The girls were asked this question quite often by their once estranged father. And often, for someone who disappeared to the far corners of the earth, of depression, or both, and surfaced randomly every several months, I suppose, means a few times. And a few times, in the course of the years in which the girls were adjusting to their life with a single parent, me, may have been too many, or too few. Depends on the day. The girl.
I so wanted to holler, “It’s the wrong question!” But it was not mine to say, let alone holler, and there was little opportunity for me to say so if I would have. It’s the wrong question. And while the trauma of the early years of family divided are far behind us, perhaps the stunning question is still asked.”Do you love me?”
Love may too often be a default. The fail-safe. The first resort. The last. Afforded an easy button. Like the one on Staples’ toy. “That was easy.”
As if when I ask the question, “Do you love me?” and you answer yes, well then we know all we need to know. Or you answer no, then again, we know. Hands brushed. Button pushed. Right? No, I don’t think so.
Love deserves more. Love is more. ‘But I love you.’ ‘We love each other.’If you love me, you will . . .’ So many rules attributed to love. A myriad of instructions, it seems, attached to the question. Who wrote this manual? It’s like attaching rules to a cat. Or the sky. Eternity.
Do you trust me? Maybe that is a more definitive question? Offering discourse instead.Perhaps the better question for estranged fathers or failing lovers,or grieving parents? It is attached to action, opinion, decision, the weighing of factors and an analysis to follow.
But, ‘do you love me?’ It unfortunately places an awkward sense of demand, ultimatum, definition on the moment or situation or lifetime. And loving simply does not hold such parameters. And too often the asker knows the answer. The asked can easily lie. Oh, maybe it is the same with trust. I guess for me, it is the more vital. Trust. I trust the girls and they trust me. It is the final line, the defining line of relationship for me.
Do you trust me.
The girls may have loved their father, but that was not a door to a renewed relationship.A fiance may love their betrothed, but it does not mean they do not want to change their mind about the promised marriage. A lover may love the person above them, but remain unsure if they will be released. A grieving parent may love their partner, but it does not make the loss less.
Love is just not the question.
As if the things they loved most
were planted deepest inside
their marriage purple
penstamon, a rare return,
the plumpest pumpkin
with weeks to go,
their best selves, the ones
that need no explaining,
hidden in the back of their garden
where the afternoon light is pure
no intruders or mice
few weeds. No visitors.
As if their less gentle, less
kind selves, those full of distraction
annoyances, aphids, and thorns
had been watered and fed
left to their own desires
un-pruned. No clippers could reach
the sweet surface of who they once were
rooted into the soil like hungry rodents
keeping everyone very busy
and quite sad actually.
They become those spades
sharp shadows that cleave
the knotted vines
swipe at tied up words
and finally tamp shoots into fertilized tombs
create the sweetest haven
for spiders, mold and nutsedges
buds drown, blooms
choke. Do you
Could they walk back to the corner
of that garden, sit together
beside the squash blossoms
the late lavender, the last cones of columbine
fragrant like spring in late October
independent and a bit thirsty
and remember why they fell in love
why that pumpkin so round
never polished, pruned or tended,
so perfectly reflects
October’s mid-day sun?