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I used to think that my wife had an infinite supply of ChapStick. It was seemingly everywhere, the car, the kitchen counter, the knapsack. It was in every room in the house, on many of the shelves and in many of the drawers, even, inevitably, rattling loose in the clothes dryer with all of the tumbled laundry.

I began to think of the stuff as “our ChapStick.”

Mostly the tubes were of the original black variety but, in the years before she died a pink version increasingly appeared, accompanied occasionally by some random third color or the odd competing brand.

Only rarely did I use ChapStick, except second-hand. Never did I buy it. When it was wanted, ChapStick was easy to find in my world. I counted it a successful week when I prevented it from migrating to the clothes dryer or melting to the dashboard. There was no shortage of the stuff in my life.

But now I’m not so sure.

Of late, all of my ChapStick applications are first-hand. Sometimes I have to search to find a tube. Sometimes that search takes a while. It’s been quite some time since a tube of ChapStick turned up in the dryer.

I can foresee the inevitable day when I’m unable to locate a tube of ChapStick–even if I still find it inconceivable that I might at some point actually want to purchase one.

And so one touchstone to my previous life is gradually dissipating.

Those of you who have outlived a partner will know what I’m referring to: the shared bar of soap, that final tube of toothpaste, the eventual demise of an antiquated PC, the departure of the family pet. Some reminders of your co-joined life you couldn’t hang on to even if you wanted to, others don’t bear keeping.

I’m sure that Denise would want for me a measure of healthy and progressive detachment. And I’m equally certain that, were our circumstances reversed she would savor each slipstone of our lives as it melted into memory.

Fortunately, I got a million of those memories. And I hope you do, too.

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