Dear E,

In preparing to discuss Paul with G, I have reread much of our email correspondence.  I want you to know how much it helped me then, and how much it helps me now.

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend…
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you

Because I knew you

I have been changed for good

And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the things I’ve done, you blame me for

But then, I guess we know
There’s blame to share

And none of it seems to matter anymore

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes the sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood

Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a bird
In the wood

Who can say if I’ve been
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better

And because I knew you…

Because I knew you…

Because I knew you…
I have been changed for good…

They Disappoint, They Leave a Mess, They Die but They Don’t

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My daughter will be home for a time during her school holidays, and she has asked that we openly discuss her father, and all that happened between us.

Her visit is not lengthy – about three weeks sandwiched in between the end of classes and her departure for a summer internship in Europe.

I have shared with you, Dear Reader, the best and worst of Paul; you’ve seen him demonized and humanized as I tried to process his life, and our life together.

I begin in conflicted deficit; this is Paul’s daughter – and the father daughter bond, in my heart, is sacrosanct.  But she deserves the whole truth, and I have never lied to her, or any of my children, about anyone or anything, and I know I cannot start now.  She is no longer a child, but that fact does nothing to lessen the desire I feel to protect her.

I do not want to put her on a plane, for what should be the best summer of her life so far, emotionally burdened by the details of her mother’s sexual awakening, the worst of her father, and the disintegration of her parents marriage. The timing doesn’t feel right to me, but she isn’t allowing me to be fair; she wants, and needs, answers.

For now, she knows and understands that I have always been honest with her, but I have told her only what her age and emotional maturity would allow her to process.  Her overwhelming desire to know more is fairly recent, but it has become a driving force in her life, and I know only full disclosure – or something close to it, will appease her heart and mind now.

John suggested that we discuss my sexual awakening, and his coming into my life, with her together, and when she has absorbed all of that, I should speak to her about Paul alone.  It is a sound, responsible plan.

But how do I tell her what Paul did to me?  How do I tell her that despite my knowing and understanding he was sick – and therefore not wholly responsible for his behaviour and actions, our marriage effectively ended the night he raped me?

My oldest sons know – they were too old to protect completely while everything was happening, but full disclosure so close to the moment was much simpler.  And they had a chance to confront their father directly, which they did, before he died.  She will never have that chance.   And Paul will forever be denied the opportunity to soothe her as he did with our sons.  There will be no redemption here, no salvation.

I did not get off Scot-free; my fairy tale ending came at a terrible price.  I hurt the people I love most in this world; it was arrogant of me to believe I could protect them, always.  No one is alone, everything we do affects the lives of other people, and today I am acutely aware of this fact.

Yet even with all the regret, pain and devastation

If I had it all to do over, I would do no differently.

I just hope my daughter doesn’t ask me if I would; I won’t lie to her, but I don’t want to divulge that truth.

I’m not ready for her to know me that well …

but even as I write these words, my heart is telling me that she already does.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dissonant Notes

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Several years ago, I had a friend who suggested my relationship with John was new – “he is just getting started with you,” was the term she used to indicate our relationship would not always be romantic, sexually alive, and free from internal strife – that eventually John would prove himself to be no different from any ordinary man.  This friend, well-meaning though I believe she was, didn’t understand; she tried to, but there was a disconnect somewhere between my words and her comprehension of my relationship with John …

I knew John then as I know him now, as I have known him for a thousand years … as I will always know him.

Our relationship was formed between our true selves, our sexual selves.  There was never any pretense – I was always complicated, masochistic, instinctively aware Libby; and he was always dominant, honorable, wise and sadistic John.  We didn’t hide ourselves, or our desires, from each other, ever.

I don’t know how many of my readers hoped-against-hope that I would remain married to Paul, but I know a fair few did.  Looking back, I recognize a time when I did.  That prison was safe, and even as I longed for freedom from a man I never really knew, I’ll admit that I was somewhat afraid to step forward when the door was unlocked.

But I wasn’t afraid of John, or what might happen to us.  I knew what would happen; I would step into the role I was born to play.  I would be part of a love and a life I instinctively knew, with a man I understood as the moon understands the stars.

