I believe in my wife Loretta. Now this may seem like an essay on marriage. It is not. It’s just my thoughts on the human experience of belonging. Loretta and I first knew we belonged together when my grandmother said that we were having a queer wedding, because we wanted a simple ceremony instead of a high mass. Being a devout catholic, my grandmother was naturally disappointed. We had our wedding reception at the farmhouse we were renting, and everyone had a glorious time; including my grandmother. This is now our 26th year of being together. We have had lots of ups and downs, exuberance and disappointments, and lots of forgiveness, especially from Loretta. Our focus has been on raising our son. If we don’t vaporize him first, he will turn out to be a fine young man.
Loretta and I work in the field of mental retardation. On a daily basis, we see the joys and frustrations of individuals with disabilities reaching to find their humanity. Intuitively, we know that many of their socially inappropriate behaviors are born of an innocent desire to belong; to connect with another person. We do our best to provide guidance, direction, and support to these individuals.
A few years ago, I almost died from cancer. After an arduous operation to remove the cantankerous tumor and most of my insides, I was wheeled to the ICU. I remember gasping for air, as the nurse pulled the oxygen tube from my throat, to make my lungs do their job once again. I didn’t have any out of body experiences, nor did I see a heavenly light. I do remember the fuzzy image of Loretta standing over me. I relaxed and started breathing, knowing that I once again belonged.
Every time I turn on my computer, I find a dazzling array of celebrities splashed across my homepage. Curiously, I will click on their pictures to find out about their latest triumphs. I wonder if celebrities are just like me underneath; just wanting to belong with someone. Maybe not. Maybe their self confidence and ego is enough.
As we grow older, we tend to look for anchors of comfort. Many people take solace in their religion or personal beliefs. I need something more concrete. Call it an anchor or a lifeline; I know I need Loretta not only to believe in me, but to help me believe in myself. Together, we believe in each other.
For me, the moments before I enter the twilight zone known as sleep are the most peaceful. It is a time when belonging with someone is most precious. I believe that when it comes time for me to enter the world of forever sleep, I will let go, secure in the knowledge that I belonged with someone special.