Okay, so I lied, yesterday. Reading this entry would probably be a little helpful as background. For the purpose of the story, at least. But regardless...
My pal Sandy lost her husband about 2 months ago. If you can picture losing your prime-of-life spouse / best friend to a brain aneurysm, a particularly quick death, while spouse is on a job an hour away, and finding out about it at daybreak from the sherrif, you can get a picture of what she's spent the last several weeks working against.
Sandy doesn't work a regular job. She trains horses. She was a former Olympic horse rider, a jumper. She was to be in the Olympics in 1980. Which happened to be the year the Olympics were held in Moscow. It didn't happen.
She grew up with her siblings living all over Europe and the US, one of which was just a year or so removed in age. A sister. A girl who lived in and loved the Middle East and trained to work there. Until a Palestinian terrorist opened fire into a crowd and killed her in the early '90's. Sandy might still have that sister if the world was a different place, but it didn't happen.
Her Mother and Father died of illnesses a few years ago. They might be around to comfort her now but that isn't happening either.
Sandy has two sons. She lives in a little town and knows many people, nearly all of whom have rallied to help her. She has Macy, her best girlfriend living right down the street who is over at the house every day. Sandy has settled up the insurance and is taking a deep breath. Because the insurance is not enough. Not enough to carry her to the end of her days, or enough to make life comfortable for the boys forever. Insurance is rarely that. It's an illusion we promise ourselves. It's insurance enough to put a husband into the ground and be shed of the Visa bill. It's not enough to get a smart, capable, tough woman into a life of ease. It doesn't happen that way.
Ally and I rode up north to see her. Took a big bottle of coconut rum to share. Macy came over and we all got a little blasted. A half gallon of that particular firewater was half gone and we decided to seek out dinner nourishment. At a Cajun place in town. We laughed, we sang songs, we probably went a little heavy on the Creole spices. Lord, I do love catfish when they cook it that way. They chased us out of there arm in arm.
There's a particular combination of food and drink and company that can put you on a comfortable level, a buzz that needs only minor adjustments over the course of an evening to keep it going.
We made the command decision to keep it going. 'Til sunup.
Somewhere along the way, between the music and the rum and the hours of talk, I realized why we had needed to do this trip. We were the empaths. Those who take the pain of others upon themselves. Sandy talked about Pete, about how she lost him, how she could hear him in the house, laughing with her. Holding her. And she cried at the songs we were playing, the old James Taylor stuff, the Firefall, the ones they had listened to. She sobbed, because there was nothing, nothing to be done.
I collected her in my arms and put my hand to her head, trying to pull that hurt out of her and put it somewhere else. Ally took her by the hand and sat on the sofa, the two embracing as Sandy shook with her remorse and her emptiness. She let tears go that she had held in for weeks. Ally wiped them with her sleeve as a mom would a child. And they laughed a little about that, two mothers sharing a parenting memory.
Macy said to me, "I'm going to need that myself if I cry." She had been the one to virtually take over the care of the house and those in it for a while there. One thing about Macy, she cares and she loves but she seldom cries. I think she wanted to, last night.
Indeed, I wanted a bit of that release myself. There was a lot of pain going on in that room, for the love of a good man whose days had been too short and was sorely missed, surely loved.
We sat like that until the sun started turning the room light. The three women and I, the empathic and the wounded. The music played, Ally stroked the hair of a Sandy now grown quiet, Macy and I looking on silently, intertwined with unspoken caring.
Because there was no need for much talk.
I beheld the power of women who loved, and knew why men would never be their equal. There is not enough pain in the universe to conquer them, when they come together like that. Men can hold up for the day to day, but women will always have that long term something, that steel amidst the softness, to swallow the fear that the unknown and the evil bring on us. Bless your heart Sandy.
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