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Monday, 14 May 2012

Love’s Memories

By Lyn Burnstine

When my husband was still with me, in what I mistakenly thought to be an ideal marriage, I more than once had frightening nightmares wherein he was two different men and I had to choose between them.

In those dreams, I loved them both equally and it was agonizing to choose one over the other: I would wake up sobbing.

At some point, I realized that the two dream men were based on his two personae – public and private. In truth, I didn’t always love his public persona. In fact, it nearly ended our romance before it ever got off the ground.

I had seen him at one or two college events and was turned off by his loud, attention-seeking, brash behavior. Only when I had occasion to sit and talk quietly with him did I see the other side – the part that was gentler, more loving, not covering up his insecurity with arrogance by being wittier and more verbally brilliant than anyone else around.

On our first date that I finally agreed to, he told me how comfortable he was with me and during our early years together, he even talked a kind of lovey-dovey baby talk which would have surprised the hell out of people who knew only his public self.

I sensed, even in my youthful ignorance, that we alternated between being the parent and the child. The pendulum swung to the side where I became the parent more and more as his emotional scars, from parents who had effectively abandoned him, began to re-open.

One summer after our third child was born, we had a Chinese music student from SUNY New Paltz as a live-in mother’s helper. When she left, she said, “Mrs. Burnstine, when I came here, I thought you had three children; now I know you have four!”

To carry my armchair psychology even further (and of course, that’s all it is), I found it to be eye-opening that the dalliances with other women during the meltdown of our marriage were always with overweight women and that wives number two and three greatly resembled his mother. It may have been just that he was a boob man, but I doubt it.

So the story continued. He left. My heart broke. I survived. A gentle, loving man came along and healed it. He died. My heart broke again, but I didn’t throw myself on the funeral pyre. I was empowered by his healing love to know that I was desirable and worth being loved.

I fell “in lust” a few times, sometimes thinking it was love for a short time. I certainly had a lot of fun having my delayed adolescence for eight years – flirting, dancing and dating. Eventually I tired of it all, and both men settled into the back corners of my memory.

Those thousands of memories – 28 consecutive years of them – would be triggered often by external happenings and it would be painful. As the years sped by, the fond memories of Don had supplanted many of the angry and hateful ones. But when I cried, it was for Carson.

Thirty years came and went in a fast blur then Don died. I grieved – far deeper and longer than I had expected to. Now, I find, to my surprise, that the two men occupy rather equal places in my memory bank: as the love of my youth and as the love of my middle years.

Somehow, after the renewed anger died down, it doesn’t seem to matter that one deserves to be remembered with love and tenderness – and the other doesn’t. It’s all about how I felt during our lives together.

Since those long-ago dreams, I have never questioned whether I could love two men; I knew I could. I guess I always knew. I had watched my grandmother be unable to speak of her three dead husbands without tears coming to her eyes so I, though curious about it, didn’t want to upset her by asking if she loved them all the same.

So here I am, content to be alone as I’ve chosen to be, all things considered. I may still grieve, in fits and starts. My memories, having been stirred up into a maelstrom, are settling back down comfortably. I can expect a stray wisp of wind now and then to toss them – and me – around, but that will come to an end.

Do I miss having a man in my life and my bed? Do I miss dancing and making love? Do I miss friends and family that are gone? Do I miss my music? Do I miss all the beloved places I’ve lived? Do I miss my children’s childhood years and my grandchildren’s? Do I miss being young and agile?

Of course I do. But they are all there – intact –in my memories. And in my dreams.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. PLEASE read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


You told your story so eloquently! I am always amazed at the perspective gained with time and age. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. We are certainly blessed by your experience.

Ms. Burnstine,
A friend of mine mentioned your story to me today, the first part so much a picture of where I am right now, at the end of my first marriage and working through those emotions of my first mother's day without my "oldest child." Your story touched every emotion I'm feeling and wondering about in regards to what I want to do with this next part of my life, and too, it was well told. The part about the memories of both men being about how you felt more than who they were was especially beautiful.


You opened your book of feelings and memories for us. Thank you so much for sharing them.

Lyn, you say it all so well.
I identify with your story in some ways, and I appreciate your talent of telling it like it is! We live, we suffer, we get on with it.

Another glimpse into the bits and pieces of your life and you tell it so well. It lets one know what an amazing woman you are and a great role model for those children and grandchildren. How fun to have you for a mom and grandmom. Loved reading your story as always.
~hugs~ Peabea

Having been married twice, both times to difficult and complicated men, your story really connected with me. I am often asked how I could love two such different people, but no matter how one ended and the other limps along, I will never deny loving them both with all their flaws, to do that would be to deny my heart! Thank you for making me think, early on this Monday morning.

I've never believed the notion that there's only ONE person who can be your TRUE LOVE. That is a perpetuated romantic fantasy. Certainly there are many people on this earth one could deeply love over the span of a lifetime. Beautiful story. Thank you.

I am so glad to read your most eloquent expression of your feelings. As a widow of one year, I sometimes wonder if grief will ever make way for a new life.
Thank you for sharing.

Thank you all so much for your heartfelt comments. One never knows if one is sharing too much, but if it helps even one other person to have hope for a lessening of their sorrow, then it's worth all the time and effort to write it. Welcome, Maggie, and I see some other new names, too, as well as the dear "old gang" that have been supportive all along.xoxo

Having known you as my "mom" since I was 13, your words took me back to remembering Don, just as you described him, and of holding Carson's hand as he passed from this world to the next. Thank you for sharing your memories. You know, you are a big part of my story, too.
Love, Kimmer

Hi Lyn,

Thank you for trusting us with all your innermost thoughts.

You never have to worry about sharing too much. It's like the old poem said.

"Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person,
Having neither to weigh thoughts,
Nor measure words- but pouring them
All right out -just as they are-
Chaff and grain together-
Certain that a faithful hand will
Take and sift them-
Keep what is worth keeping-
And with a breath of kindness
Blow the rest away.

I wonder sometimes how so many people stay married for so long. After all, people are somewhat dynamic, changing over the years as experience and time can mold us. No wonder you loved them in different way. You came to the love differently. Well written!

Thanks again, and special thanks to Kim for your loving words, and for being there! Nancy,thank you for the poem. I've never read it, but now it will be on my list of favorites.
Monica, I'm loving your blogs.And wmh, I'm so glad you are reading Elderstorytelling--now how about one of your wonderful stories?

I just got around to really reading your blog. I feel that I'm really spoiled, since I'm your friend I get to hear your stories all the time. Of course they are a course in enrichment. Keep 'em coming and your writing is always eloquent.

Thanks, Mary. Back atcha'!

Thank you, piece is beautiful and I felt like the comments were also so, so inclusive..nice to know we are all alive and well enough to nod and enjoy love, from wherever it comes to us..proving once again that we are rarely alone in our feelings, fears, etc..humans are a funny bunch, but so alike in so many ways....

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