Do you realize how much I knew about you?
I know your passwords…and why you picked them. I know where your bald spot was and how it developed……. and how you look lying in bed asleep. I know how you chew your food and just what songs you listened to in high school. I know what plays you were in….the sports you played….I know your friends….all of them in high school and college and at your first job after college and in seminary and when we started the church.
I was there.
I know the story of your relatives and have heard your father tell his jokes. I know how you don’t like your back to the door of a room….you loved to change the color of your office….the dark blue was very pretty. I know we can lay a laminate floor…if not perfectly….at least adequately. I know that you liked me playing with your hair and rubbing your neck or shoulders. I thought you liked my kisses, and I was fairly sure you enjoyed the fact that I loved caring for you when you were sick or celebrating your birthday with a cake and presents and having the girls make cards and giving you gifts. I thought you enjoyed the Father’s Day celebrations and the fact that I read your writing and encouraged you by telling you how well you wrote.
I liked listening to your teachings on the literature and history and Bible subjects. I really thought you were witty and funny. You were not cruel or mean to anyone, and I liked that you loved helping people….whether it was taking in a stray kitten or stray people. I saw that you had a good heart. I know what type of cigar you like and even the liquor to go with it……..I know about your dreams to write and travel and have time to write and travel. I know how you held each baby the minute after they were born. I know how we picked out each name…the process of elimination and the search for meaning to their names. I know why we picked each godparent, and I recall that job waiting tables and the trip to get the Christmas Tree out in the woods of PA.
I was there setting up the birthday for the one daughter right before the other was about to be born, and watched how you built them the playground in the backyard. It was me who listened to you read to the babies and bless their heads…..and me who waited up to see if you would come to bed. I tiptoed around trying not to disturb your studying and tried to keep the kids quiet as well. I was in the car with you as we drove the Bishop home from the airport, and it was me…with you in the car when we slid on the black ice. I was also there when we saw the first snowflakes of winter. I was the woman standing inside with the youngest when you had the snowball fight…..and it was me you left to watch the babies when I had pneumonia and you needed to get a paper done in seminary before finals.
I was the girl in the spare bedroom when your grandparents came to call after we got back from the honeymoon…..how we laughed and laughed over that……and I am the one who remembers how you sat on the hood of the car and told me that you couldn’t imagine a day in which you couldn’t talk to me….that I was the one you wanted to share everything with….always…..
Only….you didn’t. You hid……a whopping big part of yourself.
I was the one planning the church dinners and helping you with studying at seminary….cleaning houses and nannying so we could afford to get your through to the job that would make life better….the calling…..
I was the one who cooked the dinner for the priest who was coming to talk to you about going to seminary…..
I was there when you were ordained, and I stood there so proudly as your grandmothers and parents looked on. It was my scrapbook of your accomplishments in high school and my hands that put the photos in all those albums…the wedding…the babies…..the life we were building…. ….
Only you weren’t….you were slowly destroying it….choosing one woman at a time…one conversation at a time…one dark and licentious act at a time……to destroy….us.
I was the one wrapping Christmas gifts and filling Easter eggs and making plans to go on vacation and finding a way to have an office for you to write in privacy……and listening and learning what you liked and trying to learn to be more like the things you were attracted to……always praying for your good and asking for God to make me more……so I could finally feel secure and beautiful and sensual and passionate……
Only…… no amount of changing was going to satisfy you….you weren’t looking to be satisfied….you were looking to be free.
You see….I really was falling more and more in love with you….even through the times when I was so tired from mothering….and so worn from teaching….and so lonely and feeling ugly…..I was learning to appreciate and love little bits of you more each year. I was building a story of us……
Only ……..you were not. You were building a story of you…….. You were building a story of my lack and your need……..my inability to love you and your desire to have a love that was epic…..
I really was meaning it when I wrote I love you in the palm of your hand….when I curled up next to you at night….when we walked hand in hand and arm in arm…when we rocked on the front porch and sat under the stars……my words were for real and for life.
