This continues Nan's story from The Voice and Beyond
Nan felt helpless; as if her life left her without choices. She finds out, like so many of us, that our lives and our choices meet fulfillment every single day; when it comes to love, it truly is up to you.
When the breeze between us calls, love comes and lingers into our lives,
And the leaves begin to fall, you point your finger at me.
I love you-
I love you-
In the sadness of your smile love is an island way out to sea,
But it seems so long ago we have been ready trying to be free.
“What now?” Linda tried not to be abrupt, but her patience was wearing thin. They had practically worn themselves out accommodating the expectations of others, however minor or innocuous, and Linda was worn out by the process. It’s really an insulting trope to refer to anyone you love as high maintenance, but she had gotten to the place of seeing her ‘fiancee’ as that; Nan was so needy and insecure. It almost felt to Linda that she was a codependent stereotype who was riding in on the white horse to rescue her damsel. She could kick herself for that, but it was what it was.
“Mom thinks we’re rushing things. After….” She put her head down.
“Jesus H. Christ, Nan….it’s not her call.” Linda shook her head and gazed upward, offering a silent if mildly profane prayer before continuing.
“And it wasn’t her call before, either.” Nan and her mother and sister had a relationship that seemed to turn on a dime, like the old saying goes. But in the end, Linda’s mother and sister’s regard for her could be expressed in that other old saw, ‘the more things change the more they stay the same. Linda was ‘okay,’ as far as they were concerned, but they were still stuck on the recent past and their own expectations and disappointments.
“Jerry’s such a nice guy,” Rory would say; forgetting how much he’d hurt Nan. And their mother would go even further.
“Well, honey. Now that you went and did it, shouldn’t you at least find a nice boy? She asked about Jerry in front of Linda one time, which evoked more than a little embarrassment and hurt from the girl, since Nan made absolutely no effort to defend the love of her life. If that wasn’t enough, Linda was even more worried since Nan made little effort to defend her ‘choice’ regarding her transition.
“You’re…For God’s sake, Nan…tell her!” And not just for God, but for both their sakes as well, since allowing Marlene to dictate beliefs and values to them was wearing on the relationship. It wasn’t like she was a bad mother-in-law; she didn’t recognize the validity of her daughter’s gender or her relationship with Linda, so she didn’t even consider herself a future in-law. Just a mother worried about the ‘foolish’ choices her son had made.
“I….” Nan’s hesistant tone told Linda everything she needed to hear.
“I….I love you, but I can’t live in this if you won’t show me you love me.”
It wasn’t demanding; more of a lament that expressed her disappointment in Nan’s inability to stand up to her mother; that need to please someone who was incapable of pleasing. The need to finally be the child her mother wanted without any possibility of attaining that goal since her mother still insisted that she had a son instead of a daughter. Any mention that the love of her life was also a girl just like her had Nan backed into a corner of silence and compliance.
“But….You do know I love you?” Nan held out her arms in plea.
“That’s just it, Nan. Do you? Or are you so stuck in the past…a fake past, I might add? You can’t begin to know how much this hurts. I guess I was wrong. I can’t quit you, but I can’t live where I have to wonder if you’re going to hide me away in a closet to please your mom and your sister. I’m going to take a walk.” Linda stood at the door, hoping for something other than silence. No word escaped Nan’s mouth, and Linda walked out.
And it's up to you,
Why won't you say?
Make our lives turn out this way.
If they knew, that we have got nothing to lose,
No reason to hide from what's true.
In the world of me and you
All is forgotten when we're inside
And the words that pass us by,
I am not listening, all of it's lies.
Nan took a deep breath before hitting the preset on her cellphone. A moment later she was greeted by a cautious 'hello?'
“Mom? I need to talk with you, okay?” She didn’t wait for an answer but continued.
“And not on the phone. I need you….I NEED for you and Rory to hear something I have to say. No… No, Mom… Don’t….Please…. Of course I love you….” She pulled the receiver from her ear and took a deep breath; a plunge into a very dark and dangerous pool.
