“So, you’re saying it’s a ‛take it or leave it deal’ on the table,” I said to Genevieve over a bowl of Tom Ka Gai soup at our favorite Thai restaurant near where she lived. It was late evening in early December in Portland, and raining outside.
She paused, spoon suspended over her bowl, and looked at me. “What I am saying is that the deal won’t be on the table for much longer.”
I lost my appetite.
I knew she loved me. She knew I loved her. But it was as late in life as it was late in the day, and one has to make decisions about what the rest of that life is to look like.
“You know I have to live here. My business is here, my home is here, my son who needs me is here, my grandchild will soon be here. You live in a very beautiful place, you don’t like it here, you worry about my business and don’t want to take on the responsibilities of my family. I get that. I really do. But I want somebody who accepts my life as it is and not as they want it to be. I can’t do this push/pull for much longer.”
She was being honest, she was being strong. As always. She was done with my ambivalence and was letting me know that it was time, or about time, to step up and make a decision. Of course, I could not make it that easy.
“What would you do if you were in my position?” I asked.
Genevieve had a son with developmental challenges. I had been under the impression (with her help) at the beginning of our relationship that she would have more independence in a couple of years. Now I had come to believe that she would not, maybe ever, be free to live with me as the two of us.
And now she had a grand child on the way via her daughter. Genevieve is one of the world’s most loving grandmamas, and so happy to have a grand baby in Portland. Her other two were in Texas where her oldest son lived with his wife and two children when not posted to Afghanistan as a soldier.
My house is full of sunlight on a hilltop, at the edge of a desert surrounded by glorious mountains and tall pines where I run every day along the rivers, 20 minutes from everywhere and where I manage the few assets that provide me with a modest living.
If I wanted a partnership life with Genevieve, together even on most days, it would be there in the rain among strip malls and bad architecture covered with rotting LP siding and clotted freeways and traffic backed up at unsynced red lights that went on forever, struggling with her over our different beliefs on what might be best for her boy.
“I wouldn’t do it,” she replied, kindness and sadness blending in her warm eyes in a way that made her even more beautiful, made me want her even more.
“I don’t want to do it,” I said, tears at the absolute obviousness of the outcome starting to burn at the corners of my eyes. “But I love you.”
“I know.” she said.
Dinner was over, it was late, her son was waiting for her at home, he was not answering his phone and she was a little concerned.
“You’re going to have to tell me when it’s time to let go. I don’t think I can do it,” I said on the drive back to her house in the rain on the freeway, trying to see through a windshield smeared with the spray of other traffic. As she often did, instead of answering in words, she took my hand in hers. Which was really the answer I needed to hear.
I’d always had trouble letting go. At different times and for reasons that made sense, I told myself: daughters, business, fairness, etc. Then I told myself that I couldn’t let go because I was a coward, worthless, damaged, yadda yadda. Then there was the fact that I was always “trying to manage the outcomes,” thinking I was stepping into the path of other people’s pain but really trying to avoid my own.
Now I think there was something more complicated at work, and hope that I am not, again, just making excuses.