Today we are talking about…REAL love. In the blurb for yesterday’s Freaky Friday I mentioned that before there was sexting there were letters…and that one of the greatest love stories of all time began just that way. Here is one example of that love…
When our two souls stand up erect and strong,
Face to face, silent, drawing nigh and nigher,
Until the lengthening wings break into fire
At either curved point,—what bitter wrong
Can the earth do to us, that we should not long
Be here contented? Think. In mounting higher,
The angels would press on us and aspire
To drop some golden orb of perfect song
Into our deep, dear silence. Let us stay
Rather on earth, Beloved,—where the unfit
Contrarious moods of men recoil away
And isolate pure spirits, and permit
A place to stand and love in for a day,
With darkness and the death-hour rounding it.
Sonnet 22 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
But this is just one example of REAL love…here is another…
June Carter wrote the lyrics about her relationship with Johnny Cash while driving around aimlessly one night, worried about his wildman ways – and aware that she couldn’t resist him. “There is no way to be in that kind of hell, no way to extinguish a flame that burns, burns, burns,” she wrote. Cash was involved in drugs and had a very volatile lifestyle. When she wrote this, both June and Johnny were married to other people, but they became singing partners and close friends. By 1967, Cash and Carter were single again and they got married in 1968. Johnny claimed that June saved his life by helping him get off drugs. June died in 2003 after 35 years of marriage to Johnny. He died, probably of a broken heart, less than four months later.
But those are examples of famous people…I want to tell you three REAL life stories…
I said that Johnny died of a broken heart less than 4 months after June’s death. But my own paternal grandparents beat that one hands down. My grandfather died less than a week after the death of his ‘Bertie.’ Back in the day when couples called one another by pet names like…Daddy and Mama…I was rarely around these down to earth farmers, who were horribly ashamed of the way that their son abandoned my mother and his children. But the handful of times I was, I remember the gentle way he treated her. And for the record…my grandparents were cousins…back in a time when such things were not the taboo it is today. They grew up together, loved and raised six children together, died and were buried together.
But that is not the only REAL love story in my family. My maternal great-grandmother, my Nanny, raised me. She had been a widow for over twenty years by the time I was born. And in all that time and to her death almost two decades later, no one can ever once remember her ‘dating.’ Growing up and as a young adult, I often felt that she was cold, prudish and sad. After her death, my aunt went through her things. She discovered boxes upon boxes of hidden love letters written by my great-grandfather over the two decades that they did share together. Those love letters put anything I write to shame. The heartfelt and powerful words as flowery as the Songs of Solomon talked of lying his head upon her soft peaks…of treasures hidden in her valleys. They spanned time from their courtship when they were in their late teens/early 20s until days before his death. My aunt had a couple framed and hung in her living room. I cried when I read them…and have never ever looked upon my Nanny the same way again. After a love like that, who can blame her? How could any other man measure up to Papa Clyde? Who knows maybe Johnny Cash and my grandfather were the lucky ones? Having that kind of love for twenty years then living on nothing than yellowing pages and fading memories of it for another almost forty certainly explains that sadness in my Nanny.
I have a friend now that is walking that same road. After twenty years with his partner and soulmate, he lost her pre-maturely to early onset Alzheimer’s. His road maybe even tougher as they had no children, no grand-children to lighten his burden of grief now. I try my best to be his friend…while being jealous of a dead woman. Not because I have any interest in this man…I do not…
BUT because as much as I write about this kind of love…no man has ever felt it towards me. I have no Robert Browning, no Johnny Cash, no Grandpa M, no Papa Clyde, no Leo. All I have are characters in my head and broken dreams. Yet still I believe in this kind of love. Still I pray to my goddess for the man, who lies awake watching me snore and thinks…I am the fucking luckiest man alive to call that mine. And trust me if he can stand my snoring…I’ll know it is REAL love.