What Today Brings
"Comes a rainstorm, get your rubbers on your feet. Comes a snow-storm, you can get a little heat. Comes love, nothing can be done…” Lew Brown and Charles Tobias
Yesterday, a horrifying but somewhat relieving realization came crashing down. I was talking to my mom and we were musing over the latest celebrity break-up and somehow landed on the question, do we know anyone that has a perfect marriage? We couldn’t think of one person, in either of our generations that we knew who had a perfect love life. We brought up each friend one by one and while the reasons are personal and varied, suffice it to say, aside from that first blush of love and what comes in the beginning, no one we knew had a perfect romance. No one had a sustaining experience of what e.e. cummings described when he wrote, “Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear; the strength so strong mere force is feebleness: the truth more first than sun, more last than star.”
Instead, we found marriages based on common lifestyle choices and partnerships based on love for their children. We found great romantic loves ending because of infidelity and big, exciting lives fraught with disappointment. We also found couples that believed, “you don’t love because, you love despite; not for the virtues but despite the faults.” – William Faulkner.
Most importantly, we came to the conclusion that happy people were happy in or out of those relationships and unhappy people were unhappy regardless of how perfect or imperfect their coupling.
Happiness and lust for life personified my beautiful grandmother, ‘Dear,’ Angelee Bradley Bryant. That’s how I remember her but I found out that my grandmother, while finding great love more than once, also went through extraordinary heartache and only found true happiness later in life.
Dear grew up in a mansion on Shannon Run in Versailles and enjoyed the lush Woodford County countryside riding her horse to school. Her first marriage was at eighteen and kept secret. He was a surgeon in Birmingham, Alabama. There was some sort of to-do back home with her father losing the farm and her stuffy husband did not want to be associated with the scandal. When she went back to Lexington to help her mother, she said, “If he lets me go alone, I will never go back.” He let her go alone and she never went back. Soon, a nineteen-year-old Angelee met Gene Bryant, my grandfather, who was as handsome and charismatic as she was beautiful and spirited. They fell madly in love and were soon married. Daddy Gene had an orchestra, Art Lund and Billy Butterfield played with him. Dear never liked all of the women falling all over themselves for him. Unfortunately, he was repeatedly unfaithful and four children later, they divorced. What followed for Dear was a romance with a professor, a doctor and later an old friend, all three which ended. Romance and excitement, living in New York, Miami and traveling Europe did not assuage her disappointment in love.
Thankfully, that was not the end of the story. At fifty-eight her life changed forever when she met and married Bill Chick who we called Paddy-foot. When we went to North Carolina to visit our grandmother, all the grandchildren and parents gathered in a room to talk about things. Bill would putter around in his slippers, listening so quietly my aunt dubbed him Paddy-foot. He may not have been the dreamboat her beauty, talent and very essence suggested she would marry but Bill loved her, took care of her and provided a lovely home and relaxed, socially satisfying lifestyle in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Dear became more interested in her writing group, her friends and wandering the picturesque town than the ins and outs of her romance with Bill. That last relationship became perhaps the equivalent of what Rainer Maria Rilke spoke of when he wrote, “Love consist of this, two solitudes that meet, protect and greet each other.”
That might be a companionship that is as valuable as it gets. I, like my grandmother before me, have had the breath knocked out of me more than once, more than twice, more than three times actually. I believe it’s time to spend the rest of my life recognizing the wonder of love in all of its complexities and not limit it to some unattainable standard that every love song and movie purports it to be. I don’t think Dear was so happy at the end of her life because of some madcap love for Paddy-foot. Most likely it was the poet’s love inside of her for the very beauty of existence, for nature, for her family and for life itself.