Tag Archives: long distance relationships

The Difference.

The sheets and blankets rolled into their customary clump again, like a load of laundry waiting to be sorted. There was the top sheet, placed to protect the rest from animal dander; the knit blanket; the small downy; and, somewhere impossible to determine, the sheet intended to cover the body directly – never found, just felt, in a tangle, around the calves.
At her frustration, he cursed, and tossed them all on top of her, four frozen minutes later getting out of the bed and heading to the kitchen. He was finished sleeping, after all, and it was morning on his day off; five in the morning, but morning in his world, just the same.
She really had no definition of love, apart from her own experience; as such, it likely differed from everyone elses. When she awoke in her morning, her first thought was usually about what she could do. Might she help clean, or find something else practical that should make all his days off easier before the inevitable return to the grind? Maybe there was a gadget to acquire, or some task she could cover; maybe a food, or a practice, that could increase the quality of his health or environment.

Then, she’d set about to do it. She’d think about what she could do, for him, and then she’d do it.

Granted, sometimes there was a failure to recognize how he might want to spend a day, or how he might want to do something or have something done. Her desires for him, in conflict with those for himself.

This is how love was expressed toward her, indeed the only way it was ever expressed in her family, and that by the mother; Great-Gramma, Mammy and then mum were ever about doing what would keep the family going – sustained, protected, cared for. It was the definition carried down by her family, and its small, exclusive, Fundamentalist fellowship; a woman, after all, born to serve.

She, however, had inherited at least half of her father’s DNA and he was nothing if not independent-minded. While primitive in scope, he’d much preferred exactly the way HE did things, even when his wife felt differently about either the quality of his efforts or the choices he prioritized.

And, that had been their fifty-plus years together; mum, serving what she determined to be dad’s needs, and he serving himself.

She couldn’t think of a single thing that dad ever did for mum. Ever. Perhaps he’d tried, early on – only to be met by her bitter ridicule of the quality thereof. Yes; that was mum – a child of the Great Depression, who’d been raised to perform tasks for her very survival. There was nobody else who knew how any better than she, and she made sure that everybody knew it.

Now, she could hear him, even with the bedroom door closed, emptying the dishwasher of its cutlery – each fork and spoon, dropping into its slot in the drawer, like water torture during World War II, she envisioned, tightening her arms over both ears. Even in spite of his particular family dynamic – absent biological father, present if abusive step dad – he’d been raised to expect a woman to care for his needs, and to place them at the top of her agenda. Even when he didnt want her to, he still ultimately expected it.

This was generational. Eventually, many women got wise to the fact that, unless they did for themselves, nothing they really wanted out of life would come to them. That was when they began to put aside enough money to buy their own cars, and then their own homes, and to make lives for themselves.

Others continued in the tradition of their forebears, by: attracting the man they’d selected; manipulating him into supporting them; and, getting their needs met through him indirectly without his realizing —  including going elsewhere, behind his back, to get what he could not or would not offer, all within the framework of the life they’d maneuvered for themselves.

But, she was part of the generation of women which broke ground and established separate identities. In her case, truly believing that she would attract a man of such quality that he would actually want an independent female who would share in the load of life. Yeah; that.

That was her generation, and it pretty much left the men who were her contemporaries blindsided; who would be left to care for them, in the manner to which they had become accustomed?

In an effort to feel worthy, her generation of men had become the step-dads of their era. The new step dads – not like those of their own, bitter experience. They’d become the ones who rode in on their steeds, fully armored, ready to love both the single woman AND her brood of offspring left by the deadbeat in his wake. Hence the acronym: SMILF (and, the title of the new Tv show): Single Mother I’d Love to F@$k.

This was hard. The women watched, from inside the houses they’d bought and the full time jobs maintained, as the vast majority of their own men selected “unwed” or divorced mothers instead of independent women to care for and love.

It didn’t surprise her, at all then, that he remained curious about his ex’s daughter, even after the death of the girl’s mother. Neither was she surprised when he became annoyed every time she asserted a need of her own, however small or petty it may have seemed to him.

Unclasping her arms from about her head she shoved away the mound of covers and sat up, her aging, overtired body fighting to right itself. His mattress, designed to absorb the body’s configuration, had no rebound capacity. On this morning, even the bed was no help.

Playing second, third, even fourth – behind the dogs, the cat and the laying hens –  on this morning, her reality had come home to roost. Only she wasn’t home. Not really.  There was an old, displaced farmhouse about eighteen minutes northwest, one she’d acquired at age twenty nine for thirty four five at eight and a quarter fixed; paying on the principal each month, she’d become its owner in just under sixteen years. For her purposes, the location had been ideal; under ten minutes, in any direction, to get anywhere in town. On this morning, still very much the middle of her night, its walls were calling. Her house, her spouse.

She just had to get back to her established domain, and nurture it for herself. Today, she must. She had learned that, in spite of the overwhelm left in its neglected wake, that home was still her own. Her comfort zone wasn’t built for her; judged however by the outside world, she. had. built. it.

Yes, she had built it, just like he had built his own. The difference was: having spent a lifetime waiting for somebody to express as much interest in trying to care for her needs and enhancing the quality of her life as she did for the man for whom she now felt love, per this morning it appeared that she was still waiting.

