Tuesday, July 24, 2018

On Anniversaries

Sometimes you think you can fly, only to be destined to drown.

And so we stay earthbound. "Should have". "Would have". Those are words in all of our hearts, at least once. We recall much of a life as each year passes, candles on another cake, warm breath against the flames. But what do you remember most, the best day of your life or your last regret?

The difference is profound.

I look at my Dad, and when my late brother's name is mentioned he gets this look of profound grief on his face, even as I've learned to get through the day as a stoic. He is a man who is not Time's trinket and for him, my brother's collapse and death on Good Friday was if it was yesterday.

But he'd not have given up the experience of adopting and raising him, both of us, for any happier ending.
I remember a few short years ago, when I thought my heart was in pieces, not likely to heal.  A fractured goodbye, and the realization that the person I had cared for, who had asked to meet my family and had done so, was a breathing ghost. I was left with just a rose, drying between two pages, the blood from an internal thorn tearing something loose inside, the print of nose against the glass of a skyscraper where I leaned into it so the tears couldn't be seen. Afterward, I wondered if life was even worth living, there in that brief darkness before there is light.

But I didn't go down that path, the thought only one of brief self-pity, not intended to be action. I had a really good cry or two and a giant plate of Nachos and a beer or three with a six foot pony-tailed blond, who has always been my rock among best friends. Then I met my gal friend M.C. and as we drove around a haunted landscape, I realized that although I hurt, I FELT, and that was a good thing.

Then, after a long night's sleep, I picked up the phone and called a guy friend, someone I had chatted online with for years, sometimes spending hours sharing geeky puns and jokes. I knew he would understand. My boyfriend and I broke up", was all I said, and he listened, as he always did while I talked it out, and tried to put it behind me.
It wasn't the first time my heart had broke, and wouldn't be the last, but the feeling peeled something from me, like skin from an onion, leaving nerves exposed to a cold that bit with weasel teeth. It brought back a memory of that first loss of someone I loved and a memory of how I handled it. For that first time my heart broke, I did what a lot of people do. I pushed everyone away, pushing my boundaries, sometimes hanging up high in the air, the g-forces on my body a distraction from the pain, the air parting like the Red Sea, my only need to move on at maximum risk to my body, and minimum risk to my soul.

I wanted nothing from the world but the ability to push through it without being touched.  I talked little to people but much to the sky, whispering to it my regrets as I rolled through 40 degrees of bank, taking counsel with that great blue solitude.
You think that cheating death like that would make me feel alive but for a time, it was a battle without passion, grey and colorless, with neither the urge to win or the fear to lose, played out before an arena with no audience.  I came within a few knots of a final pronouncement more than once and found that I had nothing left to say.

The only sound was the wings cleaving the air, a sound that is like all other sounds of profound mystery, the lap of a wave upon a shore, the echo of taps, the whispers of a voice that speaks to you in dreams from an eternity away, heard but not comprehensible.

I lost out on a lot of life during those brief years.
This time, I was a bit older, and a little scar tissue and I weren't strangers, having been through much worse than breaking up a budding relationship. This time I was going to open myself up to friends and get out and enjoy my life with the four-legged friend who had taught me that lesson. With Barkley in tow, we got out and we talked and we learned to laugh again, and in fairly short order. There were whiskey and bacon and late nights with two good friends laughing as we compared the merits of Barry White versus William Shatner and Greensleeves or Zamfir and his Pan Flute as music to get lucky by. On one of the rare days, I let that last heartache get the better of me, one of those friends said "if you had to do it all again, knowing it would teach you how to feel again, would you"?  I looked at her and said "hell yes."

I didn't see my friend that I called that night for a few months, our talks continuing with the usual matters between people that share hobbies and books, even if they don't share the same generation. Then one night he mentioned a date with a ballerina, and I pictured them out, young, beautiful, laughing and felt something twist in my chest that had not been there for a while. But I didn't say anything, not then, not when Barkley and I would meet him for a coffee.
Then one day he called me after landing from a  long business trip overseas and asked me to an event we both loved, not a date, just a typical outing with friends someplace upstate.  I said yes and plans were made. After hanging out all that day, he asked if I wanted to get a bite to eat once we'd had a chance to get cleaned up (playing with steam engines all days can get a little dirty) and we located a couple quick burger places near our respective hotels.  He showed up at my door dressed in dress pants and a crisp shirt, and the burger joint I was expecting as planned, turned into an intimate, elegant bistro, a glass of wine, and a conversation about things much deeper than the night, things only hinted at, never said.
Halfway through the meal, I thought to myself "holy cow, this is a date".

