My life has always been defined by the women in it. Growing up, the two figures who helped shape me more than anyone were my mother and my paternal grandmother (my maternal grandmother was in Italy, therefore, not a daily presence). Sure, I had a grandfather and my dad was there, my parents are still married… but their influence didn’t penetrate the way the women did.
Perhaps this should be the moment I share a few things about myself… my dad is a great guy, and I’m not going to dig into him… but he and I have rarely seen eye to eye. He wanted a football player for a son, he got a son that wrote poetry… he believes sports and fishing are the two most important things in life, I believe my family, including him, are the most important things in my life… he would spend his time with his friends, I spend my time with my wife and daughters. My mom always had greater sway with me, therefore I became very comfortable in the presence of women… and oddly uncomfortable around men.
I think it would be fair to say that I was somewhat of a mama’s boy growing up… not athletic, very uncoordinated, sensitive, creative, and always striving to communicate in one way or the other… basically, everything I was not “supposed” to be. When my father did something to hurt or upset my mom or me, she would tell me, “In the future, don’t do that to your wife and children… you can be better than that.”… and I took it to heart.
My grandmother gave me a sense of history… an intelligent woman who allowed her self to become a better person after my grandfather’s death, allowed herself to become her own woman, and always instilled in me a pride of respect… respect for myself, respect for others, and most certainly… respect for women.
As I grew older, I found myself drawn towards girls and young women… not only as romantic partners (although, I certainly did my fair share of chasing), but as friends. I grew up on a small cul-de-sac with a number of kids my age… yes there were some boys, but I always bonded the most with the girls (a major exception for my best friend… he and I even shared the same name… and no, it’s not Cornelius). As high school and college came to pass, that pattern continued… I found the conversations that guys would have to be dull and mundane… sports, insults, more sports, and extremely surface discussions of girlfriends and other young women that would often border on offensive if it weren’t so misplaced and obviously born of a particular clueless stereotype. Women on the other hand were honest, open, shockingly frank and often raunchy, and would delve into emotional and personal discussions with a fervor and depth that I have only rarely found in other men (again… always exceptions… I’m looking at you Marvin… love you and miss you).
So where does all of this leave me now? I am married to my best friend. Mrs. Blahg and I have been together as a couple for over 20 years, married for over 16, and although our relationship has had it’s ups and downs, I couldn’t imagine my life without her. She is not just my wife, not just my best friend, but my partner in everything… as much my equal, if not my better, in so many ways.
My daughters, ages seven and ten, are my everything… they brought purpose and joy into my life in a way that I could have never imagined possible… they give me a reason to get up every day and to revel in watching these fantastic little human beings grow… and I am allowed to have influence over them, and to shepherd their growth and maturation in ways that I sincerely hope are for the best.
Shit… even our cat is female!
My mom had a stroke about nine years ago. She is still with us, but is paralyzed on one side and has some memory issues. Before the stroke she was constantly on the move, vibrant, and hilarious… sadly, she is a shadow of her former self… but she is still my mom and I will love her until the day I die. We had a conversation about a year after her stroke where I express the horror that most people have to deal with their mother’s dying once… I get the distinct displeasure of having to have my mother die twice… once when the stroke took the woman I knew, and eventually, when life will truly leave her. I’m haunted by this realization on a daily basis.
My grandmother died of lung cancer about six months before her first granddaughter was born. She knew we were having a baby, and she knew that if she was a girl we would give her her name… and we did. The last time I spoke with her, we both knew it would be the last… and the final words spoken to each other were nothing more than, “I love you”.
I’m just a guy… not necessarily a “normal” guy, but a guy nonetheless… and I wouldn’t be who I am if it weren’t for the women in my life, and I can never express in words just how important a role these, and many other, women have played in making me, and my world, so much better off.
With that, I will simply say… happy International Women’s Day… and thank you.
Not my most macho moment,
Cornelius J. Blahg