The Rhythm of Memories~

 

Here is the deepest secret that nobody knows.  Here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life….

I don’t know why the rhythm of this particular poem rings so deeply in my heart, around so much of what this widow life is for me.  Chuck kept a copy of this poem in his wallet for years;  I’d printed it out many years ago to give to him, and I read that copy at his memorial service.  The rhythm and flow of the words, e.e. cumming’s lack of capitalization, this poem above all resounds through my heart continually.

The words of e.e. cummings fit my soul as I think of Chuck today.  I think of him every day.  I think of him every minute of every day and every second of every minute.  I think of his life and our life together and his death and how it was for me, how it was for him, as he lay dying, and what this life is without him.  What my world is like without him. These are the things I think about as I go about my daily life.  I’m looking at you and talking to you and working and doing and I’m present in that moment at the same time as I am fully present in the life I live with Chuck in my heart.  Before he died, ten thousand years ago and 10 nanoseconds ago, I thought that a person could only have one thought in their head at any given moment but I’ve found that to be untrue.  I consistently and continually have 2 thoughts, 2 lives, in my mind and heart at the same time.

Here is the deepest secret that everybody who reads anything I write knows.  Here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of this tree called life…

 

I am still very much in Love with my husband.  I am still very much in Love with Chuck Dearing.  As much in Love with him now as when he was alive.  More, if such is possible, because I was very much in Love with him when he was alive, and I told him so daily and I showed him so daily, and now that he’s dead, he is the very rhythm of my life.

 

His absence has only made my heart grow more with Love for him.  Not in such a way that I’ve raised him to saint status, which is what many do when a loved one dies, but in a way of remembering him as he was, which was as a real man who walked on this earth and swept me off my feet for each of our 24 years together.  I don’t even have to dress him up…his life and his character and our Love speaks for itself.

I’m still very much in Love with my husband.  In Love with Chuck.  The only thing is about this is that…he’s dead.  I’m in Love with a dead man.

And I don’t believe that I will ever not be in Love with him.  How, after all, does one make oneself fall out of Love?

Distance isn’t enough.  People love over distance all the time; they have through the centuries.  Of course, this distance is incalculable, for I’ve no idea where Chuck is.  If he is.  Perhaps I’m in Love with a dead man who has no existence in any realm any longer.  I fully acknowledge this. And that is the fuck of widowhood.  Love with nowhere to go…

 

As these ten thousand years have passed, as each 10 nanoseconds pass in the here and now, I remember how he loved me, how I loved him.  I remember his calm spirit and his groan-worthy jokes.  I remember his dedication to the military and how glad he was to retire, having done his time.  His quiet rebellions that grew from holding his own counsel and just going about business in the way he knew he needed to do.  It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, he told me many times, and that carried him through his military service.  I remember how he not only read the Big Book of AA but read what it all meant, and the history of it; he gave context to AA and the 12 Steps and Tradition, and living a life of sobriety.  Chuck lived his sobriety as honestly as he could, every day.  Not perfectly, but as well as he could, and he earned the respect of many because of it.

 

His promise wasn’t given lightly, and I could count on his promises being kept.  His promises were his word, given as a gentleman of old times would have given his word.  It was his honor, and he held true to it, whether that promise was made to me or one of our kids or a friend or anyone else. 

 

He would, as knights of bygone days of chivalry and honor, have given his life for me.  Sometimes, in my mind then, as he was living, and now, since his death, I picture the two of us strolling through shadowed hills of a glade, or the bare red rocks of the West, and, if this were times of old, he’d have my hand in his, and a sword in the other.  It is as if, when he took his marriage vows, he not only promised to care for and cherish me, but to protect me with his body and his strong arm.  And I can hear those who are less romantic minded, scoff at such imaginings, but here’s the thing that will make you secretly drool with jealousy…Chuck was that man.  I knew he would protect me with his life.  He was a lover and a warrior both, and I was the most fortunate of women to be his chosen.

 

His kisses melted my knees and left me desiring more.  He was the loveliest of slow dancers, holding me firmly against him and guiding me around the dance floor, smiling down at me, sometimes humming along (in a voice that was kind of always off).  He was the most passionate of lovers and I returned that passion in spades.  We were well suited to each other in our strength and passions.

He was all that I’d never dreamed to be possible.  Until it became possible one day when he knocked at the door of my mom’s house and I answered it, wearing my military issue ugly frame glasses and holding a book in hand with a finger marking my place.  He remembered that moment to me often over the years.

