Weird. I was brushing my teeth this morning and the presence of Marian was incredibly palpable. I’m not one to usually get these kinds of “visitations.” Usually it’s my mother or even my sister who have them. But this morning, a discernible flash of Marian was there.
She was our next door neighbor in Toledo, Ohio. She had three sons, two of whom had muscular dystrophy and died before they reached manhood. She was married to a man who was mean and strict and hateful. Her middle son with muscular dystrophy was my friend and we would spend long hours together on his front porch, me sitting on the porch railing, him in his wheelchair. He swore a lot and smoked way too many cigarettes. I would sometimes need to empty his pee bottle in his backyard which required a terribly endless walk.
When I went to college, I received a letter from Marian. I remember feeling really odd that she had written me at all. I remembered her as kindly and gentle, but didn’t really know her. Her letter was wistful as I recall. I believe she commented on it raining outside her kitchen window. I also remember her handwriting— a beautiful, practiced, looping cursive. I know I found it odd at the time, her writing me a letter. I’m sure I made some mockery of it with my new friends. I never wrote her back.
Several years after I graduated college (or was it before?), my mother informed me that Marian had a heart attack. She was on the floor of her living room in some pain while her husband was reading the newspaper. Apparently a family member had come over to visit and discovered the situation. The family member was distraught, screaming, “Call an ambulance!” and her husband answered, “Why? She’s going to die anyways.” She did. A week later, his mistress moved into the house.
So here in my bathroom while I am brushing my teeth very, very early in the morning, is Marian’s energy. Strange. I last talked with her almost 50 years ago. Perhaps she has come to remind me that I owe her a letter.
Please forgive the huge delay in getting back to you.
I think at long last I finally understand the wistfulness of your letter and perhaps even the reason that you wrote me. I finally understand your feeling of entrapment and powerlessness. It pains me to remember that you felt there was little opportunity for you to escape the care of your two sick children or the abuse of your husband. There have been times that I have felt trapped too, that I have experienced the challenging complexities of compassion and responsibility, but I have also known the powerful (sometimes bittersweet) taste of release.
I was shocked at feeling your presence this morning, but happy that it came. Though the earth has long since consumed your flesh and bones, know that I hold a remnant of your tender humanity.
Now I sound wistful.
Tommy’s old friend