Happy Anniversary, Chris Lierheimer.


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Twenty seven years ago today, I :

*Was very young. 23 seems a lot younger now than it did then.

*Was twelve pounds lighter and had great knees! It’s amazing the noise they make now.

*Decided that life with Chris Lierheimer was better than life without him.

*Thought that all an abused man needed was the Holy Spirit and the love of a good woman. (There’s a book about naivete in there somewhere. )

*Was lighthearted. Thought PTSD was a designer disease for slacker soldiers.

*Thought a lot less than I do now. Pretty much accepted what my conservative Baptist upbringing gave me, word for word.

*Thought about ‘terminal’ in terms of trains and airports.

*Was exceedingly self-absorbed. The world was my oyster, and I was going to make a difference.

*Had no idea what an ‘intact family’ was. Didn’t everyone have one? What’s up with making a special name for what’s normal?

Now, twenty seven years later, on this day, I:

* Am 50. That seems so substantial. My peers are busy getting their minds blown about teetering on the brink of old age, and I don’t have time for that. As far as I’m concerned, 50 is High Noon, so let’s get busy!

*Weigh in at around a buck forty instead of a buck thirty. Guess what? I’m never going to stand on a pointe shoe again, and good for the 23 year old Victoria who could. My body has mothered four children, seen a good man to his grave, held the hands of dying men and women, and kissed my own mother goodbye. I’m delighted with this ‘car’ God gave me to drive around while I’m here, in spite of the fact I have to take in for repairs more often. I can swim, run around, hike, ballroom dance, turn the heads of the middle aged man set, (and a few women) -In short, this body rocks.

*Still think that life with Chris Lierheimer was better with him, than without him. It would be now. I’m sitting on the porch of our lovely little family cottage in Upstate New York, watching the herons and loons go by. Having kids is great to share these things with, but having him would be better.

* Realize that paternal abuse is about one of the most heinous things someone can do to a child. Chris needed years of therapy before marriage, and certainly before children. Had his mother addressed this instead of denying it, many of our bumps would have been diminished.

*Carry a lot more weight around. Chris’s death was the most traumatic event I have ever endured, and the fallout from PTSD lasts. More on that later.

*Realize the kind of Baptist upbringing that I had was a genuine mixed bag. The youth leader was a charismatic high school teacher who actually believed that Catholics likely weren’t Christians because they worshipped saints. All the ‘cool’ kids went to youth group, and chubby stutterers like me were relegated to the outskirts. On the other hand, we hand a constant, steady stream of solid grounding in the Scripture, and for that I am grateful.

*Shudder less at the word ‘terminal’. My good friend Clare Flourish (clareflourish.wordpress.com) unwittingly gave me a piece of life-changing wisdom a few columns ago. We were trading experiences about seeing our fathers age, and in her case, die. She told me that she had, rather than a sense of ‘a life lost’, ‘a life completed’, at the loss of her dad. I believe that we were created not to die, but to live with God and enjoy Him forever. Clare’s words gave me a vision of my dad finishing the work he was to do, and getting off at his terminal. He’s going to be with his father, and his Heavenly father. This is a good thing. Thank you, Clare Flourish.

*Am a great deal less self-absorbed. Thank God. Had I no children, no husband, no divorced, agnostic, Jewish, Buddhist, doubting, gay, transexual, young, elderly or otherwise different friends, I’d be a crashing boor. I shudder at the thought.

*Mourn the loss of my intact family. There is simply no getting around that. My dear friend Bird Martin (everyonehasastory.me) once observed  …wouldn’t we want our loved ones to keep a little token of us in their hearts should the roles have been reversed?…Chris will have left behind a little legacy in that you will be little more empathetic for others who are going through the same thing. Don’t fight it in those sad moments when you think of him. Embrace the fact that he deserved to have someone grieve for him  here on earth.”  

I find this to be true. And as I said a few days ago, some pain demands to be felt. But my family is not intact and I wonder where the fractures will end. God is the Great Physician, to be sure, but we do not know His plans.

Even so, life is good. On this, my twenty-seventh anniversary, my children and I raise a glass of peach wine to that marriage day long ago. Happy anniversary, Chris Lierheimer.

Much love,

 

Victoria

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Sabbatical in a Teacup: Day Nine, it must be Paris. On Trans Women, Drinking Chocolate and Talking Sexuality.


So here I sit on the left bank of the river Seine. I can actually see blue sky, and leave my jacket open, so I know I’m not in London. We are slowly unclenching, my girls and I, we slept in until ten thirty this morning, and then saw this.