Perhaps he did truly love her. Maybe tomorrow, she would know. But, even in the cold car, she could already feel it. Her bed. One warm flannel, and a fleece.



© 11/30/17  Ruth Ann Scanzillo    All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thanks for being that good person.


“Is love a binder of wounds?

…or, merely a lubricant on a squeaking part?

…..or, an element of transition from rough to gem?……”

——  David Michael Sammarco  ©12/1/17







© 11/30/17  Ruth Ann Scanzillo      All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thanks for being that good person.




The Married Man.


August 2015.


She awoke sluggishly, after about five, erratic hours in the bed, lips dry and swollen from dehydration. The pile of clothes on the wicker chair obliterating all but the edges of it, clean laundry mixed with once worn, anything wearable in need of a steaming. Unrecognizably blush pink carpet mapped by unmatched shoes, rogue hair, odd wooden hangers, and the occasional mouse turd, she decided that remaining in the fetal position sideways on the king was preferable to setting her bare feet on the squalid mess just to make those eight steps to the bathroom.

What addicts did during acute withdrawal. She wondered. Group therapy, probably. Up at the crack of sun to hot shower and force feed a full breakfast, then the shuffle over to the circle of chairs in the meeting room to sit and ponder who’d get up first to poop.

She fingered the sheets, smoothing the fabric and then reaching for the clump of pajamas she hadn’t bothered to change into before finally having collapsed for the night. Hugging them like a stuffed animal, she remembered her college boyfriend’s body pillow after his wife of 14 years had left him. She’d noticed that he’d kept it up on the top of the armoire, but later imagined him, his long legs embracing the whole thing, streaks of those scant tears on the face she could still see so clearly.

She’d remembered all the boys. The hair under their arms. The light in their eyes. The consuming feel of them. The vacuum of their absence.

By ultra-conservative standards, she’d spent about a year during the mid-eighties in defined promiscuity. None of them had known that, to her, each and every one was a new chance at love. They’d not been able to tell that she wasn’t just the rumored whoring waitress, with the gagging morning breath and the stinging spermicide. All the players in the scene were clueless.

By a more liberal view, she’d qualified as a prude. An extremely late bloomer, waiting until all the other girls had found husbands to even consider giving it up. In fact, taken in totality, the number of times she’d actually done the deed in the course of the life she’d been blessed to live probably hadn’t, even with the brief marriage, reached the number of days in a single year. Given that the sixth decade now loomed, this was a dismal testament to desirability, let alone any known capacity for prowess.

He’d been a name, penciled hastily on a scrap, referred by a professional associate. Several phone calls, unacknowledged. One message, something about returning from South America. Numerous consults thereafter, professional advice seduced by the sound of the other’s voice and deep, mutual need. Professionalism: abandoned; a lifetime of advice: unheeded.

Ironic, all the resentment and hostility she’d harbored for decades against inherited family members, co-workers, and acquaintances for their self serving infidelities, now strangely neutralized. A marvel, how easily she’d slid into the defendant’s seat. Even more dumbfounding, how anonymous her new identity.

Seven months hence, innumerable hours by phone. One parking lot meet up in the pouring rain; two brief, discreetly modest encounters with dinner out; no sex; the results of complete bloodwork she’d urged him to get – and, he was done. Racing back to the family he’d created practically by hand, falling out of alleged, persistently declared love in one, single act of reunited bliss. And, new medication.

According to the female Indian medical professional, the borrowed time he’d been living on was in fundamental need of a disciplined health regimen. And, she’d stopped being the eternal ear on the end of his phone, anyway. Something about rude and egotistical behavior, she not being somebody with whom the remainder of life should prudently be spent. Too many independent alleged friendships with other men. Too much independence, period. What had he been thinking? He’d been temporarily insane. Surely, this would be the best, most dismissive explanation. There was important work to do, after all, and important people were depending on him.

She looked around the bedroom, in full recognition. The overwhelming weight of familiarity. There was a certain quality of silence in true depression. A cumulative force, now, bearing the breadth of years of repeated defeat. Once again, encroaching squalor, with no motivation to even begin to address it.

She wondered how many weeks this one would take. The cusp of fall had always been her favorite time of year. An odd serenity, a deep peace would customarily infuse her when the air went crisp and the neighborhood fell quiet, children finally in school, streets free to prepare for the gathering of leaves and sewer drains their racoon young. She’d been certain he’d be free by September, their first day trip together reaching for the calendar. He’d missed knowing her father by only four years, her mother by two decades, and her grandmother by three, but there was one institution left in her life that deserved to make his acquaintance. Perhaps a short drive to New York state, an afternoon walk on the gated grounds of Chautauqua. He’d never been there; she’d thought best to show him the grande amphitheater, before its scheduled demolition.

Yes. This time was different. She wasn’t at all sure she’d ever want to clean the house again. She wasn’t at all certain that she’d spend another penny on anything of value, beyond basic sustenance. This one had stripped her of something.

She pulled slowly to a standing position, padded to the toilet and sat, staring across the bedroom at the static closet filled with clothes she never wore. Her pulse was feeble. She could no longer feel her heart.





© Ruth Ann Scanzillo

8/31/15  All rights strictly those of the author, whose name appears above this line. No sharing or copying, in part or whole, not even a phrase, permitted for any reason by any party.   Thank you.