Ode to a Chosen Father

Father extraordinaire

Having suffered the absence of paternal connection due to profession and priorities, I chose wisely & directed distinctly so that my children might know what I recognize here about their father (with the help of the alphabet. X?)

A-accepting, allowing
B-bemused
C-caring, compassionate, considerate, champion, capable
D-deeply devoted
E-embracing, expressive, encourager, EATER
F-feeling, dream fulfiller, fortune hunter
G-good
H-hearted
I-inquisitive, insightful
J-Jack of All Trades
K-KIND
L-loving
M-music lover
N-niece & nephew doter
O-open
P-proud, protective, patient, playful
Q-quiet
R-reserved
S-sensitive, soulful, strong, skilled
T-tree lover
U-UNCLE, understanding
V-vehicle lover (this one not so important to me)
W-washer player (see above), willing
X-
Y-yearning, yielding
Z-zesting

With gratitude for the qualities he shares.
For you Casey, additional alphabets are needed.

(Fathers Day 2018, just ahead of our first empty nest year)

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Marriage in the Month of March


Even though we are adrift with growing pains, empty-nesting shifts & all, if he died while taking down those trees, I would really miss him.

He listens to what I write with an interest that belies 33 years of the same. He is an excellent hugger, lover, cuddler, though neglected in these regards of late. He is kind-hearted and reflective, a quality which has been exceedingly necessary these days.

Despite all this, I could Razor’s Edge him; something we once watched in a movie and liked so much that we practiced it each time we were faced with a goodbye that we weren’t ready to make.

His short-term recollection is patchy at best. His consistency with the day to day the same, while his need for mechanized routine and mindless habit maddening.

He is not particularly good with finances, never has been, even though he is increasingly good at earning, while I have plummeted in this regard. And for that, I can Razor’s Edge him even more, for the simple fact that he was born male and as such has enjoyed a whole host of cumulative benefits of which he, like most men, are exceedingly unaware, while I have inherited a centuries-old cumulative deficit which this morning my companion Virginia Woolf elucidated in an audio recording of A Room of Her Own played on my iPhone which I tucked into one pocket, while in the other, I stowed warmed stones from the wood stove while avoiding the river, and wouldn’t I, if he died, have so much more room.

And still, this evening, I listen for the sound of the ax and the winding of the chain saw and the absence of a holler.

When we knew love…

Another last day of February, and with March comes thoughts of my mother, because shamrocks; but of course, then Valentines Day brings her too. (Aren’t shamrocks made of hearts!)

When Casey fell in love with me, I was as I am now. This is who I am, I said. My heart has been broken. I have already loved deeply and lost tragically. I don’t want marriage. I am afraid of surrender. I am on guard. Always.

That seemed okay for him.

“I’m lucky,” I wrote at the end of our first month together, the very first words I wrote to him in a card.

And then I added: “You’re lucky too.”

Maybe he lacked higher expectations. Maybe I did.

Or maybe what we had in common was our sense of Love as something higher.

We had two boys by the time we came upon this tune. It was winter. It was dark. There was darkness inside and between us.

Her. Voice.

The way she says: Pain. Tears. Heart. Met ours. Even our boys wanted to listen again and again.

The forgetting is the hardest part except that in the forgetting we don’t know what we forgot.

The forgetting makes it hurt less. Helps us surrender into day to day life without the extremes of love, promise, passion, wildness, hurt.

But what about these tears? A piece of good music. A painting. A play. A film. A passage. The light. The silence. A certain smile. Even the air.

There must be, beneath memory, beneath thought, beneath recognition even, a deeper current of being, reminding us of what we once knew.

The moment beckons, but we turn away, anesthetized from what it is to be whole.

~

Or maybe that’s too high an expectation.

Maybe showing for these moments is what is most true.

New Year in the Nest


With the holidays behind us, Casey & I finally caught up with each other to share the New Year intentions we recorded, side by side, in our Bullet Journals on the Epiphany.

The most profound of the prompts for 2019 was to make a wish for the larger community/planet.

His: A new administration.

Mine: The honoring of the life bearer. Women & the earth.

May these two visions, like our romance of 30+ years, intertwine.

~

Just this.

The sound of Casey chopping mushrooms in the kitchen. Both of us sipping rosé. Moon River streaming through the stereo.

This is where we started.
This is where we left off.
And this is where we find ourselves again…

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.

After they go…


Like a narrow island in the middle of a big lake, or one of a series of small islands say off the coast of Maine, or better yet, like one of those barges floating with bags and bags of trash, unable to moor (Do I remember that correctly?), Casey & I, until the weekend, when one, or both boys come home, say for Casey’s birthday, or the anniversary of my mother’s passing or the Feast Day of Mary~Why Hello September 8th~and then we’re adrift again; but it’s also a bit like arriving at camp for the first time, which is what I hear myself say to a friend—all this space to get to know and figure out and find yourself in, and sure you’re a bit homesick, but the simplicity of it is also kind of exciting, to unpack and make a place that’s all yours.

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.

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.

Rehearsal


Last week, or was it the week before last, my husband and I went to a concert, and over a beer in the courtyard before the show, it occurred to me that this was our first concert without the kids.

Is that possible?

When I was pregnant with my oldest, it was Michelle Shocked, Tuck & Patti, Sara Hickman, The Dead with Bob Dylan, and then once our first was born (and don’t judge me; I lived in the Rockies as a kid)–it was John Denver, then Bonnie Raitt with Lyle Lovett, James Taylor, The Prairie Home Companion, and somewhere in there Yo-Yo Ma (who played a few songs with Garrison or JT), Paul Simon; Earth, Wind & Fire, and I know I’ve missed some (along with a handful of classical ensembles & symphonies and loads of local bands); but I can’t recall a single major concert without the kids.

How is that possible?

And now Ray LaMontagne (Casey’s choice.) Alone. Like we will be. Forever. Time stretched out before us on a blank canvass. Or at the edge of a cliff.

And while I was pleasantly surprised with MASS MoCA as a performance venue, I resented Casey, not only because I didn’t recognize a single song, and it was too loud, but because we had arrived together at—an end—and there was only him—like a slap in the face.

When I was very pregnant with our first, a colleague invited us over for dinner, and she pulled out an album and began to weep as she looked at the photo of her husband with their newborn.

I immediately understood. She was feeling what I was fearing. The way motherhood would separate me from the man I loved, from the sweetness of our couple-hood—which spanned an entire decade—from the Atlantic to the Rockies to a backpacking summer through Europe to these Green Mountains where we settled just ahead of turning 30. (I’ll be 55 this year.)

But I had misunderstood, and my friend’s response chilled me.

She wasn’t grieving her husband, she was grieving the loss of her newborn. Even while the child nursed on her lap!

My breast and my lap are long empty, and soon my house will be too.

What is the point of it without them? What is the point of us?

I hate Casey.

Last night I found myself crying.

I blame it on Mr. Rogers.

We went to see the documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? where afterward they should have distributed warm washcloths—to wipe our faces and bring us comfort–before exiting the womb of the theater for the brightly lit lobby; which is to say–I was primed for feeling my feelings and thus faced with the departure of my youngest for a week at camp (The Engineering strand of the Governor’s Institute of Vermont at a University), I wept into the future, which we get to rehearse this coming week.

We’ve spent a quarter of a century inside this all-encompassing womb of family life. And suddenly the bright lights are on the horizon. A new beginning. Entirely unknown. Barely considered. (Who has time!) As unfathomable as becoming parents once was.

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