Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lady of the Dawn

My wife was a very, very private person so she would not like this, but many of you have asked about a memorial, so I will tell you something about the woman I spent 28 years with.

I know very little about her life before I met her. She mentioned vacations in Callao and her drunken father and tormenting brother. She was an orphan and knew nothing of her mother including health issues. She told me about her first time with a boy who turned gay and running naked along the train tracks after sex waving at the passengers.

She also told me brief stories of her previous love/boyfriend. A married man who had sex with this babysitter as his wife prepared to go out. A man who would use and abuse her and yet she stayed with him. I never met this guy, which was a good thing for both of us, because I had offered to have him eliminated if she wished. The first 5 years she was haunted by his thoughts.

We met on a blind date. I had been separated / divorced (I thought) for a few years when a person from work said there was a girl who wanted to meet me. I said a few friends would be at a local pub and they should come by. It was that casual.

Several friends, male and female, were sitting in a booth at Joe’s Inn when the pair entered and walked passed us, getting seats in the back of the room. Instinctively, I gather the group and joined them at their table. Another round of beers lead to a brief conversation. A few laughs and another round of beers. One by one the others left leaving a visibly tipsy girl in a summer dress and two strange men. Gauntly we offered her a ride home and the three of us delivered her to an apartment a block away from where I lived for the past three years. She climbed the stairway to the second story deck as we waited in the alley to insure her safety.

A week later I passed her in the hallway at work and mention a few friends would be at a local watering hole if she wished to join us.

As the group sat on the outside patio ordering rounds of drinks and laughing, this vision in a pastel blowing spring dress appeared with an apprehensive face. She had been wearing jeans so she must have gone home and changed. Sitting quietly she sat and listened to the stories passed around which she had never heard.

Another friend offered a ride, so I turned and asked if she would like to have dinner. We left the sunken patio at Poor Richards and returned to Joe’s Inn.

A table for two, a meal and drink order, and then the conversation that captured me followed. She spoke of her former relationship and the abuse. I was shocked and overwhelmed. I had never heard or thought of anything like this. I was angry yet very protective.
That’s when I realized I was a caretaker.

On the walk home she stopped me in the Virginia Museum parking lot and kissed me. A warm passionate kiss, but I did not know anything about this girl on a warm July night. We continued to walk and talk up the street where I lived. As we came to my house I pointed it out and she asked if she could come in. It was very innocent. I opened my “bachelor” pad to her, with nude paintings; stain glass penis window, and the music room. At the end of my tour I pointed out the bedroom. When I turned around she had dropped her spring dress and stood before me completely naked. A night of hot summer passion followed.

The next day she had to go to work at the newspaper, so she left, but she came back after getting off work. I was assembling a sofa and pushed her away. But I could not stop thinking about her.

So, as the story goes, we met again, more passion, and being so close to my house may access very easy.

After several months, she complained about her landlords who would enter her apartment at any time. Again I was enraged, so I offered my house.

And thus started 28 years of being together every day and every night.

Now Linda, who was her name, wanted to change some things around, but I did not mind. The music room became the bedroom with two bed stacked on top of each other. The living room moved two or three times.

But it was the kitchen, which surprised me.

One weekend I was away on a conference and when I returned I walked into the kitchen and ALL the cabinets were gone. They had been ripped off the walls and floor and thrown out into the backyard. She did not like them.

Another weekend and the entire house were painted white.

I accepted the changes.

The lady had passion for her beliefs.

She studied cooking and gathered receipts testing all the ingredients and cooking methods. She learned knitting from my mother and crochet from my grandmother. She worked at the greenhouse and brought home every kind of plant and greenery. She worked at the pet shop and brought home 13 fish tanks of every variety of species.

And she taught me to pay attention to nature. She showed me the flora and fauna. She could walk by a field of clover and find a four leaf one for me to put in my wallet. She would stop to exam robin’s egg or dig up moss off the sidewalk to take home.

Then she went landscaping.

I came home from work one day and found half of the front yard had all the grass removed down to the dirt. The next day the other side matched the dirt. Then holes were dug. Then the backyard was processed the same way with no grass or bushes or trees, just dirt and holes.

To keep the weeds out, black plastic covered the yard and was pinned down by an ingenious system of wire pins. She had mapped it out in her head.

The next year was mulch, timbers, digging, and sticks for trees. I’m sure the neighborhood thought we had gone nuts with this moonscape.

