Tell Me Again, About the Rabbits

This year has been an odd one for me because I have read much more than I’ve written. I began working down a list of the “100 greatest works of fiction.” I had read many of them, but I found two giant holes in my library: modern books and American literature. So I dove into Harry Potter, The Help, and Game of Thrones interspersed with Melville, Hemingway, and Steinbeck.

That last one, Steinbeck… he hit me in the teeth with Of Mice and Men. I respect his ability to pack such deep, meaningful characters and a heartbreaking story into 112 pages. That is genius. Most authors today seem to write for the trilogy or get so enamored with their own words that 112 pages is barely a back-story. It also hit me because I could identify with Lennie and the rabbits.

The impoverished and simple Lennie just dreams of holding a rabbit in his palm and stroking its soft fur. But he can’t. He can’t and never will. So he constantly begs George for stories about the rabbits.

bunnyTell me again, about the rabbits

The rabbits represent something of substance that a hopeless drifter has no chance of claiming. The rabbits are a thing just out of reach – a dream that could never come true. That thing we want, but cannot have.

We’ve all dreamed of things we couldn’t have. Sometimes it’s a person or a relationship. Often it is just that we want more: more money, more stuff, more recognition. More would make it better and fill the void.

Most of the things we spend our time dreaming about are material. With the right preparation, bankroll, or a stroke of luck, they could be attained. But like Lennie, the thing I want I cannot have. I want it so badly that I often feel my bones ache to fill the void.

Tell me again, about the rabbits

Labor Day Weekend four years ago brought news that Kylie’s cancer treatment had failed. We were scheduled for a five-day hospital stay; but they sent us home while they planned a new course. Because of the unanticipated time with her sisters, Kylie was thrilled. But that news marked the beginning of a downward spiral. We never got ahead of the cancer until we lost her months later.

I will never hold her again, or hear her say “daddy”, or see how she reacts to the attention of boys. I’ll never be able to see her on stage, share a cup of coffee, or walk her down the aisle. Those are things I want and cannot have. I can never have. I will never have.

Contentment is elusive when you see people all around holding their rabbits and your rabbit is but a memory.

But along with the ache that comes from wanting something you will never have comes a paradox. While I live in jealousy of rabbitful families, I don’t begrudge them their rabbits. I want everyone to have their own and joyfully hold them forever. I just want mine, too.

Tell me again, about the rabbits

And so, like Lennie, I dream. I am a drifter in this life who dreams an impossible dream about holding a thing I will never again hold. I smile, I work, I play, I have laughter and fun… and yet the allure of the rabbit’s soft fur always tugs at my heart. It’s a beautiful dream that necessarily awakens to a sobering reality. My palm is empty… there is no rabbit. There will never and can never be a rabbit.

Tell me again, about the rabbits

Lennie settles for stories about rabbits and so must I… in this life.

But I believe there is a day coming when my dream will come true… when Kylie will take my hand and show me a land of promise and reward to which no work of fiction can compare. That belief, though resolute, rarely makes the waiting here easier. I see now that this life will be difficult until that day.

But still, I will dream.

Tell me again, about the rabbits

bunny

 

This is 25 Years

She said I do twenty-five years ago.

When I proposed, my naive year-old self had a romantic assumption that we would float through life in a current of happiness until we were wheeled into the old-folks home together. Just look at these two kids gazing dreamily off into the future. We had no idea what was in store.

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Like any young buck, I felt dominant and impervious. I soon learned the art of compromise. She taught me. We lived in a shoebox (almost literally) for about nine months. Then we bought our first home together. Neither of us was sure we could afford the mortgage. The day the ink dried on the contract, we got out a deck of cards because we knew we wouldn’t sleep. I fell asleep early, she stayed up all night. Foreshadowing…

Somehow we made every payment on time. Kids came; two in that house and two in the next… this house. This home. All girls. My dominance and imperviousness waned greatly. I was outnumbered and often confused. That confusion grew when puberties hit one after another.

We likely set romance aside more than the books would instruct. Our life centered around four little heads of varying blond curliness – Myers Party of Six. I’m not sure we could have done it any differently and I don’t think I would want to. Those were golden days of make-believe, castles, and princesses. We were happy.

I’m certain there were arguments, but I don’t remember them. I would say that is a good sign that we didn’t go to bed mad. But it could as likely be the fact that my memory is shoddy.

first-dance-songs-wedding-ideasPicture the wedding dance floor. The evening starts off with a solo dance – just bride and groom. It is sweet, it is romantic. The focus of everyone in attendance is on them as they glide gracefully across the floor. Then family is introduced. Bride is pulled one way, groom the other. As the evening wears on, the dance floor becomes crowded and the wineglasses empty. The bride and groom still dance with each other, but the time between their dance lengthens. Later, in the dim hours of night, the joyous revelers vying for space separate the bride and groom and she sometimes can’t even see him across the crowded floor. Yet she is content because she knows he is hers and he knows the same – even when the distance seems vast. Through frantic elbows and flailing feet, they reunite for a gentle kiss before being split apart once more.

wedding-reception-dj-kings-stockThat is marriage. Marriage isn’t won during the romantic first dance. That is the easy part. No, marriage is won in the subtle accommodations made to stay together through the mayhem of life’s dance floor.

And life can be a belligerent wedding drunk. The kind of idiot that Crazy Uncle Joe has to pluck from the throngs and throw out on his ear.

 

That younger me never entertained the idea of planning a funeral… certainly not for one of my princesses. And yet I did. Rather, we did. Like in everything this quarter-century, we each contributed to the terrible process in our own way.

And then the aftermath… grieving together, grieving separately, grieving differently. A new dance, but somehow still on the dance floor. That nasty drunk of life spins violently and often throws his weight right between us. This is not how I thought it would be. This is not what I wanted. This is hard but worth fighting for. This is twenty-five years.

And now we stand on the precipice of a less-crowded floor. Slowly, the remaining princesses will find their own castles and ours will empty, thus reminding us of the smiling dancer who should be here. We can never forget. We will always yearn for something different. We are changed people. I can barely relate to the young buck I once was. We are tenderer yet guarded, more fragile but stronger. We are together through some of the hardest and most painful years imaginable. We are together.

This is twenty-five years. It isn’t perfect. It isn’t glamorous – no one would sign up for this heartbreak and we wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It is resilient. It is precious. It is ours.

It is ours…

This is twenty-five years.

In the hopes of dancing through twenty-five more, I envision dance lessons in our future, my dear. Your toes will thank me.