“No, Mom. I’ll be there in ten. Tell Rory, okay?” She hung up the phone and looked over to the front door; still ajar after Linda had left. She grabbed her keys and purse and headed out.
“Honey…. Please. You’re all worked up. You need to calm down.” Marlene put a cup of tea on the kitchen table and turned away. Nan tugged lightly at her sweater hem; a gesture long forgotten. Marlene turned back and faced her child.
“Have you been taking your meds, Mom?” Marlene nodded.
“I worry about you, and you know you need to keep taking them, right?” Nan leaned forward slightly and tilted her head.
“They make me feel so …slow.” Marlene shook her head and sighed. It was an odd yet fitting commonality between mother and child; perhaps a way to help her understand Nan finally.
“I hate ‘em, too. I have such a struggle reading now, but I’m so much calmer than ever, and I can be…I am useful.” An odd word to use with her mother, but her attempts at fitting in for so long and her desperate need for acceptance pushed her into trying to be utile and productive instead of being a person…a daughter. Marlene sighed in agreement and Nan continued.
“You know you’re the same Mom that tucked me and Rory in at night, right?” Her mother nodded; almost reluctantly since being impaired was almost a benefit; fewer expectatons led to fewer disappointments. Mother and daughter were alike much more than either was willing to believe. Mother and daughters, truth be told, because the younger of the two McNair girls had her own struggles with self-esteem as well.
“You were always such a dear…so thoughtful.” Marlene mused as she poured cream into the two mugs on the table. Nan went to take a sip when the kitchen door opened and Rory walked in.
“This better be good.” She seemed upset at first, but she tossed her purse on the counter and grabbed another mug from the cabinet before pouring tea from the pot. Sitting down, she smiled a weak smile but spoke with an unfamiliar tone; welcoming and friendly.
“I didn’t really have anything to do, anyway,” she laughed. Not that anything else wouldn’t usually be more important than anything Nan could ask for, but she was ‘unoccupied’ for the afternoon, as she would say, and was actually eager to hear what her sibling had to talk about.
“And before you say anything, YES! I am taking my meds.” She actually smiled.
“I wanted to talk to you both.” She sighed and looked down into her tea cup; between a decided lack of faith in fate and the presence of a tea bag instead of loose leaves, she would find nothing to help her speak other than the calm of the herbal mix in the cup.
“Is it about that thing you did?” Marlene still struggled with the reality of her ‘son’s’ change. Nan swallowed hard; her own resolve to speak softly seemed to gain strength and she smiled.
“The surgery? No, Mom…that’s really not much of an issue any longer since I’ve moved on.” The natural progression of healing had been moved along with a lot of tender care by the subject of the day’s conversation. She smiled and Marlene smiled back; not a gesture to which she was accustomed, but authentic and convincing, which gave Nan hope.
“You know Linda, right?” Of course they did. Rory laughed.
“Jeez….we should. She was your best friend…. Well he was…she is….What the hell. It’s so confusing.” Rory seemed anxious, but her normal hostility was no where to be found; replaced with an honest curiosity and interest.
“When he….you know. When she finally had her surgery, it was the beginning …. How I got the courage to go ahead with mine. I mean…okay, it took a while, but I never would have gone through with my transition if she hadn’t lead the way…
Marlene leaned closer and touched Nan’s arm; sending both a spark and a surprising warmth. Nan pulled her arm away while staring at her Mom with a puzzled gape.
“I talked to Dr. Heller last visit about you. She said …. I’m sorry if…” She put her head down slightly and began to sob. Her efforts to stop crying and continue went for nought, and Rory picked up the conversation.
“We…we didn’t understand, Nan.” It was the first time she had uttered her older ‘sister’s’ name, which turned Nan’s puzzled gape into a surprised, wide-eyed sigh. Nan bit her lip and her nostrils flared as she began to tear up. Rory went on.
