I watched James, listened to what he wrote, talked to him in PM, learned about his life. And I watched the change that Margaret meant.
He was a brilliant guy living in Connecticut and being overwhelmingly defined by his bipolar disorder. It kept him from working. It eventually led to his not driving. It led to his living in group homes - and some of his best writing, about living in them, where we were introduced to characters like Sarge, characters who had the virtue of being real. It led to an awful experience where he was arrested and imprisoned and it took a while for his family to understand that he really was innocent and go to bat for him - his disorder was so all-encompassing that they initially took his guilt for granted just because craziness and impulsivity fit their definition of him.
His family loved him. It helped that he was charming; growing up with sisters he was always comfortable around women. But they dealt with the task of taking care of him, watching out for him, worrying about him, and those are big things, big enough that they came to largely define relationships.
James was a brilliant guy, and the people around him were not.
He loved to talk philosophy but, to the people around him, philosophy was head-in-the-clouds stuff. They wanted him to put that energy into practicality, as if that were possible. Their concern about practicality was out of love because they were worried about him, but that meant that there was a part of him that they didn't value all that much, if at all, even though it was a part of him that he valued, valued immensely.
That led to frustration. That led to friction. He was the youngest as it was, and now he had to be perpetually the youngest but more so, because he was the one who needed care. Worrying about him meant not having faith in him, to a certain extent treating him like a child, a pre-existing pattern - because he was the baby - magnified by his disorder. He loved his sisters and he leaned on his sisters but sometimes he chafed, and an incident occurred where he was patronized a little too much and exploded to the point where he nearly ruptured his relationship with one of this sisters. In the end, they patched it up before it escalated even more.
But if the people around him in Connecticut didn't care about his mind, because his mind just seemed to get in the way of living, the people here on line were a different story. Open Salon meant he talked to people who valued what he had to say, who responded to him, who would talk to him about what interested him and so, as is true of a lot of us, his intellectual life was largely here. We weren't worried about his disorder, in part because we didn't have to live with its consequences, but that meant he was accepted here in a way he wasn't at home.
When we left Open Salon the first time, when a lot of us left the first time when it was crashing all the time and half the functions didn't work, he was loathe to leave it because of what it meant to him - a tremendous amount. I had to talk him into it. He left because he understood that what he valued and what valued him was the community, not the site.
In Connecticut, he didn't have much in the way of female companionship - I'm not referring to his sisters here. So he wrote about sexy librarians. The library was a world in which he was comfortable, in which he at least hoped he would find kindred spirits because that's a world that values writing, that valued at least to a limited extent what he valued.
And then, somehow, God only knows how each worked up the guts to spill their guts to the other, he and Margaret found each other. And they talked, and they wrote, and they figured out without ever meeting each other that being together was something that would work for both of them.
To Margaret, James wasn't a child at all. James' brilliance was something she loved. She wanted to talk about what he liked to talk about, she wanted to learn that stuff from him. Margaret lived in a world a little like James' in that people were traditional. James was not a guy's guy (I can relate; I'm not either). He was interesting, witty, attentive, he really knew how to listen, and he was fundamentally respectful of women. Most guys aren't like that.
Not only that, but James filled a parallel need in Margaret to his own. Now someone was involved with her who understood and appreciated her brilliance. I know that from my conversations with James. She isn't scholarly like he was but she's a frighteningly good writer, and I don't know if there was anyone else in her daily life who understood that, or who understands it now. I gush about her writing to the point where it probably embarrasses her but I'm sorry, as far as I'm concerned she's that good.
And so he made the move. Many here were thrilled, many were worried, some of us were both. James wasn't in a position to help with financial support. Margaret's a single mother. And, of course, James had that disorder, which could be a handful.
But it did work. They loved each other, they were attracted to each other, they respected each other's minds, they were grateful to each other. Margaret got a home life that became intellectually interesting, which had the added advantage of encompassing her kids, particularly her son, who saw a very different way a guy could be from what he was used to seeing. And James got along very well with Margaret's mother.
And he not only found love, he was valued, he was respected, what he valued about himself was valued by the people he lived with for perhaps the first time in his life.
He didn't write much about librarians any more. He didn't have that void to fill any more - actually, either of those voids.
In having conversations with both of them on threads, I got the impression that Margaret understood what she got from him but not completely what he got from her. What he got from her was enormous: love, respect, admiration, acceptance, and, really, adulthood.
Her gifts to him were enormous. Her family's gifts to him were enormous.
I hope she understands how enormous.
After I lost my son, then the following year lost both my father in law and my father within two weeks of each other, I asked God that, if He didn't mind, please stop testing me now.
I ask the same for Margaret. She has lost two men in her life, both very suddenly, both of whom she loved, the last one in the aftermath of having just lost her mother.
She's suffered enough. Really, she's suffered way too much.
I hope she finds her way back here and I hope our emotional support helps her.