Sunday, March 16, 2008
Me and my Knuckle head
I wanted to share with you all a little bit about my husband, aka the Knuckle head. Above is a painting I did of him a million years ago, when we were newly married. We lived in a one bedroom flat in Berkeley, where the light was wonderful. I worked in a bookstore and wrote and painted. He was a grad student at Berkeley. There he is, reading, working, keeping busy, as ever.
This charcoal sketch is from the same period, and it shows more of his soul - the sadness around the edges of his life, that keeps him working so hard, looking away from the past. He didn't have a happy childhood. There was a lot of neglect, the details of which are mostly his to tell or not. But he won't mind if I tell you this. He had an older sister who was born with spina bifida, and couldn't walk. She was a golden, loving person and he adored her. She died when he was three years old. He watched alone from his bedroom window as the ambulance men carried her body away on a stretcher. He once told me that the only happy times he remembers in his family are before she died. It breaks my heart. But the wonder of him, is that it didn't break his. He burrowed down deep inside himself, away from the cold of neglect, and waited.
The day I met him, he was moving to California from his fancy East-coast college. Funny story. He'd had a friend at this college, who also happened to be a friend of mine from high school. Before he left, he asked her for my phone number, just to have a contact. She said, "No, you wouldn't like her." So off he flew, without my name or number. His cousin said he could crash at his apartment till he'd found a place of his own. As fate would have it, I rented a room in his cousins place. I was a busy girl at the time; I was finishing up my English major, and I was in a serious relationship with a hunky grad student in Physics. But I remember hanging out and waiting to meet this cousin from the East coast. And when the door opened and this skinny, apple-cheeked, blond walked in, I thought, "That's the man I'm going to marry." I don't know about fate, predestination, or karma, but I do believe that I was waiting for him, and he was waiting for me. Though it took him a few more years to figure that out. But then, he's a cautious guy, because he's had to be.
Of course, it hasn't always been easy. When you live with a person who was not allowed to have needs as a child, they don't know how to recognize needs in themselves, or others, as adults. They don't naturally know how to look after a sick person, because no one looked after them. They don't know how to make those little thoughtful gestures - little gifts for no reason but love, a favorite meal - that grease the wheels of life together, because no one ever made those gestures for him. I can count on one hand the times he's brought me flowers, over the 25 years I've known him. If I want Christmas or birthday presents, I usually have to buy them for myself. Worst of all, he doesn't know how to cope with weakness, need, illness, in himself, so he ignores the messages his body is sending till there's a desperate, life threatening crisis. But he will never lie to me, never be unfaithful, and he will work himself (all too nearly literally, lately) to death to care for the people he loves.
And I'm no picnic in the park, either. I'm an impulsive, messy, big-mouthed, impractical woman, the fuck-up and black sheep of my family, and a (successfully medicated) depressive. But I'm also big-hearted, inclusive, non-judgmental, and loving. And I have made a home for him where he can bloom and be safe. So, here we are, two completely imperfect humans, who exasperate, perfect, and complete each other. ( Just to be fair, below is a pencil sketch of me from around the same time. Hope it's not too faint for you to see.)