In my youth, I loved with an intensity that burned hot and blinding-white, like a strip of Phosphorus. It consumed me and took control of my personal and private self. All my waking moments were devoted to devising ways to make this love, love me in return. In this vain attempt, I failed. How can you hold water in your hand? How can you trap and cage the wind? You want to grip and hold tightly to a fist of pure white sand grains, but they slip through your fingers no matter how hard your fingers lock.
So, I buried this love. The object of my soul’s desire did not die or was scattered to the wind. No, I simply buried it, not six feet underground in damp and fertile earth, but deep within my heart.
Science tells us that the heart has four chambers. I found a fifth. And, into this secret ventricle, I placed my love and locked the door…if hearts have doors.
“Open the doors of your heart.” It’s a phrase I’ve heard often, so there must be doors there, down there, beneath my sternum.
The object of my love had no idea that I had put her away for what I thought was all time.
I lived my life then. I lived it as full as my timid personality would allow. I didn’t jump out of airplanes. I never went to war. I didn’t drive 90 mph down a dead-end street. No, but I sat on lonely Alaskan glaciers. I was lost in the Alaskan wilderness. I thought I loved an Alaskan woman, but love isn’t found in the doorway of an apartment building on South Franklin Street in Juneau. I climbed the peaks of New York State and swam naked in icy waters of a stream that would turn into the Hudson River. I got lost in the Adirondack forest at night. I thought I loved an Adirondack woman, but as it turned out, she never knew I existed or ever looked upon my face. I’ve walked the footpaths of England. I napped on Roman roads that were surely haunted by the Legions stuck in rainy cold Britain. I thought I loved an English woman, but I left her at an airport…never to see her again.
I stood in a hotel lobby in Bejing and, half hidden behind a pillar, I stared at the most classically beautiful woman I have ever seen. Would I trade my immortal soul for an hour with her? Yes, I thought I would. But I didn’t. She never looked at me.
I’ve been married and I had children. I have a grandson. I have found love in these people. The fact that a little child standing on a beach is carrying my DNA is a simple fact that astounds me a thousand times over.
The resurrection of my forgotten love began one night as I lay in a hospital bed in Manhattan. A needle stuck in my neck was pumping chemo into my body. I began to wonder if I was finally facing my greatest fear.
I survived the leukemia. And, I sit on my deck looking out at the lake after a winter that seemed as cold as one of the circles of Dante’s Hell. I feel the resurrection…not in watching dormant seeds turn into tomatoes or larvae become blood-sucking black flies. I see and feel it in the world and people around me.
It’s life that I have loved and then forgotten.
But, not in the fact that I’m alive at this moment, typing this.
It’s the knowledge that I have lived, was given the chance to live, make mistakes, cry, laugh and mourn.
To me, it’s not “being in the moment”, because the moment passes and it’s exhausting trying to keep up. It’s knowing I walked the road that was presented to me on the evening of May 31, 1947. I had no concept of roads then, but as I grew older and my heart was broken by those I have loved and lost, I began to see this path, and to know my road was still mine alone.