The Oft-Cut Gem

The shine of tears
On the oft-cut gem:
For choices make us
More than we make


The phone buzzes in my pocket while I am sitting in a meeting at work. The meeting is almost over, so I decide to wait until after to see who it is.

As I’m walking back to the floor I work on, I see that it was the youngest of my stepdaughters, the one who lives out of town. She and her husband are having… challenges.

Sitting on my desk is a photo of her, taken two autumns ago. She’s very tall, and very beautiful, but even then, the sadness she carried with her always was evident. For no young girl ever loved a man more than she has loved her husband, but his is a tortured existence.

She was in town a few weeks ago for the first time in almost a year, and it was wonderful to see her. Very different than her sisters, with a wildly extroverted oldest sister, and an ambitious and motivated middle sister, she prefers a quiet and simple life. Of an extremely quick mind, she has subordinated every aspect of her life to that of her husband.

All of this is heartbreaking to her mother, who sees her youngest as having given away large parts of who she really is, and with rather poor return. Maybe it is my naturally melancholy temperament, but I view love and grief as being the same currency; you trade in one, you deal with the other.

That, and I truly believe her husband loves her as well, he just has mental health and behavioral limitations.

When I wrote a few essays ago about being a stepparent, I mentioned that it can be a very asymmetrical type of thing: however, with my youngest stepdaughter and my stepson, it feels the least so. In her case, she seems to see and value aspects of the relationship her mother and I have in a way neither of her sisters do – particularly, that we keep each other sane.

If you are with someone who tears you down, or who you feel a need to tear down, you are in the wrong relationship, or perhaps you have no business being in any relationship.

Love doesn’t tear down, love builds up.

So I look, from the picture on my desk back to the text message on my phone and answer:

Sure. Whatever I can do to help…

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