Nature is forever arriving and forever departing, forever approaching, forever vanishing; but in her vanishings there seems to be ever the waving of a hand, in all her partings a promise of meetings farther along the road. Richard Le GallienneI hadn't realized the significance of the date. Hadn't noticed the calendar page until I was sitting in Nan's kitchen, camera crew hovering. "What would you normally be doing when you get together like this?" the director asked.
We laughed. "Oh, we'd probably have a glass of wine," we chimed in unison.
"Then why not do that?" she suggested. She gave us some ideas on the kind of conversation she wanted us to have and the film rolled.
As Nan moved to the fridge I looked at the calendar hanging on the wall beside it.
"You know what today is?" I asked.
"No," she replied. "What is it?"
"February 26. Seven years today since Conrad and I drove west, towards the coast. Seven years today since I ran away."
I hadn't remembered. Though I had felt a fissure of anxiety all week. An undefined edginess I couldn't name.
That was it. An anniversary. A memorable date. February 26th.
It was a significant moment. It opened the door to deeper conversation. To more discussion about why I left. Why didn't I hear her. Jane. My daughters pleading with me to wake up. To come to my senses. To hear them.
"I couldn't hear you," I told Nan when she asked me why I had to go. "I couldn't stand the thought that you stilled loved me. Wanted to help me. I didn't deserve your love. After all the things I'd done to hurt you and the girls and Jane and everyone else I loved. I didn't deserve you in my life... I had to leave."
Jane arrived and the three of us chatted some more. We tried to keep it light. To make light of all that had gone on. But that question remained hovering in the air. It hung, suspended on their disbelief I couldn't accept their love. Their unanswered question from the past a surprise element in our conversation.
I remember that day well. Conrad's frenetic energy. His insistence we had to go. His absolute conviction that I would do as he said. Not say a word. Sit quietly beside him as we drove west, Ellie in the back seat, my pain and sorrow and fear a shroud enveloping me in darkness. And I did. Sit quietly. Do as he said. Stay silent. Turn my back on those I love and drive into the west.
I wanted to erase myself. I wanted to take a giant eraser and rub out my presence upon the earth. Perhaps, I told Nan and Jane, if I could just erase myself from the picture, everything would change. Everything would be okay. At least for them. If I was gone from the picture, it would take away all the things I'd done to hurt the people I loved. If I could just rub out my mark upon their lives, they wouldn't have to carry the burden of me having betrayed them any longer.
It was a tough evening. It was a good night. A night to unearth a bit more of the sadness that hides out in the recesses of my spirit, somewhere beneath the surface of memory. It was a night to touch the pain of my friends and soothe them with the truth of where I'd gone so long ago to get away from the pain of having betrayed them.
It wasn't that I'd run away.
It was that I never felt I had the right to stay. To be a part of their lives any longer.
Those were desperate days and I was desperate to make it stop. To make the pain and fear and self-loathing go away.
I couldn't take my own life. I'd promised my daughters I wouldn't. And I could not break that promise. I'd broken everything else. I couldn't do that to them.
And so, I planned my erasure. I silently planned the rubbing out of me from their lives. I plotted and schemed and told myself that I could give them a better life by not being in it. By removing all presence of my having been in the picture.
I wanted to vanish.
And then the unseen hand of God delivered a miracle and I was found. We met again, my friends and I and set the calendar pages straight. Seven years has passed since that fateful day when I took my fate into my hands and tried to erase myself from the world I knew.
Seven years ago, I wanted to vanish.
Today, I am grateful to be alive. To once again be living whole-heartedly in this technicolor picture of love and joy and forgiveness and beauty.
I am grateful.
I am blessed.