Forgotten Letter

For ten and one half years, a vision has haunted me: your stepdad on his deathbed at St Francis Hospital, I sitting at his side; your sister and her husband standing over him, placing their hands on him and praying aloud and speaking in tongues as they pressesd their convictions on my defenseless husband… while I wept but did not prevent or stop it. He writhed and moaned, the only method available to him to protest and defend himself. I know I should not have allowed it, should have stopped it, but…. Well, you know that, until his lung surgery and my brother’s call to her, your sister and I had not spoken for months. I was weak when he needed my strength most.
I do not want you or my brother or anyone else to have to protect me in a similar situation. It would be nearly impossible for you to do. My fear of alienationg my daughter now is exceeded only by my fear of being stripped of my last vestige of dignity while dying. I addresssed this letter to both of you in order to assure her that you, too, have been apprised of my wished in this matter.
‘Nuff said.

Two pages later.

Med don’t seem to do as well as women when widowed. I think it’s because they can’t let their guard down enought to form really intimate friendships. Women do. but men seem to feel they have to be tough and macho with each other, have to compete in everything. Women have since they were girls giggled together and exchanged secrets and wept on each other’s shoulders. Some of the saddest moments I can remember were those times when my husband literally wept tears over not having a close male friend. I tried to make him understand that a friendship cannot be based on on person being the ‘better’ or ‘higher’ than the other; that a freindship has to be based on mutual respect and love, not competition. There can be no ‘one-upmanship’ in a friendship. He heard me, but it just wasn’t in him. And he suffered for it. He loved my having deep friendships with women… and I think seeing those friendships made the contrast more poignant for him.

Tow more pages.

You know, my mother and I had a love-hate relationship that I’ve only tried to understand in the past several years from her viewpoint. While she was loving and there for us, and did a darned good job of raising and keeping her family (her and the kids, I mean) together, there was always a distance she maintained… with me, anyway. I remember when she was dying. I wished so much she could bring herself to tell me how she felt… not physically, but mentally and emotionally. But she couldn’t. I think, even in her dying, she felt compelled to protect us. She never acknowledged the word ‘cancer.’ I felt that, if she could just share her feelings with someone…me, of course… she might not feel so alone. Of course, I haven’t experienced what she was experiencing and realize that, no matter what, it was her experience. That no amount of ‘sharing’ it could ease it for her. We can’t share someone’s dying. Oh, I don’t know. But I do know that she seldom discussed with me her inner thoughts, beefore or during her last ordeal. Oh, there was one time I remember: she had come out to spend the evening with you and your sister and me. After you were in bed, she began to talk about me and my older brother’s father… for the first time in her life. “I’ve always loved him,” she said as she paced the family room floor. I was stunned to think that she carried that sad longing for thirty years and through three more (at the time) marriages.

Paragraph One- I had to walk out of the room after she died, after I told my relatives she didn’t want to be prayed over. They did it anyway.

Paragraph Two- The next sentence: “I’ve always admired your lifelong ability to form close friendships, honey. Of course, I’m not privy to your private moments with those friends, so I suppose I don’t really know how deep they are. I’ve always felt you and ____ had that sort of friendship.” She was right, but it’s the only one, except good friendships I’ve had with women. And the one close male friendship is possible because, despite my inner competitiveness, we don’t compete, never have. Just not what he does, and it allows space for a beautiful friendship.

Paragraph Three- Mom’s father abandoned the family when Mom was a few months old. They were living in a barn, Mom sleeping in the bottom drawer of a dresser. One time Mom and her brother located their Father and arranged a meeting. She didn’t show, and as far as I could ever tell, never regretted it.

Mom didn’t repeat my Grandmother’s mistake. Over three years of her failing health we spent countless hours and days together, stripping our feelings naked, without any fear of a question, without any hesitatiion to confront our frailties and mistakes. Death, love, hate, sexual abuse, abandonment, jealousy, nothing was off limits. I’ve never met anyone so brave. Thank you, Mom. You continue to teach and inspire me.


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