had worn for Fred on several occasions, a dress that he had zipped up for me each time.

I washed my mascara-streaked face and didn’t call my friends to say I was not coming.  It didn’t escape me that no one called to see where I was.  Fred was the only one who ever waited on my presence – vigilantly, annoyingly, impatiently, lovingly.

I miss that about him.

17 years, 6 months, and 26 days later and I still miss that about him.

Yes, it’s the big, angry outbursts that signify a marriage  has ended, but it the missing of those endearing and intimate ordinary moments between a man and a woman in which you know that something amazing is gone for good.

Deliciously yours in the Memory of it All, Linda

“The way you wear your hat;
The way you sip your tea;
The memory of all that.
No, no, they can’t take that away from me.

The way your smile just beams;
The way you sing off key;
The way you haunt my dreams.
No, no, they can’t take that away from me.

We may never, never meet again
On on the bumpy road to love.
Still I’ll always, always keep the memory of

The way you hold your knife;
The way we danced ’til three;
The way you’ve changed my life.
No, no, they can’t take that away from me”  by  Ira Gershwin

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

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