no love lost? yes love won! (from parábolas de pablo)

holding handsThirty years. They navigated the deep, sometimes murky, sometimes turbulent waters of marriage. Staying afloat, largely without listing. Only on occasion having to bail. Though, sometimes, drawing dangerously close to rocky shoals. Nearly crashing into the stubbornly sifting sandbanks of money management, illness, intimacy, in-laws, children and child-rearing, and God knows what else. (Some of the troubled moments had faded so blessedly far into the shadows of faulty memory, making them, even when a flicker of recollection dawned, easy to escape mention.)

Thirty years. The two of them still took, made time to prepare and eat dinner together, alternating by the day who served as chef and prep cook. That part of the rhythm of their living remained intact. So, too, their unflagging pride in the lofty attainments of their loving twin daughters, one a physician, the other an attorney, each with a child aged 5, their darling grandsons, both possessing wisdom preternaturally profound for their spare length of days.

Thirty years. Much to savor. Little to regret. Except, for each, the now nagging tug of their insignificance. All their successes, individual and shared, now mostly the stuff of legend. The sorts of things they rarely recalled, though others frequently recognized them for this or that community or lifetime achievement award. (They had no more wall space or storage room for another box of things, and they, concerned about the size of their carbon footprint, had no intention of adding on to their commodious abode, already filled with the air, the sickeningly redolent sigh of life’s meaninglessness.)

She drummed her aimless fingers lightly on the table, trying to dispel the deafening silence after another meal when they had shared so few words.

“Please pass the lemon,” he said.

She obliged. “Was the salmon grilled to your liking?”

He nodded slightly as if he feared had he jiggled his head more vigorously it might have toppled over his shoulders, falling to the floor. Honestly, he simply didn’t have energy for much more. What would be the point? Salmon to his liking, consuming every bit of it? Or not, eating less? Ah, eating less, he would have felt hunger…he would have felt something, which would be better (or maybe not) than the nothing he felt about the nothing he was.

She nodded, too; the simplicity of the bob of her head expressing the lethargy of her soul.

Then, in a flash of startling earnestness, they, in unison, spoke.

When did it happen?”

Each knew what the other meant.

“For me, dear,” he gasped, “when all the years of labor…when I poured myself into my work, thinking…thinking somehow that it would give me…that I could give myself the measure of my life’s meaning as a husband, father, provider…and, at the end, to discover…shamefully,” he stammered, “it hadn’t…and now knowing it never could.” He wept, shocking himself at this first sign of emotion in so long a time.

“And for me, dear,” she receiving, reciting, rephrasing for herself his tender-sounding word, “it is much the same. Being a mother, which, yes, I remain, but with less of a role…our girls so grown and so accomplished…and so not needing us…not needing me. And I having been one who shattered glass ceilings…an iconoclastic rock-thrower at all those ivory-towered princes of business who thought…who still think women were made for but a few things and none of them involving the activation of the moral mass between our ears!” The rise of indignation, the first real emotion in so long a time, felt good to her. “But when it was done, it…I was done.”

“So much more of us behind us…” he began.

“So little of us in front of us,” she finished.

“You know,” for the first time in the longest time, he sought and looked into her eyes, “I have felt…I have been so empty…for myself and I know for you…I…I often have thought that if I truly loved you enough, then I should leave you.”

Unflinching, she returned his gaze. “I could not have said it better.”

“You’ve considered leaving, too?”

She nodded.

But…” again together they spoke.

“You go first,” he whispered, reaching across the table for her hand.

“I’ve always known,” she said, her voice barely audible, “that I’ve never loved you enough…I’ve always…to this day…I’ve loved you more than that.” She took his hand, the feel of his skin against hers warming her heart. “So it’s not…it’s never been that I should leave you, for I couldn’t, I wouldn’t ever leave you.”

He took a deep breath, then another and sighed. “I could not have said it better.”

In the silence of their recognition of undeserved, unconditional grace, they shared a smile.

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4 thoughts on “no love lost? yes love won! (from parábolas de pablo)

  1. Wow Paul, the “measure of life’s meaning”….what a great blog… We spend most of our lives throwing ourselves into our vocations, and then sometimes in a really haphazard way into our vacations too, searching for the meaning….. And sometimes, as in your story, it leads to emptiness!! After their thirty years together the couple’s true confession is refreshing!! And it’s hopeful that there is still time enough for them to be happy together and maybe the meaning they’d both been searching for in many places throughout their lives, was sitting right next to them all along!! I’m also a firm believer that you can’t make others happy or fulfilled until you’re happy and fulfilled with yourself! I’m thrilled with my life in 2014, doing all the things that make me happy (think LEGOs) so I in turn may lend happiness to others. I hope there’s a follow up blog on this couple…. But I guess we can always use our hopeful imagination about the “meaning in the rest of their lives together”!

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  2. Loretta, I wrestle with the idea, the reality of meaning and meaninglessness (my sense of the latter can befall suddenly and for no particular reason). By meaningless, I mean an awareness that all the striving (or resting) avails nothing and comes to naught. As for the couple, they, as characters in a parable, a story become screens on which I can project the questions, issues I have. As for your “use (of) our hopeful imagination” regarding the outcomes of their struggles, their search, yes, that is my hope and desire, for I rarely intend to do a part 2 on a parable (though, yes, I do think of these products, these “people” formed in my imagination, wondering what will happen to them!).

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  3. A young person once actually asked me what the meaning of life was. I remember looking into his eyes first to determine if he was in earnest. “Do you want the answer from the catechism, or my own personal answer?” Both. “Okay then, the catechism says God created us to love and enjoy God forever.” And my personal answer, beyond that? “There is no meaning. There is no adventure or vision quest or seemingly endless seeking and searching that will ever lead to the grand revelation that comes when one finally knows THE answer. Life, ultimately, has no meaning.”

    The amazed young person looked at me as if I had lost my mind.

    Perhaps I had.

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  4. Thank you, Sandy, for sharing this life’s vignette, truly, for me, a moment of encounter one-to-one that rivals the conversation between Jesus and the rich yong man seeking the way to eternal life. Your personal, experiential response overwhelms me with its – your! – candor AND wisdom. I do believe that I have found meaning in given moments (or perhaps, more truly, it was my ardent quest to make sense of something that led me to discern or find relief in whatever sense of the moment I could muster). That said, I also believe that life itself is meaningless. There may have been a big bang at the beginning of creation, but I don’t believe I’ll discover a big bang of meaning at my life’s end. Again, my sister, I thank you.

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