(Part 2 of 3)
Whispering to Martha
On August 23, 1974, you made a promise to me. You promised to take me, to have me and to hold me from that day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love me and to cherish me, until death do us part.
For thirty-six years, you have never broken that promise. Not once. No matter what I did, or what I did not do but should have done.
It was easy to have me and to hold me for the better, but you had me and held me for the worse as well. A lot of worse. Without thought for your own well-being, but for mine. When you came to Family Week at the alcohol treatment center you said, “I thought I was here to help you. If I had known it was to help me, I would not have come.”
And that broke my heart when I realized how badly I had broken your heart. How I had ignored your needs and wants for my own. You were always, always giving your Self away but never, ever taking anything for your Self in return.
But it was those two broken hearts, yours and mine together, that gave me the will and the strength to recover—so that, for the first time, I might give back some of the Self you always gave so freely to me.
I wanted to give you love, and respect, and comfort, I wanted to protect you from your fears—all the things I never knew how to give to anyone, including myself. Most of all, I wanted to restore the trust you gave me with your vow because, without it, anything I ever tried to give would be suspect, hollow, just another empty promise.
Twenty years later, I think I have regained your trust, and I think I have given you some of the things I promised to give: To take, to have, to hold, to love, and to cherish you.
God, how I have cherished you, only to hurt you one last time.
I picture two rocking chairs. There is one for each of us, and they are for reading, and laughing, and remembering, together. They are for our golden years, together, for watching the Creator in the mountains, in the trees, in the animals and the birds, in the clouds and the wind and the rain. They are for sharing our happiness, our contentment, and our affection—just the two of us, together, with both of our hearts and our minds finally at peace. After all the turbulence, finally tranquility.
Except I won’t be there with you, laughing and remembering and loving, together, in our two rocking chairs. I won’t be there with you, sharing a blanket on a chilly ninety-five-degree summer day when you have goose bumps. I won’t be there with you, a bitchy old bag, and a grumpy old fart enjoying every minute of our old age . . . together.
God, how that breaks my heart, thinking of you sitting there all by yourself, alone, with no one to rub your sore back for you, or to see your tears, or to see your smile, or to say, “I love you with all of my soul. I always have, and I always will.”
All because I had to smoke cigarettes until they killed me.
But you will have kept your promise, until death do us part, because you have never broken it. Not once. No matter what I did, or what I did not do but should have done.
And maybe, one night when you are sitting alone in your rocking chair, you will look up in the sky and see a skinny star with glasses and freckles, and you will hear a whisper on the wind,
“I love you, Martha, with all of my soul. I always have, and I always will.”
* * *
More than two years later, I still blubber like a fool at my own writing. I can't stand the thought of leaving Martha alone—and that thought is what makes the waiting so goddamn hard.