Please welcome Rebecca Tsaros Dickson to my blog. Her stories (both fiction and nonfiction) are full of raw emotion and honesty. She is one of my role models when it comes to ‘writing raw.’ I’m blown away by the beauty of her writing. I know you will be, also.
YOU JUST KNOW
“You just know.”
Each of us is responsible for our own happiness, or lack thereof. Some people get stuck in a symphony of sadness, and all the light in the world won’t lead them out. I can’t help. That’s a hard lesson for me.
Einstein said, “Nothing happens until something moves.” This feels like chess. Which is really too bad, because it should be about teamwork. For the first time in a long time, I don’t know what to do.
But I do know this: If I could steal that autumn back, if I could live it once more, I’d say goodbye before the moon visited Libra. I’d spend my birthday at the cemetery, in a little black dress and too much red lipstick – and my 6-inch patent leather heels. They leave marks in the grass, a trail to find my way out.
He died four years prior to her. Every night after he passed, she wrote him a note on the dry eraser board that hung in their first-floor bedroom. (I miss you so much it hurts.) The last door at the end of the hall. Yellow flowered wallpaper, white sheer curtains. The tiniest closets you’ve ever seen. For the warmest people I’d ever know.
I’m an incurable romantic. Some people cannot grasp the gift of hindsight. Admittedly, it is hard to focus on the goal rather than the struggle. But what if the path to enrichment is all in your head? What if finding something your soul requires only means staying playful and open, no matter how frightening?
I believe we can learn new ways to deal with old feelings. Then again, I am also the girl who kicks hornets’ nests for fun. Success, security, fulfillment – I’m brushing my fingertips across them all. Stretching and pulling, fighting for balance. Struggling to keep my mouth shut and listen. Just listen.
Once upon a time, about an hour ago, I remembered them. In the garden. He’s lugging a black hose up the hill, and she’s plucking green beans off the vine with crooked fingers. My 5-year-old self, in nothing but a pink one-piece bathing suit, dancing in the dirt between plants. I sneak cherry tomatoes – warm, sweet and juicy – right off the vine. The scarecrow will never tell. Forever reflective, he stares into places I cannot see. Eyes like the smooth calm of the buckets of rain water at dawn.
Those two people – they didn’t have kids. But they had me to watch. To drive to school. To dote on. A man and a woman who would have given their last breath for the other. Their love was ferocious, fearless, and much more fragile than they ever let on.
Years later, I learned he used to come home each night so drunk, he would literally fall into the door. Relatives speculated it was the war that changed him. Others said she still should have tossed him out on his ass decades prior.
By the time I came around, he was sober. Tinkering in the garage. Building me a new swing set. Dragging out the old kiddie pool to put under the clothes line (the best spot on the farm). Tending to plants – hundreds upon hundreds – and heaping scoops of maple walnut ice cream onto sugar cones.
Her part was canning fruits and vegetables from the massive garden. A freezer full of zucchini bread. Laundry on the line, even though they had a dryer. (The sheets smell better outside.) She sewed until the rheumatoid arthritis no longer allowed it. Then she did crossword puzzles, and obsessed over soap operas.
Upstairs, parquet floors shined with wax. A black walnut bedroom set untouched, a wedding gift (too nice for us to use every day). A walk-in closet full of furs, 1920s high heels, and outrageous hats.
In my teens, I asked: But when you met him, how did you know?
Oh, you know. You just know.
Even with his booming voice and scratchy chin? His weathered hands and outdated politics?
I love that man with everything I have.
But, did he know? I mean, how do you know you chose right?
There’s no bad reason to love someone. Do you love people only because they love you back?
Subtle dimensions are a mystery to me. Like how, the day after he died, we played his old Dean Martin albums. And I could have sworn he was sitting in his brown leather recliner, tapping his foot in time. Or how, when she passed away, it took me more than two weeks to realize she wouldn’t ever hold the baby still growing inside me.
Sixty-five years. That’s how long they were married.
Last year, I didn’t visit the cemetery on my birthday. Instead, I spent it with a man who made me feel like a gathering of all my lost fragments. Moments with him are still of reckoning and reintegration. I’m dancing in the garden, running between the sheets on the line, swaying in the hammock with a glass of lemonade.
I’m terrified he may never feel what my whole body has screamed since day one.
“But when you met him, how did you know?”
Oh, you just know.
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