(Dedicated to Teresa and Marshall.)
I have never loved until now. For years the word scarcely escaped my lips. Women would wait and still they waited until I was no more. In my family I only used it with my father, mother, and one of my grandmothers. As to my sisters, the word just didn’t seem right. Was a brother meant to love his sisters? Of course, but I was an idiot back then. I could not see, since my eyes had been poked out with burned sticks at Christmas.
I spoke love to one of my grandmothers. Nanny was a religious woman, a piano player, and born of the depression and because I had asthma and the air was clean in the tiny town where she lived, I’d visit in the autumn and spring. I could roam freely down the limestone rock streets. Sometimes the tornadoes came and we would go into her cellar to spend the night, but usually we slept in her feather bed with heavy cotton blankets.
She would ask me to rub her fingers, since they were shot with arthritis or “Arthur” as she called it, and she would sigh with the pain. So I would squeeze and massage her blue, gnarled hands, sometimes for hours, until she went to sleep. I would tell her I loved her as she drifted off. I was a boy and she was in her late 70’s. When I was overseas, she had a stroke and turned into an 80-pound vegetable that could not speak and there was something of a hopeless, defiant Indian in her countenance.
On the only day I visited her, I sat on the bed and took her hand and rubbed the fingers hard enough to start a fire. I told her how much I loved her and then I wept. She died while I was in Africa and her death got mixed up with all the other ones and death was like a long road through a strange dream for me.
After all these years, I have discovered love again. Falling out of the sky, like an airplane engine, love has crushed me in an unexpected way. It has taken over my body and mind. It has set my heart racing and brings tears to my eyes. My thoughts drown me and then come to my rescue, my resuscitation. Guilt, regret, and love are companions. They are friends and enemies tied tightly with time.
I love Teresa as we travel together in our spaceship through the stars.
I love when I wake in the morning and I love with my last conscious breath at night. I dream of love and fireplaces and little shadows in old rooms. Love is on the beach and in the tree house; it’s bright colors, and small bare feet; it’s the puzzlement of the dogs and the prick of yellow stickers in green grass. Love is all things, smiling just now, and I can see how one person can give me everything, even when all appears to be hurt and suffering. Because love is like medicine and a daily dose is what we need to quench the awful feeling.
Love sustains my life and leads me out of the void. It is freedom and I want to share it.
Love is married to pain; two oars cutting the water. This is my revelation to you and it has taken my whole life to finally understand.
I love you, I love you so much.
Please forgive me as we hold one another: you, Teresa, and I.