I didn’t know…..I didn’t know….I didn’t know……….. yours were not.
I didn’t realize that you turned away in bed……… and never came to bed…..and went out each day……to escape…..to shut me out…..to run away….to regret…..
You regretted so much…..I just didn’t know I was one of the MOST regretted things.
It was me….at the wedding….I was there when we couldn’t rent a car and when we went to Aunt Mahalia’s and couldn’t get enough of the fudge. It was me who knows what you ordered at the Burning Bush and how we almost ran out of gas driving down the mountain. I was the girl making strawberry jam and homemade bagels and English muffins for you and praying about spiders and experiencing the miracles with you ……I was that girl who was there at the hospital and at your grandfather’s funeral….. and the one walking outside with you to look for Santa because our girl was sure she heard him there……and helping our girl celebrate when she won the writing contest. It was me….and I was really present….
Only ……..I didn’t know you were wishing you really weren’t there and that you really had someone else…some other life.
I recall how you made bread every morning since my morning sickness just wouldn’t end, and I couldn’t stand anything but fresh bread. I remember that it was us against the termites in the house “not on the hill.” I recall the words you spoke to me as you stood on the stairs…..as the words came tumbling out about how lost and afraid and upset you were at my announcement of another impending stork arrival. I recall the look of your back as you walked away to spend a day deciding if you would stay and how to tell………….her.
I recall the night of darkness as I searched the local paper online to see if any news of you came into view…..since the county jail had no record of your presence and only a bail bondsman had brought me word.…….and I recall the first apartment and the conversation about “Middle aged man”…..who was “still working on it….” and how we laughed…..and I remember thinking we would never, ever be apart and have distance and not love each other.
I was there when you told me I got to live the life of my dreams and that you sacrificed it all for me….you gave up all your dreams ……..
I didn’t get the life of my dreams, and you weren’t giving up anything for me……
You were giving up ON me and us and our family.
You were making your dreams come true…in ugly….dark….meaningless ways.
It was me…..the girl at homecoming….who did her hair and bought a dress and thought you saw her beauty….
It was me….that girl in college who sat and cried with you over near the music building….and the one who drove the colt….the one who walked to movies with you and walked around Lake Hollingsworth….and watched you play tennis and even knows your social security number to this day.
It was me…..the girl who was there as you dressed up as Tritan for the girl’s party….as you played with the remote control car I bought the girl for Christmas….as you swam and played Marco Polo or basketball or ran or raked leaves…..
I am the woman in those videos…..laughing and filming and thinking her life was real.
It was me gardening and watching the rabbit in the lawn……thinking that you were there enjoying all that too. It was me you supposedly were wooing with that poetry at teacher training and me you were supposedly singing to in my classroom….
………Only you weren’t. You were singing to the others…..the ones who understood you and called to you from a world I had no idea existed.
My heart is still breaking….because I was really there. I was really engaged and telling myself a story of us…..and you?
You were telling yourself the story of them….of how they made you feel….of how they were worth more than all we could offer you…..of how we were holding you back….
from your dreams……your desires…..your life.
Only…..your life didn’t include us.
But it was me….I was there when you were arrested listening to your excuses….and confabulations and half-truths. It was me believing you even then. It was me…on the witness stand and talking to your brother and trying to hold a family together. I thought you were changing…..
Only….you refused……you decided to hold on to darkness even then. I just didn’t see it.
So now I sit here….with my hands full of memories from a man that really wasn’t……I keep trying to understand how to EVER have memories again.
How do I have memories when they are things that slip away and drown me and make my world unsteady and unsafe?
How can I ever pretend that someone is here and real and present and loves me…..when the boy I knew in tenth grade…..who is the father of my children….who was the center of our world….who pretended to love us…..really wasn’t good and honorable and loving or real?
How can I ever feel comfortable and good again?