Of Paradoxes and Pop

Hi,

So here’s what’s been rolling around in this very addled head of mine…My neighbor Gary is an avid gardener.  So much so, that we have never spoken about anything else.  He came to the door a few weeks back to tell me that our grass was being over-watered and that I should adjust the scheduling of the sprinkler system.  Ok, done.  The other day he flagged down my car to advise me that my grass wasn’t getting enough water (I’m abbreviating the conversation to keep this thing going).

Everything needs water – but not too much.  Every meal should be savored – but not so much that you get heartburn.  My cyber pal David (davidkanigan.com), is pondering the extremes of emotional bungee jumping, as I extol the state of balance.  But highs are awesome – it’s the lows that suck.  It’s all a paradox (sidebar – Annie LaMott’s Ted talk on her 12 rules of life and writing – enjoy it).  I got it – and to a ridiculous degree, it’s all a cliché.  Until of course, you get to some lessons I’ve learned from my father-in-law.

Sid calls me his favorite daughter-in-law, and he in turn is my favorite father-in-law.  Of course, we are also each others’ only person in that category, so for me, it’s an easy win.  He’s 92, one of the greatest generation, the head of Andy’s clan and he wears that mantle handsomely.  He recognizes the magnificence of my sons’ as fathers – and tells them.  He literally beams at the mention of his grandkids.  He’s vibrant and engaged and has become the official greeter to his community.  Going up to strangers, introducing himself, inviting people with an outstretched hand and an easy smile.  He’d win “Most Popular” if they had such awards for adults.

Pop has an easy walk, this kind of strolling gait that is unhurried yet purposeful.  He broke his foot a few weeks back, which only slightly inconvenienced his ability to dance at his granddaughter’s wedding.  His two granddaughters wheeled him onto the dance floor, he was handed the mike to sing along with Louis Prima and no one eclipsed him from that point forward.

And yes, now that his boot is off, he’s got golf to return to, bridge of course…you get my drift.  Pop’s unassuming and humble, he’s warm and truly finds no fault with anyone in his ever-widening circle.  He reaches out – with no hesitation.  If you surmise that I love him, you’re right.   I think he finds self-absorption boring – too much is happening for the over-examination of one’s self, or the pursuit of that kind of attention from others.

My parents were too young when they passed away.  I’ve written about them extensively and will not do so now.  What I will say is that neither was able to show me how to grapple with getting older.  I’m grateful for Pop’s lessons, because other than learning how to  play bridge, I try to play this life as he does.

Pop was married to my mother-in-law for well over 60 years.  And he still called her the ‘most beautiful woman in the world’.  We all were deeply worried about him – would he be able to get past the grief, heal enough to make a life for himself, etc.  And here’s the paradox that Pop taught me, the only one that doesn’t make me crazy.

You don’t get past grief (I knew that part);  you don’t get over love and you still live.  One can argue that it is a religious requirement to do so (it is in Judaism) – which is a pretty high imperative;  so is doing it for the spirit within that begs to sing.  Love and grief co-exist.  One doesn’t cancel out the other.  Losing someone you adore doesn’t give you permission to exempt yourself from life’s dance.  They are not different sides of the same coin – they are the same side of the coin.  There is no better moment to thank my father-in-law than today, there is no better reason than his patient coaching and his love.  What can you say to someone who asks the world to be his guest?  Thank you for the invitation, Pop – I gratefully accept and I love you.

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Who’s Stewart?

Hi,

There are many stories in here, so forgive the multiple parentheticals – recognizing of course, that really talented writers don’t use them often.  Ah well, I’ve never claimed to be a really talented writer.

Anyway, I was speaking with my builder last week.  A few years ago, her birthday gift from her husband was a girls’ weekend at an exclusive hotel.  These women have been friends for years; there are no secrets.  Well, with an abundance of alcohol there are no secrets.  And they imbibed – a lot.  One of her friends has been happily married for many years.  Great guy – sweet, attentive, doting – the kind of guy everyone else in the group holds up as the example when they’re arguing with their spouses.

After many drinks, her friend acknowledged that as much as she loved him, he wasn’t her ‘Stewart’.  Stewart was the one who got away.  Her college sweetheart – part dog, part romantic fool.  She was besotted, he was hormonal.  But she held out a fantasy, wondering for years, ‘what if’.

To abbreviate the tale, over the years her feelings for her husband have replaced that wonder.  She adores him – even though he wasn’t her ‘Stewart’.

I’ve never had a Stewart.  Perhaps it’s because I married often enough that by the time I hit 30, the prospect of a fantasy romance would have just enervated me.  I was a single mom with two boys under the age of five.  And honestly, being a mom was pretty much the only fantasy I ever really had that I insisted on making a reality (but that’s another story).

So let’s move on.

Have I told you that my sister is flippin’ brilliant?  On so many levels, this woman amazes me constantly (Debbie, I know you are shaking your head, telling me that this is same-sex, birth order bullshit – and even if you’re right, so what?  It is what it is.  Truth for sure – and some residual younger-sister-will-never-be-as-good neurosis for good measure).  She is beautiful, scary smart, talented beyond measure – and she is a writer – the legitimate kind.  In one of her recent stories she wrote “you fall in love with the way someone falls in love with you”.  Brilliant.

And true.

I fell in love with the way Andy fell in love with me.  He made himself fit into my life with such an abundance of heart, romance, delight – he introduced me to his magic and I was ultimately mesmerized.  He is my Stewart, but he isn’t the one who got away.  He’s the one who stayed.

We may fall in love with the vision of love that we see, but we stay in love with the person who orchestrated the imagery.  The person who may not be who we first saw (and are we the person they first saw?), but who’s in it with you.  The person who can be your best friend and some weird extra-terrestrial at the same time and still be cute.  The one who drives you crazy in every conceivable way.  I’m a kite;  Andy is an anchor.  He’s judgmental;  I’m not (but for my expectations of sub-contractors working on our house, but they’re not reading this).  We are opposite sides of the same coin – and that is the kind of love that can’t be fabricated by fantasy.

We fall in love with the way someone falls in love with us.  True enough.  We love the person who knew how to make that happen.  Perhaps I never had a Stewart because I have an Andy.  And even though this has absolutely nothing to do with what I intended to pen today, it is what’s been on my mind all morning.  So, I guess therein is another story.

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