I want to tell you a story about someone I love very much. Someone who is quite sick now. I don't want to talk about the illness or eventuality, because my powers tend towards being a muse and not omniscience. To tell you about him, I have to give you a little bit more about me.
Like many, my childhood left a lot to be desired. My father's alcoholism, constant beating, belittling and tormenting of our mother kept us all on eggshells and hiding the truth from those around us. When I was 11, I reached a point where I decided it was all too much to take and I was done. I went to the upstairs bathroom and decided to mix together several things from the medicine cabinet. Looking back, I don't think ear wax remover, children's Tylenol and toothpaste would have killed me, but that was my intent. I sat there thinking about my mother and how upset she would be, how I would be leaving her behind with him, what my little brother and sister would do. Something told me to stop. I knew that something was God. That was my epiphany ... not on the road to Damascus, but on the edge of the tub in Cincinnati, Ohio.
From that moment on, I knew I was here for a reason. My mother had always told me that anyway; she wasn't supposed to survive childbirth, and yet, three of us showed up. We had a purpose. There was some more moving around after this, and then thankfully, my parent's divorce was finalized when I was 15. Life was more free but still challenging, as we were quite poor. Mom struggled all the time to provide, and we went without a lot. Hunger was a constant. But I had my faith, which I wore on my sleeve. In fact, I was probably a little too vocal which made high school a challenge at times. I had my best friend, who I could always count on, and a handful of dear friends who I was sure thought I was a gigantic dork. The church we went to was filled with lovely people, but it was extremely conservative. I did speak up, because I was a member, but I never really felt my opinions were actively considered since I was a woman. Once during a serious talk with my pastor about going into the ministry, he told me I'd be able to help set a church up in a distant land, minister and lead ... until the church was established. Then I'd have to make way for a man to truly lead the flock. And when the day might come that I would have children of my own, if I had a son, by the time he was 11 or 12, I'd have to turn his religious instruction over to my husband. I could continue to work with my daughters but not my sons.
Needless to say, I was a spiritual mess. When I went off to college, it didn't get any better at first. The church I was given an entree to attend turned out to be even more conservative then the one back home. At dinner in the home of the pastor and his wife, I was reminded to wear a skirt to church and not the pants I had chosen that morning. During the questioning about my major, which was initially journalism, he decided that it would be best after graduation for me to go work for a christian newspaper until I got married. While he pontificated, his poor wife hustled the meal and her children. She looked a lot older than she was. After I left their house, I never went back to that church.
A short while later, I met another guy, someone who listened to my ideas and liked my reasoning about life. I knew within a short time that he was the one for me, and then he introduced me to his father. And this is where the story gets good.
I met a strong, hard working man with a quick smile and an even quicker laugh. We joked, we teased, we laughed, we clicked. This man got me. And more than that we talked about everything under the sun. He asked me my opinion and why. He didn't let me get ever away without explaining my rationale thoroughly. Every time I went to visit, we'd end up sitting around the kitchen table until all hours of the night ... husband, wife, son and me. We talked about philosophy. We talked about religion. We talked about feminism and women's rights which really meant family's rights. He never laughed at my ideas. We didn't always agree, but we never stopped talking. Then he started involving the family pastor, and that made it even more fun. I had to stay sharp, stay focused. I didn't want to let him down. I learned so much during these talks; it honed my thought process, helped me see the error of some of my previous ideas and strengthened my resolve on others. He treated me like my thoughts on God and life mattered. Even now, almost 25 years later, he still treats me that way. And I am blessed for it. He called me daughter when he introduced me to people, long before it was settled, because in his mind it was already a done deal.
I love you. And a thousand years from now, I will still love you. Long after we are both dust, forgotten afterthoughts on the genealogy chart, I will still love you. And we will forever be able to talk long into the night.