… To live our lives as we truly are takes courage, even when we understand the beauty and wisdom in doing so.

We condition ourselves not to expect fairy tale endings because we so seldom follow our intuition and inclination to happily ever after. We couple and mate, for myriad reasons, with people we cannot share our inner-most selves with, with people whose inner-most selves we will never know or understand.

Now, several years later, and far removed from “just getting started,” there is no discord in our home; there is no strife, or stress, because there was never any subterfuge -and there was never a masquerade.

Sexually, John has given me the world – but it was the world I expected to receive.  It has not been devoid of adventure, and I would not have wanted it to have been, but even the new is orchestrated within his character, a character I well know and recognize.  I want to be overwhelmed, to be taken and used for his pleasure – I want to know him as the sadist he is, and I always have.

Cacophony only resonates throughout our lives when we are unable to hear the drum beat of our lover’s desire.

 

 

A Time and a Place

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In the beginning, we had safewords – at his insistence, but I did not use them …

except for the night we spent in the cottage at Gig Harbor.

and that night they didn’t work; he knew I using them to manipulate and control – to stop the pain without experiencing it, or connecting to it.  To stop it before allowing it to take me deep inside myself to that place of understanding and enlightenment – that place I so needed to be.

So much had happened; Paul was sick, which I took responsibility for – at that time I assigned blame to myself.  I was often sad and overwhelmed, and I alleviated the stress and pain through self-harm, and some of what I did to myself was dangerous.

I didn’t want an intense spanking that night – I wanted to play, and to make love, but I didn’t want the emotional aftermath, or the deep, soul bearing intimacy that follows the kind of spanking John was determined to give me.

I remember his strength and confidence, and his absolute resolve as he took me on that journey.  I felt no distress when my safewords failed – on the contrary, I felt a depth of security I had never known before.

I became angry, at first – to which John said, “feel your anger.  A lot has happened to you that should make you angry; be mad, be furious even – just feel it.”

And when the anger gave way to self – deprecation, and shame for all I had done, John spanked harder – ignoring my screams.  I had already abandoned all hope of my safewords working, and had resorted to pleading, which seemed to fall on deaf ears.

 

When he finally spoke, he said, “None of what has happened means you are less than you have ever been; you were so young when you promised Paul forever – you were young and you were afraid; there is no shame in needing to be loved in ways that you innately understand.  The is no shame in your desire.”

And when I was sobbing, broken and in emotional and physical agony, he said …

“Libby, you are not in control here – you don’t have to be.  You don’t have to be strong, or bear the burden alone anymore.  And if you need to be hurt, I will hurt you – safely, in ways that can actually heal.”

There were tears in his eyes, and on his cheeks – he had heard my screams, and he had felt my pain. He had not sent me on a journey, he had gone with me.

The only time I ever used the safewords he insisted I have, he ignored them.

They were no longer needed.

 

 

 

 

 

Timeless

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Joye is dying, and she asked for me …

She looked into my eyes and spoke to my father.  She is not the first to find my father in my eyes,  but this poignant moment made me long for shelter – made me wish I could hide.

I see death every day.  I’ve seen it destroy brilliant minds and ravage bodies so perfect Greek Gods could not compare.  I’ve seen it rob wise men of their intellect, and reduce the strong to infantile weakness.  I’ve seen it arrive and depart without warning, or mercy.  I’ve known it to remain just out of reach, though it is longed for.  And I’ve seen it embraced like an old friend at the end of a long and somber journey …

But nothing prepared me for hearing Joye’s last words of love for my father.

When she was newly diagnosed, she took me to lunch and spoke candidly, as she knew she could.  Her sons did not know of her affair, and if her husband knew – as she suspects he must have, he  never confronted her.  I alone am that link to her past, and to a man she will always love more than life itself.

She was my touchstone when my life fell apart; I introduced her to John early on because I knew I’d find approval and understanding.   I told Joye what Paul did to me even before I told my own mother …

And years before, when my father died, we had comforted each other.  I cried with Joye at a time when my mother had forbidden my tears …

Occasionally my mind wanders to that night, now so long ago, when I found she and my father making love in front of the fire place in his library, but the confusion and pain and disappointment I felt then is gone; it has been replaced with a deep and abiding understanding.

