Thursday, November 4, 2010
I mourn in grey, grey as the sleeted wind, the bled shades of twilight, gunmetal, battleships, industrial paint. -- Marge Piercy
I surprised myself and fell in love with David when I was 19. He was a loner, figured things out in his own way, and I liked that. He was quiet - a deep thinker - at least that's what I thought then, and an earth child, a youngest son. He had a fast car and took me everywhere. We drove down skyline drive every Friday just so I could get chocolate. He swept me off my feet. He was a skinny little thing, and so was I, and were both innocence and fiery belief. We had the world at our feet.
Dave had a big group of friends and we did everything together. We went to big state parks and hiked and walked and held hands and loved nature. We camped in deep snows and warm summers. We cooked out and took trips on lakes and down rivers; we swam in the quarry. We had a blast, a total blast. I went back to school at the Community College and Dave picked me up afterward and we went to parties almost every night. We both smoked up a storm, Kools were all the rage and we smoked three packs a day. We were rebellious and young and completely joyful.
When my parents informed me that they were moving away, Dave took me to lunch at a little pub we loved - The Lion. It was an unusually clear day in late summer, and I remember the light shining through all the windows at the restaurant, glinting off the water glasses on the table. While we ate we were talking about how I needed to make a decision - was I moving away with my parents or was I going to stay and get an apartment? Dave leaned back from the table and told me that he felt out of breath, a little light headed. I was concerned - are you ok? He said - I just need to ask you something. He grabbed one of those sparkling water glasses and gulped, then said - will you marry me?
He was good at surprising me back then.
Young as I was, I said yes. And young as we both were, we went through all the motions and plans. We had all the fights that you have as your wedding day approaches. We argued over who to have in the wedding, what colors people should wear, where we would have the reception, what kind of reception we would have. We found an apartment and signed a lease, and then two weeks later found a house in the country and broke the lease. We married in April and played at creating a life. We made new friends, we hiked and camped and cooked and gardened. We loved the outdoors and had dogs and cats and lots of plants. I remember being surprised when I realized that I had a hobby of my own, that I was becoming a person on my own, was making decisions that mattered. I also remember both of us being surprised at how very much we fought after our first year together. Every single day, about every single thing. Dave quit smoking. I didn't. I picked up a second job and worked all the time. We tried to get focused on just being happy. It was very very hard.
Two years later I was working in the medical laboratory (Accutech) and gave myself a test. Dave was working at the hospital (St. Josephs) and came to pick me up. We went to a bar to discuss what next, and decided that we were ready for kids and the responsibility that would come in our lives. We were ready to make some changes. We moved closer to the city and now I quit smoking. Dave started again. I was just 22 and he was just 24, and no matter what we thought, we were still babies.
While pregnant with our first child the movie "The China Syndrome" came out. We loved Jane Fonda and saw the movie as a call to action. We went to a rally, held up signs, chanted, we had found something to be activists about. And then, not two weeks later, Three Mile Island had an incident of its own.
I remember how hard it was not to be afraid those days. The radio didn't know what was going to happen, there was a cloud over the plant, winds were blowing, what would be the impact, what should we do? I was actually at Dr. McTammany's when we heard about the accident, and I asked him for advice. Can this hurt my unborn baby? He said - if you have somewhere to go, you should go - at least until we learn what all this means. And so we packed up the car that night and drove to North Carolina. We stayed with my parents for two weeks, then went back to Reading to work out the next few months and have our baby boy. When he was six months old we packed everything up and moved to the south.
David left behind all of his friends, as I did - but I did have my family about 30 minutes away. David found a job and drove at least 45 minutes every day to work. He worked long hours and I kept house and was a mom - and we had some pretty good times for a while. We lived in the country on 200 amazing acres of property, and had pets, met friends, had dinners and parties. Then, I am not sure why, we started with the arguing again. We tried to find our way with each other but just kept missing. Dave said, "I am how I am." He stayed out later and later of an evening and the fights cranked up. Soon we were both working, both driving, our son was in day care that he hated, and we were rather miserable. Our youth and lack of experience in relationships was getting the best of us, and we were falling into a dreadful codependent trap, each enabling the bad behavior of the other.
We had fallen in love with the south though - the weather, the people, the countryside, the music, and most of all the beach. Ah, the beach! Close enough to drive down every week all summer. Close enough to hear the ocean. Close enough to LOVE the sand - in every weather. Close enough to love love love.
Eventually we moved to Charlotte to be closer to work. Eventually we got pregnant again, had another baby, moved from apartment to apartment. Life swirled around us. New jobs, new church, new people, new opportunities. My brother was killed. Our dogs and cats died. We bought a new house. We fought. We made friends and lost friends. We grew apart - and then grew apart some more. We took trips to the beach every summer, we took trips to PA every fall. We visited with family. We had birthday parties and Christmas celebrations. We went through all the motions. We were always broke. We repeatedly failed to engage with each other, to talk about anything except what was happening right now. We repeatedly failed to find anything in common with each other. Surely there was more to a happy life. Right?
Then finally we broke apart. The divorce was amazingly painful and complicated. And the pain lasted a long long time. I don't think David ever forgave me, even though we agreed that we were both at fault for all the things that happened.
David moved on and found a wonderful woman who became his wife. They married, they had an amazing son, he changed jobs, bought a beautiful spacious house, made some wonderful fast friends and went on to be happy, I believe. He was not happy with me and over the course of the years made that clear, but I think he was happy in his life.
I moved on and found a wonderful man that became my husband many years later. We married once my children were grown. We certainly fought, but rarely and only about a few subjects. We have been amazingly happy, and truly, Mr. Bryant has been the unexpected and undeserved gift of my life. He always makes me laugh, he always comes through, he is the treasure of my days. And so very important, when he is an ass he eventually admits it. :)
In the last few years since Amanda graduated from college, Dave made it clear that he didn't need to talk to me anymore - our kids were grown. He didn't like me, he didn't want to be 'friends.' I got it, and so I stayed away, respecting his position. I vacillated between not thinking about the very broken relationship (most of the time) to sad or angry (occasionally).
And now he is gone while still relatively young. Gone in a flash, gone beyond, gone.
I sit at home and cry. Mr. Bryant holds me and tells me that it is ok for me to feel bad. He helps me back to reality, to a balanced perspective. He loves me very well and with all of his heart. I call my kids, tell them that I love them and that if there is anything I can do to let me know. Mr. Bryant loves them too, and sends his love to help them. With all the losses of my life, I have never lost a parent. I know grief, but I don't know this grief.
I am anguished by the lack of reconciliation, and angry with myself for being selfish. This isn't about me. This isn't about me at all. Yet here I sit.
I go through old pictures and vividly remember the times they show. I haven't thought about these things in, well, ever. I am letting the sadness pour over me. And when I can, I will get up and move beyond.
Thank you David, for the early years. And for my amazing children.
I truly hope and pray that you found everything you wanted in your life.