“We…Mommy and I….how stupid can two people be? I’m so sorry. I am so fucking sorry.” Rory’s eyes began to well up, matching her mother and her sister. She shook her head.
“You know if Daddy was still around, we….I don’t think we’d even be speaking to you. When you…. We didn’t listen….like he was still alive and pullin’ our fucking strings.” Rory put her head down again and shrugged her shoulders. Nan was speechless. She bit the inside of her cheek and looked up as if to ask for understanding. Marlene went to say something but choked up again. She covered her face with her left hand and waved ‘no’ with her right. Not for what Rory was saying, but for the sheer sadness of losing so much time being so ignorant and deathly afraid of a ghost who still wielded his control from the grave.
“It’s no excuse, Nan…. I shoulda’….. I should have been there for you and I wasn’t. I’m so sorry.” Marlene looked up long enough to nod before falling back into shameful sobs as she rested her head on the table. Nan reached over and touched Marlene’s cheek. She turned her head to face her older child and for the first time she realized….not just an acquiescence, but she recognized her daughter for the first time.
“It’s okay.” Nan said softly; happy just for some recognition, but Rory would have none of that.
“NO! It’s not okay. We hurt you, Nan. For Christ’s sake. I hurt you. Please…forgive me?
The meeting between the three had turned out to be entirely different from what Nan had expected. So used to failure on everyone’s behalf, she had held no hope for any change between them. It’s pretty amazing how things can turn out when needs and wants are set aside.
“I….I’m so sorry….I was so mean…” Nan apologized. For her part, it was absolutely necessary to accept her responsibility; she had returned hate for hate and even ignorance for ignorance. Marlene shook her head, nonetheless and composed herself enough to speak.
“Nan?” The word had been foreign and even unwanted, but now she spoke the name again; this time with something no one had hoped would have been restored.
“Nan? I love you so much.” Rory was speechless this time, but managed to nod in enthusiatic agreement. She sidled over; her chair legs making a scraping sound as she drew close to Nan. She put her head up against Nan’s and began to sob. It was true…. ‘It’s up to you’ seemed to fit for all of them.
“Nan?” Linda called as she opened the door and entered the apartment. Instead of seeing Nan, she walked into the kitchen and was surprised to find Marlene getting some coffee from the carafe sitting on the counter.
“Oh…hi…” Marlene displayed no surprise; as if she and Linda had been lifelong friends. She stepped closer and pulled the girl into an awkward hug and bestowed an even more awkward kiss on the cheek.
“I’m sorry, honey. I hope you’ll forgive me?” Linda had prayed for an opening…a warmth that might thaw the ice of Nan’s relationship…but even she was surprised at the speed to which her prayers were answered. She nodded slowly; wondering if it was a dream.
“Nan has been so worried. I told her that you…well, from everything she’s ever said I knew….Well, once I figured out how wrong I was? I figured how right the two of you are for each other. So I sort of figured you’d be back. And….” Marlene started to tear up, shaking her head no at herself.
“Mrs. McNair? It’s okay…we’re okay, alright?”
“Call me Mom.”
Weddings are ceremonies that often take on a life of their own. While they aren’t necessarily something one has to have, they are certainly found among the lists of the absolutely necessary requirements of the heart. The room was dimly but warmly lit with the glow of two candles that were reflected to infinity as they sat in front of mirrors on two opposing dressers.
A soft maroon micro-fiber love seat held most of the accoutrements of the day’s activities; two white dresses draped across the back while various garments were gently folded on the big cushions and two pairs of shoes were lined up on the floor next to the love seat. And on the bed, two figures nestled in wedded bliss. No reason to hide…nothing left to lose…and deeply in love.
And it's up to you,
Why won't you say?
Make our lives turn out this way.
If they knew, that we have got nothing to lose,
No reason to hide from what's true,
That we have got nothing to lose.
It’s Up to You
Words and Music by Justin Hayward
As performed by the Moody Blues
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