LAST RIGHTS

The last three words my sweetheart and I speak to each other before hanging up the phone are “I love you.” We say the same in public places whenever going our separate ways, when exiting the house either alone or together, and before falling asleep each night. Sometimes I even say them when leaving her to tidy up the kitchen as I head upstairs to write. The words are always heartfelt. Never flung. Never forgotten.
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I learned to say “I love you” from my mom who thought we should say it to our siblings whenever one of us walked out the door. We didn’t, although the words were a given between me and her, and similarly exchanged between my kid sister, Kate, and I.
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Otherwise, I’m reluctant to express them.
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I don’t recall my father ever saying “I love you” to me or my sisters except in a tickle poem he mostly used to torture Kate. He was a misogynist when it came to his daughters and a misogamist due to our unwanted births. For certain, I neither felt, nor uttered the sentiment to him.
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It’s no secret that my father wanted six sons, having cast himself as too virile to spawn females, so I can’t speak for my brother’s relationships with him. Besides, the three boys were all older, during a period when practicing sexism thrived. They’ve remained distant for most my life. Not as antagonists, mind you. There’s no ill will. Indeed, our communications are always engaging. But we’re more like friends with certain secrets kept than family with skeletal closets closed.
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In fact, I doubt they know, immediately after returning home from a forced 48 hour stay in the mental ward of Foote Memorial Hospital (tethered to a bed by brown leather straps with gray metal buckles), I tried to kill my father with a salad fork. Where I found a salad fork is baffling, since salads were never part of any meal plan when we were young, save for the Waldorf variety when Michigan Macintoshes were plentiful. Admittedly, patricide by salad fork seems tame by today’s road rage comparison, but in 1962 small town, midwest America, even the hint of such news would knock the kid washing his duck in the kitchen sink off the front page (or at least lower it below the fold).
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I was sixteen, five-foot-one, and weighing in at 75 pounds to his five-foot-eight at twice the weight. He quickly overcame me with a grip from behind, but I chomped down on his left hand until I reached the bone of his index finger. Tossed off and aside, I spit blood when warning him to never touch me or Kate again. He never did. We steered clear of each other after that.
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I’ve never cried for my father, nor regretted my actions, remaining reticent about the motive behind my foiled intent of fifty-five years ago. I cannot talk about the details even now.
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And, really, what would be the point? My brothers, who saw no need, nor made an effort to protect their sisters from him in the past might doubt me now, as then. They have their own cemented memories of my father. My older sister grapples with hers, still.
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But no one talks, unless you count my father whose callous and cunning correspondence to my brothers bemoaned his life, made excuses for his failures, alluded to addictions, transferred infidelities, and emulated martyrdom while praising his sons before claiming his redemption. Letters that were copied and given to my Kate as — what? Proof of his greater goodness and professed regret?
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She left me the copies with a not-so-cryptic note attached, written in her own hand, confident I’d understand how it felt to be lost in a world where forgiveness is sometimes the fad, and forgetting is always the fallacy.
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No, no. It hasn’t made me bitter.
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Just weary.
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My mom said my father was watching the Detroit Lions trounce the Cleveland Browns on television when his eyeglasses fell off. While reaching down to retrieve them he suffered a massive heart attack. Before the thud, she heard him curse.
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“God damn it!” were my father’s final words.
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My mom’s final words were, “I know you do.”
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Kate’s final words were, “I love you.”

# # #

by Marguerite Quantaine Copyright @ 2017
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I’m deeply interested in
what you’re thinking and feeling.
PLEASE SELECT REPLY
to add your comments here.
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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
Her novel,
IMOGENE’S ELOISE: Inspired by a true story
is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.
Choose LOOK INSIDE for a free read prior to considering purchase.
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Marguerite Quantaine’s book of essays,
MY LITTLE BLACK DRESS IS PINK
is due for publication in paperback and Kindle on Amazon
October 3, 2017.

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12 thoughts on “LAST RIGHTS

  1. Mary Anne

    My family was never big on the “I love yous” when I was growing up but I was never in doubt that my parents loved us all. It wasn’t until after my father died that my siblings and I learned to say those words to each other and, of course, to our mother. Now there is no hesitation when we say it. Rusty and I are like you and Kate; we can’t leave the room without saying it. Love, or the lack of it, is what will be remembered long after we are dead and gone. Take care my friend.

