Thursday, November 30, 2006

Choosing Love

My father-in-law George recently held a "commitment ceremony" with his high-school sweetheart Lynn Ellen. They were in love growing up in Lubbock, but broke up in college and each went their separate ways. After seven combined children, several ex-spouses, and more water under the bridge than Niagara, they reconnected and fell in love.

And this past Saturday, they committed in front of their friends and family to staying together for the rest of their lives.

I've known a lot of people in my life, both young and old. Time and again I've seen people choose to embrace the negative, wallowing in fear or sorrow or hatred or anger. My grandfather held a grudge so long he eventually drove to the cemetery where his nemesis was buried and pissed on his grave. My grandmother kept the names of all the people who didn't send her a condolence card when her son died for more than five decades, and never forgave the slights until the day she died.

When I first met George, he was in the same boat. He had a lot of rage and anger still in him, from hurts I'm not qualified to judge, and he was holding on to them with both hands. In relationship after relationship, I saw him pursing women who were not healthy for him emotionally. I think maybe what he valued most in those women was their inability to become truly intimate in a way that would penetrate that rage and hurt. Whether their distance was maintained by being a native Frenchwoman with a non-native's difficulty with English, or wrapping themselves in pretentious modern accouterments, or through nigh-unbelievable amounts of sex, none of them could break through the chains George had put around his heart.

I know a lot of people would just stick with that way of life. Keeping on in your rut is a hell of a lot easier than jumping the track. Once sorrow or rage or loneliness get a hold of you, it's damn hard to let go. Even the roughest garment eventually becomes comfortable, and most people just never bother flinging it off once it's no longer useful.

But then George reunited with his high school sweetheart Lynn Ellen, a woman of love and warmth who by virtue of their long history could cut right past the bullshit.

And he did something truly remarkable -- he chose love.

He could have done what most people -- young or old -- do. He could have just kept on keepin' on, holding on to his old pain and refusing to step into the warmth. But he didn't. At 68 years of age, George Phenix chose to change his course, to unbind his heart and to choose love.

I've rarely witnessed a greater act of courage.

George laughs now, he and Lynn Ellen together, more than I've ever seen before. He has a contentment, a peace, about him that I've not seen in the ten years I've known him. Taking a chance on something new, on letting go of the comfortable (if still painful) hurts of the past, is terrifying, but what waits beyond it can truly transform lives.

May we all -- young or old, man or woman, gay or straight -- be so lucky as to find our Lynn Ellen, and so brave as George to choose love. Thanks, you two, for showing us the way.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderfully warm and caring account for what can happen to a person who never stops believing. George is a wonderful man who deserves happiness, and I'm glad to see he's found not only that feeling of contentment, but also someone who will appreciate him for the wonderfully kind and nice man I've always known him to be. How wonderful for them both! And you are absolutely correct about our grandparents. I've learned that forgiveness is simply a decision -- you decide to forgive and go on with life. It's the making of the decision to get out of the rut you described that is so incredibly difficult. But when you get out of the hole, you see the beauty in the world beyond your negative hatred and petty grievances about life. There was a poem today in my class that is just wonderful: "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." -- Tennyson. -- Denise

Anonymous said...

Jeff, that you should not only love George this much but express it publicly and beautifully tells as much about you as it does about anything else, including George himself. Good for him that he can deserve to have such a friend, and good for you for putting that friendship out for all to see and appreciate on your blog. I am lucky indeed to be part of such a family. Thanks, Jeff, for everything this celebrational weekend, including Thanksgiving turkey and those peas we conveniently forgot. Lyn Ellen