"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

May 25, 2010

Of Women Who Matter

All of them.

I live in a country, and on a planet, where men degrade women, where societies develop to such an extent, using the encoded degradation of women, that many men raised within them fail to identify their parts in it. I know of dozens of theories attempting to explain the why, the how and the what for. Many seem valid; some appear flawed, however earnest.

I cannot really type to that, here and now.

I can only do my own part. I can write of two who matter, for me. One who matters because her strength has nothing to do with me, who loves me but does not carry me, who keeps her self intact; and one from whom I come.

I come from a family* of women, of old world, Southern European matriarchs. They live long, fruitful lives, and they often outlive their husbands. They gather for the seasons, for their holidays, and their holy days. They have buried men who loved them. They have buried daughters and sons. I bring my sons to these feast days, wishing they had the benefit of my history, that they could have heard these stories when the elder women of our tribe had less proximity to death, whom they feel immediately as the Hooded One. They gather, ancient women and their aging daughters, and tell the stories of our kin, our kind.

Womens' stories - the flaws in the men they loved, the quotidian triumphs, the enduring loves. The farm, the long hours walking there and back again, of wars and widows, of building homes (in flesh and wood) alongside their chosen men.

They tell of my grandmother, a story she'll sometimes tell herself. Of my grandfather - and how he waved to her that last day of his life. How she knew it meant his death, that way he turned around, and paused. How he hesitated.

He did die, this man I never knew, so many decades ago.

Leaving her with four daughters, and a son in a house they built with their own hands. My grandmother never remarried. I don't believe she ever took another man to her bed. Not out of piety. Not because he was irreplaceable. Because, as she said, she just still loved him. Her love, outlasting him.

He didn't just die. His medicines killed him. And the company came knocking. Offered her a paper to sign.

And a lot of money. For the time, a whole lot of money.

She did not take it. She refused.

"Blood money," she spat, tell the elder women. "I won't take it. Take your blood money and never, ever come back," she said.

If she took their money, she accepted his death. She did not accept his death. She would never agree to it, never concede it. Taking that money meant giving them license to kill him.

I come from these people. I come from this woman, from these women.

Women who chose their hardship because it meant their dignity.

I had a fighting chance, coming from women such as these. Not luck, that I found this woman who loves me, who "makes me do my best." I had preparation.

Some years ago, now, she gave birth to our second child (her firstborn). She left work, to raise him, to nurture him, to love him. A choice, willingly made. And when that time had ended, when she'd done that well, and long enough, she held nothing from me. "I want to work again," she said.

She did not ask. I had no right to give her permission. And she did not seek it. She wanted to work, to create, to do some thing which mattered to her.

But, we had a pact. An agreement. We'd long decided to live a simpler life, to raise our children on our terms, to raise them in spite of ourselves, to teach them to reach for their own independence.

I made it easy, I guess. Tired, used to twelve, thirteen, fourteen hour days, to the stupidity of management, I yielded my place, confident that home-dad would prove easier. I relented, in my own mind, to salvage my vanity; my sense of self - bound up in employment, in managing others, in handling dozens of problems and delivering in spite of them. Boss man, dependable.

Have I mentioned that I'm an asshole and that I make fools look sage?

She smiled. She did not warn me. She did not ease me into the task at hand.

She loves me, and I know I have no merit in that.

When I finally worked up the humility to apologize for five years of ignorance, for the stupidity of my assumptions about the length and breadth of her each and every day, about the work she did and the time she had at hand, she laid her hand on my forearm, clasped ever so lightly, with those delightful blue eyes slightly widened, and in a low voice said, "Next time, shut up first and listen."

* - on my mother's side


JRB said...

Ha! Very nice. Thank you.

Jack Crow said...

You are welcome.