There is a vastness to love that we don’t know once we begin to look for it. Looking for love narrows the focus and flails the mind. We turn into all sorts of chips and crisps and parts of ourselves. Born knowing the whole, as our sight “improves” we take a telescopic view of a landscape teeming with opportunity.
When I was a young girl of fourteen, fifteen, I was focussed. I was tough. I was narrow of mind and defended against all opportunity. When I met the woman who would become my brother’s wife I thought I was inured to the details of love. No one in my family had mentioned the word. I didn’t expect to hear it.
It wasn’t long into meeting Susan that she leaned her long, bony frame back in her chair late one night when we were talking, pulled on her cigarette and, with smoke pouring out all around her said, “but Pamela, I love you.” It was as if I had been waiting for those words, they were so noticed, such brightness falling around me. But I’m sure I lit my own cigarette and acted like nothing had happened. Oh I noticed. I marked it. At the time I was so in my head, so away from my body/mind/heart, I doubt I felt it. But I heard it. And, by the way, she was the ONLY person who ever called me Pamela, my name was Pauline Alice with my last name’s initial making the “m,” there was no Pamela. And never would be!
Over time Susan was my parent, my friend, my tutor and my great love. Seven years older, she carried the weight of Adult like a pro. Looking back she was just out of college and I saw her sweat the challenges of running a family when family structures broke down. The wife of the eldest, she took on responsibilities no one had taught her. Well I remember one evening she had planned dinner and when presented, everything was white. Whipped potatoes, cauliflower, chicken with a white sauce. A big embarrassment in front of everyone and no one to support her in this absurd endeavor.
She took me to school and picked me up. My mother had decreed I would live with them since they were living near my school. We were tossed into a small apartment and mixed so many feelings expressed and unexpressed that I can’t imagine the weave of it all now. She had this souped up car her father had given her and she would drive with legs crossed, one hand on the steering wheel, the other hanging out the window with a cigarette, never afraid to look directly into my eyes, the speedometer singing to sixty, to make the point she fiercely insisted I “get.”
When her son called to tell me of her death on Friday, even in my grief I was astonished at the moment of insight I had been given to call her on Wednesday, to tell her that I’m calling to tell her I love her and she was so responsive to the moment, though she could hardly breathe, and said, “Oh, Pamela, I know you do and I love you too.”