Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A real man

I had a very interesting conversation with a young man this weekend. He's from Scotland and he told me the story of his child, how he was almost aborted. He said something that I could not resist putting in the story.

He seemed a wonderful fellow. I don't know if he is married now (at 26) or has a girlfriend, but I would certainly recommend him to any young woman of the right age and correct intentions.

Towards the end of our conversation, he said something that I thought appropos to our discussion last week about marriage and its current state of decay...
“There’s a contradiction when a man is looked down upon if he’s not going to be there when his child is born, yet he’s told he has no part to play in this whole thing.

“He’s vilified for not playing a part in the child’s life, for not supporting him, whereas that’s positively encouraged from the very start of the child’s life. So it isn’t a surprise that we see men abandoning children.”

He added, “I know we’re not supposed to judge people, but I really think that what a man does in relation to his children is a way in which we can sort of measure if he’s a real man or not. Because if a man abandons his own child, then he’s not a real man in my eyes.”

How hard it is to find a real man.

Today, I found my mother's 'blog. She died in Vancouver in June 2007, a few months after I had gone to see her in April. She was not a happy woman, as I have written here before, but she found the right sort of man. Things ended tragically for her and for Graham, a story I will not tell here. But they had some years of happiness together.

Judy posted this on September 7, 2006.

Twenty-seven years ago today, on September 4, 1979, I sat on a log on Dallas Road Beach in Victoria, BC, Graham beside me. It's a day I will never forget.

That morning, I had woken up at eight, after a bad night. I'd tossed and turned and dreamed and lain awake because the only thing in my mind was the man I had so recently been introduced to. I dreamed of myself in a white wedding dress and veil—and black rubber boots, feeding chickens. That's the only memory of that dream that I still carry with me. When I woke, on that cool, sunny day, still with those images in my mind, I wanted to see him but it was a Tuesday, the day after Labour Day, and he had to work.

As I lay there, after having fed breakfast to my daughter and then having gone back to bed, though I was awake, I thought I heard a knock at the door. It came again, not loud, though firm.

My daughter and I lived on the top floor of a house, while Brenda, the landlady, lived on the lower, street-level floor. There was an outer door to my apartment and a staircase. I went to my inside door and opened it, wondering who on earth wanted to see me at that time of day but I called down the stairs, "Come in." It opened and there was Graham's face looking up to me.

"Can I come in?" he asked.

I was speechless. I stood there like a dummy until I found my voice. "Sure. Come on up."

He came up the stairs and saw that I was still in my dressing gown over my nightie. He said nothing but the ball was in my court.

"Would you like some tea?"

"Yes, that would be nice."

I led him to the kitchen at the back of the apartment, put the kettle on and bade him sit at the table. "I'll just go get dressed," I said.

By the time I was dressed, the kettle was boiling. I made tea and we exchanged some small talk over steaming cups.

"Would you like to go out?" he said. "Drive around, maybe?

I said that I would. We left the apartment, got into his little Toyota, as he called it, and drove through Victoria. We ended up at Smitty's and I ordered a bowl of soup, since it was early lunch time. I toyed with the soup, not really hungry, wondering how I could possibly tell this man that I was in love with him. He told me that he had left work because, as chief engineer, he had that privilege and they didn't really need him because they were in a mini-refit. They weren't sailing around Vancouver island that week. Eventually, we got back into the Toyota and drove to Dallas Road Beach.

Dallas Road is a long, winding road that skirts the edge of Victoria as it follows the coastline of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The scenery is gorgeous with the Cascade Range visible on the other side of the water, one patch always with snow. At various points, you can climb down to the beach, with its sand and pebbles and various sun-bleached logs, escapees from log booms or deadheads that came ashore.

We stopped at one of those places in James Bay, the original part of Victoria. I went ahead of him, picking my way down to the sand, then toward the logs. I felt his hand on my back.

"Do you think I don't know?" he said.

