Monday, August 29, 2011


Bunko Night

I just returned from a nice weekend in Orange County. My friends invited me to join them for the weekend, which included some surfing time for my son, and a bunco party for the adults. I was promised over and over what a good time I would have, and how it was an opportunity to meet more of their friends.

When I first arrived we were trying to remember the last time I was at their house. I was quite surprised to realize that it had been a very long time. At first I thought maybe a couple of years, then they mentioned that the last time I was there Michael was with me. Not only was he with me, but he was healthy.

Pre-cancer. Pre-tumor. Pre-marriage. Pre-treatments. Pre-death.

It was a sobering realization. The last time I was there, we had our whole future ahead of us. We were carefree. We were so happy. We had no idea what was before us. And, our life, my life, was never the same.

As the guests began to arrive I placed myself in the backyard on a chair, making small talk with a couple of people. As I sat there I had the pleasure of watching couple after couple arrive. As they entered the yard my friends would introduce me to Jim and Bob, Ty and Peg, Eric and John, you get the picture. In time I realized that for one, most of these folks knew each other, and that they all socialized as couples. Why wouldn't they? Right? The other thing that I realized was that since most of them were coupled off, I was for the most part invisible. I sat there on that lawn chair, without much conversation, for a very long time.

As the game began, we went round after round, moving from table to table, and changing game partner to game partner. I began to have a lot of fun. At one point the person I was partnered with was a a 71 year old woman, who my friends had befriended. There was a break in the game, so I decided to engage her in conversation. I learned that she had lost her only son when he was 18 years old. I then learned that she had also lost her husband years earlier as well. I explained to her that I was quite familiar with loss, and shared how I was also widowed. This conversation continued throughout the evening whenever we were seated at the same table. By the end of the night we were the best of friends, and said goodnight with a big hug and kiss.

Both of us had experienced a big loss in our life. Both of us took joy in the fact that even though we lost miserably at bunco that night, we had found each other, and had such a wonderful connection throughout the game.

I imagine that I will continue to feel like the odd man out when around happy couples. It's something that cannot be avoided, and it's something that is honestly getting easier and easier with time. While it used to cut me like a knife to be among those coupled up, it now challenges me to find new ways to connect.

If you are not familiar with bunco, it's basically a game of chance, a roll of the dice. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. Either way, you have to move forward, to a new table, and to a new partner.

Funny, sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. My life is now a game of chance. It's time to move forward. I'm in a new place. Will it mean the arrival of a new partner? I'm not sure, but I remain open to new opportunities to connect.


  1. I love this story! Wonderful analogy and very hopeful. Thank you!

  2. Bunco sounds like a good way to get the couples out of their coupledom! I too still have a hard time socializing and going to parties etc. I miss my extraverted partner who always could engage people in conversation and I would join in. Now I have to initiate conversation myself and I am so out of practise that it seems like hard work. Plus the fact that with grief, I really don't care to make small talk. As the time passes, it has been getting easier, but I find social engagements are a good way to kick-start the feelings of loss and loneliness.
    I am glad you found a friend and made a connection at your bunco party, Dan. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  3. Thank you, Dan, I empathize with you. Just seeing couples together can bring me to tears, I so miss that part of being together. After a year and a half, I still tend to avoid social situations, if I know those there, the endless "how are you?" are too much to answer; if they are new folks, I find it difficult to expose too much .

    I'm glad to hear that being around happy couples is getting easier for you, that gives me hope that one day, I, too, will feel more at ease. We tend to forget that until we walk in anothers shoes, we have no idea what challenges they have faced. What a positive way to take on the challenge of meeting people, finding "new ways to connect". I know the time will come to open that next door and move forward, too. Thanks for your insight. Cathy

  4. Ah, Dan. You are lucky you know. Lucky to have friends who think enough of you to ask you to a weekend away. And I am sure your son had a blast! I do understand what you are saying because I still don't care for being around married people and it is going on 6 years for me. It always reminds me of what I am missing. I keep trying, in earnest, to be content with my life as it is,sans partner. It is a daily struggle. My deepest wish is to connect again with another partner. I really miss the "couple" we were. I always love your posts!

  5. Everyone's life is a game of chance, and falling in love is always a risk, for a variety of reasons. How lucky are those who haven't had to face the losses yet. I also have an invite to a friends' beach house next weekend, but it's our anniversary, with lots of memories attached, and I tend to isolate and lick my wounds. 22 months out, still haven't decided what would be best for me. Thanks for another great blog. When you share these stories about bravely taking a step out, it's a light for all of us. God Bless.