A poignant memoir that first appeared as a thoughtful essay in the “Modern Love” column of the New York Times.
In that essay, Scarboro (Phoenix, Upside Down, 1996, etc.), a happily married mother of two, had been informed by a university that it was holding a vial of frozen sperm from her deceased first husband, Stephen—what did she want done with it? The memoir that grew out of her essay is a frank account of her love for and her young marriage to Stephen, who, having been born with cystic fibrosis, had a life expectancy of 30. He made it, but barely. Scarboro writes about the vacations, the camping out and the hiking, as well as the emergency room visits and hospital stays, the surgical procedures, the feeding tube, his addiction to painkilling drugs and her bout with depression. When Stephen had a double-lung transplant, the 30 medications needed to keep him alive required sorting and storing in a large tackle box. The effect of all the medications was dramatic and disheartening. He developed food cravings, gained 50 pounds and shopped impulsively, and his thoughts, writing and words became rambles. Stephen kept a journal during this time, as they were planning to write a book together about living with cystic fibrosis; she includes a single excerpt that records his perception of these changes. Death was hovering over their young lives, but sometimes it was pushed to the background, letting them imagine a future in which they’d live into their 80s.
Scarboro’s writing is marked by honesty, and although a new love appears for the young widow at the end, there’s no doubt of the warmth of her love for Stephen in the years they had together.