Tommy died November 2, 2012. Six months later, I moved from the house we shared to a convertible (bedroom hidden by a sliding door) studio at Kingsbury Plaza -- a River North highrise.
The apartment and location appealed for several reasons: it was the same monthly cost as my home mortgage, there would be an extra bed for a daughter or an out-of-town guest, and it was steps away from the East Bank Club.My first spouse and I were among the 3,000 early members of the "country club in the city."
Back then, in 1980, River North was isolated, semi-industrial, and bland. Because my clubhouse opened at 5 a.m., it fit perfectly with my pre-dawn awakenings. I could rise, have coffee and a banana, and as the darkened sky lightened, drive my Honda Civic to the club's garage, exercise, and then join half a dozen friends for breakfast.
It turned out that my spouse was not a fan of health clubs or untimely mornings, and she soon gave up her membership. She was a deep sleeper and disliked my early bird routine. She spoke of drawers opening and closing, and squeaks of floorboards that woke her. But now I think what she really meant was: "Why are you leaving me for them?"
Our marriage frayed and she moved out in 1990. We lived separately for many years, with neither one of us eager to speed towards a divorce. But one day, while I sat at the breakfast table with club friends, Jimmy, an attorney, turned to me and said, "Your spouse came to my office."
I don't remember if others eating their egg white omelets or lox and bagels saw me as I started to cry. Jimmy put his arm around me; "I'm sorry; I thought you knew," he said. I'm not sure why I broke down. After all, my spouse and I were living apart and a divorce certainly seemed to be inevitable. I guess it was just the finality of it that shook me.
In 1998, I married again and tried to get Tommy to exercise with me at my clubhouse. But he was a devoted YMCA member and disdained the club's glitz. Oh, he liked swinging golf clubs at the practice range, but this thrift shop-garbed second husband couldn't abide the gym's spandex crowd.
I'm writing about these memories now, because after a three-year absence -- that included nine months in Los Angeles and 10 at the Aqua in Lakeshore East -- I'm reinstating my membership. The Breakfast Club no longer exists in the same configuration: A few people have died, several married, and some moved out of state.
I'm returning to the club because as of June 1, I'm leaving my Aqua studio to move to a convertible, dog friendly apartment at Hubbard Place, across the street from the "country club in the city" that I first joined 37 years ago.
If you've been following my essays, you're aware I first had the notion to move to a walk-up one-bedroom somewhere on the north side. Family and friends quickly quashed this fantasy and demanded that a woman of my age (78) must live in a building with an elevator, 24-hour security and maintenance, and in-unit laundry.
And after viewing a vintage apartment in Lincoln Park, a one-bedroom in Evanston, and a millennial-filled highrise in Streeterville, I felt drawn to my old neighborhood, and to my familiar clubhouse.
This will be a bittersweet move as I have flourished during my nearly two years at the Aqua. It was here that I learned how to swim, upped my Spanish language skills, and grasped basic piano -- three goals that have been nagging for all of my adult life.
Fortunately, my clubhouse has several swimming pools, so that exercise will continue. I now write my daily journal in Spanish (dictionary nearby), thus there's no chance of me dropping that language. And my upright piano will move from a refigured closet to an alcove in my new home.
Of course, I'll bring along all of the memories I've shared with you, and the good news that my first spouse and I have continued as friends and emergency contacts.
Aqua chums will certainly remain, and I expect Tommy to visit my new place -- if only in my imagination. Perhaps I'll sense him in the East Bank Club, watching from a corner to make sure I properly lift a weight.
Oh, he's bound to pop up to guarantee I foster or adopt a dog. Maybe he'll even join us on daily walks. A new chapter -- lived out loud -- begins.