We first made love by firelight, by my fire in my home of wood.
It was warm, it was nurture, with animals and animal love. She was a teacher. And I had never known such a knowing teacher’s touch. She was a strong woman, she said. And she knew in her heart and head and her teacher’s hands that she had found her a good strong man. She said at last she had been welcomed, warmly, into her true home, her one true home, she said.
For she knew we would marry, marry, she said, our vows would wed us together. I’m going to marry this guy, she said of me to others, again and again. I’m going to marry this guy, she said. But until then I was invited to come and stay the night with her, with her in her same old bed.
I gave her my ancient mountain ring, and I wore hers, and we were matched with our patchwork quilt for marriage on our magic mountain day. All before I came to stay, that first special night when I came to stay, with her and her very special children, her boys who were the ages of men.
She was separated but divorcing, she said. But I soon learned she and a husband had been separated six long years, six years but still no divorce. Oh, it would happen any day now, she said, it would happen soon, soon, but she knew not when.
Then I first came into her bedroom and all his stuff was still on his dresser, his cuff links and the odd husband thing of his or the other, the kind of stuff guys have atop their dresser tops. His clothes still hung in the closet, the closet I was told to use.
It wasn’t until I gently mentioned this that it ever occurred to her, that something was amiss. And only then did she hide his things away. Yes, I was fortunate enough to be there and watch her hide her ex-but-not-really-ex husband’s things away, and out of sight, I watched her do this most all the very next day, after I had spent my first night.
I wondered how she would have felt if I had another woman’s clothes and jewelry openly laid out in my home of wood, when we first made love by the firelight. But I did not go there too strongly, for I loved her and did not want to hurt her heart or her head. So most of this went unsaid.
Her boys, the ages of men, well there were four. And each was addicted to at least one chemical or more or some other mind-numbing electric drug. Each was drifting or failing, three in the home — and one on the street, that one hooked on the hard stuff and doing dumb crimes. She was afraid of that one and was glad I was there to protect her from him.
She said she wanted to come stay with me to put some distance betwixt her and the scary son, the one who stole from them and scared her to feed his scary habit. She felt safer with me there, she said, in her house of things kept safely locked in boxes.
A week or so later, the one on the street was arrested for snatching a lady’s bag and for several other dumb little crimes, crimes to refill his needle. But now, now that he was in lockdown inside that county jail, well, she would have to stay near him, be near him, to weep for him and feel his pain for him just as she felt the pain of the other three addicted ones still locked inside her home, who gave her no respect but loved her just the same.
Oh, and she would not hear a bad word said against any one of her addicted ones, these poor benighted sons born to her and a drunkard husband who she knew she did not love the day she married him, who she knew was what he is and was when he passed out, unconsummated on their wedding night, the drunkard she had never saved her babies from, a drunkard who she gave herself to and waited on, despite his disrespect, feeling his weakling’s anger, who she allowed to school her children in The Ways of Weakness and Addiction 101 from semester to semester, as one school year led to another. Who she allowed to leave his cuff links on his dresser and his clothes in the closet, long after he was gone but not gone, though they were still in the course of soon divorcing, yes, we’re divorcing, after six long separated years.
But she was a strong woman, she said. She was a strong woman, she said.
She told me of people, others in her outer ring of mountain folk, who had questioned or disapproved of her schooling and parenting and how she would now have little to do with them or such critique when they questioned her methods of mothering. I finally had to ask myself, what parenting, what mothering? I saw only a smothering malaise. But she loved her children, you know, yes, and they loved her, you know, because they said so, they said so, and they said so, they said.
And when these sons of the teacher screwed up, grew angry, or did murder, she did lots of talking with each one, lots of talking and talking, and when all else failed there was always more of their sad, soft talking. It was bound to work one day, wasn’t it, wasn’t it? If we talk sad and soft long enough, now wouldn’t, wouldn’t it though?
I finally had to admit, there were no teachings or parentings here to question. There was only a house of soft and addicted and floating children.
But she was a strong woman, she said. They all would drown if she did not save them.
And soon I made her feel weak, she said, because I was too strong and too forceful, too angry with her method. I should not question her methods, she said, nor should I even display a method, any method. So I simply had to go.
Yes, she was ashamed, for all her credit cards and accounts were still in the drunkard’s name. Everything was left up to the drunkard, who was gone but not gone, else the drunkard might get angry, so she waited and she waited for everything from the drunkard, she waited while nothing changed.
But I was too harsh if I noticed these things. And in time she would tell me so.
Oh, I was good for heavy lifting, I suppose. And for moving loads of heavy stuff and driving hundred of miles, leaving my home of wood and my blessed beasts behind. To journey far in heat of day and dark of night, weathering all weathers so I could be there to sing hymns of her to her or join our bodies in sweet communion or just to hold her and listen kindly when she wanted to weep over her fears and failures.
But only she could say their names, anybody else was just being cruel. She was so gruelingly sensitive, you know? So sensitive and so afraid. So all the while I kept singing her sacred hymns, hymns of reassurance, hymns for our salvation. But some refuse to be saved.
I am glad I was good for something, for a while, for her. For her I gave my everything. But this was a family thing, she said. Can’t you see? She was all that could save them.
And I, well, I was too harsh if I suggested something might be wrong here. So I simply had to go.
Because she was so strong. You know.
And it was I who made her feel weak, I who made her feel wrong and not strong.
So I’m gone now, as you might guess. Oh yes. I’ve been dismissed. I simply had to go.
Still I love her more deeply with every dying day, with each passing season and semester, I feel so deeply her pain and the pain of her, long after I’ve gone away What is left of me loves her dearly with all my tattered soul. But me with no mother, or lover, or teacher to talk to, to talk to soft and low. Oh, did I mention I gave her my ancient mountain ring? And everything, everything, everything?
So these are my lessons of love. This is what little I’ve learned.
I’ve learned, sometimes, this is how love has to go.
© 2016 Randy Thornhorn