Wuv. Twue Wuv

David and I have been talking about the nature of love, lately.

I think I’ve mentioned it, in reference to other conversations. But this, of course, is the WEEKEND OF LOVE, what with Valentine’s Day and all. The mentions of it have become truly relentless.

Two of the gals David goes to school with asked him what he’s doing for me for Valentine’s. Another took him aside to ask what she should get for her guy that he would like. It’s funny: at 50, David is everyone’s father figure. He gave her good advice though. He suggested some things I’d done for him that he liked and she was pleased.

I told David, though, that I don’t really want anything for Valentine’s this year. It just seems silly. (Plus, I hadn’t been thinking about getting him anything!) David said he’d tried to explain that to the gals who asked, that doing something for each other on a particular day seems kind of false after so many years together. Whereas last week I was feeling sad and friendless (woe is me) and had a little crying jag at bedtime. And he was sweet to me and comforted me. That meant the world. More than flowers and candy on the designated day.

It occurs to me that Valentine’s Day meant much more to me when I didn’t have a special someone. I recall the agonies in school, wondering if I would get a carnation from someone besides my best friend. I’d watch the cheerleaders walk around with their buckets of tributes and wonder when someone would love me. Later, in college and grad school, when I was more often single than not, I would be fine with what I was doing, until Valentine’s Day rolled around to remind me that I was alone.

Otherwise I never felt alone.

Now that I have David, who is so central to my life, I don’t find that Valentine’s Day validates anything. In some ways, it’s just for show. Send me flowers so I can prove to the world that I’m loved.

The funny thing is, when you love and are truly loved in return? You don’t have to demonstrate it to anyone.

Glass Houses

I woke up this morning thinking about my North Carolina family.

And no, this isn’t their house. This is the house in Rogers, Texas, where my maternal great-grandmother grew up. We have some Southern on both sides.

I don’t seem to have any digital pictures of my North Carolina family — my dad’s family. This is because I haven’t seen them since I’ve owned a digital camera. We aren’t close, I suppose you’d say.

We used to be. Or, rather, I thought we were. After my dad died when I was three, my mom and I moved to Denver. My grandparents, though, continued to be a huge part of my life, with gifts, cards and regular phone calls. My Uncle Rocky was quite a bit younger than my dad had been. By the time I was paying my regular summer visit to my grandparents, Rocky had met and married Beth. First Josh was born, when I was 12, and then Gaven a few years later.

I’d always thought of myself as close to them. In a role-reversal, I now showered them with Christmas presents. And I didn’t mind that my grandparents now had other grandchildren to love and pet — ones right there, too. They told me that they loved me at the end of phone calls. That I was in their prayers. They came out to visit Denver once, to see the Air Force Academy and my dad’s grave. I went back to visit a number of times over the years.

The last visit was when Grandmother was dying. Grandad had died a few years before, quietly, just as he’d lived.

I would say things changed after that, but I know it’s really that I just see things more clearly now.

When people say you’re in their prayers, they don’t always mean that in a nice way. Over time, I came to understand that they see me as godless. I’ve been judged and found wanting. I first realized it when Beth wouldn’t let David and I share a bed in their house, though we owned a house together and had been together for years at that point. I suppose I knew in an abstract way that some people are bothered by the living in sin thing. It’s always been a bit of a joke to me since, so far as I can tell, a blessing by God or the Government provides no guarantee of joy to a union.

After that, I noticed I didn’t get invited to weddings or graduations. Not even announcements.

The only one I really talk to much anymore is Gaven, who chatted me up on FaceBook. He told me he reread my book and felt like he got more out of it the second time, since he was more grown up. A flattering thing to say, because it makes me imagine there are depths to what I wrote. Then he said he wanted to read my new novel. I said sure, but warned him it contains sex and magic and pagan things. He’s studying to be a pastor, to the great joy of his family. I wonder who he’s really doing it for.

He and I haven’t really communicated since that conversation. A planned meeting when I was in his neighborhood abruptly fell through.

I suspect I’m firmly in the Bad Influence category.

Sometimes I wonder about love. My grandparents loved their tragically deceased son, so their love for me was all the greater for that, the last vestige of him. I think Rocky’s love was similar — an extension of the love and loss tied to his brother, stewed with resentment and regret. The boys, well, they loved me as children do. An exotic cousin from the West. Perhaps it’s only natural that they grow up and move on. And I’m not really part of their family. Maybe Grandmother’s death dissolved that last link.

I wonder, too, about religion. I just don’t remember it being such a big deal when I was younger. Now, for some people, it’s everything. It’s us or them.

And here I thought it was supposed to be about love. Faith, hope and love. But isn’t the greatest supposed to be love?

The Kennedy Lending Library

Did I mention?

I spent the last couple of weekends finishing going through the moving boxes and bins. Oh yes, I totally mentioned this, in light of my darling man’s bin o’bullets.

So, it was really last Sunday, this Saturday and part of this Sunday. That I spent dealing with the garage and all in it. But I’ve now been through every box and bin, extracted what I wanted, bookshelved the books that need to be out in the world and re-stored the rest.

Thus I restored the deserving to the shelves and re-stored the rest.