Then it started to grow being nurtured by constant water and care by this Mother Nature’s child. And I learned that digging in the dirt release stress and gave a sense of accomplishment that no office job could achieve.

And through the years the willows would dance, the beau-beaus (chipmunks) and peteies (squirrels) would run amok, as the goldfish swam in the ditch pond. The trees grew and provided shade and fruit for the creatures.

Several times a day, she would provide the yard with plates of peanut butter sandwiches cut into small pieces, orange juice, apples, and sunflower seed. She reveled in the return every spring of Gray Jays from Florida.

She was passionate about having her own space, so through the years, I was moved outside to Mansland for football and music while she continued in her projects. Add power tools and a Lowes credit card and construction began. Nooks and crannies is how she explained the additional rooms nailed with two by fours and wallboard.

We became a couple of separate people, but I empowered her dreams with whatever she wanted.

Art supplies, including books, easels, paints, pencils, pastels, brushes; sewing supplies, including 5 sewing machines, buttons, books, instructional DVDs, pins, needles, threads, and material; growing supplies, including a yard and all the mulch and greenery my paycheck could provide, cooking supplies, including bread maker, blenders, every size and shape of bowl, plate, fork, and pan; and pet supplies; including fish, ferrets, cats, chipmunks, squirrels, and a dog.

Six years ago I received a call from St. Mary’s Hospital saying she was in the emergency room. An endless trip to the hospital discovered a heart attack. She was helpless in the intensive care unit with tubes and monitors.

After a week and months of rehab, her slowing motion tuned up and she seemed better. A new bike and walking every night seemed to help.

But the bike brought a mugging and a late morning walk brought a shooting, so she retired to the home. She covered the windows and watched DVDs and read books.

Vampires, magic, witches, sewing, knitting, and cooking took her attention. She was happy watching 8-year series of “Charmed” and “True Blood”. Even with glasses, she read endlessly.

Her schedule would be slow in the morning, watching television and drinking coffee. By noon, she would start on the colas, watching “The View”, “Jeopardy”, and then soap operas on Channel 8. “General Hospital” was her favorite. During this time there was planting, knitting, writing notes, and cooking. She enjoyed her own space.

Her projects included knitting scarf’s and hats for the homeless, caps for newborns, and lap blankets for amputees of the wars. She cared.

Some days she would take a nap in the afternoon, and then stay up all evening. Other nights she tried to sleep on a regular schedule, but there was always the reminder if she had taken her heart pills.

So July 4, she rolled over on the floor and it was too late.

I keep looking for her to walk down the path, but she does not come. I’ll keep feeding the Gray Jays, peteies, beau-beaus, and bunnies in the yard.

Rest well my Lady of the Dawn.

Lady of the Dawn,
you opened up my sleeping eyes,
I never knew that I was born.

Well. I like you for your body,
but I love 'cause you're wise,
I am your prisoner,
Oh my Lady of the Dawn.

You are the dealer,
In this strange, uncertain game,
Take my cards and deal again,
I can feel my life is changing.

Now you taught me how to learn,
Teach me to earn
The love you give to me,
The love you give to me.

Lady of the Dawn,
you opened up my sleeping eyes,
I never knew that I was born.
Well. I like you for your body,
but I love 'cause you're wise,
I am your prisoner,
Oh my Lady of the Dawn.

I was waiting
In the darkness of the night,
Only now I see the light
Softly shining in the silence.

If you really hold the key,
Turn it for me,
And help me understand,
And help me understand.

Lady of the Dawn,
you opened up my sleeping eyes,
I never knew that I was born.
Well. I like you for your body,
but I love 'cause you're wise,
I am your prisoner,
Oh my Lady of the Dawn.


Art said...

Thanks for this, Cliff. Life is so very complicated. call me or send me your phone number (I am not organized when it comes to phone numbers) and I will call you.


TripleG said...

Yours was the kind of honest and true memorial you never hear at standardized funerals. I yam what I yam, said Popeye, and what each of our stories really is should be what's told, not airy references to suddenly engaged supernatural beings, or idealizations.
From your telling, we can all understand why she withdrew from a world that had abused her beyond endurance. You, however, gave her life dignity.

Rus Wornom said...

Good words from Gregg -- heed them and know you have done well, and all for the love of a good woman.

Start tossing -- I am!

Jim said...

Clyph, I am late to this saga. After your letter to Linda today (and now I know why you wrote this today). I have so many emotions and thoughts swirling around after reading this entry that I can really find what to say. I am off to search for the other pieces you have written for/about her. Burd