This story is a sequel to The Reunion and The Encounter
Veteran's Memorial Park, Henrietta, New York...
Two figures sat on a metal bench next to the asphalt path. Both were tired. What had promised to be a nice run in the park had slowed to an almost unbearable walk past familiar places that promised nothing but reminders of what had been.
“Sort of ironic!” Perry put her head down as she covered her face with her hand. Dan leaned closer and lifted her chin, caressing her cheek and brushing away a few tears.
“We’ll get through this, right?” He was asking the question as much for himself as for his wife. Mrs. Daniel Buonofede. No other title would do at the moment even though she had earned her second doctorate in traumatology.
“Oh, Dan…jeez, of course we’ll get through this,” she said sarcastically. She was normally given to being positive and upbeat, but even with acceptance, still after years of rejection by other old friends, her illness was almost too much to bear. And as much as she hated herself for being bitter, it was really easy for Dan to say ‘we’ll’ when it was she who was losing part of herself….body and identity perhaps rolled into one great loss. The cancer had advanced too quickly for any other approach, and it left her without definition, in a way. And it also left her with doubt.
“All you’ve got left…. Well, it’s not like the damn thing does anything.” She glanced down at her crotch. Her words were too accurate to deny and almost too painful to hear; they certainly were almost unbearable to say. She put her head down again, this time with eyes open as she stared at her chest.
“That’s not fair, Perry, and you know it!” Dan protested, looking hurt. Perry looked at him and shook her head.
“Of course it’s not fair, Dan, but who ever said life was fair.” Nothing he could say at that point was going to make much of a difference, but he tried as he lifted her chin once again.
“I love you.” He bit his tongue, but the tears came none the less. She looked into his eyes and beheld the truth of what he had just said. She knew all along, of course, that her husband accepted her and loved her. It was almost impossible for her at that point to accept and love herself. Even with a husband who knew and actually embraced her past even as she had rejected it.
“I love you.” He repeated as he choked back a sob. It seemed almost futile to try to dissuade her self-doubt, but he was used to her pain, and wasn’t going to quit.
“Perry, sweetheart…I know things are bad, and it is easy for me to talk, but you need to know how important you are to me. When Carmen died I thought I had died with her, but you brought me back to life. You’re different, you know.” She cringed at the turn of phrase until he continued.
“Carmen was so…well, I loved her dearly, but it was so hard to know where I stood. She was so insecure that she wondered; almost up to the end… yes, she changed…but she doubted my love for her. With you? I know you know that I love you. I see it in your eyes as you’ve returned that love tenfold every day. Perry, honey….we…yes, we, since you’re in my heart, and I know I’m in yours. We are going to get through this. And nothing can change how I feel for you, okay?” She went to turn away, but she found his hand carefully directing her face. A kiss followed such as she had never known.
“I love you so much!” He said as he kissed away her tears and perhaps the residual self-doubt and hatred as well. It was as if she trusted without really knowing that he loved her up to that moment in time, but right then and there it was firm and secure and sealed on her heart.
Dan Buonofede loved his wife…the woman who gave him solace when the love of his life passed. The woman who had helped heal his family by being a mother to his son. The woman who felt insecure and inexperienced and unworthy in all things feminine because of her unfeminine beginnings she had believed. Dan loved Perry, and had not only been saved by her love, but as Rose told her Jack , Dan had saved her in every way a woman could be saved.
“I…” She went to apologize once again. Secure and confident in person to everyone else, she doubted herself in times such as these; not only for her husband’s sake, but for her own, she continued to reject the fact that she was worth loving. One more moment in time for God to prove his faithfulness thru the servant he had placed in her life. Dan kissed her again. Longer and with such tenderness as to finally melt whatever had iced over her confidence and self-esteem.
Ironic, yes, that she was destined to lose something that she felt defined how authentic a woman she was, but she had gained so much more in that moment by the love of a good and caring and gentle man. Love that really defined her by just accepting her for who she was.
Life isn’t always fair if you allow for fairness. But still? Life is what it is, and a reckoning can surprise.
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