Two

Orgasms. Are they better shared? And if so, why?

Whenever two or more are gathered…

Certainly, re-creation and pro-creation are holy ground.

God’s recreation of the new day…

Wine. Good food. Laughter. Conversation.

My troubles are halved. My joy doubled…

Is it the same for introverts?

It’s Monday morning, so my attention should be drawn to practical matters, but I’ve been leading three different women’s groups through the second chakra this month so I find myself drawn deeper and deeper into its womb-like center.

How might your life have been different if, deep within you, you carried an image of the Great Mother? And, when things seemed very, very bad, you could imagine that you were sitting in the lap of the Goddess, held tightly… embraced, at last.

These words by Judith Duerk, in her seminal work, Circle of Stones, arrived in my lap as a new mother, seeking the feminine without knowing it, and they return now to remind me to let if flow.

I’ve soaked, I’ve skated, I’ve skied, I’ve played under the covers with the man I first brought home 33 summers ago at the shore.

When that summer ended, I left for the Rockies, a homecoming of sorts, as I had lived there as a kid and had longed to return. Casey came along.

I taught skiing by day and waited tables by night. We made love between jobs.

To say I love you right out loud…

Over a Thanksgiving return to the shore, an elder relative asked, “Are you going to blog about us?”

I paused to consider her concern. Blogging wasn’t on my mind, I assured her.

“If you do want to write something about us one day,” she began, and then she motioned for me to come closer.

As she spoke, I was struck by her tender tone, so in contrast to her natural boisterousness.

What she said could only be spoken by someone who has loved and hated and fought and devoted and drenched 50+ years with the same lover.

Whenever two or more are gathered…

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The lie

My husband and me–21 & 23–just back from shacking up for the winter in Steamboat Springs. Ray-bans & Pink Bolle’s. April, 1987.

In between a rocky (& unfaithful) 7-year relationship with my high school sweetheart and a delicious shacking up with a 20-year old who still shares my bed–31 monogamous years later, I had a brief foray into unleashed sexual freedom. It spanned about a year’s time, and began in the last weeks of my senior year at college when I no longer had to sublimate my sexuality to sustain societal status, ie. concern myself with reputation, repercussion and relational expectations.

In addition to a med student, a team captain and a ship’s engineer on the ferry from Ireland to France, I initiated sex with a handful of men who had pursued me for many years.

Alas none but the Irishman and the med student (who was cheating on his fiance) could sustain an erection.

I began to question my sexuality.
My personality.

Was a woman only to be demure?

Was I missing an aspect of femininity that was necessary in bed?

Why did the Irishman want to marry me after an hour in his berth beneath the port window? Why did so many men want to attach themselves to my strength, my soul, my flesh?

All along I had been told that men wanted sex without strings.
It was a lie.

Long-term Sex

Gustav Klimt, "The Kiss", visipix.com
Gustav Klimt, “The Kiss”, visipix.com

I didn’t brush my teeth or take a shower or get dressed today until after 3:00 pm. so I felt like I was in college again.

My husband tells me that this part of my life is long gone; But what he really means is that the young woman who liked to fool around with lots of different men is gone. “You couldn’t do that anymore,” he says.  “You wouldn’t like it.”

After 25+ years, he thinks he’s ruined me for other men; And the truth is, he’s probably right. (But don’t tell him that. I’m still playing hard to get.)

I loved the game back then. The power. The chase. The seduction. The tossing aside. The moving on.

A couple years back, an old flame and I got together for an evening. We fell right into the banter of our youth, but had to leave our favorite bar because we couldn’t hear each other. Instead we walked. Sober. And talked. About our lives, our families, our spouses. And we stumbled upon something odd.

Despite the fact that both of us had been terrified of commitment, of surrendering our freedom, particularly our sexual freedom (I refused to look at engagement rings with my sweetheart; he almost left his on the altar), we found that sex, within our long, long partnerships, had only gotten better.

“Better than ever,” we both offered, surprised.

