Monday, February 6, 2012

on marriage: a couple of misfits

Last Minute Whisper
click photo for source
Amber and Seth Haines started a Monday series on marriage, penning letters about the grit and the grace of it all.  this week's topic is "opposites attract."

To My Stag,

we were young in our story.  on a date.  when that woman came into that tiny dinner theater to ask me in a hushed voice, below the crooning on stage, if i might step outside, please.

i followed, mechanical, and stood in a rotunda that turned carousel as she frowned explanation:  family had come to fetch me.  had come with news that my Paw Paw, that man who’d loved me like a Daddy ought, had breathed his last.  had snuck to the other side of the veil in the middle of a Frank Sinatra impersonation, for crying out loud.

and cry out loud i did – only on the inside.  though my face was flat as stone, sirens wailed within as we drove to hospital in no real hurry, and they would not fall quiet even in the silence of my living room, where we sat, late and awkward, with
not enough knowing each other  done yet to do the grief dance gracefully.

those stiff movements are etched into memory on my skin.  how you pulled my cheek to your shoulder, expecting me to wilt.  how i left it there, like a dead fish handshake, because you expected me to.

how i hated, in that moment, all that you were and were not.  not the mama who’d taught me to busybody with caretaking and hurry through the hurt.  not the friend who would have let me sprinkle sarcasm like pixie dust and play in neverland, unawares.

we’ve spent a lot of time in this marriage with you waiting for me to cry proper,
like a real girl.
we’ve spent an equal amount with me trying to see those man-hands of yours open to uplift,
not to crush.

born on the wrong side of the garden, we don’t know how to see each other so very naked –  OPPOSITE!  scribbled on every inch of anatomy, within and without – and not burn shame.

a couple of misfits.

like a new language learned through immersion, this marriage has been an exercise in forgetting the textbook things we’d learned about what Husband and Wife would be and learning instead to listen and listen and listen and finally hear -- in the click in my throat just before i really do need to cry, in the rhythm of your heartbeat when i’ve come, on my own accord, to rest there, in the crook of your arm -- the whispered vernacular that only the long-married learn to speak.

my Paw Paw, he used to say “at ‘tall,” with a tennessee T on the second word.  and if he were still here, i’d straddle the recliner arm to snuggle in beside him and sigh and confess:  that a handful of years and two kids who are handfuls in, i still sometimes feel like “i don’t know you at ‘tall.”

but i want to.

and oh, what grace -- that in marriage, that’s enough.



  1. First off, I have to say that I love the phrase, "like a dead fish handshake."

    As for the rest - it's the listening, not the books, that make a REAL marriage. A real anything, relationship-wise. Keep doing it. God bless you and keep you, always.

  2. this reminds me of the poem by Madeline L'Engle she writes at least in her the Irrational Season, that I love so much because it reminds me of my husband - - the first line is "You are still new, my love. I do not know you..." oh, I love it. The mystery of it all {even if at times it makes me feel crazy :) }

  3. wow. what an amazing read! too many great phrases to state them all here, but what a thoroughly delightful telling. rich.
    thanks for sharing your story!

  4. Good grief.
    Write me letters every day, because you write a language that makes me understand.

  5. Oh my gracious, KeLi. Whoa. Gorgeous. And Honest. And yes.

    Letters are better than journals sometimes.

  6. we're all just misfits, aren't we? making our way towards the banquet hall... beautiful, sweet keLi.

  7. Incredible.

    I love that you are real.

    a misfit