Silence is a Workout

So much I haven’t been saying. A thought surfaces and I push it back under the quagmire with the others. I suppose I can say my metaphorical arms are getting a workout.

As the end of my first marriage stumbled into view, I had quite a collection of baby and parent books, items for a baby’s room, even clothing. Relegated to a small shed at the end of a small carport and packed tightly with a weed-whacker, mower and assorted seasonal necessities, the collection had been dwindling as one or another acquaintances became pregnant.

I had been nineteen. He had been twenty. Shamed from living together by both sides of our families, we married. The love between us is true; it still exists today in a different form.

At nineteen, I knew little about drug paraphernalia and less about drugs, alcohol or even cigarettes. I’m not a simpleton; I had little to no experience.

Ah, but he was vibrant, charming, gentle and loving. The requisite sense of humor was there. He played guitar, as much of my family did and does. There was a sincerity about him—on some levels. And I was nineteen.

Six years later, I picked up all the various pieces of child-wishing and donated them to the local women’s shelter. The end was more present than the present when he called from the middle of the town in which he had spent most of his life and told me he was lost. He gave me what he thought to be his location and I called his mother to pick him up. With me by his side, he had tried in-patient and outpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation; his family had made his brother and him addicts from birth. He had tried, for love; he had failed by biology.

Husband number two, I knew the night I married him I had erred in a ghastly way. He had some wonderful traits, including the required sense of humor, and was suddenly an alcoholic that very night, and then with increasingly nasty undertones. No children would come of this marriage and none did. Purposely.

With the first and second husbands, I could not imagine either of them as a sole parent to a child should something happen to me. It isn’t about wish or want. It’s about the child.

The baby collection turned into collecting babies from friends on occasion. That began to burn in my arms and my heart too severely; friendships dissolved, but one.

Four years later my second marriage ended in an act of violence against me. I packed my husband’s items, loaded them in his car; from his keychain I removed the house and related keys; and from his wallet I extracted the credit card to which I had added his name to my account. I woke him from a hangover and held out his items saying, “I want peace. I can’t have that with you here.”

It was twenty-two more months before he would sign the divorce papers. I wasn’t in a hurry. I wasn’t looking for anyone in my life. I began divorcing life along the way. I still worked, yet I refused friendships. I began to frequent 24-hour grocery stores at one in the morning.

In October 1994 after the divorce was final, I moved to a tiny apartment, the middle unit of a one-story triplex where my front neighbors cut into my electricity and I paid well over a hundred dollars a month for both units, me unawares but suspicious as the amount of the bills was well over what I had paid for the large house from which I had just moved.

In November 1994 I was diagnosed with melanoma, which was successfully excised. If I wasn’t well on my way to being a recluse, that bricked up some paths for me. I still wanted nothing to do with friendships or relationships.

My biological mother’s side of the family—dead young of cancer, including my grandmother (her mother) at age twenty-four. My father was already dead of esophageal cancer. My paternal grandfather had survived what was believed to be job-related leukemia and was my link to melanoma.

No children. Absolutely decisive. In a society that defines immortality and worth by progeny, offspring, what one leaves as a legacy in their own form, I felt meaningless. I began to plan a long path to suicide. I came within minutes of succeeding in 2005.

A few years on, I took a visit to my family in California. It did me good, made me feel I deserved a life of my own. On my return from vacation, my family encouraged me to look for friends with whom I might go fishing or enjoy other outings. At the same time, my adult life time diagnosis of depression magically became re-diagnosed as bipolar disorder. Yeah.

By then I had been corresponding and talking with a man who was moving to a house not too far from me. I broke the news to him as I found out. I didn’t really know what it meant. It felt the same as any other month and year. Another nick in the “no children” resolution I’d made. The last genetic brick in the wall.

I married that man. He has a grown son. He wanted no children, much to my relief. After some time, I secretly and openly cried; if there was ever a man with whom I would wish to have children, he is the man. I would trust him to raise a child without me.

My wall stands.

Last month I took a step toward health and a last step to reinforcing the wall of barrenness: I had the lining of my uterus destroyed. No more periods is the hope, therefore I keep more iron and my adult anemia will improve from a ferritin level of 1 to, oh hope of hopes, 100 (out of 300) or better.

So. I struggle still. It hasn’t been about babies for very many years. It’s about giving back more to this total environment than I take from it. It has always been about that, since I was a child hiding from notice.

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