21 Years

You’d think after all these years I could let it go. But it sticks with me. Still today I am remembering where I was, what I did, throughout that day. After getting the news. After going home. And then going to a friend’s, because I didn’t want to be by myself. The phone calls and the things that were said.

No, it doesn’t hurt as badly as it has in some years. Year One was dreadful. After a few years the pain began to fade, though the year after my miscarriage–which just happened to be my due date with that baby–it was severe again.

Maybe “letting go” or “moving on” isn’t about not remembering, not feeling. But clearly it’s not comfortable to remember with others.

I ran into an acquaintance today who I’ve not seen in years. She knows about my baby but had not met her yet.  “I  just can’t imagine!” she said, speaking of all we went through with her in the NICU. Shoot, I was there and I can’t imagine it, don’t want to remember it. “I just love the happy ending!” she said. I just wish it were possible to get the ending without having to go through the terrible time we had. Eight weeks in the NICU was no picnic.

Of course, when I brought that up, she seemed to want to change the subject.

*sigh*

Here’s to less painful memories in the future, or at least memories that I don’t feel I need to share with people.

What I Wanted To Post Last January

(In January 2013 my youngest was fighting for her life. So while I had lots of things I wanted to post, I was a little busy. So this thought, though it would have been neat to post then, had to wait.)

After my parents divorced, my mom told us over and over that she and dad had been married fourteen years. I gave it little thought at the time, but just accepted her counting.

Till The Bull and I had been married 13 years and a couple of months. Then I started to wonder: How many years were they really married? Was it 13 years and some months? Or 14 years plus a few months?

I finally added it up and what I had grown up believing was a 14-year marriage was actually only 13 years 7 months!!! Amazing enough, but even more when you considered that that mark, for The Bull and I, was January 2013.

Of course this blew my mind away! We have been married longer than my parents were!!

This isn’t, of course, a “Looks like we made it” kind of post. His parents were married 35ish years before his father passed away.  One set of his grandparents were married 50 plus years!

Nor am I saying that we are so much better at marriage than my parents–we’ve certainly had our share of marital unbliss.

But as a teenager, I pretty much had it drilled into my brain that nobody, nobody, NOBODY stayed married longer than 14 years (though it was actually, only 13+7.) All my young adult life I figured 14 was it. After 14 years, a marriage would self destruct.

Somehow, we managed to beat the odds, at least in my mind. I know there’s nothing magic about that 14 year mark.

But to have come this far. . . that’s mind blowing, to me! And through tragedy and trauma over and over and over. Wow. How did we manage that??

Here’s to many, many, many more years together, my dear Bull. ;)

January 2014 Update: June 2013 was 14 years. Still here. Still married. Still in love and (usually) happy together! ♥

Goodbye Cruel March

I cannot tell you how deliriously happy I am that March is coming to a close.  Goodbye, mad March.  Hello and Welcome!!  April’s got to be better!!

There are so many painful, difficult situations that have happened to me in March in years past (or not happened. . .) and this year it was just too hard to ignore them.  So much for “moving on,” as people have suggested.  “Getting over it” doesn’t seem possible.  It doesn’t seem to work for me.

It would seem that grief needs expression, whether it be 27 years (my parents’ divorce) or 19 years (my first husband’s death) or 2 years (my due date with my miscarried baby) later.

A quote from a dear friend comforted my heart this month:

“Aren’t we amazing that we have the capacity to feel and hold things so strongly after what seems like a long time. I think it must have something to do with being eternal, with God’s time, and the incredible power of love and how ever fiber of our being conforms to our experiences. Pain doesn’t just go away and people who think it does are probably holding it somewhere else and don’t realize it.”

Next year I think I must be more proactive in doing “something” to soothe my hurting heart this month before it gets too bad.  I don’t think I have the time, energy, or resources to create a foundation or anything that grand.

But maybe a daily, focused gratitude would be in order.  Or a list of his favorite things.  Or a daily joke.  Perhaps a comforting song every day.

I don’t know what, but something must be different next year.  I don’t want to repeat this year, next year!!

Suffering and Painted Skies

I was feeling run down, sick, and/or extra tired last night after dinner so I decided to spend a little quality time in the tub with a book.  (Oh, I was multi tasking–I was also “changing my hair color,” as my 7 year old said. Cause I like color!)

