The Art of Losing is TOO Hard to Master, Elizabeth Bishop!

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I can picture her, red curls, wide a-lined skirt, a farm girl turned city girl turned who-even-knows at Ohio State. He’s an older student, returned from the war, dark hair, light eyes, a twinkle of mischief as he calls the square dance, trying to trip up the frantic dancing adolescents.

She’s approached and consents to a dance with someone who subsequently trips all over himself. She’s too nice to point out that he’s stepping on her feet and trying to promenade the wrong way. From the corner of her eye, she notices the man calling the moves eying her, one eyebrow raised at the jerky movements of the young man at her side.

His time up, he meanders to her side, cutting in deftly and leaving the bespectacled two-left-feeter to the side. They twirl, allemande, bow.

Breathless, he gets her a glass of pink punch and asks her to take a walk outside. He boasts of war stories, of snatching a Nazi armband from the inside of a German church, of fixing tanks and reading books in French. He’s going home to see his mother this weekend for Easter (oh so gentlemanly), but he’ll meet up with her at church on Sunday night.

Oh sure, she thinks. She’s heard that one before. She rolls her eyes when he’s not looking and goes on with her holiday weekend, observing the holy holiday and sunny April with fellow students. 

She’s standing in the pew, singing, and feels a presence slip in next to her. It’s him. He came! Her heart skips a little beat and she listens to his strong tenor voice mixing with her sweet soprano.

They are married in November.


After visiting with my grandma this weekend, who is likely dying, I could think of nothing but this sweet story she shared of how she met my grandpa. We lost him in June. To lose her will be devastating.

If you don’t know the poem I’m referencing in the title, you can read it here.
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6 thoughts on “The Art of Losing is TOO Hard to Master, Elizabeth Bishop!

  1. My grandmother died last April, nine months after my grandfather passed away. It's amazing how closely the souls of spouses can be linked!

    Thinking of you during this time.

  2. I've heard various renditions of this story, but Mom remembered it well this time. What a wonderful picture to keep in our heads — the two of them twinkling around the dance floor. He literally swept her off her feet. Thanks for writing this down for all of us. xoxo

  3. I have always loved Elizabeth Bishop and that poem. The story is beautiful and makes me think of my sister and brother-in-law, who had a first dance at a Valentine’s Day dinner and were married that September. 12 and a half years later, they’ve been through more than most will have to bear in a lifetime (including losing a child) and are one of the best examples I’ve ever known of a good marriage. Thanks for sharing.

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