My blogs have become predictable, apparently. A friend described these musings to someone by quoting my normal opening -- a description of my stumbling entry onto my front porch clutching my mug of coffee. It rang true.
These musings started as five a-m mutterings, the summer my second husband left for the last time and my son went to Mexico for six weeks. Here at the Holmes house alone, I found myself turning to writing as a solace and an exploration. I watched the sun rise and shared stories, usually in a vein that one critic publicly described as feel-good fluff.
On the tails of my third divorce, yesterday seemed filled with irony for me. I can't give you fluff today; I can only give you what flows from my heart. These are, after all, the musings of a Missouri Mugwump, and musings do as musings will.
I heard the news about the Supreme Court's ruling in favor of marriage equality shortly after 9:00 a.m. while standing in a judge's chambers in Clay county, chatting with other lawyers there for pre-trial conferences. All of us were family law practitioners, navigating clients through the disentanglement of their failed marriages, seeking guidance from the judge to whom their cases were assigned as to issues derailing settlement. My phone buzzed. I glanced at it: A message from the HRC telling me that love had won.
I shared the news with the lawyer standing next to me, then drove to my satellite office a few blocks from the Liberty Square to meet with a twenty-one year old mother of two in the midst of her own divorce. I've been appointed to serve as guardian ad litem for their disabled daughter amidst accusations of medical neglect by the father.
I met with her and her lawyer for an hour, then headed for Kansas City and a meeting in my main office with a client whose case is set for trial on Monday over issues of custody and parenting of a second-grader whom she shares with a man to whom she is not married. I understand this kind of case: My son's father and I never wed. In fact, though, he did not fight for rights -- rather, he vanished, sending the small court-ordered support check every month for nearly 18 years but otherwise doing nothing. But this woman has a different problem. Her son's father abused her but seems to parent reasonably well. Hard to imagine letting a boy spend several nights a week with someone who treats the mother like uncherished property; but such will be the case.
I cooked dinner in the evening, for Jessica and myself. Jessica stays at my house at present, back in Kansas City due to the return of her mother's cancer. She's on the heels of a six-month stint in Hawaii where she worked as an under-water photographer. Now she visits her mother daily, spends time with her son, and helps me here at the Holmes house. We sat on the porch after dinner, eating sea salt caramel ice cream and talking about marriage. I tell her that I think everyone should be allowed to marry. She agrees. My laughter is tinged with rancor as I mention my own inability to hold a marriage together. She's gentle in response to that note. She does not disparage me, she does not let me freely disparage myself.
As the night drew around me, as the lightening bugs flashed and the pesky little mosquitoes nibbled at our skin, I thought about the same-gender partners whom I have known. I glanced across the street at a quiet house with an ivy-covered lawn. There lives Freddie and Suzie, two women so alike that I've never been quite sure which is which. I bought my house in 1993 and they were a couple then, and are a couple now, living with their now-grown adopted daughter. They have weathered nearly twenty-five years together, including almost fatal cancer that one of them -- I honestly do not recall which -- suffered five years ago.
Next door to me, Scott and George wear wedding rings. I think they got married in Iowa. Their household includes a little dog named Poodle. They mow the lawn, come home with groceries, visit parents, have dinner parties.
In Arkansas, Carla and Molly have been together several years more than a decade. I'm so used to them as a couple, I can barely recall Carla in the years before Molly, though I have known her twice as long. They married two years ago on the eastern seaboard. They raised Carla's daughter together, my accidental name sake, Maria Korinna. I visit them once a year, sharing Sunday brunch when I go to Fayetteville to get away from stress in Kansas City. Their marriage seems so solid that I could not even fathom calling it anything but real. Constitutionally protected or not, their marriage felt right.
Years ago, two women lived in the house to the south of mine where now a young banker lives. Patty and Terri shared a car, a bedroom, and a landline. Patty worked from the upstairs room as an accountant and Terri had a medical practice nearby on 63rd Street. My son saw them as a couple in his youngest years, before he ever had a stepfather, before any preconceived notions of marriage could infect his thinking.
When Patty told us that she and Terri had found a bigger house, one with a separate entrance for the room that would be Patty's office, Patrick listened with his normal serious expression. The three of us stood in the shared driveway between our houses. I felt a sense of loss. These women had been good neighbors to me, comfort for the exit from that home of Marcella Womack who had been the last renter there before its out-of-state owner sold to Patty and Terri. I would miss them.
Before Patty turned to go back into their house and resume packing, my little boy put his hand on her arm. Can I ask you a question, Patty, he said. She squatted down beside him, her face to his level, and said, Of course. He lifted his small hands and put one on each of her shoulders. He peered intently at her, their eyes holding each other. I could not imagine what he would ask. And then he spoke.
You and Terri love each other, don't you?
His gentle voice broke the stillness of the summer day. Patty's eyes briefly closed and something electric moved across her face. She put her arms around my son before answering, holding him to her. She released him but kept him close as she replied, Yes, yes we do. We love each other. Patrick nodded. He patted her shoulder; she stood and turned her gaze toward me. Tears flooded her eyes. A smile rose to my face. We'll miss you guys, I told her. She could only nod.
Before sleeping last night, I watched the entire video of President Obama's eulogy to Reverend Pinckney. I listened to the strains of Amazing Grace as he led the assembly in prayerful song. Then I scanned the Internet, gazing at photos of buildings and monuments lit with rainbow-colored lights. Amazing, indeed.
I've lived nearly sixty years. I've loved a half-dozen times, including one man who fathered my child and three whom I married. I've mourned a brother, a mother, a father, parents-in-law who treated me like a cherished child, and the loss of love three-times over. I've grappled health issues and personal insecurities. I've driven my son to the Mayo Clinic for the last-ditch treatment that ended up saving him from malpractice and I've flown to the edge of the world to see a doctor whose efforts are either curing me or killing me, I don't yet know which. And I've sat on my porch, morning after morning, for twenty-two years, watching the world change from green to gold to brown to white, and back again when spring broke through the bitter cold.
This morning I feel as though we've turned a click closer to paradise. Love wins. As it always should.
Saturday, June 27, 2015
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The Missouri Mugwump™
- M. Corinne Corley
- I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.
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