It has begun. Hooray!
Foolish and the Weak 1.0
He didn’t love her in the first place.
That had all come later, that decision to love with his whole heart this girl-bride whom he had married. Choosing to love and being in love were two different things, and no matter how hard he tried he could not feel for this fragile golden flower the swift, pulsing joy he had always dreamed of sharing with a wife, the joy that flows between two people who work side by side with equal strength, who press as one towards some great and glorious goal.
He tasted that sort of joy before…once, but never again.
Yet he did not regret his decision to take her as his wife, carry her far away from the place which had sapped her strength and left her as he found her, trembling, delicate, trusting. She was like a rose vine of frail beauty, childish beauty, the beauty of sweet-scented humility. Well, he was a strong man. Strong enough to hold her in his tender grasp, strong enough to pour out from his own pain sunshine and rain until the petals gently unfolded from her broken heart. Strong enough to love again.
So they had driven down to the pawn shop and bought two plain gold rings. She had found a white sun dress and a pair of white sandals at the thrift store, and they had gone to the court house to become legally married.
And nine years later he loved her with his whole being, as he had determined so long ago that he would. Yet in his dreams was the distant memory of the oneness he once had.
Yet in his dreams…
“Brian…Brian! Are you awake?”
He sat up and gazed at his wife silently — her golden lopsided ponytail, the smeared mascara under her skylark eyes, his own t-shirt draped over her littleness in loose, graceful folds. “You know something, Jenn, you’re gorgeous,” he said softly, and it was true. “What time is it, anyway?”
“Three a. m. Christian had another of his nightmares. I wasn’t going to wake you, but I can’t get him to calm down…he says he wants you.”
“Sure,” Brian mumbled, swinging out of bed and feeling his way down the hall to the tiny room the boys shared with each other. Jenn was a beautiful mother, enough a child herself to understand her sons’ childhood, so gentle and flowerlike that she unconsciously won their adoration and reverence. But somehow, when Matthew and Christian were frightened, they ran to their father. They crept into his strong embrace and were safe…
“Hey, buddy. Your mom said you had a bad dream?” The bottom bunk creaked under Brian’s weight as he sat down next to his trembling son.
Christian sucked his thumb and nodded.
“You want to tell me about it?”
A violent shake of the tousled head.
“Ok. That’s fine, you don’t need to tell me…lay back down, son, and I’ll pray for you. Close your eyes…that’s it.” Brian smoothed the rumpled covers, tucked them snugly around Christian and whispered a prayer over him. In the top bunk Matthew snored softly, and in the corner the Nemo nightlight regarded the three Tracy men with a single unblinking eye.
“Not on the concrete, Matthew! You boys can run on the grass, but I don’t want you on the…”
“Jenn, they’re boys. They’re supposed to get hurt sometimes – a scraped knee every now and then is good for them. Just as long as it gets cleaned out well,” said Brian, and Jenn laughed.
“With a paramedic for a daddy, I don’t think Matthew and Christian get to choose whether their cuts and scrapes get disinfected, bandaged, and whatever else it is you do to them,” Jenn said gaily, stirring her coffee that was mostly cream. She closed the window halfway and returned to the little kitchen table. “But honestly, Matthew scares me so much sometimes. Yesterday he climbed up on top of the shed roof and dragged Christian after him…they were playing that they were mountain climbers, he said.” She paused, hesitant to reopen the wounds. “But even so I wish…I wish that…things could have been different. That we could have had more.”
Brian poured the last inch of grainy black coffee down the drain and watched the boys blankly from the window. “Yeah.” A startling clank as the mug bounced in the steel sink.
Years ago in a hospital room. Hours and minutes and seconds of pain, fear, numbness…
The second time she had nearly died.
When it was finally over, the utter agony complete once more, we sat in the in the silent white room which was the shadow of the gates of death. We sat there with our new-born son and waited for the doctor to come in and tell us what we already knew.
She could never carry another child. She would not survive a third pregnancy, would never live through the births of the children we still longed for. We were lucky, or blessed, or whatever we are supposed to call it, just to have Matthew and Christian, just to have Jenn there and alive and breathing. But there are pieces of each of our hearts, long ago given to a third and fourth child and never claimed…
“I’m so, so sorry, Brian,” she whispered, childishly looping her arm through his. “I can’t help feeling like it’s my fault somehow. Like it’s my fault we can’t ever have any more…”
He pulled her close to him and rested his chin on her hair, let her fill his shirt pocket with the tears that four years had not entirely washed away. “No, it’s not – listen to me, Jenn. It is not your fault, not anymore than it’s mine.” He tipped her head back so that he could see her eyes, brilliantly blue with the tears that trembled in them still.
That night in the hospital room, a single petal was released from its protective embrace and for a moment he saw the golden center.
Matthew’s sturdy voice interrupted them from outside. “Dad, I didn’t mean to…honest, I didn’t…we’re ok, but Christian got scuffed up some. There’s blood, anyway.”
Brian glanced out the window. There was Matthew, totally ignorant that the blood had come from the scrapes on his own elbows, examining a new rip in his younger brother’s blue jeans.
“Good for them,” said Brian, a grin pulling at the corners of his mouth. “Better pull out the hydrogen peroxide, Jenn.”