Thomas looked at me for a long time through half-closed eyelids trying to figure out if I were another hallucination. I was the last person he expected to see.
“Kit, I think I’m at the end of my road,” he said after awhile in which he may have decided that it doesn't matter if I were real. His body looked frail against the white sheets in the hospital bed in which he’d spent the last three days in and out of consciousness.
His body was failing from a lifetime of self-inflicted wounds.
He started having seizures about a year ago. And was riddled with a host of other problems, heart, lungs…. He was told that one of the seizures would kill him. Whenever I got a call that he had another episode, I showed up knowing that it may be his last. “I want to be there,” I told Alan.
“Why?” he asked.
Thomas was once my husband and he will forever be Thorr’s father. The question is not why? It’s why not?
I’ve been writing a lot about unburdening myself of the people in my life who causes conflict and misery. Thomas is on the list. I carried him on my back for many years –dragged around the baggage he collected throughout his life as if they were my burdens to bear. When you get too close to damaged people who have not learned to heal themselves, you become part of their destructive cycle – unless you step away and lay them down. I divorced him many years ago, but I took his troubles with me.
That's no longer the case. I re-wrote the script of the life we planned with the life we were given. And when I stepped away from the wreckage, I had a view of Thomas’s life from a perspective that I had never seen before, and I have formed new appreciation, understanding and compassion for the man.
There is a great line delivered in Citizen Cane, by Philip Van Zandt who played Mr. Rawlson, “It isn't enough to tell us what a man did. You've got to tell us who he was.”
I have written about what Thomas did, but not enough about Thomas. He is a brilliant man with a soft heart. It’s what drew me to him. He is a gifted architect and a visionary. Throughout our marriage, I watched him built himself up like the exquisite homes he designed, and tore himself down as one would an old decrepit home with a cracked foundation.
You see, Thomas is also very troubled – that’s also what drew me to him. I have a weakness for broken people. I want to fix them. I’ve had to learn that I cannot pick up every bird with a broken wing that I come across and bring them home. Some are beyond my power to heal.
Thomas was raised in an abusive home. His father was an alcoholic who physically and verbally abused the family until he died of a heart attack. But the family did not heal.
Thomas’s descent into drug addiction started when he was sixteen and continued throughout his life. He tried countless times to get help before and after I came along. He was clean when I met him, but he went back to using heroin. I couldn’t save him. I took Thorr and left.
Thomas wandered through life like a lost soul. He slept on the street when he had a home and family. He kept poking himself to see how much he could bleed. He was like a one-legged man trying to make his way up a hill. He meant to keep his promises, but broke them.
A man’s life is not destined for destruction because he had a bad childhood. But neither can he build a house on a foundation made of sand. No matter how big and beautiful a house may be, if the structure is unstable, it will fall. Thomas knew that he had a cracked foundation, but did not make the connection that he, like the houses he designed and built, he had to strengthen his foundation before he could build on it.
There is no more anger or hatred in me about Thomas’s struggles with drug addiction, his abandonment of Thorr and our failed marriage. I expected love from a man who did not know love, protection from a little boy trying to find a safe corner in which to hide. He watched his mother beaten bloody time and again and could not help her.
Thomas could not give me what he did not have. He did not set out to intentionally hurt me – I got hurt because I tried to live in a house with a cracked foundation that could not sustain me.
There is so much that I did not understand.
As I sat by his side and read him Emily Dickinson’s, After Great Pain, A Formal feeling Comes. I think about the years long gone, and memories that I thought long dead burst into life - two people starry eyed and full of hope heading for an unknown future – riding elephants in Koh Samui, Thailand, spending quiet evenings by the crackling fireplace in our first home on wintry evenings, bringing Thorr home from the hospital…and I smiled a little through the sadness.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”
– Frederick Douglass -