The south rose window of Notre Dame

The south rose window of Notre Dame

It was worth most of the day to go to Notre Dame. Really, Catholics have some incredible history in their cathedrals. Just thinking about all the scaffolding needed to build these enormous vaulted ceilings makes my head spin. It’s nearly 850 years old, and still standing! Sure, a number of restorations, but remarkable nonetheless.

We then found an entire street next to ours, that was simply several huge blocks of art galleries. I would have been drawn and quartered had I taken pictures, so leave it to say my desire for new artwork in my home far exceeds my budget. Fun to look, though.

Dinner, and then this.

The Eiffel tower, during the evening light show.

The Eiffel tower, during the evening light show.

Who can resist? There is something special about La Tour Eiffel. We went around nine o’clock, when the crowds were minimal and the view still superb.

What was really fun though, was the perpetual search for drinking chocolate on the way back. Now, after Cambridge, we have been completely spoiled for hot chocolate. or ‘chocolate chaud’ here. We found a little shop there, where for one pound seventy, you got a little pot of this marvelous, thick concoction topped with real whipped cream. Gracious, non of this nasty, powdery just-add-water stuff will ever do again. So we keep looking, my girls and I.

We passed a gelato shop, and had high hopes. When we were about to enter, I was startled by the appearance of a genuine trans woman coming toward me. He was wearing a bright purple tutu, red leggings, boots, a wig like Mom used to wear, and a profound five oclock shadow. It was one of those rare times I was rendered speechless.

“Girls!” I hissed, after he was out of earshot. “Did you see that?” The girls erupted into laughter.

“Duh! Geez, Mom! Was that the first trannie you’ve seen this trip? We’ve seen at least six!”

“Well,” I stumbled around. “Yes, I guess it was. I so want to give him a makeover. Nana had a wig like that!” I giggled. “And a purple tutu? Doesn’t he have a sister?”

“Wow! Judge much?” my liberal college age girls taunted. Actually, not at all. Jesus is the only one who can change people’s hearts, I wouldn’t even try. But a purple tutu?

In Paris, I’ve noticed that same sex couples are much freer than in the US. Over the years, I’ve taken a lot of slack for what some people might call a liberal attitude toward that sort of sexuality.

I find though, that the proof of something can often be found in one’s children. I don’t find sexual sin to be any different than anything else. Let’s be clear, the Bible is quite specific about homosexuality. As it is about gluttony, strife, envy, murder, and my all time favorite, gossip.

So Chris and I trained our children accordingly. Jesus didn’t die twice for the gay man, any more than he did the addict or the angry man. We’ve had a lot of time to talk about all sorts of things on this trip, and it’s really fun to get to know my girls in their near-adult incarnations.

As college freshman, they are subject to the antics of a lot of near-adults in their dorms. Sexual exploration, alcohol abuse, and all kinds of random behavior are seen by them on a regular basis. They’ve both developed a remarkably sensitive ‘gaydar’, for example. A compassionate one, too.

As I listen to them talk about their gay friends, I find I can drop some of the jaundice I’ve developed over the years toward some of the more rabid members of that community. I was raised conservative Baptist, remember, and many of my leaders had a special contempt reserved for gay folks.

It’s funny though, my own mother was a great counter example. Raised extremely conservative Grace Bretheren, she didn’t see a movie or play cards until she was 21.

Yet here are some great “Nana Quotes.”

“Vickey, Diana is coming over for dinner. Now, don’t tell your dad, but she’s a homosexual and she’s bringing her friend.”

“Vickey, Vickey! Listen to me. Don’t tell your dad, but your piano teacher is getting a divorce because he’s gay. His boyfriend is very nice, and Milton and Betty are still great friends. But don’t tell your dad, he just doesn’t understand.”

And on and on. Little bitty Nana, friends with everyone, no matter what their issues. Sound familiar? I bet Jesus would have done the same thing.

So I stand on the sidelines and watch. I admire the gay men walking arm in arm, securely wrapped in knotted scarves and impeccably dressed. I go to a vintage clothing shop with Abi, and admire a pair of leggy French women, obviously partners, trying on hats.

I listen to my daughters talk about “Gay Tam” and “Lesbian Sal” without an ounce of judgement in their voices. I hear them talk about asking everyone to their church’s caroling, or service project, and wonder at the architecture of friendship.

There’s an unexpected sort of purity there, and I find it delightful. They know exactly what’s going on, and accept these kids anyway. It’s sort of magnificent, almost as much as Notre Dame.

Much love,

Victoria