There must be something to sticking around, we realized; though I don’t think either of us would claim that good sex equals a satisfying marriage. I know couples having great sex lives who are otherwise miserable with one another, and couples who are seemingly content without any sex at all.  That said, a good sex–happy marriage combo is hard to beat.

Still, I’d be willing to challenge my husband that the girl of my youth is completely gone. In fact, I caught a glimpse of her in the city when I was free-wheeling it with a friend. We found a Tequila bar around the corner from where we were staying and after two drinks at dinner, I was ready the wild woman inside of me was awakened, but first she had to pee.

On the toilet, I felt that familiar warm and oozy feeling of a bathroom break in the middle of tying one on. But when I stood up, I was completely shocked. There, in the full-length mirror in front of me was a middle-aged woman.

It was time to call it a night.

As much as I loved the fun of playing around in my youth, I was never fulfilled, especially since much of what I was about was running from pain.  The woman I am now has much higher expectations of fun. It has to feel good–inside & out–body, mind & soul.

The Taste of True Love

Anniversary celebrations, particularly at this stage of the game, traditionally include a “renewal of vows” –but if you’ve been following this blog, you already know that I don’t believe in them; which raises the question–What do I believe in?

Dissing vows or admitting that I don’t put much stock in: “till death do us part,” probably doesn’t give a full enough picture of how important this relationship is to me–nor  does it reveal how hard I work to protect it. As a lifelong educator, the least I could do is to offer whatever wisdom I’ve gleaned from a relationship that’s been allowed to thrive for 25 years.

I touched on this with a fellow American, as we walked through the streets of Santiago last month. Noah talked about open relationships–and swapping, and I talked about fidelity.

“It’s not that I think that there is something inherently wrong with the way you see it,” I say, to my young American friend.  In fact, I appreciate the transparency of Noah’s generation. “Back in my day, we just cheated on each other, while pretending that we were ready for commitment.”

“When you have kids, the cost is greater,” I explain, referencing friends whose marriages fell apart after swapping; or whose relationship survived, but suffered root-deep damage.

A sobering silence follows. Noah and I both share the history of a “broken” family.

We pause at a playground on the hillside of Saint Lucia. I explain to Noah that Casey and I don’t stay together for the kids, but that we are extra careful because of them. He climbs atop an intricate metal structure, as I talk about the preciousness and weight of parental responsibility–while considering that this playground would be an insurance nightmare in the States.

Noah motions to me to join him on a long, wooden seesaw.

“That doesn’t mean our world revolves around the kids or that we don’t take risks,” I tell him, as he raises me precariously into the air. “Casey and I are committed to having lives that are alive,”  I say, “He took off for a month last summer to study yoga, and I did something similar a few years before that.”

It was after the birth of our second son that Casey and I realized that we were both holding back in some subconscious attempt to maintain the stability of “equal deprivation.”  We decided then and there that we wouldn’t survive this way–so we gave each other permission to act on behalf of our selves–even if left the “other” behind for a bit. There was a great deal of vulnerability in that decision, but ultimately it brought new life to the relationship.

When you spend an entire day with a man you hardly know, these are the kind of conversations you  have as you walk along the river in a foreign city past lovers lying in the grass.

The topic returns to sex.

“One surprise is that it keeps getting better,” I say. The same is true for another friend of mine from school who has been married longer than me, and who was just as much a “player” as I was back in the day.

“There’s a gift that comes from commitment, from fidelity, that draws lovemaking from an even deeper source,” I tell Noah.  “It’s not something than can be artificially stimulated by the titillating experience of swapping–or by pornography.”

I launch into my organic sex soapbox; and Noah politely listens.  College students “living life” suffer enough lectures from middle-aged professors “about” life, without having to endure another from a friend of their mother’s; but I’m on a roll…

It’s really hard to capture how loosely and how carefully Casey and I hold this gift of our relationship. We certainly don’t pretend we aren’t attracted to others. We’ve always known that each of us is susceptible to falling in love–or lust–with someone else. We’re pretty honest about the close calls. We’re in this together, and we remind each other of that.

After 25 years, I think Casey would be really happy with a long-legged brunette with silky hair who rides horses and has a barn and who challenges him–on the outside.

