Yesterday we celebrated the lives of two gentle souls who shared their lives with me for over half of mine. They both struggled with pain and sorrow…my son’s mind not able to understand the world around him and my former husband’s mind full of pain and memories that haunted him until the end of his life.
They both had trouble expressing their true feelings or their dreams for a better life. Their eyes conveyed their love for others, but they were not able to show it. My son would lay quietly in my arms one moment, softly smiling, his eyes full of wonder, and the next he would pinch and bite me. The tug-of-war in his brain would be there until his last breath. His body wanted to live and yet his brain had no idea how to function in the fast-moving world spinning around him.
As he grew older, he began to leave the world that refused to accept him. People turned away in embarrassment as he shouted out his pain and confusion. His desires were few… a trip to the junkyard to look at old cars, a trip to the park to swing for a few minutes, a drive through the countryside while listening to heavy metal music. But the best part of my visits were watching my frail little boy, who lived to be 29 but still looked like a young boy, gobble up two quarter pounders, French fries and orange soda from McDonald’s. As soon as he was done, he looked over, grunted loudly, reached out for my arm and said in his silent way, “it was nice having you visit, but please leave now.”
He always knew who I was and I always knew that he loved me with all his heart, just in his own way, a completely different way than how the rest of the world loves people. The morning I got the call that he died, I cried softly for hours. I wanted him to be free of this world he was trapped in and not part of, but I would miss our monthly trips in the country, listening to a kind of music that I would never listen to again. I cried from sorrow and I cried from joy. He had joined mt dad and grandma in Heaven and I will someday hug him and look into his eyes and see that sweet little smile on his face. He waits for me there, but it will be many years before we can finally have a talk about his dreams and the things that bring him joy.
My former husband shared a similar path as my son. He tried to find his way in a world that had hurt him and that cared little for the little boy who had a beautiful soul. He was in pain all of his life, just like my son, but he learned to mask it and hide it from himself and the universe. He grew up, married and divorced, had a son and eventually two grandsons. He came into my life when my boys were just babies. He jumped on board my crazy train called life, that was just started to roll along a very difficult path full of painful valleys and joyful mountain tops. He himself was struggling with how to deal with pain and joy and life itself. Adding the stress of dealing with a disabled little boy and his brother who still grieved for his absent “real” dad, not a step-dad, made his life hard.
My boys lost their “real” dad when I could not bear looking at the hurt and bewilderment in his eyes. It broke my heart to see him moving away from the boys, afraid that he could not love both because he simply could not love a child destined to be at a two month baby his entire life, who was not able to talk, walk, or feed himself. I was a young woman, hurt, alone, afraid and not knowing how to move on…how could I be responsible for these boys and survive myself? I prayed that I would find the strength, and so I fought for my children, I lived in public housing, then moved away from my small family to a big city two hours away, filled with challenges, heartache and loneliness.
My firstborn became my rock. My former husband was never able to fill that role because of his past abuse and his underlying depression. He was such a good man but was filled with so much pain that he could not fully love any of us….not me…not my boys. He could only love animals who would never break his heart…who would never leave him or mistreat him. I viewed it as rejection and my heart broke every time he left me with no explanation, a total of four times in 34 years.
I now realize that like the Grinch, his heart was two times too small. He wanted to be loved and needed to be loved, but he just didn’t know how and was afraid to trust anyone. So he hurt us at times, not ever meaning to. He just wasn’t raised in a loving home like mine was, or my son’s and daughter-in-laws home is. I look at my grandkids and think how grateful I am that my son married a loving woman and fell in love. My little ones will never struggle like my son and former husband did. They know what love is and their lives have been blessed with warm and loving parents.
My former husband left this earth just months ago at his own hand, knowing that I would survive…that my son would survive after the pain and anger diminished over time. That my grandkids would survive because I fill their life with music and dancing and art and fishing and swimming and bike riding and love….an unlimited never-ending love that will stand the test of time.
I am so grateful for every moment I shared with these special men. They made me into the woman I am and showed me what I could become even during the most painful and difficult times. I am a fighter, a defender and someone who loves everyone, no matter what happens. I will continue making mistakes, but I will love will all my heart, fighting for the underdog and loving the unloveable.
I thank God for the plan He had for me in the past and I rejoice in this new path my life has recently taken. These quiet lonely men are now with my family, and they all watch over me every day, during all my busy craziness and during my quiet meditation with each lap I swim. I miss you all but will see you again some day.
The universe is a better place because of the four of you, my heros, my mentors, my teachers and my inspiration.