I've been thinking this morning about the odd ways that people are drawn together. I've known a few couples that seem incongruous together, almost bizarre . . . but their relationships worked.
- There was the couple that was into the S&M scene. One enjoyed inflicting pain and dominating; the other enjoyed receiving pain and submitting. I'm informed there are more than a few couples like that. I personally can't understand that at all - I've seen far too much (in Africa) of what real pain, real suffering, and the real evil of those who inflict them, are all about. Once you've seen the real thing, you aren't likely to have any personal tolerance for 'play' versions any more! Nevertheless, there are those who choose such a lifestyle, and it clearly works for them. I may not understand it, and it may not conform to my moral and ethical standards, but they have the same right to free will and personal choice that I do. I've got to allow them the same freedom I expect and demand for myself in my relationships.
- There was what I called the 'February-December marriage'. The man was in his late 70's, his bride was in her early 20's. His family was furious. They described (vilified!) her as an interloper, a gold-digger, a conspirator, out to get 'their' inheritance for herself . . . never once conceding that she might actually love him, and he her. I had difficulties with the concept myself, until (as the pastor doing the wedding) I gently probed a little deeper. She'd been abandoned by her father as an infant, and brought up by an addicted, abusive mother until CPS took her away. She spent the next decade or more with various foster families. She really wanted - needed - a lover who was also a father figure, who could be both partner and parent. Sure enough, they had six very happy years together until he died, and she gave him a late-in-life daughter on whom he absolutely doted. Their love was very real.
In some ways, Miss D. and myself are also a combination of the unlikely. I'm from Africa, born and raised there, living there for the first half of my life, coming to this country relatively late. I was shaped and formed by the wildness of the 'Dark Continent', experiencing its savagery at all too close quarters far too many times (some of which I've described before in these pages). I came to the USA as a pastor, to shepherd the flock assigned to my charge, and expected to do nothing more for the rest of my life . . . until other events intervened, and I found myself in an impossible situation. Almost simultaneously, I was semi-crippled by a serious injury that led to my medical retirement and a life that hasn't been free of pain for almost a decade. The very prospect (much less the reality) of a meaningful relationship, let alone marriage, seemed ridiculous.
Meeting Miss D. was a revelation for both of us. She's a generation younger than I, raised on a different continent, in a very different culture, with attitudes, outlooks, morals and tastes that were (and in many cases still are) radically different to mine. She's often marveled at how an 'Alaskan goth geek pilot chick' like her could fall for a 'fossilized old African fart' like me . . . and we've often laughed about it together. However, despite those differences, we fill a need in each other that no-one else can. We 'clicked' almost instantly, long before we met in person, and I've no idea why. (She says it's proof that God has a sense of humor!) Certainly Oleg (who introduced us by e-mail) was flabbergasted when, less than two months after he did so, I flew up to Alaska to meet her - and returned having put a ring on her finger. I wasn't about to let this one get away! (Sorry, Oleg, ol' buddy. I got there first!)
Despite our many and sometimes very great differences, Miss D. understands me at a very deep level, as I do her. She's also suffered serious injuries, having to have parts of her body rebuilt, and is still subject to their limitations and the pain they inflict. (When the weather's changing, both of us have internal, surgically-precise barometers that let us know all about it! I hadn't expected shared pain-killers to be so important a part of our relationship. Oh, well . . . ) Having lived in Alaska, she understands the hold that the wide open spaces have on my soul. I think Africa and Alaska have an awful lot in common, despite their differences. They're both wild, untamed places, even though both have cities, airports and infrastructure here and there. In both locations, Mother Nature is a beautiful, alluring, enticing, stone-cold bitch, who'll kill you in a heartbeat if she gets half a chance. You exist at her sufferance, and you dare not forget it - for she never will. Both Miss D. and I understand this reality intuitively, and respond to it.
Perhaps saddest of all, but also very important to us, is that we both know what it means to have loved and lost - both partners and friends. I've left far too many people who were important to me (including a fiancée) in the dust of Africa. She's lost far too many folks who were important to her in Alaska (and a few elsewhere), the latest only a few weeks ago. We both know the pain of loss, the severance of bonds that once shone brightly and were mainstays in our lives. So, late last night (or early this morning), when neither of us could sleep and we were both working on our computers, I was concerned, but not surprised, to see tears in her eyes as she pecked slowly at her keyboard.
I went over to her and hugged her gently. "Are you all right, love?"
I hugged her again. "What's wrong?"
She leaned into me as I bent to her, and we rested our heads against each other for a moment of silent, shared understanding and mutual sympathy . . . then she went back to her typing.
The results of her late night/early morning thoughts are here. Go read them for yourself. They're yet another reason why I love this woman, and why, despite our differences, we understand each other so well.