Instead, he’s got this curvy, curly-haired petite woman who regularly has him traversing the inner landscape of just about everything, whether he wants to or not.

Today, it’s Noah who’s traversing, and he redirects the strength of current with a “Terre Mote,” a famous Chilean drink, appropriately named, “Earthquake.”  A third of the way down, Noah’s voice gets louder, and mine softens into the sweet memory of the youthful abandon I see everywhere around me in this outdoor bar.  By the time night falls in Santiago, and Noah and I return to Nunoa to eat Egyptian food with our hands. I am too tired to talk, and my thoughts turn inward.

The love my husband and I share is so strong that it increasingly has us placing each other’s happiness above our own comfort–even 5,000 miles away, when I’m sleeping in another man’s apartment–a Chilean colleague who I described via email to my husband as “gorgeous.” Granted “Pablo” is away for the weekend, which is why he lent me his place, but that doesn’t stop Casey from slipping into a well of self-doubt on the opposite continent. Casey didn’t realy his angst, however, because he appreciated how VITAL  it was for me to find myself “free” in the world again.

When I return home to the States two weeks later, I laugh when he shares what he put himself through, and then exhale, as he wraps his arms around me and reclaims me as his own.

There was a time when I would have loved to have “collected” another experience–a swarthy Chilean man, for example; but that fleeting pleasure has become “too” sweet for my taste, which has grown much finer.

Kelly Salasin, May 19, 2011

On my 21st Wedding Anniversary

“Mustache Time”

One of the first things that I appreciated about Facebook (FB) was the rejuvenation of a connection with my large extended family, including 7 siblings, dozens of first cousins, and a growing collection of nephews and nieces coming of age.

This past fall my oldest nephew posted photos of himself sprouting a mustache.  A succession of posts followed, requesting donations for this distasteful growth, but as is often the case with my younger FB friends, I couldn’t follow the line of thought.

Imagine how relieved (and shortly after, concerned) I was, when a group of women, some my age, illuminated what my nephew referred to as “Movember.

Had I known better, I would not have pushed play on this You Tube clip while my ten year old  was in the same room, but I lacked some savvy when it came to the internet given that we had long been limited by a dial-up connection until recently.

Boy, did my child get an earful before I pushed pause and ushered him out of the room.  But it left a lasting impression–on both of us–which weeks later came in handy.

US EPA SunWise Program / ryanlerch

You see my husband and I had been increasingly challenged by the aging of our children, namely because they continue to go to bed later and later which dramatically affects our alone time, and the kind of things parents do when they’re alone–like have a complete thought or even a short conversation, read half a chapter of a book, watch an entire movie in one sitting, and last but not least (though maybe the least frequently)–have sex.

This may be what attracted us to the provocative title, Mating in Captivity. We were so charmed by it that we formed a couples group to explore its message together–namely that keeping passion alive–in life and in love–takes attention and heroism.

The author shares case studies of couples who have taken on that challenge and those who have failed.  One story that left an impression on me was a woman who looked forward to sex as a delicious escape from the day-to-day of tending young children and home.  Her perspective inspired me to enrich my view of marital relations, from yet another responsibility, to a gift of self love.

Another parenting couple intrigued me by the way that they met the age-old challenge of privacy. On Sunday mornings when Marvin Gaye was playing in the bedroom, the kids knew not to knock.

I was fascinated by this transparency of sexual relations in the home, as I had recently stumbled into a bit of this on my own when my teenager arrived in our room at ten o’clock for several fertile nights in a row.

In a moment of exasperation, I broke it to him that his father and I needed to have sex once and awhile to keep our marriage alive. Surprisingly, he didn’t jump up from the end of the bed where he had been babbling on about his life.

I swear he seemed to be frozen, in mind-expanding consideration, and I could see the cells reformatting before he stood up silently to leave.

We didn’t chase him away forever either.  We just opened a door to the idea of closing the door for a certain kind of privacy when we wanted it; but otherwise we looked forward to our precious late night connections with our teenager, and he continued to return–when the door was open.