Hey, at least I amuse myself.

Why, you ask, was this so important, what with Christmas shopping, decorating, tree-trimming, menu-planning and baking to conduct?

I was tired of empty bookshelves.

It’s a whole-house thing. People are coming to stay for Christmas and my house wasn’t yet totally together. Right: because my bookshelves were empty.

So I got them all out. Sorted all my books into piles. By priority of love. By author. And I decided who I needed to have out, readily available and who could live in boxes in the garage. Yes, for those of you who like to give me grief about my lists, I’m making a database, with box numbers, for the books in storage. Just a few short, sweet steps away.

See, in the old house, I had a full wall of built-in bookshelves. Plus a bookshelf in my office, one in David’s office and one in the basement. The Annex, doncha know. I also kept a literal wooden chest in the dressing room that was my TBR pile. It was my TBR treasure chest.

Did I mention the new house has no storage?

No basement. No attic. Just an oversized two-car garage with shelves. We have one “small” built-in bookshelf and three portable bookshelves we moved, including the annex bookshelf. They absorbed more than I thought.

At a guesstimate, two-thirds of our books are “out.” Which isn’t bad.

How I chose ended up being like love. Oh yes, I first I tried to be methodical: which books do I regularly reference? Which topics will I be writing about, mulling over, nostagically wanting to revisit in the near future?

And what about the vistor/vanity aspect? I found myself evaluating which books might be on the shelves that would say something about me. Which led to which books might I mention, over dinner, say, that someone would want to borrow?

In the end, as love always does, it came down to what I like having near. I don’t care what anyone else might think. Even though I might not re-read Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight series in the near future (make no mistake: I’m now seriously contemplating it), I have it on the shelf. As I have had since I was, oh, twelve, thirteen, something like that. And because I couldn’t let any of her other books feel bad, they’re all out, too.

Yes, I have everything she’s ever written.

Which is also true of my other great loves. A.S. Byatt, Ann Patchett. Orson Scott Card, Mercedes Lackey, Jacqueline Carey, Diana Gabaldon, Margaret Atwood. They all have their space on my limited shelves.

It’s a kind of homage, really.

And maybe that’s what I realized, in doing this. That the likelihood of my opening and referencing the book has nothing to do with it. I like seeing them there. Just like I like to see the art on the walls, hear the music on the cd player and watch the sun set outside.

It’s enough to set my juices humming.

Natural Causes

An old college friend sent me a FaceBook request the other day. This isn’t unusual – I’ve only been “on” FaceBook for a couple of months now and I’ve been receiving a lot of “friend requests.” For the uninitiated, you have to be officially friends with someone for them to view your FaceBook information. You can find people you know through groups like your high school or college or what have you. When you find someone you know, you send a request that they add you as a friend. Once you’re friends, you can look at their list of friends and see if there’s anyone you know and want to add. Several people I haven’t talked to in twenty years have found me and it’s been fun to catch up. This person, who contacted me the other day: not so much.

I’m surprised she wanted to “friend” me. She has refused to see or talk to me for years. Before that, when we did communicate, she acted mean. Inserted little digs about me. Made herself generally disagreeable by doing pissy things.

I’m not stupid. I can take a hint – eventually. When only her husband (both were good friends – I introduced them) returned my voice message and wanted to visit with me when I was last in town, I asked him what her problem was. He said I’d have to take it up with her. I said, no, it was her anger, thus incumbent on her to bring it to me. Later, he sent me a very cold letter. Like I said, it takes me a while, but I’m not an idiot. I wrote them off as no longer friends of mine.

Three years later, she asks to be my FaceBook friend. I stared at the choices: Accept or Ignore. So far, in a rush of bonhomie, I’d accepted everyone, even friends of friends, who I haven’t met. I’ve friended people in high school who wouldn’t have noticed me in the school hallways. Why she wanted this friendship when she’d thrown the real one away, I didn’t know. Except that I know some people track their count of friends: at last a score for social connectedness. But I’d made my decision about her place in my life long ago. I clicked Ignore.

I’m thinking about this as I fly to North Carolina, place of my father’s birth. And, coincidentally, his death, nearly 40 years ago. My grandparents are gone, but his brother still lives there, along with his wife and two adult sons. In years past, when I’ve traveled to the area, we’ve met for dinner. I went out for a family reunion a few years ago. This time, I haven’t called. The last contact I had was went my uncle emailed me a photo of my younger cousin’s college graduation, though I received no other announcement. I called my cousin to offer my congratulations. I mailed him a card with a generous check. Cashed without a word.

I’m no longer part of their world, as I was when the boys were younger. As I was before both sons decided to devote themselves to ministry. Before my aunt made it clear how much she disapproved of my godless lifestyle. The part of me that’s still 12 years old, is stunned that they don’t seem to love me anymore.

I suppose it’s part of life, the pruning back of connections. People can be friends for a while and the friendship can die, or be cut away. Family members move in different directions. It’s maybe one of the great lies of love, that it cannot die. Love dies just as we do, from neglect and starvation, from disease, from critical trauma. No matter the venue, death arrives. In the end, they’re all natural causes. And nature can be cruel.