I am a bigamist, apparently.
It all began innocently enough, with a visit to the nursing home where my mother in law and father in law reside.
My husband carefully pulled open the massive front doors to the home while he balanced the new antler mount from the last buck he got at the end of the season. He knew his dad would be excited to see it.
I followed closely, tucking my phone into my purse.
The excitement generated by my husband's antler mount so energized the roomful of elderly men lounging in the day room, most raised on the rural ranches nearby, that it was as if they had plugged themselves into a wall socket. I completely lost sight of him as they flocked round, reliving their own memories of hunting while admiring his nine pointer.
The nurse informed me that both my in-laws were in for their shower, so I settled into one of the sturdy chairs in the lobby to await my rock star hunter.
I thought no one was near until I heard a slight shuffling approaching from behind. The distinctive ooh's I heard before I turned verified it was Juan, a man in his late sixties who had lost most of his speech and lived in a world partly with us and partly known only to him.
Every visit we made he greeted me and only me. He wanted nothing to do with my husband and soon my family joked he was my boyfriend because of his hyperbolic animation at the sight of me.
This time was no exception. He stared me straight in the eye, his face softened, and he sighed loudly. "Ahhh, ahhhh, ah-ah-ah-ah," as he patted his heart and fluttered his hands before it.
I smiled in return and greeted him simply in Spanish. He usually shook my hand and sometimes tried to kiss it, but this time he had a sheaf of papers and a pen in one hand, his cane in the other.
Very purposefully, he looked at the crowd that was now beginning to finally thin around my husband. Juan's face hardened as he shuffled over. I couldn't hear what was spoken, but I did see him put the pen in my husband's hand and hold out the papers, as if to get him to sign. After much back and forth, my husband scribbled something on the paper and made his way to me.
I raised my eyebrows as we made our way down the hall to his parents' room. "I don't know what that was about, but it seemed to make him happy that I signed the paper, which looked to be random letters and a few words," my husband explained. "He also drew what looked like a heart, too."
Later, on our way out, I hustled down the hall to a small break room to get a bottle of water from the vending machine for the trip home. I shoved money in and punched the water button when a small rasping sound from behind the door caught my ear. I turned in time to see the door slowly closing, Juan pushing it.
The usually bare table against the wall looked as if it had been set, though differently. Paper napkins from the cafeteria delineated two place settings, one with a knife on each side and the other with a fork and spoon. A juice carton from breakfast headed both place settings. A vase with a plastic rose, of the ones they used in each room on the dresser, adorned the middle of the table.
Juan swept his arm expansively, gesturing for me to sit. I showed him my water and told him in Spanish and English we were about to leave, but the table looked lovely. His hands fluttered near his heart again and he gestured again for me to sit.
The door creaked open and my husband appeared, causing Juan to crease his face into a frown. He pulled the same paper my husband signed out and held it front of my husband.
At that moment, a nurse also entered and Juan animatedly spoke his language with her, shaking the paper and pointing to it often.
She looked over his shoulder at me, nodded, and smiled, even as another nurse came in and helped Juan back down the hall to his room.
"Oh, Juan," she said as she shook her head. "He thinks you," and she pointed to my husband, "gave up your rights to your wife," and she pointed to me, "when you signed that paper. He also thinks you, " and she pointed to me again, "are now married to him."
My husband looked at me and carefully considered for a moment. "Hon, would it be big a me to allow you to live in bigamy?"
I pinched his arm and laughed as we headed back down the hall.