The ten year old was another story. Until Movember.

Francesco 'Architetto' Rollandin. From OCAL 0.18 release.

If like me, you are so out of the loop that you don’t know what Movember is, here’s what I’ve learned from FB (which isn’t always a reliable source of accuracy by the way):  Movember has something to do with men growing mustaches as a fundraiser for cancer.

What illuminated this cause for me, was the You Tube clip that encouraged women to support the cause on November 18 by sleeping with men who had mustaches.

Fortunately for me, my husband was sporting one, so I could legitimately participate. That left my ten year old son and the necessary factor of his cooperation–which given his unintended viewing of “Have Sex With a Guy With a Mustache Day” is how the code name “mustache time” was conceived in our home.

Though he squirms each time I say it, “mustache time” has greased the hinges of the door which separates “children” from their “parents”on certain private occasions, so that “families” can stay together.

Kelly Salasin

the Penis, a poem

(Author’s note:  Inspired by the book, Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel, I’ve dug up some of my older writing on sexuality, including this passionate rant that came about after the birth of my first child.)

this society has SEXUALLY CASTRATED WOMEN!

i have always wanted to be POWERFUL in the expression of my sexuality
but have been taught otherwise

MEN are the powerful ones
the givers
the deciders

the penis
directs
the pleasure of the penis
decides
men have the strip clubs
the dirty jokes
the illicit magazines

THEY own sex
THEY define it

women are regulated to love
to the sensitive
all the movies show it
the books
our culture

but at the same time women are expected to be raucous and lusty
to further satisy the man

MEN’s cycles dictate
THEIR needs
THEIR desires

they are empowered by their brothers, friends, fathers;
ENCOURAGED, EXPECTED!!!!

while we are quietED, reMINDED, REPRIMANDED!

where is OUR sexuality in this culture?

WHEN does OUR pleasure matter?

by kelly salasin, december 29, 1996

Grown Men Cry

“The Lovers” Schiele, Austria

If you’ve been following this blog then you know that my husband and I are mercilessly challenging ourselves to deeper levels of “intimacy” during this, our jagged, 20th anniversary year.

Right away, we realized that we need outside help.  We try books, a therapist, and finally register for our first ever “Couples Retreat.”  (Good thing we hadn’t seen the movie yet.) After 15  years of parenting, we’ve only stolen a shameful single weekend away so there are visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads about this trip–not a cubicle with twin beds and a community bathroom down the hall.

The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health had bestowed upon us a generous scholarship–including a private “room” instead of the standard dormitory accommodation (which would have really separated us)–so who was I to complain?  (I do anyway.)

By my request, my husband helps shift my attention from the white brick walls and tight corners of our room–with almost a view– to gratitude for the tiniest sink we’ve ever seen.  At least we can brush our teeth in privacy.

I unpack a slew of yoga pants and tank tops while Casey lies down on his bed to rest his broken leg. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve rolled my eyes since his accident, I could have easily upgraded to a room with a queen and our very own toilet.

I’d been consumed by childish feelings like this ever since my husband came hobbling into the house just days before we left for Kripalu.  (Did you catch that it’s a Yoga Center?)  I wanted to kick his air cast in the shin or at least drop to the floor and kick the air  for such cruel injustice.

Did you have the injury when you made the reservation?” they ask at the reception desk, wondering who would want to navigate a Yoga Center with a broken leg.  (A desperate couple, that’s who!  Another eye roll dollar please.)

In a moment of good humor, my husband jabs that he is going to tell the  “Love, Sex & Intimacy” presenters how unkindly I’ve felt about his injury.  I counter with a threat to reveal his attraction to “suffering.”

But there are too many of us at the workshop for tattle time: a lucky 13 pairs in all.

While the rest of us lean comfortably in seat jacks with yoga cushions, my disabled partner sits above me in a banquet chair, maneuvering his cast for comfort. Each couple takes a turn sharing why they came.

There are at least two newly married ones, another newly parenting, a dating pair, and a seasoned bunch like us (on first, second and third marriages) with 20 or more years in wedlock.

