Gail Sheehy Shares Her Story of Heart break & Res

By YourTango

An intimate look at Gail Sheehy and Clay Felker’s long-term love affair

By the time Clay and I were ready to move in together for good, we were also ready to adopt a child. And, oh yes,we finally got married. I was in my forties, he in his fifties, and we had entered our settling-down stage. Clay did a massive renovation of that imposing co-op—and “discovered” the kitchen he hadn’t used for 25 years. The political dinner-table conversations with our worldly wise, teenaged Cambodian daughter were sublime.

Seven years later, we faced another move. When Clay was diagnosed with an indolent form of a potentially serious disease, an intuitive doctor suggested that his professional life and our now empty nest weren’t helping him fight the illness. “Open the door to a new life,” he advised us. “You need to make a commitment between the two of you—think about how to find that door every day, just as you would ask, ‘What am I going to wear today?’ Just struggling with the question tells your immune system: I am so important, I am worth fighting for.”


We did think about that door every day. It took us two years to find it. The University of California at Berkeley asked Clay to start a magazine center at their Graduate School of Journalism.

It was his next stage: Clay was now a guru, revitalized. Being connected to a great research university on top of the information technology revolution exhilarated both of us. This move had been for Clay’s health, but it ended up having enormous benefits for me as well. I found I was eager to live on the edge, hike mountains, take new risks.We moved into a small faculty apartment with one bathroom and rented furniture. It was hell indoors, but the outdoors was magical. Every morning we’d walk through a forest of towering eucalyptus and jog around a track with a view across San Francisco Bay past the Golden Gate to the sapphire of the Pacific. When we found a light-filled house in the Berkeley hills, I took up gardening in a tropical paradise.

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