Abstaining from traditional love
There it sits on the table, my grandfather’s death certificate. Not much information contained therein – born in Woody Creek, 1891, and died in Woody Creek, 1958, both events occurring about a quarter-mile apart.There was a lot of living in those 67 years, I reckon, but how would we ever know unless we knew him. He died in the middle of the night while the rest of my parent’s house slept, his breath stilled by the insidious spread of terminal cancer.An acquaintance and I stood in the cool breeze of an autumn evening, talking on the deserted porch of an old ranch house. His wife of 20-some years came to check on us and one could feel the electricity between them, even in that brief moment. “Do you love your wife?” I asked, rather boldly. “Yes, I love her deeply,” was the reply as he stared out over the fading hayfields and pondered the richness of what he’d just said. “I wish I could empathize,” was my foremost thought, as I turned and walked inside.Granddad and his wife, Grace, were a hot item back in the day, and from old pictures, it is reasonably clear they were very much in love. My grandmother died a very young woman, leaving my grandfather with four kids to finish raising and an insistent depression that was difficult for him to manage.When we’re very young, our existence seems to parallel eternity, but soon enough, we must acknowledge our mortality. We sat on a large rock, holding hands and watching the clear, rippling waters of the Arkansas dance around us, wanting to encircle each other with the passions of a lifetime and make our connection irreversible, but we held back. First, we needed to relive the intervening years, decades spent apart. My divorces and her own challenges. Where did we leave off – in our 20s – so young and passionately in love, yet determined to travel our own paths, eventually to see them converge here in a strange town, on a batholith of impressive proportions. “Do you think, with just a bit of luck, we could have made a go of it?” she asked. “I don’t know, but right now, I wish we’d tried,” was the reply. “You’re the one who broke it off,” she offered. Of course I was; I always do.As a young boy, I spent my summers with Gramps, learning to rope and ride, to drive tractors, and how to get along in a man’s world. He had a girlfriend in town he spent Saturday nights with, and my tender and unseasoned friend Norma and I, would sometimes spend a portion of our weekend with them, drinking Cokes to their mixed drinks and dancing it up at the old Eagles Club.A friend says, “Why don’t you get off the younger women and find someone you can at least talk to?” “Do you have meaningful conversations with your wife?” I ask. “Not much anymore, but you know what I mean.” “No, I don’t know what you mean. I can have conversations with almost anyone, regardless of age,” I say, adding, “I may be single, but even married, you appear lonely.”For Granddad, his wife’s death was a loss that ran very deep, but it was not the end of romance. Divorce and heartbreak hurt, too, whether you welcome or fight them, but the mind’s ability to heal, to overcome the disappointment, is incredible and nothing can put an end to the romance in me, either. I have come to realize, with some relief, that I will never have the traditional home and family, simply because I do not find that to be a necessity. But, yes, I have also come to understand that I can love very deeply. And, I suppose in the end, my death certificate won’t read much differently from my grandfather’s.Tony Vagneur writes here every Saturday and welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
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