I am grateful beyond measure they knew ethereal love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghosts of the Past

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When I graduated from high school, my parents hosted a party; it was a an elegant, lavish affair attended by friends and family – it was held two days after the ceremony in my mother’s garden.  Actually, the adults in attendance mingled in the garden, the graduates held court pool-side.  My parents gave me a red Ferrari, which was my second car; the first was a blue Mercedes 450SL, which I had received on my sixteenth birthday – that first car too had been given to me during the course of a tasteful yet lavish party.

A week after graduation, my parents and I attended Paul’s graduation party.  West Haven is a world apart from Greenwich.  Paul’s mother, who was an excellent cook, had worked for days preparing traditional Italian fare, and the small backyard was festive with table cloths and balloons in our school colors.  There were no white-gloved waiters, no five course dinner, no over-the-top gifts; just Paul’s family celebrating his accomplishment with him.  It was simple, but it was beautiful too.

Paul was so embarrassed when my parents accepted his mother’s invitation, and he was visibly nervous when we arrived.  My mother hugged and kissed him, my father shook his hand and then enveloped him in a warm embrace; I smiled at him with delight, but I was as nervous as he was.  The afternoon was warm, the food was delicious, and the stories told by Paul’s aunts and uncles were hilarious.

As the party wore on, and evening set in, my father took Paul aside and handed him an envelope – Paul’s graduation gift from my parents.  I didn’t find out what that envelope contained until later, because about that time Paul’s father arrived at the party.

He was filled with rage; drunk and foul-mouthed – angry because he hadn’t been invited to the party.  He hadn’t seen Paul in almost four years, and Paul hadn’t missed him.  He was an abusive parent, but even more so an abusive husband.

Paul’s family tried to placate his father, tried to soothe and calm, but it impossible; through tears, Paul asked my father to take me home.  The ride from West Haven to Greenwich was deadly silent.

I played the piano that night, for what must have been hours.  When my father came into my room to say good night, he asked me if I wanted to talk – and I did, but I didn’t know what to say, so he held me and said, “You and Paul come from different worlds, Libby.  If the differences were only financial, it wouldn’t matter, but you’ve seen today that it is far deeper than money.  He needs your friendship, but your life will always bewilder him; he needs your kindness, but never your love.  And I don’t want you ever to go to his house again – promise me.”

I looked up at my father – the wisest man I had ever known, and knew he was right.

“I promise.  What was in the envelope you gave to Paul?”

“I care about Paul, and he has incredible potential; your mother and I gave him a copy of the check we sent to Harvard – we will be paying Paul’s college tuition.”

The next morning, Paul came to the door during breakfast.  Martin, our butler, showed him into the dining room, and my mother gasped audibly when she saw him; he was a mess – still in the clothes from the party the night before, but they were torn; he had a black eye and it was obvious he hadn’t slept.

I got up to go to him, but my father said, “No, Elizabeth.”  Then he looked at my mother and asked her to take me and give them the room.

A few minutes later, my father came to me and told me he was going out with Paul, and not to worry, everything was going to be fine.

When he got home late that night, my father told me that Paul’s father had come back to the house after all of their family had gone home, and he had beaten Paul’s mother badly – she was in the hospital.  Paul had tried to stop his father, and this is why he had looked as he had when I saw him that morning – for trying to help his mother, Paul’s father had beaten him too.

I found out some time later that my father had paid the hospital bills for Paul’s mother, and had taken Paul to stay with my uncle Colin in Rhode Island.  Paul hadn’t wanted to stay with us because he told my father he couldn’t face me after all I had seen.

My father and I left for Italy a few days later, and Paul ended up spending the summer working for my family’s law firm’s Rhode Island office with my Uncle Colin.

When late August arrived, I move to New Haven and Paul moved to Cambridge; we never discussed what happened the night of his graduation party.  Not ever.

During my daughter’s spring break,  she was here and helping me go through some containers I had found stored in the very back, upper-most shelf of a storage closet in one of the hallways.  In one of the smaller boxes we found the Commencement program for my high school graduation, a hand written copy of my valedictory address, the cards I had been given by family members and special friends all neatly tied together with a silk ribbon – obviously my mother’s doing, and a few photos of the parties and ceremonies marking the occasion, including my party, and Paul’s.

