It’s been a while since I’ve been here. I decided to crack the door a bit and inspect the remnants of a place I walked away from a few years ago. Honestly, I’m here because Jane insisted I do this. She’s learning all about “blogs” at school, and now that she’s the google chromebook pro, she keeps asking, “WHEN are you going to write on your blog again? Blogs are cool.”
Bless her sweet nine year old heart. They’re really not. And I can’t tell her why I stopped writing here because she’s too little to hear that stuff. Because I was tired. Because my life wasn’t good and I couldn’t find the energy to string words together for fun. But life is better. Stringing together words doesn’t seem as silly as it once did. So I’ll dust off this little corner of the internets and see if I remember how to do this.
Instead of writing about me, I thought I’d write about my great-great Aunt Lib.
The oldest of a large hillbilly family from Tennessee, Lib ventured into life knowing two things:
- She wouldn’t be a stupid hillbilly.
- She wouldn’t have kids.
When she was growing up, she would cry when she found out her mother was pregnant again. Being the oldest of the brood, child raising fell heavily on her shoulders and likely influenced her “no children” stance. She liked to pick up quartz crystals off the ground and carry them in her pockets, pretending they were diamonds. She didn’t like being poor.
As an older woman, Lib always told every young woman who would listen (allegedly, because obvs, I wasn’t there), “Marry the one who loves you, not the one you love.”
She wasn’t wrong.
Her marriage to “Uncle Billy” had been a rough one. He was a tortured artist of sorts, and had an open affair with a beautiful Cuban. He was notoriously serious, and apparently not much fun. It’s one thing to live with a human version of a wet blanket, but when you add in infidelity the plus sides evaporate completely.
One time she packed her bags, went to Florida, and ran a boarding house until Billy convinced her to come back to him. I wonder how often she regretted that decision. I wonder how often she looked back on that tiny pocket of her life by the ocean, where she was free of him, and free to be herself. I wonder if it filled her with wistful sadness that she didn’t hang on to it. Or maybe she was miserable and missed him.
In his later life Billy shot himself with deliberate plans for her to find his body (although he did make the effort of spreading newspaper underneath himself to reduce cleanup).
Lib’s love life was the envy of no one.
One could assume, based on the marital facts, that Lib was a bit of a pushover. A wuss. A beat down woman because she didn’t leave.
But, she was no pushover. She was basically hell on wheels. She touted Emily Post, but also took the liberty of blacking out the parts of the Bible she didn’t care for, literally, with a Sharpie. I once asked my mom if she thought of Lib as a grandmother and she said, “No, she was too scary.”
Despite all that backbone.
She stayed and preached to any woman who would listen, “Marry the one who loves you, not the one you love.”
And that’s how she’s remembered.
I get a little overwhelmed by the sheer waste of it. She had an entire life and devoted it to a marriage that left her scarred and angry and if that statement is any idicator, more than a little bitter.
What a waste. What could have been. What could she have seen and felt and accomplished otherwise? What hidden attic rooms in her life sat under dust, filled with gorgeous windows and comfortable furniture, never used. Never experienced.
What a terrible bookend to a lifetime of marriage.
But what was her definition of love?
We imagine true love to be fun, and happy, and affectionate. We imagine that it will make us feel good more often than it makes us feel bad. We imagine someone who thinks of us often, remembers flowers. We imagine someone we want in bed, and someone who wants us back.
And for some people, that is love. That is their experience, if not all the time, most of the time.
But not for some of us.
I would imagine that Lib, the woman who felt it was her right to dictate to God where he’d messed up on that whole “divine inspiration” thing with her Sharpie pen and could filet a human with her double edged tongue, would have said, “Love is not being an asshole.”
And at the end of the day, that’s all we can do for each other. For our spouses, for our children, for our friends. We can try to lean hard into the better angels of our nature. We can also remember that if we find that little boarding house by the sea, where life is good and we are free, that we should stay there. Going backwards and shifting into reverse is never the right answer.
She was right about a lot. She was wrong about a lot.
And so are we.
And I thought she needed to be remembered.