|Dad, me, Nannie, and my first Bloody Mary....|
I'm in a weird mood today. It's Father's Day, and my father has been dead for over 10 years. Every year, my siblings immortalize Dad on Facebook by posting images of him and his art, recalling how talented and brilliant he was, how influential he was in our lives, and every passing year, I realize how very few pictures I have of Dad and me together, partly because so many family photos were lost when my parents' house burned down back in the 80s, but mostly because I've never been much of a shutterbug and have always detested posing for the camera. Strange as it may sound, seeing snapshots of him doesn't evoke the flood of emotions I imagine others might experience. Maybe it's because I don't have to remember my father. I'm perpetually aware of him sensually--in 3D--from his unmistakable scent and the porousness of his nose to the warmth of his ample, veiny hands and his sound-barrier breaking sneezes. I still know him.
|Spartacus aka "The Most Interesting Man in the World."|
We're constantly drifting into and out of each other's lives through gaps in the cytoplasm of time; all of us potentials, not rights or wrongs. I'm not knocking romance, only the expectations that accompany it. Love that's "meant to be" is already doomed. Love grows best unconditionally, yet that kind of love is reserved for children and pets. Why is that? "Till death do us part" is incompatible with the way things are in life. People and situations are changing all the time, and nothing in this world is permanent. To believe otherwise is delusional. From that perspective, marriage is wholly unnecessary, a legal relationship defined more by the shaky nature of commitment itself than lofty everlasting love. All those conditions and constraints leave little room for spontaneity; no wonder so many marriages fail! Just like life, love keeps moving and changing. We humans are social animals, hard-wired for possibility; otherwise, our self-conscious species probably wouldn't have survived. Love isn't a destination; it's a happy accident. There are billions of people in this world, so the romantic mathematics restricting us to one great love per lifetime don't exactly add up. Loneliness is often a choice. My 87 year old father-in-law, who's been widowed for almost two years, totally gets that. He's not betraying his thirty-five years of marriage by dating again, he's honoring them.
|Rory, Billy, Jim, Yvie, & Nick, circa 2002|
Earlier in the week, I received a very moving e-mail from my ex-husband, the father of my children. We'd been conversing on Facebook about a video I'd posted. In the video, an Episcopalian bishop gave the most cogent, realistic, and open-minded examination of religious faith and doctrine that I'd ever heard from a Christian believer. Backtracking just a bit, when I started medical school back in 1997, I went through a brief period of revisiting Catholicism. Our sons hated going to church, and to be honest, so did I. I haven't been back since.
Jim's response to my post delineated the ways in which the organizers of early Christianity discarded any gospels depicting Christ as a man, and not a God, systematically wiping out Gnostic and pagan influences and incarcerating the souls of man. He observed that "a functional, meaningful religion in our world should have Gods and Goddesses functioning equally, in harmony together. Right now there are 7 billion of us Gods and Goddesses, most of whom do not KNOW it!" I think he might have wondered if I was re-exploring Catholic faith. He then shared with me a wonderfully original piece of prose he'd written on the Jungian concept of anima and animus, and how they related to Jung's archetype of the Self. In closing, he added:
"As this has been soaking in, I've fully realized that had I not had You in my life, with all our conflicts and the fact that we just weren't a good match for marriage, You have had a huge, beautiful and wonderful influence on my Anima development. Without having recognized the embodiment of my shadow projection, I could not Know my Self/Soul! I wanted to deeply honor You for all You have done and all the ways You have helped me in this journey through life. I wish You and Brad much joy and happiness in your journeys! And as I mentioned before, why ever bow down to God again, when You're already a Goddess!"
I was so touched by what he wrote that I read it again and again. Emotionally, I felt privileged. It's not often that ex-spouses exchange such heartfelt sentiments. We weren't a successful match as marriage partners, but our relationship wasn't a failure; its course just changed over time. We've parented and lost parents together. We are who we are now because of our history, not in spite of it. I don't regret any of the time we spent together, because it's all led to this interceptual convergence where future memories are made.
|Nineteen and wondering about all the possibilities...|
It's now 6:43 p.m. I've finally showered after an hour-long dog walk in humid, sweltering heat, and am enjoying a glass (or two) of red wine. I'm overcome by life's messy beauty, the tenuous evanescence and bumpy texture of it all, how meaningful each forgettable moment really is, how much I love right now. When I was 19, I wondered what I'd be doing in 10 or 30 years. I had no idea I was born with the egg which later became my sons, or that one day, my right elbow would break so badly that, even with surgery, it would never be the same, or that I could love in so many ways: now my father, now the father of my children, now the man I call my husband.