I turned to look at him. My feelings tumbled around in my head, not sure which way to land. Should I be happy (why not?), disappointed (in what?), happy (now you're getting it)... I just smiled, feeling almost embarrassed (Oh, Lord). We put an arm around each other, saying nothing, and walked to a large log and sat on it. He put his arms around me, I looked up and gave him a light peck on the cheek (It had been a long time!). We clung to each other, both lost ships in the night, holding onto each other to weather the storms of our lives.

"We'd better do it," he said.

I knew immediately that he meant marriage. My heart leapt in my chest, my spine tingled and I gave him a much better kiss. I don't know how long we sat on that log, but the grey sky split open and a shaft of sunlight came on us. That was always his strongest memory of that day, that the sunlight opened up for us alone, two souls finally joined as one. "And the two shall become one." [Jesus — the Gospel of Thomas.)

He was a very religious man, in the sense that he saw God everywhere, lived as good a life as he could. No fundamentalist he, nor I. I've always wanted to see that as God, too. Perhaps it was. Eventually, we got up, walked up to the street again and walked, my hand clutched to his chest.

I'll never forget the look on his face as we walked. He shone, a smile on his lips, his eyes open and looking ahead, his body upright, chest out. He was a man again. His previous wife had left him for a boyfriend and all Graham's money. He was a big man, very strong. He wore a full beard and had a full head of brown, curly hair. He was very handsome to my eyes. And now he was complete as a man as he had never been before.

All through the brief time we had together, I never wavered in my love for him nor he in his for me. It was the kind of love that knows no limits; it took me wherever he wished to go without question. There was never a time when I had to wonder whether I loved him or not. I suggest that a woman who asks herself this is not in love; a woman who does not wish with her whole heart to go wherever he needs to go, be what he wishes to be is not in love. A man who does not wish to support his wife in her goals, so long as those goals do not compromise the marriage, is not in love. If I had wanted to move back to the coast, he would have come. I knew that. I also knew that he loved the Arctic and I would never have asked him to give it up for me.

He changed my life. I gave him years of happiness that he could not have hoped for as he had been living. I think of him every day, though he has been gone from this Earth for seventeen years. He waits for me.




Fr. John Mary, ISJ said...


BillyHW said...

A real man doesn't sleep with another man's future wife.

Martial Artist said...

Miss White,

Thank you for sharing that part of your mother's story. Reading it made me very directly call to mind what a blessing my wife has been to me.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

Anonymous said...

What a precious treasure to find. Your mother is a good writer- perhaps you somewhat inherited it from her. It is a beautiful story; although tragically sad it speaks of love and God in a very humble sense that often one does not find anymore.
It could fit into a book of some kind. In fact it seems to be something one would read in a book that would go on- similar to Flannery O Connor.

And the other story about the young man fighting for the love of fathers for children is wonderful as well.

Thank you for your writing.

l. julianna

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Hilary Jane!

Just wanted to offer you my condolences for the troubles your mother suffered. And I'm glad she had ten happy years with Graham.

Sincerely, Sean

Seraphic said...

That's very beautiful, Hilary. It's interesting that your mother observed that her husband-to-be was not a "whole man" without a woman. I wonder if this is an American/Canadian male phenomenon, for British men don't seem to be like that, particularly not those of the traditional educated class.

Anonymous said...

To BillyHW:

I presume from your comment you've never made a mistake, never succumbed to temptation and never had to fight for the life of your unborn child. A real man can admit to his mistakes and doesn't look down his nose at those who do own up and take responsibility for their actions.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...


I don't know if you have had a chance to read the commbox rules, which are posted to the sidebar to the left. Scroll down a bit, and click there.

You will see there that there are strict rules about "nasty", about picking fights and, perhaps most emphatically, about using a real name and manfully owning up to your comments.

You will also note that William has special privileges here.

I trust I will not have to warn you again...

oh, that's right. Of course, I trust that, because I have my finger hovering over the smite button.

Good reason.

Joseph Lee said...

Warning heeded Hilary.

I'm thankful God allows us a 2nd chance. In fact, he allows us a million chances, infinite chances.

Sometimes we have to reach almost rock bottom before we turn to God for help, and that's fine too because Christ died for us all, even the worst sinner.

We all make mistakes, sometimes it's that mistake that set us on the path to real manhood.