We had dinner last night with a good friend and his girlfriend. We've known this man for almost as long as we've lived in this corner of the Evergreen State. He got a position at the high school where Beve works soon after Beve did, and over the years have lived a whole lot of life together. He was part of the brigade (about 30 people strong that day) that helped us move from a small town into this small city we now call home, and Beve's helped him move more than once too. We've sat at tables together for so many meals I can't even count. Our oldest children actually dated for a summer, which was nice while it lasted and uncomfortable when it ended for everyone but the one for whom continuing would have been far MORE uncomfortable. This man, MP, has been one of Beve's closest work buddies, closest friends in town, I guess you could say. When MP got cancer, Beve was there, driving him to appointments, sitting with him when he heard bad news and worse. He was there, when just as the cancer treatments began, his wife of two and a half decade didn't merely say she wanted a divorce, but that she HATED him (probably with capital letters). He was knocked down while he was already on the ground, with barely a hope past next week.
It was a terrible time. And we lived it with him. Well, I mostly lived it vicariously through Beve, because there were many months when MP could hardly bear to look at me, let alone speak to me, just because I'm a woman. Or I'm also a woman. Like the woman who had kicked him while he was down. So I stayed out of his way, tried not to take it personally.
It's been a long, hard journey. Of course, we don't know the end of it yet. After a couple of years of bad news compounding bad news, He finally celebrated one year of being cancer-free at the end of March. That was huge. And after the pain and suffering from his wife, from his divorce and all it brought, he met someone else recently, someone really amazing. Someone with common interests and a similar story.
So we sat at another table, ate our Indian curry, naan, drank our mango lasses and dove right into the heart of things. We all had parents die fairly young. Her mother died when C was only 18, so that was the youngest, but each of us had a parent who died in their mid-sixties. And for each of us, that parent was the heart of the family. I said that in my case, I'd call him the backbone but maybe it's the same thing. Anyway, it gave us a way in to talking about how families can splinter when the nucleus, or hub, is gone. It takes a lot of intention to keep that from happening. MP's family scattered. He is one of eight kids, and the three oldest didn't even come to his dad's service. They are MIA to this day. That's the saddest thing I can imagine, but I kept my mouth shut about that.
C said that her father "went off the deep end into religion." That's exactly what she said. He became so fanatical, he took her to Eastern Europe when she was 19, to some kind of religious mission/event/something (Beve told me today that it was the site where the Virgin Mary was reportedly baptized, which can't be right, so who knows).
"That's why I want nothing to do with religion ever again," she said, adamantly.
I kept my mouth shut about that, too. For a split second, I considered otherwise. But this was the first real conversation we ever had with this woman. As Beve and I talked about it today, we agreed that we want to live as believers around her for a while before we talk to her about being believers. When we were Young Life leaders, we were taught to 'win the right to be heard,' and with a person as vehemently closed as C, it's very wise counsel.
But it's wise counsel in most situations. We go in without that, and we're liable to do more damage. I would like a chance to talk to her sometime about what happened to close her off so completely. I'd like to understand. Until then, I'll just be here, getting to know her without agenda. Loving her--she's a treasure--and glad she's come into MP's life.