Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Options and Alternatives.

“We’re just talking about our husbands’ schedules. We’re both <FIRST RESPONDER TYPE> widows!”

Option A: Smash her into little pieces.

Option B: Watch her perky little smile dissolve as I sympathize with the absence of her husband on holidays.

Option C: Gracefully and delicately move the conversation along to save her from mortal embarrassment so that the person beside me can stop cringing and resume breathing. 

Option C, it is. 

Words are curious things. For thousands and thousands of years our ability to communicate, in an array of dialects and accents and languages so diverse and beautiful that we will never in our own lifetimes experience anything more than a morsel of the table laid out before us, has shaped who we are as beings. We’ve used them to form bonds, to slay our enemies and to hurt the ones we love. We’ve shaped governments and societies, and we’ve celebrated the deep power of faith and religion through them. We’ve won wars, lost wars. We’ve put shape to theory, created fantasies and realities, and we’ve isolated people. 

Words are beautiful and painful … when we use them, and when we don’t. Words can cut deeply, silence deeper still. An inflection gone wrong. Phrases loosely knit. Colloquialisms misplaced. 

The pen. The sword.

I have become overly sensitive, self-righteous and exceedingly protective of this unfortunate moniker. And I bristle at its flippant use, as I imagine others with a membership card perhaps do. I regret all of the times in the past that I threw it about so easily, before I understood the awkwardness that comes with actually being one. I never considered who might be listening. Who might be hurting.

Watching her carefully I can see that she knows a chord was struck, but she cannot decipher which one. The warm beat of the room has been disrupted and a pang of guilt twists inside me. As much as I want to punish her for unknowingly comparing her disrupted holiday schedule with my disrupted life, I want to save her from what she doesn’t know.

That widows are beautiful. Ordinary, Young. Old. Tired. Energetic. Successful. Struggling. Sad. Joyful. Angry. Content. Unsettled. Adventurous. Cautious. Exuberant. Fearful. Determined. Graceful. Clumsy. Rich. Poor. Professionals. Homemakers. Change agents. Mothers. Grandmothers. Sisters. Daughters.

I reach across the chasm her words created and gracefully untangle the fiery knots inside me.

And file the words away.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Only Me Beside You.

Sometimes people leave you.
Halfway through the wood.
-- Into the Woods

The rain has been coming down for days, grey skies unleashing their pent up anger to ricochet across the rocky moonscape and bring it to life. The hills have turned lush and green, the parched leaves feeding hungrily in the storms. We rush about under umbrellas, dashing through doors to embrace this rare wintery spell as car lights twinkle with the promise of evenings filled with giggles and hot cocoa.

More than a month into our next chapter, we’re finally settling in to the place where we will dream, plan and build what comes next. Routines and new patterns and places are being discovered and the only pang of regret that continues to gnaw at me is the sacrifice they’ve made to begin anew, leaving their bosom friends behind. 

Only 18 miles away, the distance looms large against the exhilarating fear that comes with the glaring scrutiny of a new school, and new friends. Both excited, both scared, I watched with pride as they walked confidently into the unknown, cautiously searching for their place and their acceptance. But the excited words and the newness of it all could not keep the storm clouds back. 

“I just miss him so much and he is missing so many important things … I just wish … that he could be here … to support me … and tell me how good I’m doing … and to see the things I can do.”

“Sweetheart, I promise you that he’s here. In your heart. And he’s watching and he’s so proud … and if you listen closely you can hear him in your heart.”

(whispering) “I just wish he could come back for just one week ... Just one week … It would mean so much to me.”

Holding her close in the dark, her hot tears rushing down over us both, I can do nothing to ease her pain and that familiar pain that I have failed her, failed them, creeps back to the surface from that place where I’ve trapped it deep inside.

Listening to the rain pelt against the windows, I watch the car lights dance in the window of her dark room as the world around us dashes through the dark. 

There have been too many moments like this one in her childhood, dark nights when she’s fallen asleep in my arms, her soft breathing broken by the soft hiccups left behind once the tears have dried. 

Too many nights where I have lain here and been broken apart by their pain and my inability to erase it. Too many nights where my own tears have fallen on their sleeping foreheads long after they have cried themselves to sleep in my arms. 

Too many nights listening to the rain.