Today is Fathers Day and I had a show-stopping conversation with Morgan. His dad, my husband, passed away in 2006, when Morgan was 22. We were talking about choosing a partner for marriage.
Morgan said a thoughtful, tender thing to me, at least that’s what I heard. He said that he and his younger brother Alex have an idea of what a good marriage can be because of the way their parents, Clark and me, stayed together and remained committed to each other for over 25 years. That’s the model they have in mind, and they are looking for partners with which to do the same. But oh, my words are so clinical and cliché. His words were so very much more human, more Morgan.
Clark and I were truly each other’s best friend, there for each other, no question.
Morgan and I spoke about other things too – work, the addition, his cats, air conditioning, July 4th weekend, the cicadas. And then we hung up.
And then I began to worry.
In my efforts to make sure my sons are certain that Lee does not mean more to me than their father, have I led them to believe that Clark and I had a fairy-tale marriage? Will they be endlessly looking for fairy-tale relationships? As a young girl I believed in fairy-tale romances and marriages. As an older woman I believe in fairy-tale romances and marriages. But in-between I learned that it isn’t all lovey-dovey and happy til death do we part.
There were days during my marriage, and sometimes there were weeks or months when I wondered why or how or when. Do I really love him? Would I be happier with someone else? Am I trapped?
We never fought and I can’t remember ever raising our voices at each other. I’m pretty sure that is true. Two of the men I dated after his death, and the one that I am living with now get to that frenetic, shouting state so quickly.
Arguing with men, with anyone actually except my mother and a few employees (I loathe being in a supervisory position) was new to me, and very uncomfortable, and so I talked about it, trying to understand this hurtful dynamic in a relationship. One of my “dates” thought that Clark must have been hen-pecked. How else could he not have gotten angry with me since I was such a controlling, demanding woman? I don’t see that.
Clark was level-headed, calm, comforting. When I totally crashed the computer in our bookstore, leaving us without any inventory or purchase and sales records, he treated me gently and with concern as I walked around constantly crying, mute, and in a shadow for three weeks. Even when he was hurting with cancer, he found the way to help me through my anxiety and craziness over my mother’s violent and ugly onset of Alzheimer’s and the difficulty of getting her, her friends, and her independent living facility to accept the fact that she needed help.
Another one of my “dates” thought that Clark must have been a saint. I don’t see that either.
Lee doesn’t analyze. He just knows that we are both a little bit (hah) high strung, and get frustrated easily. Of course, I think he is the provocateur, but we won’t go there. If we’re not laughing at ourselves in an hour, we kiss and make up in the morning. We know we’ve got a good thing going and we aren’t going to let our big fat egos and our insecurities mess it up.
Clark and I may have talked and discussed, compromised, but I don’t even remember doing that. We just thought the same way. We successfully owned and operated two small businesses together. We built one house and did major improvements on two others. I guess we were a good match.
When we were courting he had a dream of sailing around the world. This sounded like heaven to me. After several years I realized this was definitely just a dream. He was much too cautious, too responsible, and he had a nightmare of an experience sailing the Marion Bermuda Race in 1979.
Only once did I see him lose it.
That was right after Morgan was born. He had recently changed jobs, and had given up smoking. Who knows exactly what brought on the anxiety attack that sent him to the hospital and then to bed for months. If ever I would have left him, it would have been then. But somehow both he and I got through it. Yes, he did get stuck when he was diagnosed, but who wouldn’t, and he soon started looking for answers.
Later on, as he got sicker and weaker with his non-Hodgkins, our life got smaller and smaller, but it was actually a dream. We were living in a 200 year old home that smiled on us. We hardly ever left it. Our children were off on their own.
It felt to me as if I was getting to know a new Clark. We spoke of what was happening to him and what would become of me. We were delving into places that we never had entered before. We were falling in love again.
Perhaps I have rewritten history for myself and for my boys. It is hard when you are juggling jobs and children to take the time to love each other. As I look back now, which I am so lucky to be able to do, I wish we had taken more time for ourselves and were more expressive of our feelings. At the time I was proud of our stoicism. It seemed to me that we just understood we were with each other and we didn’t have to prove it to each other over and over. And I think he felt the same. We never doubted.
We were fortunate we had a quiet, close time at the end of Clark’s life. He made it possible. He is the one who wanted us to buy that big, rambling house – a bear to maintain – on nine acres which needed constant mowing and care. I wanted to say “No. We don’t need an apple orchard. What are you crazy? All that spraying, all that work?”
But because I knew I had another life on the way, I would have done anything with him.
And we did good