I’ve never really known how much to tell my daughter about her father.  Her older brothers know almost everything, her younger brothers – far too young to understand what happened between Paul and I – have been spared most of the trauma, but my daughter was neither old enough for full discretionary disclosure, nor young enough to be spared all the pain and drama that enveloped our family during the events marking the last turbulent years of her father’s life.  I have always been completely honest with my children, about everything, but I’ve also taken a cautious approach, never giving them more than they could handle and process in the moment given their age and level of emotional maturity.

G’s relationship with her father became quite complicated prior to his death.  And today, in her memory, it remains so.  For all intents and purposes, John is her father; she calls him dad, she seeks his advice, hugs and kisses him good night when she is home, and he goes into the city and meets her for lunch – just the two of them, at least twice a month.  It is a beautiful relationship.

But that box containing what remains of Paul’s and my graduation left G questioning and wanting to understand her father, and why – why about many, many things.

She isn’t a child anymore, but I’m still not sure how much she is ready for.

West Haven is still a world apart from Greenwich.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning to Let Go

Yesterday was a long day – the kind of day that makes me consider an early retirement.  Not that I would actually do that, but I’ll admit that yesterday that false dream was somehow warm and real and comforting.

When I arrived home last night, dinner was waiting; seared sea scallops and a warm spinach salad with a light basil, lemon and shallot vinaigrette. It had a bit of bacon too, which I actually ate; I maintain I was too tired to object.  Dessert was fresh blackberries and raspberries macerated in sweet Marsala and Grand Marnier topped with a chiffonade of fresh basil and sage; it was a wonderful dinner.

After listening to my youngest sons practice the piano and violin, and getting them off to bed, I got into a hot bath and lost myself to the lovely strains of Mozart and Chopin for close to an hour.

Somewhere within my relaxing reverie, the events of the last six years began replaying themselves as if they were a waking dream; this happens in quiet moments now, especially when I’m tired or  have a realization of how peaceful and beautifully ordinary and deliriously happy my life has become.   Not a comparison of Then and Now – but perhaps, if I’m lucky, a final acceptance of all that has been.   And a way to forgive …

myself.

Paul’s youngest children call John, Dad.

It’s poignant; simultaneously wonderful and excruciatingly painful.

Thanksgiving is next Thursday; so many memories of people who are no longer here.  So many feelings connected to What Has Been.

I don’t know how it is that I can be more content, joyous and happy than I have ever been – and know also that to arrive here, the journey – hellish trip that it was – had to be …

and yet still wish it could have all been different somehow.  Regrets give way to wishes; am I really just naive, foolish  child?

Sometimes, I simply clear my mind and sit down at the piano and let the music flow from within me; lately, when I do this, No More, from Sondheim’s Into The Woods, comes pouring out of my soul.

Last week, as I was playing, my daughter came home for a surprise visit, and I heard her singing from behind me.  I didn’t stop playing, and she kept singing until the end …

So many tears.

 

No More

No more questions,
Please.
No more tests.
Comes the day you say, “What for?”
Please- no more.

They disappoint,
They leave a mess,
They die but they don’t…

What?

They disappoint
In turn, I fear.
Forgive, though, they won’t…

No more riddles.
No more jests.
No more curses you can’t undo,
Left by fathers you never knew.
No more quests.
No more feelings.
Time to shut the door.
Just- no more.

Running away- let’s do it,
Free from the ties that bind.
No more despair
Or burdens to bear
Out there in the yonder.

Running away- go to it.
Where did you have in mind?
Have to take care:
Unless there’s a “where,”
You’ll only be wandering blind.
Just more questions.
Different kind.

Where are we to go?
Where are we ever to go?

Running away- we’ll do it.
Why sit around, resigned?
Trouble is, son,
The farther you run,
The more you feel undefined
For what you’ve left undone
And, more, what you’ve left behind.

We disappoint,
We leave a mess,
We die but we don’t…

We disappoint
In turn, I guess.
Forget, though, we won’t…

Like father, like son.

