As soon as the presents were opened, breakfast complete, Julie and I honored the Xmas holiday by going to a movie; before Noon, the theater was packed. No wonder distributors make such a fuss over films opening Christmas Day. Clearly a tradition enjoyed by not just the Jews, but those who favor an outing or simply a less traditional day.
We saw “It’s Complicated.” Always happy to watch Meryl Streep work her magic. Lighter weight films are preferable on a holiday, no need to be immersed in existential struggles or conflicts.
To my surprise, the story is as existential as they come. What does it mean to be married? To be in a loving partnership that never lives up to its promise. To be left behind. To make choices that impact so severely and forever those we love most. That’s what this so-called comedy was about and it hit me hard. Hard for me to hold back tears at several scenes and, once out of sight of my daughter, the faucet blew. I loved my husband dearly from the first moment I met him, sometimes unexpectedly and often irrationally, but love him I did, and he loved me, although our relationship was often tenuous and painful. Not so much opposites attract, as our values were on the same page, but two people who approach life differently and seek different outcomes. What we had in common was our children, our community, our mutual respect and a lovely group of friends. It should have been enough.
His loss was devastating to me. I have found it exceedingly hard to transfer affection and thus have been denied [or denied myself] romance for most of a decade. [Although present me with an architect with the humor of Steve Martin and I'm there.] I still find myself reaching for the phone to call him after I’ve spoken to one of the girls as he was, despite his frequent absences, a co-parent. No one loved our children more nor shared the same concerns as we. I often complained that I was a single parent, and then the reality set in. He’s not here.
Unlike the characters of the film, there is no possibility of communication. No chance for reconciliation. No apologies. No connection whatsoever. I find myself mourning as fully now as I did five years ago, August, when Rusty died and closed the door behind our lives so tightly and so fiercely, as if a vault. Only the memories remain and these grow dim with age.
Sometimes it is so terribly hard to live in the present when we long so profoundly for those of the past. I indulge myself in these moments of sadness infrequently and without remorse, because to live in the hearts of those left behind is to live forever. A psalm. The words imprinted on my mother’s headstone. Gone 33 years and even now, now and then, I wish I might chat with her as well.
Sometimes I so deeply wish I might go back into my past and start again. Impossible of course. The stuff only of movies and fantasy fiction. And then I think: what exactly would I go back to? And would I want to live through these losses all over again? Better to keep moving forward. Stopping only occasionally to remember, to weep, to mourn, to reflect, and to smile in gratitude for the time we had.
That’s all there is. That's all there ever was.