Over the course of a fifty year friendship, some of which years were even spent married to each other, there will be times, inevitably, when you wish you were free of that relationship. TImes of such anger and frustration , such rage and such disappointment, that you feel you cannot endure the presence of that particular friend in your life one more moment….times when you wish you were free of the commitment you so obviously have made and silently, and not so silently, promised to keep.
If we are ever to understand the concept of murdering another human, it would have to come somewhere in the middle of a 50-year friendship: it requires such passion, both the loving and hating kinds, to endure over decades. It is through such relationships that we understand our complex and common humanity. Such relationships are a blessing and a curse, sometimes both in the same moment.
Well, today marks the one year anniversary of the death of such a friend for me, and i am here to tell you, to write you, that there is no freedom, even after death. Because i am as tied to him, to dear Paul, as I ever was, by my memories, my caring, my sad missing and my deep yearning to simply have him in the same room with me. A year ago today, i was in New York City, watching as he passed away in the arms of his partner of twenty years, Stephen. Actually i was in my stark hotel room on the Upper West Side when Paul finally passed, but the phone call from Stephen came shortly thereafter, at 4:57 A.M. I was sort of sleeping, as i had difficulty doing my last days there by Pauls side, but the cold water of Stephen’s “He’s gone” sharply woke me. I honestly believe from that point on i was numb to the reality of Paul’s death until now, a year later.
For it is now, a year gone by with me safe in the arms of my husband Peter, that I am feeling the absolute dreadful truth: Paul is truly gone. It is a feeling like no other I have ever felt, and it is miserable. Scorching, sharp, breathtaking and ….sadder than sad. I cannot stop crying. And been unable to stop crying for the several days approaching this anniversary. It is a feeling of such despair, that I am unfamiliar with how to deal. I never mourned my father when he died, as I was a mere 16 years old and knew not how to, and my mothers death a decade ago? Well, i do not recall feeling like this. Maybe I have stored all this grief.
I equate it with the pain i felt and feel at the death of some dear doggies, but i feel almost foolish mentioning that. Aren’t we supposed to love humans more than pets? I know….i know .
Because Paul loved me with a purity and devotion of an animal, and i was tied to him in the same way. Who can explain it? Karma? Fate? Soul mates? “Meant to be” stuff? And i loved and love him the same.
He was the wallpaper of my life for 5 decades, since we first met snd fell in love in grad school at the University of Minnesota.. I became an adult with him. I suffered the pains and joys of those years of personal growth with him. And it was because of him that i achieved much of that growth. He was my gardener, my keeper, my head, my sovereign (as Kate says in Taming of the Shrew)…he tended and attended me. He stayed by my side ,even when we were forced by time and necessity to flee from each other. He had to grow his way, i had to grow mine. But we magically stayed devoted to each other.
He would knock and i would answer, and vice versa. Always. Unfailingly. Dependably.
I even introduced him to his partner Stephen in the hopes of bringing him the happiness i was finding with Peter. Paul and i took care of each other, great care. Loving care.
And he is so very gone now, but i feel no freedom from this pain of missing him.
It is a deep, dark, small but heavy pool of black ink, my feelings, and i have never dipped my toe into such a pool before. It is relentless and it stains me.
And all i can do is let it be.
The very words he said to me when he asked me to be his wife a lifetime ago: Let it be.
This? This is hard to let be.
But let it be i of course must.
Paul’s stain on me should never wash away because he mattered.