No more giants
Waging war.
Can’t we just pursue out lives
With our children and our wives?
‘Till that happy day arrives,
How do you ignore
All the witches,
All the curses,
All the wolves, all the lies,
The false hopes, the goodbyes,
The reverses,
All the wondering what even worse is
Still in store?

All the children…
All the giants…

No more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Kitchen; a Metaphor

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I am back where I started; same house, old friends, legacy career in very familiar corridors …

I don’t remember this house ever changing as I was growing up.  Classically furnished, there really was no need.  The art work carefully selected, the trimmings reflective of my parents’ interests and passions; this house was perfect …

Before we moved in, I had the kitchen completely redone.  Why I focused on the kitchen was somewhat of a mystery to me – I don’t use a kitchen for its intended purpose, as everyone pointed out, but it felt right to start there …

I love it now, but I didn’t realize until the renovation was complete how much I had disliked it before.  It was classic – black and white, really beautiful, but sterile looking and feeling, altogether too bright, and perhaps even a little cold. Although it had all the latest appliances and fixtures, it had no discernible warmth and was so unlike every other room or space in the house. It was purely utilitarian.  It simply worked as it should.

It now has a fireplace, stone floors, rich mahogany cabinetry and hutches, marble counter tops, and an enormous grandfather clock next to an antique curio which holds china and crystal samples from the collections of both my grandmothers, my mother, and John’s mother; the samples are of the formal table settings each bride selected for her wedding and is situated next to her wedding photo – it is stunningly beautiful.

Gone is the tiny table in the corner where my parents’ household staff had afternoon tea.  The adjacent dining room, also once for staff, has been incorporated into the kitchen itself.  Today, the long table used for meals taken in the kitchen is more than a hundred years old – Tuscan; simple yet elegant, and we all enjoy it – staff and family alike. I we haven’t eaten dinner in the formal dining room since we  moved in …and probably won’t until Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving still demands tradition.  Still follows a careful script, still honors legacy, still gives a nod to what has been and always will be …

and in many ways – all the ways that matter, so do I.

 

 

Originally Blogged February 2010

Everything in nature is realized through interaction with its opposite. 

I found my exact sexual opposite and as a result I met myself.  I am more fully alive than I ever imagined possible. 

In terms of my story, I realized the Divine, the Heroic, and the Human. Of course Joyce also added the Return to Vico’s Division Of History, and there my understanding departs from that of the author; I may have come back to the familiar, but there is no Return.  I am forever altered.

Joyce was a keen study of the sexual element of human nature, even from the female perspective; Molly’s Soliloquy, from the novel Ulysses, resonates.  Penned at a time when women weren’t recognized as having sexual needs of their own,  Molly’s desires stand out as bold and unashamed and as relevant to her life and happiness as those of any man. 

I once had a waking dream of an encounter between myself, my father, and Joyce in the after life.  The stage was set by another, one who, at the time, thought me a bit less well read than I actually am – but I didn’t hold that against him.  It gave me great pleasure to recite Molly’s soliloquy from memory and leave him stunned for so often in our relationship I was the one left stunned …

Anna Livia’s monologue, ironically the final words of Finnegans Wake, which in turn lead back to its beginning, left me a bit unclear and fuzzy when I first read it.  Upon reflection, however, I came to realize that  Anna was so many things, most importantly the foundation upon which all was set; the beginning and the end.  Her life viewed, for much of the book, in terms of who she was to everyone other than herself.

“I never found time for Finnegans Wake myself …”

He was speaking in the place of my father, setting the stage for our after life encounter with Joyce, but, like my father, I’m sure he too had read Finnegans Wake. 

How else would he have recognized Anna in me? 

Counterpart

“For all your strength – and a will which simply knows no bounds; despite your indomitable spirit and never failing belief in yourself, you are imbued with an inherent and unmistakable vulnerability that draws me to you – makes me wants to protect and shelter you; to possess even your soul … and when I ponder the depth of your understanding,  which belies your sweet innocence; I am left dizzy and intoxicated. How could I not see you as the moon and stars?”  

Duality. 

Dichotomy.

It is within our sexual opposite that we are born.