Interestingly, a single man is among us–attractive, newly divorced and wanting to get a better handle on the stuff of successful relationships. At the end of the weekend, he leaves with a bag of books to bring back to Wall Street. There is a woman attending solo too.  Her partner of 30 years was unwilling to accompany her (while other spouses admit to being dragged along.)

During our  face to face activities, this woman is paired with the single Trader.  As an added variable, she is a Lesbian.  At the end of their awkward partnership, she jokes that she’s taking him home. (We all relieve ourselves with a belly laugh.)

Another same sex couple is participating in the workshop too, and they blend right in with the generic heterosexual partners, leaving me feeling hopeful about the future–of Love.

We are a hopeful bunch indeed.  But jaded just the same.  All of us have been together long enough to know that relationships are complex. Over the course of the weekend, each shares a bit about the “grind” of  his or her particular challenges.

Surprisingly, there are only 3 times when we are all asked to speak directly to our partner.  The first requires us to face each other, close our eyes, and hold up fingers to assess our satisfaction with the intimacy in our relationship.  One guy is relieved to earn at least a “one”– just for coming.

I hold a full hand up with another two fingers, blinking the latter up and down, just in case I need to better calibrate with my husband.  (I don’t want him to have the “upper hand” of greater dissatisfaction.)  Our ratings are similar.

After lunch, the topic turns to Sex

I joke to the group that I hope we aren’t using fingers this time, only to find out that–Yes, in fact, we are.  With a flushed face, I whisper to Casey, “Let’s hide our fingers between us.” (We calibrate this time without any blinking or peeking.)

On our last morning together, there are no fingers at all…

Only hearts…

And tears…

And grown men crying.

Once again, we are asked to turn toward our partner, but this time–with eyes wide open.

We are each given 10 minutes to tell the other what it was that we love and appreciate about him or her.

The workshop presenters model this process for us first.

When Linda finishes telling Charlie just how and why she’s loved him through the past 40 years (and it wasn’t always pretty), there isn’t a dry eye in the entire room.  (I make a mental note to buy both the Bloom’s books before we leave, even though I already dismissed them.)

When it’s time for the rest of us to turn toward our partners, I dash out for the bathroom, to both relieve and compose myself.  I’m  joined by a handful of tissue clutching women doing the same.

With a deep exhale, I return, only to run back out again to the hall–to kick off my flip flops (which you can’t wear inside)–and then I plop down beside Casey.  He’s arranged us by the post in two seat jacks and patiently continues waiting while I reposition myself–again and again–to create the best angle for eye contact–And privacy–And delay.  (Public vulnerability is not my strong suit.)

He smiles. And goes first. And I find my eyes shamefully stinging–not with gratitude, but with bitterness.

Casey speaks genuine love and appreciation for who I am, but in hearing this, I realize just how long I have felt him diminished in the face of my strength, and in my bitterness, I realize how much that’s cost me. ,

A watershed of emotion at the bridge of his forehead threatens to break the dam of resistance; and I realize that he has been withholding love, not just me.

When my own 10 minutes comes, I can’t help but scan the room to find faces awash with grief and tenderness.

As I begin to acknowledge what it is that I love about this man beside me–his tender lips, his willingness, the combined strength and vulnerability of his throat-I am shaken by an unusual sound.

I pause.

Is  it laughter?

No, no…

Someone is sobbing.

I attempt to regain my focus, but this sound of anguish takes hold of me.

I stumble through the rest of my turn and depart the workshop as soon as it ends without saying goodbyes.

Saturated, I return to our room to pack, only to find that it has grown.  (It is a sweet space after all and I offer it my belated gratitude.)

At lunch, I collect whomever I see from the class to join us in the corner of the dining hall–the Trader from Wall Street; the couple married just a year; the other married a lifetime.

“Did you hear the crying?” one man asks.

“Yes!” I say, “I didn’t know what it was.”

It was the young couple,” he says.  “The ones with the new baby.”

“She must have been really moved,” I say.

“No,” he replies.  “It wasn’t her  It was the husband.”

