Rebuilding With Nothing
Marriage. A journey we go into blinded by dreams of wonderful tomorrows, sunsets that stay just that one second longer just for us. In fact, it is a contract of the highest sort. We vow in front of God himself to be true. To love one above all others. Do we ever really understand the enormity of such a promise?
Are we ever prepared for children, who are far from perfect? The topics that will never be agreed on? The second of anger when an ugly, hurtful phrase leaves us and pierces the heart of the one we promised never to hurt. These issues are never touched on in the few minutes the officiant gives the usual canned words of advice. The lines that are like wisteria in the middle of beautiful blooming lavender tubes. How many of the “lines of beauty” ever mention that those “tubes” of miraculous splendor are sometimes filled with pockets of wrong, of secrets?
It is a journey. A word that in its very definition tells us that life is not forever sunsets and “I love you”s. Marriage is messy, sad beyond momentous. And yet we keep trying because we need to believe that the actual chance of "happy ever after"s is more than a myth, that it is the prize at the end of our travels with the partner we chose to be our team mate, the one beside us in the trenches.
In my parents' 60 years together, my mom was the story teller, the one with the funny little events that had been known to grow each time they were told. They were oh so fun despite that. She was creative, and we all gave her a little leeway for the sake of the story. It would usually be worth it.
My Pop was the listener. He would read the paper, laugh at her stories, and nod occasionally. I know there were times he skimmed out of some of the historical happenings of the Hunt family. It was a risk to interrupt her, or to correct her, almost never worth the result. Were we manipulated? Yes, but in families and marriages, the art of choosing battles is a skill that needs to be learned early. He never seemed to mind. His life was content. Whole. Until... we were all broken apart in an explosion of pain, my dad and I standing in her huge house that was planned for their later years. We were almost strangers, we realized.
I had not been close with my dad. So how do you pick up the pieces when you look so desperately for a piece to pick up. What do you do when there aren’t even enough parts to put together to be a foundation for a relationship? You know what you do? You build new pieces. Use dirt, mud, brick, dust, and spit, anything to start the work of figuring out how two people who need each other so much can barely find each other in the wealth of space that seemed like a canyon that was between us. Empty. How do you fill that up? Especially when it is the first time.
In our way, we clung to together, trying to make it as unnoticed as possible. There were pleading moments when I was screaming inside, “Dad, save me! Love me. Just give me a chance, you will see I love you so much more than you know.” More than I would ever admit to myself.
Living with him was the first piece we started to build around. Our talks in the evenings were at first strained. Then, as time progressed, it just got easier. The first winter upon us, and he was the warmth I desired so very much.
We didn’t try to pick up from previous lives. I still thought that my parents were not perfect, but their iniquities weren’t worthy of forever hell either. So we started to go to our town’s farm league baseball games. He took us to the Nutcracker for Christmas. But the sweetest thing he did? He let me be as sad as I needed to be. Putting his own feelings aside, he would wipe the occasional wayward tear that escaped his blue eyes as I told him I was having such a hard time with Mom not being here anymore.
He never said, “What about me? She was my wife.” I am so grateful, because he was certainly entitled to do so, but he put me first. The most loving thing he has maybe ever done for me.
We still do our movie nights, though not as often. Lex and I have made some “stay at Grandpa’s night” plans. Just to be in the same house as him, to say “Good morning, Pop” as I hand him the paper. “You sleep alright?” I make it to church occasionally so he won’t have to sit alone. And we put the sunflowers in his garden areas, not my mom’s. Those were for him. He was the recipient of the special part of spring. The planting of the seeds that turn into yellow flowers the size of a platter. I can’t count the times he has called to tell me how many new blooms, to say thank you. He loves the garden. That is just for us, my dad and myself. It used to be for my mom, but she isn’t here. But he sure is! I give him the best I have.
How do you re-build a broken relationship when you don’t have any materials? You build the first block that is the first part of the foundation to have added many new items to. Our little place in his life is golden. We were able to start again. To love one another, not just because we are sad, but because we have learned we do not have forever. We have minutes. I, for one, plan to enjoy every step of our travels, as a dad and his youngest daughter who misses a mom who will never be there again.
I love him like sunshine! I now listen to his many stories. We look at pictures. We cry and laugh. We are happy more than not. Our building has worked. We have our own relationship that is a present for us both. A dad and his daughter. It is enough. Maybe perfect.
Hope everybody’s weekend was laughter rich, and love was fluent. Let’s talk again tomorrow. I will bring the coffee. Ruth