Friday, March 6, 2015

Flying Dreams

John dreams about flying. The closest he got as a child was a glider ride. For a while he was a skier. In college, he got into skydiving. Also there was surfing. Then he took up sailing. Now he is excited about planes, building a flight simulator computer and listening to flying podcasts and studying to get his pilot's license. He is a craftsman, an engineer, an intellectual and an artist. He is a father.

He is a husband.

We fell in love because of music, whiskey, and absurdity. We stayed together because the other person was the better person, the wiser person, the cooler person, the person who makes us who we want to be.

I remember crying one morning, fifteen years ago, because I love him so much. I didn't know my heart could hold so much. Two children later, I am still finding room.

What do we sign up for in a relationship? Do we acknowledge the work of love, the difference between a parallel path and one entwined?

There was a time when he was very depressed, at sea in the transition between a world constructed of other people's promises and the life we create for ourselves, when he was selling coffee or cameras, and I carried him. I asked myself, am I staying because I have to, or because I choose to? Do I need this, or do I want it? When I had the answers, I knew I could marry him. And so I did. 

Then I was depressed, in a job I hated, knowing what I needed to do and not sure what would happen to my life if I did it. He carried me. 

When I was lost in the dark, and couldn't see the path forward, when Wallace was little and there was no money and no work, all I could do was trust, white-knuckled, teeth-clenching trust. And he was right, like he always is. Everything was okay.

The first night Lysander had to sleep without me, without nursing, John held him, fed him from a bottle the milk a friend had donated. There wasn't enough. Everyone was hungry, tired, scared. I didn't know.

The first weekend I was in the hospital, one of John's best friends came to stay with him, to play guitar with him and hold him while I he cried. I didn't know.

I said I wanted to sail the boat to North Carolina. He said "okay." I said I wanted to turn around and go home. He said, "okay."

One afternoon I awoke in a bed in Mercy Hospital, my lungs full of fluid, so weak I could hardly walk and so sick I could barely find myself, and he was there, sitting at the foot of the bed, reading a book. I cried then, too.

In the forty days I was in the hospital in Boston, he repaired, repainted, re-organized, deep-cleaned, discarded, and generally overhauled our home. All I had to do was stay alive.

When I didn't want to be touched, when I wondered if I would ever want anyone to touch me again, he waited, as near and as far as I needed him to be.

Being the caregiver seems much harder than being the patient. The patient has to do the work of illness, but the caregiver has to watch the work of illness and feel powerless.

This morning it was negative two degrees Fahrenheit, and he left for the site, over an hour away, to stand on a hill in the wind and raise a frame. There was a winter when he would drive an hour every morning, pilot a Whaler through the frozen spray of Casco Bay to shovel off a roof, and then spend the day standing on it and working. He does this for us, for me, for the kids, and for his dreams. Dreams of flying, of winters in the tropics, of warm oceans.

Sometimes his wings are curled around me. Sometimes they carry me at thirty thousand feet. Sometimes we are just skimming the ground. Always, he has had them. This is for the man who can fly, the steady hand on the tiller, the reader of wind.

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