Thursday, August 14, 2008

Our August Presence



Ethel and Mike are friends from way back, over thirty years. I met Ethel when we were both doing social work at a methadone clinic in West Los Angeles in the late seventies. Methadone clinics, at least in those days, pulled in medical personnel of dubious provenance and I knew instantly that Ethel would be my friend for life after she called the staff psychiatrist, to his face, an "egotistical fuck." Mike’s daughter Poppy would often accompany us to eat or to the movies, and at age seven she was sweet natured and funny and a splendidly beautiful child. She grew into a lovely woman and I attended her wedding to Art which culminated with such a passionate kiss folks had to go home to take a shower before the reception. Poppy worked as an emergency phone operator and then as a junior high school teacher, jobs requiring huge integrity and patience and grace. She and Art had three children. I saw her last when there were only two, a baby and a toddler, at a party at Ethel and Mike’s and noted her √©lan with her little ones, when I myself with two so small was rattled and tetchy inevitably at social occasions. I got a note from Ethel stating that Poppy passed away last week from the complications of Still’s Disease, a form of rheumatoid arthritis relatively common in children but quite rare in adults. May comforting her children be a comfort.

I have finally heard from Spuds that he is happy at camp after a snap on the website showed a fragile sweet faced child on the verge of tears and his little letters home had a real stiff upper lip quality. His situation was apparently improved there by a visit from a "prestigious ice cream maker" and the discovery that one of his counselors is a really nice funny guy and that "the other two are Israelis". The most recent photo of him on the website is from Israeli day at the camp, which I have to remember does have many wonderful qualities and gifted us a generous scholarship. Spuds was wearing black camouflage make up and engaged in some sort of military training exercise, which based on the web photos, along with the waving of Israeli flags, was the gist of the occasion. The Fifteen Year Old is photographed looking deliriously happy on a seemingly hourly basis and expresses through his brother his regrets at having been too busy to write to us.

Our groceries fit in a tiny bag and we eat dinner, just the two of us, melancholy and reminded of life before the children. I do miss them fiercely but we wasted a lot of the "just us two" time before the kids by being angry and misinterpreting signals and lying and just getting all bollixed up on the partnership thing. It wasn’t as central to our beings to seek comfort in one another as it is now. There were fewer full days of pure love such as we’ve enjoyed now for nearly three weeks. This little blissful time is sweetened by missing the children, the legacy we’ve made together, physical, breathing, exquisite emanations of my love for him and his love for me.

A year ago we were stinging from the birthmother’s initial rejection of our attentions, my father was alive and I had no idea of what business, legal and educational challenges were in store. It is calm now as summer winds down. We are in a stronger place after suffering through sorrows and frustrations that well could have pulled us apart. Our partnership has carried us through several seasons of distress and now we cling fast to one another, peaceful in the balmy night. He still pisses me off when he walks ahead of me, lost in the universe that is his mind and carried by his extraordinarily long legs and of course there is that expensive electronic gadget he eschews the use of. But, we have duked it out for two decades and as we approach the twentieth anniversary of coming together, I observe that finally we are sort of like grown ups, which is a good thing and doesn’t preclude sitting in our underpants on the bedroom floor eating Thai food right out of the containers.

As is the wont of persons my age I have some piffling health problems being diagnosed. After 6 years of reducing in weight slowly but steadily; there has been in the last two months a precipitous increase in poundage. I am distracted by this and also for the first time in six years I have that old familiar stabbing feeling that I have gained weight due to some deficit of character. Many of my clothes do not fit and I can see the difference in recent photos. My doctor assured me that my weight gain is truly a medical symptom and one she is certain is temporary but when I look in the mirror I have a real hard time not feeling like a profligate asshole loser with no (spoken in my mother’s voice) WILLPOWER.

But really Ma, the power of my will is awesome. Most days I am evolved enough not to confuse beauty and perfection. My poor mother is further at sea with each visit. She remembers no names now but mine and her gentleman friend’s but she gazes at herself constantly in her pocket mirror and continuously criticizes my appearance. I do have the knee jerk old fat girl reactions when I see more of myself in the mirror these days and it is very important to me to lose the weight, but here, in these mild days of August I am feeling more loved and beautiful than I ever have before. My beloved worships my soul and spirit, my body a mere vessel. It is loving him and being loved by him that has brought me closer to knowing this myself and actually feeling, after lumbering around on the planet all these decades, beautiful. I am blessed to have Himself beside me on the journey towards being less the fucked up fat girl and towards truly feeling what he sees in me. We are in light and we are humbly thankful but also chastened. We know and fear the mercurial swirling of loss and tragedy and this further inspires us to surrender to love. My children will return and in love, terror, faith and in tribute to lost mothers and to lost children, I will hold them close.

1 comment:

Jamie said...

I'm not sure if I ever told you how much I admired you Layne... you know, in those days of old when I'd bumble into work, with my pregnant teen-aged belly. No grief from you, though Lord only knows what you truly thought of your friend's "knocked-up, soon-to-be-married shot-gun style" cousin. I loved the way Fuck was a regular part of your vocabulary, it's such a satisfying word... But mosly I enjoyed that you were a real woman. Beautiful, honest, integral, smart, funny. When my mom would complain about her girth growing I would often tell her of how pretty I thought you were. How well dressed, how well put together... at least on the outside. Your size never seemed to define you. Your personality was larger than life. I guess that's what I admired most.
You look wonderful now. Or at least what I can see of you in the now of your Facebook profile photo. When I saw it I thought, "Wow... after all these years, Layne still looks great." In my skinny-ass mind size doesn't matter... never has, never will. I hope you see that wonderful woman in the mirror each time you look ♥