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Caroline Simon

When a Man Loves a Woman--As a Friend (Part 2)

(Second of two parts; click here to read Part 1)

Jim responds to what he knows must be her deep pain by recounting the story of some of his own scars in some detail. His older son weathered his parents' divorce in 1962 pretty well, but Jim's younger son Marshall seems permanently damaged by it. Early problems in school are followed by more severe ones in later life: drug addiction, abrupt personality changes, and finally, a complete breach with his father. Jim writes,

Last fall he phoned me suddenly in a long and terrifying speech barely coherent, full of anger and confusion. Shortly afterward I received a letter from him. He told me that he did not want me as his father. Since that time, I have kept in touch with his mother, and I'm helping financially without his knowledge. Annie has been a great support through it all, but I have mainly clung to my books, my writing. . . . Leslie, I am not telling you all this in despair, and I ask you to forgive me for laying out my worst pain to you. I just wanted somehow to tell you that I understand how you feel about your children.

Telling her his own story is, as he says later, his way of sayinherish and guard the story of his letter, which she realizes was told with grief and love and compassion. She writes, "I believe more than ever that it is in sharing the stories of our grief that we . . . can feel that we are not alone, that we are not the first and the last to confront losses such as these."

Her belief in the power of stories is rooted both in her vocation and her culture, "The root of each Navajo healing ceremony is a particular story--by now very ancient stories--but the idea is clear: certain stories at certain times have healing property." Knowing which story to tell when and just how to tell it is an art, one that must be informed by love: "All we can do is to remember and to tell with all our hearts, not hold back, because anything held back or not told cannot continue on with others." These friends, then, are a source ...

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