I've known Tom for over ten years now, and when I sat down to pray about his reemergence in my life across hundreds of miles and who knows how many corn fields, the answer was simple: All is gift. Love him.
So I did. And do.
What greater gift than to be loved as a not fairly normal woman, still the quiet student in black hiding in the bathroom during lunch or in the art room covered under the private soundcave made by her walkman. Too sensitive, maybe. Weird. Bookish. Depressed. Annoying. (He'll love that one. When I admitted that I felt this way, he just said, "You're right. You are REALLY annoying." And suddenly I'm laughing at the ridiculous nature of my claim. This is the blessing of allowing someone to see your wounds and watch as his love tends to them.) Or the grown woman, sometimes outrageous and self-absorbed, often stubborn, covered in dirt and self-doubt. He loves that one, too.
This morning in bed watching the rain almost fall, there is this epiphany: he loves me the way God made me. And this is part of the work we are given in our most sacred relationships--to love as we have been loved. To cherish through another's eyes, what we have perceived until this time of opening to another, the quirks and the conflicts, our painful histories and the broken, ugly places we know within ourselves. We use the term "unconditional love" to describe this, but I think it's more a matter of loving each other with all our conditions.
I know my Love and my Love knows me. And when your Love offers you something fragile and unsure, extended in trembling hands, hold it for them, with them. And give them the same opportunity to hold something broken of yours. I have a tendency to keep my hands in tight fists (the body doesn't lie--ready for a fight, scared to open up, self conscious about how sweaty they always are or how they break out in eczema). With Tom, I'm learning to uncurl them. And, trust me. There is peace here.
And when he sends me off on the plane with two grilled cheese sandwiches on homemade bread, I understand the gift of being fed all day by a single person. He sustains so many people through the gifts he was given, the ones he won't keep for himself--his patience and presence as a father, his cooking, his ability to hear and record another's music, his belief in his students. You should see him leaning over a cookbook, reading glasses hovering, eyebrows raised, lost in the process.
The gifts pass between us. And I'm so thankful for the gift of him. Yeah, I'm talking to you, Tom.