And now my lover, my warrior, is dead.  And I love him, am in love with him, no less now than when he breathed the air I now breathe alone.

If this is all that I will have for the remainder of my life…the memories of his kisses, his arms around me, his glances at me across a room, the feeling of swaying against him in a dance where only he and I existed…if all that I have forevermore is the memory of his body and mine twined together before sleeping…well, then, that is more than many, if not most, find, and I will be content in journeying back to those moments of ten thousand years ago, ten nanoseconds ago.

Memories don’t keep me warm at night, but oh, they are such memories and I hold them close. 

Yes, I’m still in Love.  It’s just that I’m in Love with a dead man. And my heart aches.

Ah, well, we must each have our quirks, I suppose.

And that is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called…my life….

 

A Daughter’s Promise~

It was a deathbed promise made to her dad.

Look after your mom, he said.  I will, she responded.

A promise kept. But the how’s of keeping that promise? It was done in ways that not many could manage, or would be willing to attempt.

I was already on the road in PinkMagic, making my way towards our two older kids in Arizona last year when our daughter Rachael-Grace (Rae), called me up and offered to go on the road with me in my Odyssey of Love. Initially, I thought she said two months. No, she corrected me.  Six months.

And she was true to her word.

Rachael-Grace is in her early 30’s, married to Sean. They discussed uprooting their lives so that she could do this with me and for me and decided they were strong enough as a couple to make it happen. What this young woman did needs no embellishment, so I’ll just tell you simply.

She and her husband gave up their apartment, putting their belongings in storage.  Sean camped out in the desert and stayed with my son occasionally.  For 6 months he changed his entire life so that he could support her in this endeavor.  Shades of Handsome Husband there.

She saved up enough money to pay her bills while on the road and paid them faithfully.

She helped me create ritual as we visited each of the places Handsome Husband requested I visit to scatter his cremains. When privacy for doing such seemed impossible, she brainstormed and dreamed meaningful intention into being.

It was she who chronicled our travels in pictures, from the beginnings in Arizona, to the West coast, eastwards along the northern states to New England, south to Key West, and west again to Arizona. Without that, we’d have no record. I’ve lost interest in picture-taking for the most part.

She quietly sat with me as my body convulsed into pain and grief and made no judgement. She spoke with me of memories of her dad as I spoke of my husband.

She learned to tow PinkMagic, to set her up and break her down. If we were stationary for more than a few days she took it into her hands to create an altar for us, to establish our outdoor living space, and she cooked meals to tempt my poor appetite.

She made me laugh because she is irreverent and cryptic and, like me, suffers no sacred cows.

She assisted me with technology, locating us on her google maps and pointing us (mostly) in whatever direction we needed to go.

She patiently (mostly) listened to me tell the Odyssey story over and over again, as we met new people along the way. That couldn’t have been easy for her, I know.

She encouraged me, she pushed me, she called me out when I needed it, she tough-loved me. She taught me not to fear the dark places and shadows of grief and held a light for me to provide direction.

She listened to my (way too intimate at times) stories of me and my husband and our romance. Long before we arrived back here, her sensibilities had toughened. She knew I needed to tell my story and she opened her heart to my words and we learned to joke about it.  She became more than my daughter.  It wasn’t long after we began that the lines between mom and daughter (always close), disappeared and we became, quite simply, two women on the road, honoring a man we both loved, and who loved us.

It wasn’t easy for her and I never for a minute though it was.  It was a gift of Love she gave ardently and graciously to me but I fully realize it took an emotional toll on her.  For six months she was present every minute for me, subduing her own grief in many ways, so that she could stand strong with me.  There were many times in our months together when I know she, and her grief, must have felt invisible.  Widows generally are “seen” more than grieving daughters.  I sensed that happening and we spoke about it, but I know it had to be difficult at best.

She missed her husband desperately as PinkMagic ate up the miles and it gave her a glimpse into my world and it hurt her heart and she expressed that to me;  her husband was waiting for her when we were done and mine wasn’t and never would be again. It added yet another layer to her grief.  She was not only grieving her dad;  she grieved at watching her mom in such pain.

For six months, as we drove this Odyssey, Rachael-Grace brought life to my life. She brought Love, she brought continuity, she brought poetry and music and hula-hoops and her natural joy for life.  She brought acknowledgement and gave space and created magic for me.

She is grace personified. Her dad could never have imagined how she would keep her promise to him.  Wherever he is,  if he is, I hope he saw.  I hope he knows.

She kept her promise~10350356_10202636515534966_4300709640610250417_n