I haven’t written anything for quite some time, but today I felt an overwhelming need to say, “I think I can understand and appreciate what you’ve gone through”. I needed to say how I am in awe and inspired. How, with all the media coverage of Bruce Jenner becoming Caitlyn, my heart has felt an undeniable passion. A passion that is bound together through something everyone has experienced at some time in their life….. pain.
Let me explain.
As an adult I have had my fair share of pain, maybe more than my share. My first husband had the disease of drug addiction, was an IV drug user who died of AIDS. As I ( and our young son) watched him decline and suffer. Losing pieces of his mind and almost all knowing of who he or I were, I held tight to the fact that, even in this dementia, he always knew who his son was, his one true joy. When he finally was able to be released of this pain and suffering and passed on into peace, I was left with all the guilt. The guilt that the one day I didn’t go to the hospital to be with him, he passed, he was alone. My very soul was shattered as I thought of him, leaving us, this world, alone. Was he scared, was he in pain, did he need my hand to hold, to comfort him, as he had done for me, for so many years? In saving our son the trauma of seeing his father suffer, did I deny him his good bye? This is my pain, that I carry with me, still.
A short five years later, my father passed away, from another devastating disease, pancreatic cancer. I also watched him decline and struggle with not being able to be the strong, active man, who was always more than capable of achieving great feats of strength. He survived a fall from 25ft., breaking his back, to getting up and on with loving, caring and providing for the family he loved and going back to work as a carpenter, after 3 short months. He was the strongest man I knew, he was my hero. He had an ingrained honor and integrity that no one I’ve known has even come close to, until my son grew into a man, he has that same honor and integrity. So after a six month battle, and dying two times on the table during surgery to remove cancerous fluid from around his heart, and being in a coma like state for a month, he too, finally, was released from his pain and suffering into peace. But, after spending 2 1/2 days by his side in the hospital, I finally decided to go to my sister’s to shower and change. I told Daddy I’d be back in an hour or so ( even though he remained in a coma). As I stepped out of the car upon arriving at my sister’s, I was met by my sister telling me Daddy had passed not long after I left. All the pain and guilt I had felt with my husband came flooding back, only this time with my Dad. He was alone, ( my parents had divorced years prior), his girls, ( my sisters and I) were all he had, and we weren’t there. All the years he had so unselfishly given to us. The hours of lost sleep worrying, working through a double hernia for years because he couldn’t afford to stop to have surgery, the broken back, the endless lessons of honor, truth, integrity….the feeling that he could make everything right, and the one time I could give this back to him, he was alone. The guilt and pain overwhelm me still.
My two sisters, whose own pain and suffering, from abusive relationships and financial problems I can’t do more to alleviate. The guilt that I wasn’t and still aren’t able to protect them. My sister, (from my husband, who I will never call “in law”) who has never stopped being a constant source of love and support, who I feel I will never be able to give adequately, all she has given to me. And her husband, who I now see in the same light as my father, a hero, who can make everything right. The pain and guilt that I am not able to do and give all they have for me.
My children, who have sustained me through their laughter and tears. Have given me the strength and purpose to go on. When I’ve felt defeated and worthless for all I haven’t done, have shown me their love is enough. My son who has overcome the loss of a father, a grandfather, moving away from his friends, school, home…only to have become the most honorable, intelligent, compassionate, driven person I know. My daughter who has the innocence of feeling like she is a big shot while standing and holding onto the poles on her first subway ride. The pain and guilt I feel that I have left them to struggle with life while I nursed my own wounds.
And my husband now. Who has had a childhood that left him feeling less than, insecure and unloved. Who I’ve watched struggle with, not an addiction to any drug or alcohol, ( although those have been part of it), but an addiction to escaping the constant pain of feeling unlovable. Who gets up everyday and goes off to work to provide for his family, smiling and hiding all he truly feels. How he tries to make everything better, our home, our family, our finances. How he has always helped, no matter what I have asked of him, loving and caring for my son, sisters…. my family. How he brushes our daughter’s hair and looks up on You Tube how to do special braids, and then does them. How he picked up the slack when I went back to college. The pain and guilt I feel that I didn’t see the pain he was in. How my love wasn’t enough to erase all the hurt he felt and love he didn’t get from his parents.
So, when I say I understand and appreciate what Bruce Jenner has gone through, I mean the pain and suffering. But it is more than that. The overwhelming sense I have to acknowledge Caitlyn Jenner, but also my sweet loving Traci, my son and his partner, Mark and all those, I not only call friends, but family, (you all know who you are). Who, although I know the strength and courage it took for them to be their authentic selves, whether they are gay, transgender, bi, whatever. My awe, inspiration, love and compassion is for the thing we have shared, the pain we carry with us, the pain that isn’t always known or seen by those around us. The courage it took everyday to get up and carry on when they weren’t able to be their authentic selves. It’s that strength and courage that moves me to tears and breaks my heart, because I know it too.
My joy, for all those who no longer have to carry around the pain, because they now can be who they truly are. My hope and prayer, that those who still share this pain will find their peace in themselves, who they truly are. The lovable, perfect, strong, awesome people they are meant to and have always been.
Lovers laugh and cross this way
They’re weaving out into the street
It seems we never were so young
Or it was never quite so sweet
But the world is always beautiful
When it’s seen in full retreat
The worst of life looks beautiful
As it slips away in full retreat
Well God only knows that we can do
No more or less than he’ll allow
Well God only knows that we mean well
God knows that we just don’t know how
But I try to be your light in love
And pray that it’s enough for now ( Joseph Lee Henry)