The way my father showed his love was to ask you to go for a walk with him. The walks I remember were invariably in the autumn, where the sunset burned orange into the Chiltern horizon, and there was a faint scent of badger. He would hold his stick over strings of barbed wire so you could climb over it, and in extreme cases, he'd cover the wire with his oil-skin jacket. It was always cold but his hands were warm. He'd talk about hazelnuts and blackberries and we'd listen to pheasants, and I'd keep quiet and revel in his close proximity. I know this isn't what other people experienced. But I learned, too, that love is transformative, and if you keep loving, one day, you will feel loved, and thus, at the age of about 32, when I'd built my own business, and was making more money than my husband, and had seemed to embody the entrepreneurial spirit, my father said once in a booming voice across the dining room table, for the first time in my life "let her speak. I want to know what SHE thinks." This was an incredible victory in a house where women were seen and not heard.
And so, in the latest chapter of my Douglas Sirkian life adventure (the one where everything is absolutely perfect except the love life which is wildly, comically uneven -- "Oh we're going to be off again/on again till we're 95" I told my mother on Saturday) I've discovered that actually loving someone doesn't necessarily make them love you back, and even if you think they do, and you think they're cute and awkward and Aspergers-y and can't say it, and so you'll just pretend that they do, and soldier on in the hope that it will transform, it's actually not the case. And today I found it out for certain.
Not much fun. Not a great way to end a pretty happy hard-working weekend. Not a great way to look forward to Thanksgiving or Christmas. In fact, somewhat shitty. I was at an interview at NPR when I found out this news, and had to tell the engineer that I had allergies because I was sniffing so much. When the choice is to burst into tears or to focus on what's going on around you, an interesting NPR interview wins every time (also the hope that Mandalit Del Barco or Ofevia Quist-Arcton might appear at any minute). Even more shitty, because I was in the process of planning his birthday party, and feeling childishly giddy at the prospect, as you do, when it's new love (or not, as the case may be). Did I feel like a ninny!
"That's a game-changer" said my ex-husband (the only one I can bear to bore any more with this stuff). "You are able to put up with a lot of shit, I know that about you, and you can forgive almost anything, but if he doesn't love you, then why bother?" Why bother indeed. I think there is a shred of self-respect left, enough to know when I've been beat. And beat me, this did. No faint scent of badger. No sounds of pheasants roosting. Just the sad acknowledgement that trying hard doesn't always get you what you want (and the dawning, rather lovely, feeling of capitulation in the knowledge that you do, indeed, deserve to be loved back, and to have someone who is crazy/nuts for you and can't wait to hear your voice and laugh with you).
Most people learn this stuff in their twenties. I am a late bloomer, apparently.
Tonight, I've seen a great movie, and had a bowl of roasted tomato soup. Tomorrow, I will rise at 6 to ride my horse, and walk in the early morning fog with my dogs, and breathe some fresh air into my lungs and remind myself that I have done it before and I can do it again: yes, there's love if you want it (thank you, The Verve) but make sure you're looking in the right places.
Good night, lovely ones.