After the storm
I woke up this morning remembering who I was. Before the woman I loved with all my heart was diagnosed. Before the kids were mourning the death of their mother. Before college bills and mortgage payments and graduations came along clamoring for attention from the only adult left in the room. Before new loves appeared with their own needs and desires. Before I let myself shrink down under the weight of all that was demanded of me.
Human valium she called me. Because she didn’t know any other me. And she wasn’t asking anything of me. “Be you. Be a friend,” she said. Share some intimate moments and deep conversation. Sit close and let yourself be free. There are no demands on you here. Just tell your truth and relax into it. While at the time I didn’t quite realize it, I rediscovered the authentic me in those three days. And I ran away from him even faster than I’d run away from the last couple of failed love interests.
In the mid-November darkness, I dreamed. Of dark spruce forests and babbling mountain brooks. Small ponds and big brook trout. A time when I had no fear and no one needed me. The only concern I had was to leave the swamp before nightfall. Because it was challenging to find your way through the evergreens once the sun went down. The rest of the four-mile hike was easy, even in the dark and without a flashlight.
Curiously, I also dreamed of a long dead Aunt. Now, I realize she was my example. The only close family member I know, to have lived the kind of life I found myself living. Her husband had walked out on her and left her to fend for herself. With three young sons, she persevered through some tumultuous decades. Raising those boys by herself, for much longer than I had to raise my children alone, she did what she had to do. Maybe she wasn’t a shining example (they lived next door and I can still hear her yelling at her sons) but she’s it, the only example I have of single parenthood. She was a good and honorable woman. And though it may not have seemed it at times, she loved us all as if we were her own children. Last night she came to visit me and she left me feeling calm and okay with the way things have turned out.
As I was rising up to wakefulness, I saw an image in my mind. Me, as a small boy, sitting in an old wooden rowboat. The chalky, pale blue paint peeling from the hull. In the middle of the ocean, the boat was rocking ever so slightly on gentle swells. The storms had passed. The seas were calm. It was safe to be me again.
Thank you for reading.