That was seven years ago, on a warm, clear day.  That date is now my husband.

Because he asked.
How often do we stay silent, when we are searching, when we need help, when we are hurt? How often do we shut ourselves away when we want a cool touch upon the brow or a hand that helps us up a steep slope. There is so much that can keep us from the truth of things, holding us in that toil of a heart's hesitation.

Sometimes it's pride, sometimes it's hurt. Sometimes it's history.  Often it's the fear of being rejected The safety stays on, the mouth stays closed and while we think we are protecting ourselves, we're merely closing a door on life, one that can be as fixed as one of a prison.  In doing so sometimes we lose a friend, we lose an opportunity or we lose on love- that improbable, inexplicable and sometimes bewildering thing that binds us together despite our blood, or through it.
A fellow I knew professionally, lamented to me in a moment of vulnerability after a very late night on the job that his old high school crush was marrying someone else.  I said "did you ever ask her out" and he said "no. . . I knew she would say no, she was beautiful and popular and I'm. . . . ", accepting the words as he uttered them with an almost eager fatalism. That which makes something its truth also makes its meaning.  I should have offered comfort, but I remained silent, not knowing what to say.

So he and I just continued to work, in silence, our untrammeled feet taking us to a place rendered quiet not by solitude, but by loss. We worked on, blind and deaf to any emotion but the gathering and I realized I should have said something, if only, "next time. . . ask" said with a smile, and a hug from a friend, not a colleague.
On a day when another birthday shortly looms,  I look at what is around me, and how I almost lost it, lost myself, simply by never taking the chance, listening to my fears, and not to my heart.  For the past does have a way of coming back to us.  You can fear in in silence, treating it as if you would an unwanted dream or you can learn from it, remembering it like a fine book, full of wonders and maybe occasional warfare, but as full of life as the landscape around you.

From what I've learned in 59 years on this planet, is the earth is simply a standing place and how you look at what is around you is your loss or your gain.
The sky and water weld together without joint, the sun descending down, touching the lake with a soundless hiss.  Soon, the moon would spread over this place with the thick sheen of silver. This is just one day in time, one day to be cataloged in memory.  The living trees, the flowers planted by another's hands, so still they appear to have been formed in stone, even to the smallest bud, the feather stroke of a tiny leaf.

I touch the porch railing of this old house, tracing it the way fingers trace a human backbone, there under the skin, in the silent perusal of that which becomes wonder. Another year older, another day wiser.  I could worry about, or as I did on that birthday not that long ago where I could give my best friend and Partner a T-Shirt that says "I Can't Drive 55" and just laugh, a sound that will bend the trees and shake the fixed stars in the sky.  I turn towards the door, where there is a light on, waiting.


  1. Dear Abby we just saw the post about Your Dad's Granny, Your mom's Dad and your sweet mom.
    We want to say you are all in our thoughts and prayers...it truly does seem like you are under torrential rain...prayers and hugs madi and mom

  2. Dittos Madi and Mom...About this post...yup. When The Cousin People Thought Really Was the Movie Star with the Similar Name was 30, her mother hinted to a guy she liked that she'd probably dump the guy her mother didn't like if this guy asked her for a date. He said, "THAT would want a date with me?" Well, yes, actually she would have done. If he'd had the fortitude to ask.

  3. So Abby's about to come over and give you a great big kiss. That's from me, okay?

  4. We all have that inner dialogue. That part of ourselves that speaks and especially when we are hurt.

    Physical pain is one thing. Emotional pain is quite another.

    We lean into our emotions with all our might and we place our trust in them. This puts us in a place where if that person or creature is taken away, we lose our balance and reel back and forth suffering the withdrawals that follow.

    After falling in pain, we are naturally hesitant to be hurt again. We had trusted not only another but our own judgement as well. Everything is now suspect and we tend to wander alone seeking short term preoccupations to avoid that inner dialogue. That inner dialogue is both reflective and speculative. Our dreams and our past all reside in that voice.

    In time we find we can trust and even rely on others again. Our fear of the pain we just endured fades and we are willing to risk being hurt again. Time is the ultimate arbiter of such things.

    Most all people are stronger when they have an interdependence. By living with another we spread our abilities both mental and physical over ourselves and our loved one. In spite of the extra effort, the return on our emotional investment pays dividends that cannot be found any where else. This is why we love and love again. We need this as much as we need air, water and food. This is the sustenance our souls need.

  5. Hugs, and happy anniversary for that wonderful day in your life.

    Woos - Lightning, Misty, and Timber and Mom

  6. Happy Anniversary and thanks for a wonderful post... I cried, but it was a pleasure to read...


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