Today I called upon one of the many mentors in my life, my fairy godmother. She is a cunning, vibrant, artistic, sprite-like woman who always inspires me. She bought me my first little black dress, and on New Year’s Eve, she left a bottle of tequila on my doorstep. She gave me a ukulele and a topaz ring, both antique. She made for me many sketches I’ve since framed. She threw my 18th birthday party, taught me how to make the best chicken stock in the world, and paid me way too much to dog-sit. I cherish everything she’s ever given me, especially all the good, solid advice I’ve gathered from her over the years. Fairy Godmother is a spectacular person, and I’m sorry y’all don’t know her.
She’s suffering a terrible depression. She lost her husband unexpectedly in September and she is still reliving the scene of his death. She is locked into the pain like it was just this morning. “This!” she exclaims, with her forefinger raised in the air, “has damn near killed me.”
I had feared she wouldn’t quite be herself, but I didn’t expect her to be as vulnerable and obviously pained as she truly was today. Her grief was enormously powerful. I left with a sore, heavy chest.
I didn’t expect.
Why didn’t I expect?
Because in my head, she is strong? She is the moxie I channel, the spirit I imbibe. All my life, she has been this one thing, and to see her any other way is devastating. Her heartbreak is my heartbreak.
Because in my mind, ten months should be long enough to recover a certain amount of mental health? She is invincible. Death couldn’t do this to her. After her own death, she will haunt me with piano music and sudden bursts of spicy perfume.
Anger, sadness, fear, and dread dominated our visit.
Her love is gone. Taken from her at 3:00 on a random Wednesday afternoon. I spoke the words to her, “It would never have been a good day. No matter the time or day. Fifty-one years of love, friendship, intimacy..” as she wept, I realized there are no words to ease this pain. But I gave her good ones anyway, and held her, and rubbed her back.
When she joked about whether there was room for him up there (he was a large man,) I told her bigger men may have been taken that day, but none better. She thanked me for that.
In just as many words, I made her laugh. I know she needed the laughter.
Strange, but although my intentions had been to give Fairy Godmother my love and attention, to remind her how important she is to me — my tables were turned, and I found that yet again, she was giving to me. She was giving me wisdom and experience.
She was reminding me of who I am. Despite my age, I am still one of her many “Satin Dolls.”
“How are the girls?” I asked her.
“Well, how are you? See?” she asked me back.
Fairy Godmother can whistle so well, you’d think she’s got a hidden woodwind section in her mouth. A former chanteuse, she still croons the blues. She piddles at the piano, but she won’t sketch or paint, as much as anyone tells her to channel this pain into something beautiful. Is the pain already beautiful? It felt beautiful when she held her breath, let out a long wail and said, “God, Joey, I didn’t even know how much I loved him.” It devastated me. There was a beauty in her anguish, because a love that deep is too much to be measured. Mascara proved an unsuitable dam for tears.
We never know what we have until it’s gone, much as we count our blessings. We don’t even hafta lose much to realize that phrase is timeless for a reason. Ever been thirsty on a long, dry hike?
Was she showing me my future? I feared. First, how to have a long and happy marriage, and then, how to cope with the loss of it?
It makes me wish I’d never fallen in love. What a gift, love. If depths are equal to heights, I’m fucked. After fifty-one years of this love, I should aim to be only as depressed as she is. I should aspire to merely be wrapped in an impermeable blanket of melancholy, cocooned into the fetal position, weeping incessantly.
Fairy Godmother said she is not ready to have lunch and go shopping. Her friends do not understand. They don’t get it.
I said, “It’s funny how our best friends are so often our enemies.” She liked that. Well, Hell, we grow apart and together, year after year. Friends are a good gauge for growth, really. But it’s miserable to be friends with the suffering. And it’s miserable to be the suffering when everyone else is so satisfied. Space is easier than time: it can be created and given. Real friends, even when they’re our enemies, will still be there when we bounce back or spiral downward.
Her friends tell her it’s time to get back to living. They tell her to move forward.
I’ve heard that for years, and I bet she has, too.
The truth is, no one could ever predict how long it takes to mourn. There is no magic formula, no logarithm to calculate how long it takes to be okay. Time is cruel to the grieving. A person in mourning knows they need time, but unfortunately, they have to endure time to get to the time.
I do understand this, as I am often surprised by my own emotions, whether I display them or not.
Like any interaction I’ve ever had with Fairy Godmother, I’ve been impressed upon once again. I was schooled.
“Go on and tell your mother I’m totally pathetic.”
“You think she’s gonna send in the Calvary? I will tell her you’re alive and well. Maybe next time I see you, you’ll be alive and better.”
Leaving her house, heading back, The Mister and I rode in silence, holding hands. Just grateful for another day of love, y’all.
Hold your beloved. Forever isn’t long enough.