In all skills and abilities there is timing…. There is timing in the whole life of the warrior, in his thriving and declining, in his harmony and discord. All things entail rising and falling timing. You must be able to discern this. ~The Book of Five Rings
Part III- Reconnect (Book of Fire)
These things cannot be clearly explained in words. You must research what is written here…you must judge the situation
We wound our way out to the burbs. Passing the familiar, Boat house row alit. Places hold memory for me. I’m visual by nature.
Other than nearly being run off the road once, it was smooth sailing. See, Philly folk have a special brand of driving. Each one owns the road, meanders across lanes as they see fit. And this particular bloke was hell bent on taking our lane. But Lou held steady and thankfully the lane next to us was empty. But I can’t say neither of us aged in the moments and breaths held between.
Driving along I wondered how something could feel so familiar: Joes, Pie in the Sky, and the church where I sang in choir untouched. Yet everything else was new, fancier; dare I say chic. A town I could get used to spending time in. Simultaneously I wanted to destroy it and invade it, make it mine once more: a possessiveness that took me by surprise.
We arrived late. Another brother, Bri, would be awaiting me at the bar. I’d been overly optimistic when informing him of our ETA and had failed to update him on our delay. So, the first thing was making amends for keeping him waiting. His very appearance was an apparition in the midst, “Wow! Brian Crowe is here”.
“Yeah I know. He came for me” I responded with not so hidden pride. My tardiness making his bride no doubt increasingly aggravated since her own family was in town for a visit. And I had coaxed him away.
My Dad would say Brian was alive today because of them. A fact shared and memory discussed between us at the bar. Brian confirmed my Dad’s suspicion. Like I said, he was another of their adopted kiddos. Not to mention, the only man who’s ever punched me in the face and lived to tell the tale. I assure you it was accidental. But I learned from him I could take a hit. I’m one tough cookie.
Once, perhaps junior year (can’t quite remember), we kissed. We were sitting out on the edge of my deck. Discussing, I am sure, one of our romances, failed or otherwise, and curiosity got the better of us. We locked lips.
When we fell away we both started laughing. Yep, kissing cousins, siblings for sure. Naturally we proceeded to critique one another’s technique. What else was there to do but help one another for future escapades? Isn’t that what friends are for? We always had each other’s backs.
Between these two encounters, Brett earlier and Brian now, I yearned for more time. I wanted to spend a day at each of their homes. As invited, meet their wives and spoil their children, become a favored Auntie to all. I yearned to witness the miracle of Brian’s little girl, the first in 70 years and 17 boys born to the Crowe Clan. Who elicited his grandfather’s reaction “I always knew you were the pussy in the family.” The little girl who could part her 19 male cousins like the Red Sea because as Brian’s older brother would say, “if they break her, we can’t make another”. The girl who had Brian, and undoubtedly everyone else wrapped around her finger.
In life my favorite memories fall around deep connection with another human being. I have a handful of them I keep like precious jewels in my heart’s treasure chest. Spencer is one of these gems, his heart pure. And like so few, he knows how to push into spaces in me I’d swear I’d battened down and fortified. It’s a gift. I would hate him for it…….if I didn’t need it so desperately. Honestly, I believe it’s a Scorpio trait, one my first husband also possessed.
Years back he’d sojourned to Seattle to visit Da boys, the group of guys I hung with in high school, who followed me out west. We kayaked around the lake. And despite a run-in with two guys getting it on in the woods, for which my paddle seemed unable to the task of a quick getaway, that day holds at the top of my list of a life well-loved.
I would come to learn over the years that Spencer holds his own deep wounds. Ones I wanted to hear about, a sadness reflecting my own life’s fears. Wanting to deflect my impending catharsis, the one I knew was coming; I attempted to ask about his as a diversion. It seemed my defense mechanisms were running amuck. But to truly catch him up seemed, in that moment, monumental. There was so much to share. So much had changed.
