the turning


When your life is suddenly emptied of children, you discover things you once knew, like quiet and simplicity and space, or that you never knew, like the way you and your husband, brought to tears in the kitchen while listening to a story, turn away instead of toward the arms of the person with whom you chose to share a life.

How had we never come upon this before, this mutual turning away? Shouldn’t it have been revealed over the course of thirty-something years, or at least in the decade before children?

I certainly knew that he turned away from me–think of the year my mother died during which I wrote the poem about the wallpaper and my wrist and the color red while the new baby nursed in the crook of my arm, and he went ahead and enrolled in that Masters Program after I’d asked him to wait. `

We have slept apart since the late August afternoon when we took that same baby to college. Most every night for more than a month now (after never before). Mainly because I’ve been sick. And Menopause. And the string of unusually sticky September nights. And the way he sometimes wakes to pee, not once, but twice, the floors creaking, me waking, at 4 or 3 or 2, up for the day no matter how much night remained.

Today was a bad day, a new regimen of treatment making me feel worse to feel better, and the heavy cloud cover with no promise of redemption of sun in the forecast; and when he arrived home late from work, he fixed himself some dinner and brought it to the couch where I had given up trying to write into that year with the wallpaper and was instead watching a documentary about Joan Didion who wrote into just about everything.

Her words brought us to tears from time to time and there it was again!—this turning away—this hiding our grief?—and yet didn’t we cry at the same places, and weren’t our hearts moved in the same way, and isn’t it unbearable to think that one day, he may be slumped in my arms, or I, in his, like her husband (and then daughter), forever. gone.

Little by little, in the empty spaces, we are finding what we once knew. Our two-ness.

It’s sprouting up like spring seedlings, promising something that is almost too painful to receive. This turning toward one another again, like this turning toward self again. In love.

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Where we belong


Marriages end. Marriages begin. Love blossoms. Love fades.

“How did we get here from there?” we ask.
Or: “How do we get there from here?”

Some say there is no there. Only here.
Is that true?

Doesn’t every beginning embody its ending?

Don’t love and hate, union and dissolution, copulate?

Maybe our job is not to arrive or transcend but to…
What…
Realize?
That it is all here.
Beneath us.
Within us.

And to understand that right here is where we decide:

How to coincide.

From Mint to Tulsi Rose

My mothers cup.

Just after my mother died (about the age I am now), my husband began placing a mug of tea beside the bed while I nursed our second son. Mint. A herb that’s been with me since before my First Bleed.

This waking ritual went on for some time. From the single bedroom we all crowded into on Ames Hill to the sprawling house atop Cow Path to the cozy post & beam raised by friends on MacArthur road where we’ve lived ever since, and where Motherhood gave way to Menopause and Mint to Tulsi Rose.

Every morning for an unfathomable… 18 years.

Until yesterday.

With Aidan off to college by week’s end, I’m ready to find what comes from fixing my own morning tea and curious to see what arises in the space for Casey; though I did have to remind him this morning, so comforted is he by the well-worn routine of tending others.

The Full Catastrophe


My husband and I had the worst day trip ever. It was meant to be a much needed restorative sense of play. But was met with one dead end after another. So increasingly absurd as to render tragedy into comedy. The dark kind. Without pleasure as a distraction.

But I don’t think it was us. I think it was the day.

And as far as suffering goes, we got off easy.
Nothing like some low-grade deprivation to open up one’s heart to the profound ache all around us.

We also drove past not just one but two sets of wild turkey crossing—a single Tom and later four hens; and not just one but two outdoor wedding parties—with only yards between our distress and their joy—the second at the very moment the bride & the groom, facing each other, hands joined, spoke their vows in a dooryard/roadside ceremony; the other during a post ceremony photo shoot on the lawn of an inn where the bridal party crossed in front of us and the groom turned from the camera toward us to smile.

Which is to say~the full catastrophe.

Cleaving

Where we began…

“Mama, give your love back to your husband.”

Such an obnoxious line from a son/song. First heard when my boys were babes, and now their birthdays make me sad, 23 & 18, the youngest leaving in ten days, the other long gone, home for a short stay to celebrate his special day.

But don’t I find myself cuddling up toward Casey more, like that guy in Maine with the old coon dog that he had around the place on a bitter three-dog winter’s night.

And perhaps the most telling: This morning I recombined our laundry after separating mine from his (and theirs), almost twenty years ago, when we lived atop Cow Path, a radical act of a new mother’s individuation then, an unexpected act of cleaving now.

Road Trip, Part II.

(Part I. Oldies R Us?)

Singing along to songs on the Oldies station, my hands go to my throat, noticing the glands are still swollen from the cold I came down with last week.

“It’s a good thing I’m not a famous singer with a concert tonight,” I say to my  husband as he pulls off the highway. “I have no range.”

Casey approaches the traffic light, without any response.

“What would I do if I was a famous singer with a concert tonight?” I prod him.

“You’d cancel,” he says, as he navigates the left turn onto the coastal route.

“But I would have had to cancel the entire past week,” I say, as we come to another stop.

“Yep,” he says, not a bit concerned.

“That would be really stressful,” I say, “I’m relieved that I don’t have a string of concerts scheduled this week.”

Oldies R Us?

I like audiobooks on Road Trips, especially non-fiction.

My husband prefers the radio.

In an effort to lend greater equity, I scroll the stations and discover that the display on his car provides information on each one in the area:

Rock
Rock
Rock
Top 40’s
Country
Oldies

None of the Rock Stations have good reception. The Top 40 is nothing we recognize (or want to recognize.) Country is out of the question (for me), and who wants old people’s music. ‘

But then it occurs to me, maybe it’s our music.
Maybe Oldies is US.

It was.

Spoiled or Met?

Casey does a gazillion things for me, like bringing me tea or a glass of water or covering me up or turning off the lights; the accumulation of which, over time, fills my empty childhood cup, parched dry from neglect, and early parentification, and a lifetime of tending all those who were abandoned after me. The thing is, it’s been 30 something years, and my inner child shows no sign of satiation.

Is she spoiled?

Indulged?

Or simply, finally, deservingly loved.

Echoes

In the absence of direct parenting, our home reaches a sweet stillpoint every Saturday afternoon that continues to surprise me, arriving as it does in silence.

“Listen to that,” I say to my husband. “It’s nice, isn’t it!”

But as afternoon gives way to evening, the sweetness begins to fade.

“What did you say?” he calls from the basement or the backyard or the attic.

I never answer.

Not only because I’m deeply annoyed (no one at all has spoken!)

But because hollering back
would only deepen the echo
of our empty
house.

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