Conversations with Warriors
THREE WEEKS AGO
“Damn it, Deb. If we’re going to get married, you need to tell me these things.”
“But why?” I asked my fiancee, Ba.D. “Telling you things doesn’t change them. So why? Why belabor them?”
“Because,” he told me, “Then we are in it together. Like married people should be.”
TWO DAYS AGO
“It feels miserable being so vulnerable, Rache,” I told my sister. “Like really, really, really miserable. Just terrible.”
“Oh, sweetie,” Rache told me. “Of course it does. When you’re used to the people you love hurting you, it is really hard to stop expecting that. Even years later. But with practice, you get better. It gets easier to see that even when they say the wrong thing, it’s not because they mean to hurt you.”
FIFTEEN YEARS AGO
“Honey, I am so, so sorry for the things I did to you when you were younger,” my mom told me as she drove me to the University of Oregon campus with the floppy disk she’d helped me retrieve from my new home.
“Oh, geez, Mom. I was, like, five. You know? Why are we still talking about things you did when I was five?”
“It wasn’t that long ago, honey. Some of it was . . . just a few years ago.”
“I know. I was there. But you stopped. You stopped, you get it? That’s what matters.”
“I wish you could forgive me.”
“I don’t get why I need to.”
I could see tears glistening in her eyes out of the corner of my own. As if she couldn’t hear me, she continued, “I just thought . . . I just thought if I was mean like your dad was, maybe it wouldn’t hurt me so much, how he hurt me.”
My son, Li’l D, runs circles around me and the couch while my fiancee cooks beans and rice.
“Whatcha doing, son?” Ba.D. calls from the kitchen.
“I’m just hanging out,” Li’l D replies, stopping his circling to hide at my feet underneath my desk. “Can I watch Dora?”
As I remember and as I type, most of their conversation is lost to me. Only little fragments filter in.
“How do you not have any beans on your hands? What did you do? Wipe them on Mommy?” “Yeah!”
I needn’t hear all the words to hear the tones that pass between my son and my fiancee. They are tones full of love, patience and joy.
“What comes after rule number one?” “Leave me alone! I’m watching Dora!” “No, that’s not it.”
The heartbreaking echoes of the sounds of what once was can sometimes make it hard to hear what is, now. But when I stop straining so hard to hear the past and instead listen really closely to now, I find there are so many beautiful tunes that it’s impossible not to be carried away by them.
I’m trying to listen to today. It’s hard. Some days, it feels unbearable. But when I do it right, when I listen to and really hear today no matter how yesterday screeches and shrieks at me for attention, I find that I am blessed.
SIXTEEN YEARS AGO meets NOW
My sister, the man who would later become my first brother-in-law and I sat bawling in my living room. We sat there for hours, crying at what we lost and gained in watching the New Zealand film Once Were Warriors.
“I don’t think I’ll ever stop crying,” Nick sniffled.
I agreed in English too broken up by sobs to be comprehensible. And I remembered then, as I remember now, a handful of words spoken by its protagonist. They remain some of the most powerful words I have ever heard.
“My people once were warriors,” the protagonist says. As she leaves a life that was never and could never have been enough, it is clear that she, too, is a warrior, embracing that sometimes the warrior’s way is not to fight endlessly against what has been but to create a new “is.”
I am the daughter of a warrior. I was once a warrior. I am still a warrior. I am a warrior who is choosing not to fight against yesterday anymore, but for the goodness today: for love. For peace. For hope.
It feels miserable being vulnerable, right now. But step by brutal step, I move closer to the light.
And that light? That is worth fighting for.
This was among posts accidentally deleted from this blog.