I’m a 60’s kid. I admit to bell-bottoms, Beatles and banana bikes. But the psychedelic flavor of those colorful days also brought the iconic musical Camelot, a romantic tale of knights and maidens, later co-opted by a couple in the White House named Kennedy. Once upon a time, I found my own version of Camelot, or at least as close as I would ever get to it since our story began in the middle. And though we lived the time-honored vows of ‘sickness and health’ in technicolor, I never factored in that happily ever after wasn’t in the cards.
Then again, Camelot isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
In fact, both in fiction and application to life, the tale was very different than Lerner and Lowe’s magical creation. While, like the mythological King Arthur, beginnings of almost everything are built on the best hopes and ideals, there always seems to be an unseen Merlin, whose machinations run opposite to our best hopes.
“What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes part of us.” Helen Keller
My Camelot came complete with a room full of tiny medieval toy knights, that often threatened to overrun the place. My husband’s affinity for the little suckers necessitated his building carefully crafted castles, drawbridges and moats as strongholds against miniature armies of weapon-wielding knights. Unfortunately, even alligator filled moats are no match for cancer but knowing my funny husband, he would have had a comeback for that.
“Marriage has no guarantees. If that’s what you’re looking for, live with a car battery.” Erma Bombeck.
People say a knight in shining armor are often those who never had their mettle tested. I met a few of them; I even dated them. You know, those dudes whose shiny metal suits were actually tin foil. That’s why I almost missed the knight whose armor had as many dings and dents as his car bumper. He was the real deal who fought his share of dragons, especially the most fearsome of all. I witnessed that man’s spirit, self-confidence, courage and self-esteem tried beyond toleration yet, each time, he got back on that horse (actually a green Nissan) to battle another day. Yet, even those who earn their knighthoods, through years of epic battling the two-headed beast, can still be defeated.
Legends, myths, fairytales make life more colorful, more imaginative to be sure, but a real happily ever isn’t a given. It’s a gift. Along with joy comes lions, tigers and bears and, with a charmed castle life, come real life battles for heart and health. Only one thing is sure in life – it will eventually end. Our ending just came earlier than expected.
“She was no longer wrestling in the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts.” George Eliot
Through the years, I’ve often wondered if my Camelot man ever had an inkling that his numbered days were closing in. If so, it might have been the reason he was impatient with books that didn’t impact, news reports that weren’t authentic, conversations that weren’t ‘interesting’ and days that didn’t include drives to nowhere. I’ll never know. But run out of days he did. Camelot hit the skids when Lancelot left the building and I was forced to forge a new path into the unknown. With no map, I wandered through sometimes sketchy scenery with less than tasty snacks. Now, nearly 7 years later, the toy castles reside in new homes and the many hopeful, little painted survivors of medieval toyland wars were summarily dispersed.
“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” Khalil Gibran
Love and loss are opposite sides of the same coin. Like new love, new grief is similar in its intensity, except all our emotions are upside down. No matter how consuming in its beginnings, both joy and grief are tempered as years go by. Year anniversaries of weddings are happily celebrated, while yearly death dates and all life’s markers in between, incite only dread. Thankfully, however, as years pass the grace of time softens grief in the inexorable pull of life until finally we mark those sad anniversaries without guilt that we are ‘okay’. You never get ‘over’ loss; you just grow around the empty spot it carved. Slowly you find a new normal, a new self, maybe even — new love.
Marking yet another wedding anniversary without plucky guy who went to work each day, treating cancer as if it was just a ‘flesh wound’, it’s clear the dragon won. But I will always have a knight to remember.