We all gulp, knowing what it is to have love brushed aside in the face of early parenting, each carrying the scars of the ways in which we’ve felt unloved and unappreciated over time. After everyone has gone, I linger at our table, soaking up the buoyant energy of the room.

I began this day in such darkness, waking to a troubling dream: I had prepared my best turkey soup only to store it in a garbage disposal where it went bad before I could figure out how to serve it to my family.

I ponder this as I step outside and look out over the Berkshires where skaters and fisherman opened the new day. A pair of crows lands in a tree beside me. One circles overhead, a little too closely. Casey limps out to join me. The way before us is jagged, and I don’t know what will come.  I only know that we’re reaching for the BIG LOVE–

The kind that makes grown men cry.

Kelly Salasin

(Your thoughts, comments & conversation welcome below.  To read more on the subject of Intimacy, you could begin here:  82 Pages Till Sex.)

20 Years & Working It!

Kelly Salasin

Given that our wedding didn’t quite flow as expectedmy fiance was terribly hungover, my mom almost didn’t make it, the photographer was late, the flowers were the wrong color…. we always thought that a milestone anniversary would be a great time for a do over.

So here we are approaching the big 2-0, and the truth is, I’m not sure I’d marry this guy. I mean I wouldn’t dump him, but let’s just say,  Wedding bells aren’t in the air.

The truth is that we’d both prefer to obliterate our anniversary date and get a new one.  We’re thinking of August--the month our love affair blossomed–rather than the dismay of May 1990 when my new husband ended our bruised wedding day by dropping me over the threshold.

This year, however,  we are simply going to celebrate.  And we’ve already begun–with a surprise parenting reprieve on New Year’s Weekend during which we whisked ourselves away for an overnight at a local hotel, complete with dinner, drinks and a movie.  It was good.

Our next celebratory event is: a marital retreat–which probably isn’t the safest bet in the year a comedy is released with the same name, but we didn’t know that when we set our sights.

The best part is that we feel like we’ve won it.  “Winning” something can really bring a couple close.  And better yet, it was my husband who was the winner.  He wrote the essay to request the partial scholarship that we were awarded which is making it reasonable for us to attend. (Us older couples are all about being “reasonable.”)

If all goes well at the Love, Sex and Intimacy workshop than we’ll be set for our next goal:  a  5 day getaway. We’re saving up the points to make that happen. We hope someone nice will take the kids.

Despite our 15 years of parenting, we’ve only managed a few overnights and one or two weekends away from them.   And that’s just not working for us anymore.

Back in my Al-Anon days, I learned the saying,

It works if you work it.

So that’s what we’re doing.  We’re “working” at our marriage this twentieth anniversary year more than ever–working at celebrating it and working to create the space and skills and sensitivity it needs to thrive into its next decade.

Wedding bells may be in the air for our 21st. Who needs a milestone!

(To read more about our 20th Anniversary Year journey with intimacy click here.)

A Kiss-less Marriage

by Kelly Salasin

With the temptations so great for the young these days, I hope that your husband will not find you second hand…”

These were the words received in a letter from my great-grandmother during my freshman year at college! Reading them again, twenty years later, I still find myself gasping in surprise. How bold my “Nana Burrows” was!

Born Helen Mildred Jefferson in 1898, my great-grandmother went to college in the days when women didn’t. Nana had always wanted to be a teacher and began her career, at sixteen, in a one-room school house. She boarded with a family in town, drove a horse-drawn carriage to work, sewed her own dresses (ordering fabrics from the Sears and Roebuck catalogue), and filled the pot-bellied stove with wood to keep the students warm. Naughty children were sent to clean the outhouse.

Nana’s beloved work as teacher ended shortly after her marriage to my great-grandfather, Amos Allen Burrows. (Respectable married woman did not work.) Amos was a merchant marine and was away at sea most of the time, as he was on on the day the new school year began. Nana remembers hanging her clothes out on the line that morning when she heard the school bells ring. “Tears rolled down my cheeks,” she said.

I too studied to be a teacher at college, and during my senior year came to visit my great grandmother over the winter break. I was struggling at the time with the desire for independence and with my affections for a very possessive boyfriend who wanted to get married.