Spencer always had a way of capturing me. He’d gotten inside. He held me firmly in his gaze. “No” he invited, “I really want to know how you feel”. I can’t say that my squirrely-ness was entirely conscious but I didn’t’ want to cry at the bar. I’ve never been a fan of crying in public. Funny, considering I have done so many times. I mean for God’s sake the weekend had only begun.
But Spencer simply wouldn’t have it. He held me on task, held my heart open. “I want to share my story, I do” he said “but right now I want to finish this. Tell me how you REALLY feel”. So there we stood peering into one another’s eyes “I’m scared to death” I replied, and fell into his arms crying it loose- the knot that had been building in my chest since I boarded the plane.
Saddled to the bar, the tears flowed: my biggest worry of the weekend realized. He was the key to my flood gates, so present to him in the moment that everything else drifted away. I don’t know how long we stayed there holding one another. It simultaneously felt an eternity and not nearly long enough.
Chris asked to steal me and gently lead me outside the bar. He’d noticed my tears and wanted to talk and perhaps recognized a need for fresh air. In the end he turned out to be one of my pleasant surprises from the trip.
He’d been diagnosis with MS, a fact I’d already heard. We talked of the difficulty when your body turns on itself, betraying you. What it is like to be one person one day and then wham, diagnosis, you’re forever changed. And how difficult it is when that transition creates a separation, an invisible, sometimes not so invisible line drawn between yourself and your most intimate loved ones.
Having myself suffered from L’hermittes, the first sign of MS, due to my spinal cord edema I had much with which to relate. As if cancer wasn’t enough. But I too knew the difficulty of a never-ending parade of medications that don’t do the trick. Of reaching the point you need to weigh side-effects of medication against progression of disease and quality of life.
We both use humor to cope. Humor not everyone finds appropriate. Much like the nurse who wanted to order a psyche eval when my “gallows humor” appeared at the hospital, he too was often misunderstood. When I was diagnosed with VHL, where most people have a life expectancy of 50 my first thought was well hell, now my two marriages don’t seem like such blips. I knew Chris would laugh at this.
And I witnessed Chris touch Spencer’s heart. Verbalizing the shadow he’d seen him live under during high school, his gratitude was palpable. Later after returning home he’d offer a reflection to me, one so few see; that my ultimate strength lies in my ability to be vulnerable.
There were a few friends that night I found myself disappointed in. People I truly hold in esteem whose behavior sadly lessened their stature in my eyes. I hate losing respect. I don’t know if it is to my relief or their luck that over the years they’d amassed enough points as not to fall completely from my good grace. But frankly my friends would tell you I’ll pretty much forgive those I love anything short of being ax murders…or throwing furniture at me.
It’s been said the Radnor class of 1990 was unique or so we’ve heard again and again. It is uncanny but true. An innate sense of community and friendship I haven’t always been able to reconcile. I’ve often wondered how I can feel so connected to people who in essence are strangers. But I guess there is something to say for similar backgrounds and formative years. And as Wendy would come to write of the weekend “these people shaped who we’ve become today”. And perhaps it’s true “that it’s this familiarity we see within one another that upon reuniting provides a sense of home”.
Wendy, whose house I’d played at regularly. Who as a child told her mother she wanted to become a photographer and live in Maine. She did just that. Today her photos hang on the gallery wall of my apartment. So even living at the farthest reaches, like pillars on each coast, I always feel connected to her.
And Amy, another Poet, whose prose, and unbridled heart moves me beyond measure. Whose smile still infectiously lights up the room. I wanted to hear more about her life in intentional community and her active meditation practice, a 16 year passion of mine. And as it would be the whole weekend, I simply didn’t get enough one on one time.
This first night’s conversations were candid. There were those I barely recognized. Some who like me had made quantum leaps, living lives unimaginable when they were children. I was privileged to witness depths of character only born of life’s journeys. Those with jobs I’d love to have. Archeologist? That fucking rocks. And those I can’t wait to visit the Emerald City. Some that felt like coming home, a warm familiarity, and others like fresh exciting faces I was meeting anew.