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine

      Then you and Rusty are like me and MyLz, too — but I’m sure you already know that, Maf. And I hope you’ll never forget how happy it makes us to know you and Rusty have found each other. Hold tight!

      Reply
  2. RJ

    There weren’t “I love yous” in our house either. We all felt unloved by both of our parents. I started the sentiment first with my mother after their divorce when she and I finally developed a mother/friend relationship, but nothing between anyone else. Until my mother had a stroke 20 years ago and nearly died, and my father passed away 18 years ago. I’ve always been very expressive and affectionate, so growing up was quite difficult. The “I love yous” and “love yous” are spoken freely now, but I’m not always convinced the heart is behind the words. Mine always carry the loving sentiment of family and it’s importance in all our lives. I learned the true meaning of love in my 20’s and haven’t stopped sharing since.

    You, my friend, should always feel the love of your chosen family. I love you❣and thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us. ❤️

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      I agree, RJ, about chosen families. I often think we over estimate those required to love us by under estimating those who choose to do so, thereby creating unrealistic expectations and suffering disappointments in the process.

      You’re to be commended for learning to express love more freely, although I’m a great believer in the sincerity of those expressions so neither the giver, nor the receiver is ever in doubt of the intent of one’s heart.

      Make no mistake, I’ve had a wonderful life overflowing with love – perhaps because my childhood made me strong, and (I’d like to think) a better judge of character from role models both bad and very, very good.

      Thank you for sharing yourself here. My hope is that it helps others feel less isolated in dealings with their past and present families.

      Reply
  3. Val

    I am touched to the core. I had a dad when he said “I love you,” it came from the heart. Not the heart of darkness. You have made me feel a tiny bit of what you must have felt, and even that bit is overwhelming. This is what a brilliant writer can do. Many thanks.

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      You were very fortunate to have such a dad, Val. I think we all need at least one parent to assure us that we’re loved most and always. Those without such a foundation are put at risk of going through life believing “If my parents couldn’t love me, no one can.”

      I had my mom, my grandmother, and my sisters to cancel out the fury of my father and have always felt nothing shy of grateful.

      That gratitude goes for readers like you, too, Val, without whom words by writers like me would fall on deaf hearts. So, thank you.

      Reply
  4. Eugenia Woodard

    Looking forward to reading more! You have a wonderful style! So happy to reconnect. I am the “love” one in my family. .Dad said it to Mom but it was late in his life when he said it to me. I am kind of pushy about it. I say. It to my wife all of the time and mean it! It is hard sometimes to express deep feelings. I’m glad you had your sister.
    Take care of yourself! I love you! ~G

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine

      People who are as fortunate as I have been, G, correct their difficulties in childhood by becoming an adult who chooses to triumph in spite of adversity. My mother and grandmother were wonderful role models in that respect, and my sister was my staunch supporter. Sometimes by understanding the kind of person you don’t want to become is the most valuable life lesson. A gift of sorts. It is heartening to know you’re adamant above love. Thank you.

      Reply
  5. Sharon MCarty Brown

    Marguerite, once again your words and your story have touched my heart. My childhood was happy and safe and loving and I was very blessed. My daughters and I and my grandchildren never part without saying I Love You. My late husband and I did the same. Thank you for your courage in sharing. I can still see you in high school, always so busy and looking pretty but serious as you went about your tasks, with determination. I always felt you were on important missions. As it turns out, I didn’t know how right I was! I’m truly amazed by you and your stories. Thank you and I’m so happy that you found your Forever Love and have shared your life’s journey together all of these years.

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine

      You are a writer’s dream, Sharon, always so encouraging and attentive.

      And right you are! I was, indeed, serious and determined in high school — but happy to be there, too. Between forensics, debate, theatre, and journalism it was a refuge of heaven on earth for me. But I was also well aware of the turmoil and struggle facing many students who made me privy to their lives (while hiding my own). l dare say my family would prefer I’d be less forthcoming, however I think the great failing of many writers is exactly that — refusing to share for the benefit of others in order to protect oneself. I’m so delighted to know your life has been filled with love, Sharon. May it continue on endlessly — to infinity and beyond.

      Reply

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