All We Have is Time

My husband and I came from very different backgrounds. I came from the classic 1950’s family. My mother was a stay at home mom. My dad worked an 8 to 4 job. We lived in company housing from the time I was born until I graduated from high school. We ate dinner together, we had family prayer, we attended church every Sunday. I was the fifth of seven kids. I really believed that everything my parents did was the way things should be done.
My husband came from a broken home. His mother married for the fifth time about the same time we got married. He used to joke that he gained weight in basic training because it was the first time in his life he got three meals a day. He loved the army because of the order it provided him, something he had never had in his life. He was the third of six children. His mother put his older brother up for adoption when the child was two years old. His younger brother died in a bathing accident when my husband was two. His mother told her children again and again that she could have done great things had she not been burdened with children. The way his mother lived became his negative example.
So when we married he was happy to look to my family as an example of how to do things. Except he had formed the habit of making his own decisions and choices about what worked and how life should be lived. My parents lived in the age of efficiency. When there were tasks to be done on a Saturday morning they divided their lists and one went one way and one went the other. Soon after we were married my husband pulled out a list of things we needed to do one afternoon. I looked over the list and said, “I can go to the bank while you go to the cleaners. You can. . .” He gave me a look that stopped me mid-sentence.
“Can’t we just go together?’
“But that’s not efficient,” I sputtered.
“Who cares? I’d rather run errands with you.”
Well who could argue with that? And so we started forming our own patterns, separate and different from those of our families. For forty years we did everything together. We worked together at the same schools, we played together. We shared hobbies, we wrote books, we traveled to interesting places near and far. My parents were fairly restrained in their expressions of affection, but my husband told me he loved me everyday. We raised 8 kids. And the kids went everywhere with us until they finally had to grow up and go to college and make patterns of their own.
And then my husband died. We were on vacation in Peru. Just the two of us. We were having a wonderful time. We had visited my sister and brother in Chile and nieces and nephews. We were headed back to Chile the next morning. But we didn’t make it.
We spent forty years with each other, together.
I couldn’t go with him this time and I miss him. And I am so glad he didn’t listen to me way back then.
Efficient don’t mean a thing.
Time is all we have.

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About Karen Hopkins

Karen Hopkins (1949-) was born in Los Angeles and raised in Martinez, California. At seventeen she moved to Talcahuano, Chile. After completing her university degree she worked in London, England for Pan American Airlines and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, and India. For twenty-six years Karen taught Spanish and English as a Second Language in a variety of settings including a private school in Panama, the "most remote school in the United States"--Ticaboo, Utah, the Navajo Reservation, a teacher exchange in Hermosillo, Mexico, Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, Arizona, and Cochise College in Nogales, Arizona. She and her husband travel extensively throughout Mexico and Central America, and have spent many summers in the remote highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala with their family. Karen currently lives in Southern Arizona, near the Mexican border.
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