I dated infrequently after I divorced. My life was two children to raise and a house to pay for. My girls were teenagers before I felt on solid ground, earned enough money to look over my shoulder and not see something gaining. I did become involved with photography, bought a pretty little Minolta when I could afford it, mastered f-stops and exposure, composition, the basics.
I didn't meet Bernie, Bernie met me. The Cleveland Art Museum had a show of photography; I was inspecting a lot of fine work, making notes in a little spiral notebook. There was a constant presence off my left shoulder. When I finally turned to confront it, a man put out his hand. “Hello. I’m Bernie Andersen.”
Bernie was a sturdy man, not much taller than I, back when I was several inches taller. He had a well trimmed beard and mustache, dark hair going salt and pepper, and a flattened nose I never did like. It was toward the end of a rather long exhibition, and later I wondered if Bernie had hung out at the museum for a long time, hoping.
Bernie had a life, too, but he didn't know it. He had a house, three lovely children and an ex-spouse. His oldest son was a naval officer, youngest daughter an anthropology student at Cornell and his middle son a delightful ne’er-do-well bunking with his dad when I met Bernie. Bernie’s children had old Norwegian names, and when I met him, the middle son fancied himself “Eric,” not whatever he was named.
Bernie cooked every meal we ate in, which should have made him a keeper. He started preparation in the morning, and dinner might be presented at eight. What pan, what knife, what seasoning, what plates……………Argh! On the other hand, the men I worked with liked him; Bernie was an engineer, too, and I always knew what knot of people to find him in when it was time to leave the party.
Photography was one common interest, outdoors another. We took several short trips together. I drove, Bernie plotted the route. We were lost for an entire day on a short trail on White Rag Mountain in the Shenandoah’s. Well, the map was twenty years old, from when his children were young.
One summer Bernie suggested we take a week and visit some petroglyphs at a park in Canada. We drove north. “Not much further,” from the man with the map. Eight bone weary hours later I pulled into the parking lot of a rustic resort. We were seated by the fire. Elbows propped on the linen, eyes drooping, I tried to take in the quaintness. Did I hear that? “This is where Catherine (I made that up; I don’t remember her name) and I honeymooned.”
No idea where we stayed that night. We were back on the road south at first light. Not one word was exchanged. Even when I was pulled over, no word from the passenger seat as I went back to the cruiser and got my lecture and ticket.
Some years later Jan and I were unpacking our fledgling weaving business in our new studio, and chatting with a weaving friend. Marilyn had an interesting threading on her loom, but didn't want to waste “good” thread on it. An unfinished sock fell into my hand, and I tossed it over. “Here’s a sock I never finished for Bernie.”