I know how hard it is…” Nana whispered, assuming that my troubles were around the question of sex.

Before your great-grandfather and I were married, we met each other for the day when his ship came into New York. By accident, we got on the wrong train and ended up needing a place to stay- overnight… so we got married. The ceremony was conducted by a minister in an empty church with his cleaning ladies as witnesses. Afterwards Amos took me to a hotel, and I lost my cherry!

GASP!! Honestly, it wasn’t as if my great-grandmother spoke like this all the time. She was a church-going woman her whole life, and never drank or smoked or even cursed. The extent of her admonishments were things like “Landsakes!” and“Fiddlesticks!” or my favorite, “Hot diggity-dog!” At ninety-two she still had all her faculties about her, but somehow had come to consider me a confidante– despite the the sixty year gulf between us.

Nana always said she liked me because I was “ornery.” She’d say that with a smile and wink and add, “Me too!” Early on I learned of her bold spirit.

When I was just a child of five and spending summers at my Grandmother Lila’s house (who was Nana’s oldest daughter), Nana and I would sneak down to the corner store to buy bubble gum. Gum was not allowed in my Grandmother Lila’s house. “Ladies should not chew like cows!” she’d scold with the strength of her large stature (she took after her father).

And so my little Nana and I would return from Anderson’s Novelty store with contraband deep in our pockets. Together we’d crouch down behind the book shelf in the great room and chew like cows! I even taught her to blow bubbles. I can still feel our smiles.

After being widowed for ten years, Nana Burrows married a man who became my beloved “Poppop Davidson.” He’d tease me when I’d refuse to call her by his name, but neither of them made me.

Their autumn love story was a sweet one. As a beautiful young woman, my Nana had many suitors, including the affections of my great-grandfather Amos, the merchant marine. To brag, Mildred would leave Amoses letters around so that others might see their overseas’ postmarks.

But he was out at sea the afternoon when his highschool classmate, Norman Davidson, asked my Nana out for a date.   To his delight, she accepted.

But Norman hadn’t arrived on her front porch when who should unexpectedly come strolling down the street… Amos!  Returned home from the sea a month early!

Norman bowed out gracefully, and Amos became the great-grandfather I never met (dying just before I was born). Poppop Norman moved south to Lousiana, married another woman, and began his own family. The two never saw each other again until they were both widowed and in their seventies.

They met at church, and as Nana likes to complain (winking while she does), “He wouldn’t stop pestering me until I said, ‘Yes!” And thus began a marriage of almost twenty years- seeing them both into their nineties.

After Poppop Norman’s death, much of Nana’s spunk dampened. She had seen so many pass- two husbands, my grandmother Lila, several siblings, almost all of her friends, and even most of her students- that was the hardest, she’d tell me.

I’m ready whenever the Lord wants to take me,” she’d say often, seeming depressed, and then the moment would pass and she’d giggle, telling me some story, “You know what I did last night? I slept with my glasses on!”

He never kissed me you know…” she volunteered one afternoon when I’d come to visit with my own husband. She was speaking of Poppop Norman who had passed away a handful of years before.

He had had an operation… He said that kissing led to sex, and he couldn’t do that anymore. So, I’ve only had sex with one man.

Please Nana, Stop! I wanted to yell. I didn’t want to hear about my great-grandmother’s sex life (or lack of one), or think about my Poppop in that way; but I just swallowed my discomfort and attempted to act as casually as she had.

I had trouble fathoming a marriage without sex— twenty years without so much as a kiss! But then I recalled sweet Poppop Norman Davidson, who patted my hands and told that new boyfriend of mine to take good care of me. “I like her,“ he always said, “Even if she still calls her great-grandmother, Nana Burrows.”

Poppop Davidson was the one who finished all of Nana’s stories- even all the ones that took place before he was around. He was the one who “remembered” for her, and filled in all the forgotten details of her cherished life– that’s how well he listened, that’s how well he loved and waited- fifty years for that first date to come around again, and not giving up the second time until she said “Yes.”

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