falling in the valley


Conversations lately have touched on parents, and how their dealing with stuff affects us. My daughter loves her husband's Italian ancestry. She had to learn, though, that the volume level at extended family gatherings is just how they roll. It doesn't mean the world is ending.

During her childhood, when Tim and I raised our voices, the world was ending.

Tim came from a more soft-spoken home than I did. When I was a kid, my lovebird parents quarreled every day, and then they enjoyed making up. But at that time divorces were starting to increase. Several of my friends whose grandparents mostly stayed married had parents who were splitting up. I became worried every day about my folks. No doubt a part of my attraction to Tim was his family's tenor of stability.

They let off steam via humor. I liked that. I wanted life to be calmer and quieter, and I played the role with Tim of the quiet wife who could take funny barbs and return them, like a sitcom family scene. At least, I played that role until it began to smother me, and then I started my own attacks my own way--underhanded, manipulative. Sooner or later, one or the other of us had enough and lobbed a few grenades, commencing the all-out skirmish. And then we had to recover.

Ah, people. Communicants in corrupt valleys of a fallen world. Near the very beginning, remember, the first son born murdered his younger brother. It's awful stuff, and I am part of it. The only real delusion, from my standpoint, is believing I can imagine a way out on my own.

I'm sorry, John Lennon. But life has taught me there is hope from someplace other than in my pea-sized brain. I think maybe you were singing more about following our true hearts, as members of humankind, than about sitting, sundered and seceded or whatever, and making up the latest, greatest plan to submit to congress or something.

Tim and I raised our children imperfectly. We still haven't come up with perfect solutions for living together, but now sometimes after I've hurt him I come to my senses, patter down the cold garage steps and bow, asking his forgiveness. This is what we practice at church, a tradition dating back to about humankind's mid-point.

A funny light appears in Tim's eye when I do that, as though he'll make a humorous comment. But instead he accepts my embrace. I flit off to kiss an icon in gratitude, usually the one with Jesus on his cross, arms outstretched to gather all those who wish to hug him in the whole wide world.

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