Archive for July, 2010

Happily Ever After

July 24, 2010

When I was growing up, I never expected to find my Prince Charming, like Cinderella.  I never saw a “happily ever after” in real life.  Every adult relationship I witnessed, with the exception of my maternal grandparents, was disjointed, abusive, secretive, multi-partnered and chaotic.  Men may have looked like Prince Charming, but they hit, twisted arms, yelled loudly or were ominously silent, and drank. One showed up every now and then, but vanished sometime during the nights.  Castles were on hilltops in books. The princes I knew lived in trailer parks or houses I wasn’t allowed to visit.  My mother, on the other hand, fully expected to be fitted for her glass slipper and to ride off in the horse drawn carriage.  She worked to that end.

  Mama divorced at thirty.  Nine years of never knowing what to expect, cured her of marriage.  For thirty-five years, she swore, hand up, to anyone who asked, “I will never, ever, ever get married again.” 

     She changed her mind at age sixty-five. They met at the antique mall and frequented the same auctions and yard sales.  Following a long, familiar path, the man she found was married, but she left him alone in his relationship.  The two of them developed a long friendship, attended the same church, and finally, she watched the man care for and grieve over his dying wife.  Three years later, my mother fell in love with this widow and married him. 

    In the eleven years she has been married to G, my mother has thrived.  Their relationship is like one of those bridges that expands and contracts depending on the heat and cold.  They adjust.  He can’t work enough and when he’s home, he’s in the garden.    She is a women who cannot live without her independence.  No joint bank accounts for her.  Her car is in her name, she pays exactly half of the mortgage and the bills, she runs her own canning business and if he doesn’t want to go on vacation with the family, she goes and he stays at home.  

   “It’s the perfect fit,” she says.  “Who else on earth would put up with my stubborn ass?”

     He enjoys her self-determination, sits back and smiles, shaking his head.   He’s tried to help her out over the years with bills, groceries, spending money for vacation, lifting heavy boxes.  She hasn’t allowed him to.  She’s right, a fit was hard for her to come by. No other men in her life adjusted.

       The relationship I see between my mother and step-father, although not what anyone would call traditional, is the closest thing I’ve ever witnessed where she is concerned. 

     “I wake up in the morning, and suddenly it’s time to go to bed,” she says to me on the phone.  “I love my life so much, I wonder where time goes.”

     Eleven years, that’s longer than her first marriage, and she is so happy.  It’s been good to witness.

     Yesterday, she received the news that G has lung cancer.  It’s in the upper lobes of  both lungs and in a lymph node.  He watched his first wife suffer and die with cancer; now he has it.  Mama and G are both stunned, she, I think, more than he.

     My Mama is too old to have an evil step-mother throw a list of chores at her “happily ever after.”   She’s done the dirty work in her life, scrubbed out the fire places and worn the tattered dresses.  She’s practiced dancing with the mice in hopes of finding her prince.  She’s been left on the side of the road when her carriage has changed to a pumpkin.  The glass slipper finally fit, and now– well, we’ll just have to wait and see.