Dearest Rachel –

I’ll tell you, this year thus far has been absolutely full of surprises. Which means that it’s probably a good thing you’re not around to deal with them, as you hated surprises.

This was particularly evident when it came to birthdays and holidays – anything having to do with gift-giving. The long and short of it was, you wanted what you wanted, and anything else was, well, unwanted. Getting you a present out of the blue with no warning or – more to the point – no consultation was a dangerous proposition.

It made the whole concept of performing a grand romantic gesture (for however much of one a poor college student could manage) problematic. Back in college, I thought you might be pleased with an angora sweater, and got one for you for… I don’t know what the occasion was, offhand – probably Christmas, since your birthday was nowhere near sweater weather. The reason probably doesn’t matter as much as the reaction – and there was a reaction on your part. I’m not sure if you were actually allergic to angora as such, but you found it to be decidedly itchy and uncomfortable, and I was stuck with a sweater I literally couldn’t give away. I don’t even remember if I figured out how to return the thing, but I know you rejected it outright.

On the other hand, I could occasionally get it right, particularly on the odd occasion when you weren’t expecting anything from me in the first place. Somewhere along the way while I was in college, I got involved with wholesale jewelry or some such – don’t ask; like with so much from that far back, I don’t remember the particulars anymore, anyway – and found a silver ring with a heart-shaped amethyst stone. I had to save up a little for it, but I got it for you… and I think you wore it more often than you did your engagement/wedding bands thereafter.

But that was the exception, rather than the rule. I learned fast, though, and rarely bothered to try and do something for you on my own recognizance. If I wanted to know what to get you, I would simply ask what it was you wanted.

But not everybody learned about your antipathy towards surprises. In particular (and of course, this is a very involved story), there was that time early in 2017, after you suggested to the rest of the family about placing a “W” flag on grandmothers grave, when you mentioned about wanting your ashes scattered into Schoolhouse Bay off the east coast of your beloved Middle Bass Island. Dad raised his objections, citing that Daniel would have no place to grieve you without a burial place, and you invited him and Mom to come with us to the island that summer, and see what it was that you loved so much. While he may not have come completely around to the idea of scattering your ashes, he – and Mom – certainly did understand why you loved the place after that, although they never went back with us.

I think you thought that you won them over more than you actually did, because when, later that year, they informed us that they had a ‘surprise’ for us for our 25th anniversary, you thought they had (with my help, since theoretically I would have to assist them in contacting Jim Roeusch about this) booked the cottage on the island for a second time that year. With that thought firmly fixed in your head as what you would want for an anniversary present, you were visibly disappointed when they presented the two of us with a Caribbean cruise. I had to do a little diplomatic two-step in order to mollify Dad, as he was decidedly not thrilled by your disappointment. I mean, I was happy with the present, and I didn’t want to see him upset about it.

Eventually, you came around, and we did enjoy the trip. Someday, I’ll convert the footage of the game show we participated in, but that’s a whole other story unto itself, and deserves its own separate letter. For now, suffice to say that no matter how wonderful the surprises might be, the fact that they were surprises, and not exactly what you wanted, meant that they generally tended to fall flat.

So I learned to make sure of what it was you wanted. We always shop together for Christmas presents, and you would point out the things that you wanted, and I would get them at that point, on the spot. Or, you’d point something out on Amazon, and I would place the order right then and there. In either case, I would hide them in my side of the bedroom, and eventually wrap them a few days before Christmas. Ironically, you generally had a habit of letting me know which package was which after I’d wrapped them and lost track of them. At least it worked out well for us both. You got what you wanted, and I stayed out of trouble.

But it also meant I got kind of lazy. Grand romantic gestures became a thing of the past, replaced by asking you whether you might be interested in this or that thing or destination. It was a lot safer, to be sure, but it may have lost a little bit of the romance in the process.

It also meant – or rather means – that I’m completely out of practice when it comes to dealing with other women. Now, of course, that was never supposed to happen. That was never part of the plan. It was supposed to be you and me, forever. But I can’t bear the thought of this empty house; you’ve heard me prattle on numerous times already about Megumi, and how I wish I could find her. And while things are quieter than they were a month ago on the dating app, there are still a few possibilities. But so many of them list as a preference for their first date as “surprise me.” And all I see with that… is a minefield.

Had we still been together, this year and for the next twenty or so, this wouldn’t be an issue. But here we are, and it is. and I don’t know what to do; the spontaneity has kind of been squeezed out of me. That, and I realize (thanks to the likes of Ellen and Erin) that most potential partners really do have a schedule already – be it for work or family or whatever, and just grabbing somebody by the hand and saying, “hey, pack your bags, we’re going here or there,” just isn’t a thing I can do out of the blue like that. I mean, I can do that, but no one else I know can. And that kind of ruins it, doesn’t it? They may say “surprise me,” but that only goes so far, doesn’t it?

So the upshot is, I have no idea what I’m doing, and how to proceed going forward.

So, as always, honey, wish me luck… I’m going to need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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