Love(d) at the Roots

Great Love in Two Takes

Love: Take One

i gather up

each sound

you left behind

and stretch them

on our bed

each night

I breathe you

and become high

--SoNia SanCheZ Poem No. 3 (shake loose my skin)

Cancer had to work to take his breath away, cause his heartbeat called up armies. 

Traveled swiftly to do its dirty deeds, cause his spine was fortified by revolutionaries. 

Regrouped and returned with new strategies, cause his brain—a most beautiful galaxy.

It may have taken his body from me, but it could not take my memories.

It took nearly six years of grieving, actively and passively, to finally access the good memories of my first great love. Every time I thought of him I kept going back to a dark hospital room and his frail presentation. It seemed I would have to walk down a long hallway of memories witnessing his pain and struggle, with a few sparks of curated joy, and then experience that crushing moment when silence filled the void left when I lost the love of my life. This happened on a loop, so I assumed I would never get beyond it.

Finally, this year, I moved to a stage of grief where a flood of memories came rushing forward, and they are good ones. Memories of his eyes when we were oceanside at a restaurant, completely “drunk in love” giving our undivided attention to nourishing our relationship in the way couples need to last. Him screaming “it’s a boy” the moment our son was born, for the big gender reveal. The time he hosted a Mothers Day brunch with a bottomless mimosa bar for all the mothers in our life (with a printed menu). Another memory of him with our young son on his shoulders, marching through the streets of Atlanta screaming to protest the unjust murder of Trayvon Martin. He loved me at the roots and now I can remember how that felt.

When I say “he loved me at the roots,” it speaks of a time in my life when I was just getting “rooted” as an adult. As a newly grown feminist, I rejected gender norms and insisted we craft our own ideas of parenting and it was hard, but he rolled with it. He was a Cancer, so he prepared for experiences with serious intention. That meant 15 years of dates, vacations, celebrations, and regular Sundays that were all memorable, and when he died I went on autopilot and all my big bright flowers withered away. I woke up one morning, an only parent, I had used all of my leave (and then some) so I had to go back to work, and I had to function--alone. 

So I dissociated (I had an inner me and outer me), to make it through each day. As a survivor, I know the power of dissociation and the risk of not being able to reconnect, but this was a default protection that I knew worked. The outer me smiled, worked, and secretly drank bourbon nightly to turn off and sleep. The inner me sat in a corner, knees bent, head down in my arms, surrounded by darkness--safe. It worked because no one, not family or friends, seemed to notice, then the job I loved was dismantled and I had to start over. I uprooted what was left of my life at 41, and planted us in a brand new city. Outer me, roots fully exposed; inner me, hold up in my corner. 

Love: Take Two

i’ve been a woman

with my legs stretched by the wind

rushing the day

thinking i heard your voice

while it was only the nite

moving over

making room for the dawn.

--SoNia SanCheZ Poem No. 8 (shake loose my skin)

Fast forward a few years and I am everywhere and nowhere, working all the time, traveling all over, and half-assed parenting on the verge of a complete breakdown. During a random work trip, I meet someone who I knew from many years ago, and he sees “me/me”. He sees “damaged exposed roots” me and “sitting in the corner” me. He takes the slow path, at first, sitting quietly next to me in my corner, and then over time he convinces me to lift my heavy head. He encourages me to share all my suppressed feelings of grief and loss and he listens actively. 

He tells me what he sees in me and his memories of pre-tragedy “full of life” me. He then proceeds to wrap me in a love so comprehensive that I agree to leave my safe secret dark corner and expose myself to light. When my inner and outer selves reconnect, I realize that he has covered my roots with rich soil, he has been watering them consistently and tending to the occasional weeds.

I awakened to see that when I least expected it, wasn’t looking for it, and didn’t want it, I had stumbled upon a new great love. One who never required/requires me to forget my first love. And now that I am deeply rooted, I can both hold and make new memories.

because they love(d) me 

at the roots 

e-special-ly diff’rent

the nite has moved over 

making room for the dawn

i am blooming.