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.

a wishing wall (from parábolas de pablo)

wallWalking through the storm, her face stung, pelted by fierce sheets of sleet and hail, as she approached the line that separated them; one made bold, inerasable, incapable of being washed away, rigid and firm with stones, some small, some large, all perched one upon another, reaching a height tall enough to make it hard for them to see each other. But just as the wall was there (long in place long before she moved there, tho’ that, too, was long ago), she knew her neighbor was there, always there…

that no stone fell from its place.
And if one did, as stones have a way of doing, being sure it to replace.
Thus assuring that there was not, that there never could be a breach
(allowing someone or something from outside in or from inside out),
for then what good would it be to have a wall?

Yes, she knew her neighbor was there, who, because of the wall, never was a neighbor, rather always a stranger. That always made her sad. Sad enough that, finally, after praying on the matter, she decided that she could live no longer, but would rather die with her neighbor being a stranger. (To be so close always, yet so far away always was like death anyway.) As she knew her neighbor, the stranger was there, always there – waiting, watching, wanting, wishing for no stone to go falling – she came. (She could have waited for a sunny, cloudless day, for then they could see more clearly, talk more freely, and hear more easily. But weather be damned! This – being always so near, yet always so far, being neighbors, but truly strangers – was like death. Thus bad enough that something, anything had to be done, and now, even without the sun!) And, she knew, with the wall so high, that her neighbor, the stranger wouldn’t, couldn’t detect her coming (for, if knowing, she knew her neighbor, the stranger would go running away).

Reaching and placing a hand on the wall, under her breath muttering, protesting its very presence, nagging, too, about her neighbor, the stranger, she stood on tiptoe and saw the top of her neighbor’s, the stranger’s head. “Hello!” she said, yelling, yearning to be heard over the wind’s yowling.

Hello!” she answered back, and quick.

Surprised that her neighbor, the stranger replied and didn’t make hasty retreat, her heart skipped a beat. Suddenly at a loss for words, she stammered, “I…I…I came, um…to talk with you…uh, about…about…”

“The wall?”

She was shocked, and all the more because her neighbor, the stranger, had put her hands on top of the wall, pulling herself up to the point that they, even through the rain, eye to eye could see. Her neighbor, the stranger, had a kind face, she thought, and, even with the rain, she could see an unmistakable torrent of tears pouring down her neighbor’s, the stranger’s face. “Y…y…yes! How…how did you…how could you know?”

“I’ve been here. Always. Since the day you moved in, tho’, now, so long ago. I’ve been waiting, watching, wanting, wishing for you to come. I’ve been wondering, wishing, if ever you did, whether you’d help me take down this wall that gets in our way, that keeps us at bay, that won’t let us be neighbors, for I cannot do it by myself. I want you…I wish you…will you help me?”