Anyway I bought this book 17 months ago (for just one cent!! score!) but it’s just been sitting in my reading pile, waiting.  Although I enjoy reading, I just don’t often; its takes too much time.  And if I get sucked into a book I can’t stop till it is finished, and that gets in the way of my sleeping. ;)

But I thought the time was right for this book.  It’s not long; I was able to read it all in one night.

Besides, I knew the basic story and I thought this might be helpful for me right now.

If you are familiar with my story,  you may remember that this time of year is especially difficult for me.  And every year I get to the beginning of February and I think that things are fine.  Then we get close to the second week of February and I remember that there is a certain date coming up and I try to brush it off. “Oh, it’s fine, it wont bother me this year.”

And then that date comes up and it smacks me upside the head like a bag of bricks.  It does bother me, every year.  I thought I was handling this well but maybe I’m not, even now, nineteen years later.

So I thought I might be able to read this book last night. Who knows, maybe I just needed a good cry.  And while I did enjoy the story, it’s the perspective in it that I needed more than anything.

The basic story is that the author’s wife unexpectedly died and later he remarries. It’s a common storyline and I’m sure that many people have a similar story.  It’s my story too.

What’s unusual is the ways that  the LORD comforted him during these hard times in their lives–throughout the cancer and financial worries and even losing his beloved wife.

About halfway through the book I knew I’d hit on something good, something I needed to remember.  So I grabbed my highlighter marker, the one I’d gotten from my late father-in-law, yellow with a door in the base that twists to open a compartment with skinny post-it flags.  I flagged four passages while reading last night and putting the baby to sleep.

And because I know I’m not the only one dealing with pain, disappointments, sorrows, etc., I thought I’d share them.

page 73: “Suddenly, I saw suffering as God’s way of removing life’s nonessentials in order to reveal what is true and lasting.”

No joke!  After losing my loved ones, I hold those remaining a little more tightly and try to cherish the time we are given even more.  I can ignore the sticky table and piled up laundry and junk covering the floor–if only for a few moments.  These can be attended to later. My children, my husband, my siblings, close friends and family . . . I know they won’t be here forever.

page 91: “Late one night when I was putting Jack to bed, it occurred to me that the times of greatest growth in my life always had been times of intense difficulty and suffering.  As I looked down at Jack’s tiny form in the moonlight, it pained me to think that he too would suffer someday. I wanted to hold him, shield him from the evil in the world and protect him from any harm. Those thoughts quickly evaporated as God reminded me in my spirit that He loved this child even more than I did.

“I wanted a godly son. And if what the Bible says is true, fire brings refined gold. I stayed up that evening, meditating on the relationship between those two truths . . .”

He goes on to tell of writing a song for his baby boy, a song about finding the LORD in brokenness, learning to stand and rise above the difficult circumstances in life.

Honestly, I struggle with this. I know so many people who are hurting, truly and terribly hurting right now.  I wish I could make things easier for my loved ones.  I wish life were not so difficult for them.  I know they will be better people for what they go through, but I wish this would happen without the painful parts!

page 132-33: Isaiah 58:6-12: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?  Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. ‘If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.  The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.  Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.’ “

I know this isn’t very deep (I would love to study this passage in greater depth but can’t spend the time right now!) but I’ve heard it said that some people help others because it makes them feel better.  Maybe this is part of this healing that is talked about here–part of God’s plan?

page 134, “As during Cydi’s cancer treatment years, pain again had stripped away the pretense in my life. I only wanted what was real and lasting: God. When I was weary and in pain, the only thing that brought me comfort was thoughts of Jesus and His mercy.”

When everything around me is falling apart, the things that I hold to closer are things of the LORD.  I’ve found comfort in knowing that the LORD loves me, that He will make things OK in the end.  That He is close to the brokenhearted.

Although sometimes my cynicism gets the best of me.  I know I’m not alone.  A song I found when pregnant with my littlest spoke so clearly about that for me. I’ll end with this tonight. I think it’s a beautiful way to bridge the gap between the tragedy and pain . . . and the hope and healing:

Hard to Get--by Rich Mullins
You who live in heaven
Hear the prayers of those of us who live on earth
Who are afraid of being left by those we love
And who get hardened by the hurt
Do you remember when You lived down here where we all scrape
To find the faith to ask for daily bread
Did You forget about us after You had flown away
Well I memorized every word You said
Still I'm so scared, I'm holding my breath
While You're up there just playing hard to get
You who live in radiance
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin
We have a love that's not as patient as Yours was
Still we do love now and then
Did You ever know loneliness
Did You ever know need
Do You remember just how long a night can get?
When You were barely holding on
And Your friends fall asleep
And don't see the blood that's running in Your sweat
Will those who mourn be left uncomforted
While You're up there just playing hard to get?
And I know you bore our sorrows
And I know you feel our pain
And I know it would not hurt any less
Even if it could be explained
And I know that I am only lashing out
At the One who loves me most
And after I figured this, somehow
All I really need to know
Is if You who live in eternity
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in time
We can't see what's ahead
And we can not get free of what we've left behind
I'm reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears
All the words of shame and doubt, blame and regret
I can't see how You're leading me unless You've led me here
Where I'm lost enough to let myself be led
And so You've been here all along I guess
It's just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get

The Rest of the Story

In our last episode, which spanned almost five and a half years, our young widowed heroine moved to Alaska and worked several jobs and cried a lot and worked through grief and moved on with her life.

And met a guy.

After The Fishing Trip, I noticed that he called me a lot and tried to make ways to spend more time with me.  And I found myself at his parent’s house quite a bit.  (He had moved back home at some point that summer.)  We ended up spending lots of time together.  There were hiking and fishing trips and movies and eating out and playing card  games and hanging out with friends and always lots of talking.  I was amazed, as I’d always heard that guys don’t often talk much.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

I was also amazed at his heart.  For some reason I got the idea that men are big brutes and have no feelings.  But as I talked with him, I definitely learned otherwise.  As he shared some of the hurts he had experienced, I could tell that they had impacted him deeply.  I realized right away that if I was going to date him I needed to be very serious about it, this was not a guy who wanted the “let’s have some fun” kind of dates but more of a “do you think we should marry” kind of dates.

He said so, in fact.

One afternoon we went fishing with a dear lady and her son and I caught my first trout (it was big and beautiful and later we were disappointed to find out that the camera with which The Bull took my picture with my catch had no film in it.  Gotta love those pre-digital camera days!)  Before our friends left, we made plans to go hiking with them  a few days later.

That night The Bull and I stood on his parent’s front deck in the late evening dusk talking about little things.  Then there was a pause in the conversation and he asked me, somewhat nervously, what I would say if he asked me out on a date.

I was a bit taken aback.  “What’s a date?” I asked.  It had been a long time since I had been on a date, after all.  ;)

We talked about dating some more.  This was a serious moment.  And I felt quite comfortable.  We decided that our first date would be to go bowling.

A few days later I met The Bull and his friend’s family for the hike.  A gal friend of mine was going to join me but backed out at the last minute.  But our fishing friend’s husband was able to go hiking with us this time.  It was a fairly easy hike that I done before once or twice.   We all talked and laughed as we picked our way through the many trails which climbed up to the top.  I felt like The Bull’s friend was checking me out, not in a romantic way of course.  It almost felt like a job interview.

After the hike we stopped in at a local diner for a late dinner.  We ate and talked and laughed until it was so late that the restaurant was empty and closing before I knew it.

Later that night I found out that The Bull’s friend was, indeed, evaluating me.  He was wondering if I would be a good wife for his buddy.  I was somewhat disconcerted to learn that even my choice of sandwich and bread at that restaurant had been scrutinized.

Thankfully, I chose the sourdough instead of my usual rye and made the cut.  ;)

When we realized that the Alaska State Fair started the following weekend, we decided to make that our first date instead of the bowling alley.  This didn’t bother me much at all; I am not much of a bowler.  (I don’t think we got to the bowling alley until over a year later.)  Mr. Big Spender (that would be The Bull) paid the big bucks so we could ride on the slingshot ride (or do they call it an “ejection seat”?); it wasn’t as scary as it looks from the ground.  We enjoyed talking and walking through the fair and ended the night visiting his friend at his job.  His friend tried to play a small practical joke on us, but it backfired.  Good times!

We laughed a lot and talked about everything, from our childhood memories to child rearing and discipline strategies to God and the Bible and faith and theology.  I cooked dinner for him a couple of times.  He returned the favor a few times.  It was a grand time and I don’t even remember any difficulties during that time.  We went to a really fancy restaurant for my birthday.  It was really a fun time.

And then one day, after visiting with Aunt Mel and Uncle Ben, we stood by my car in the driveway and he told me those three magic words:  I Love You.

And I panicked.  We said goodbye really quickly before he could kiss me and went our separate ways for the night.

Now I still don’t understand why this would shock me so much.  We had started out to find out if we would want to marry each other.  Why would those three little words scare me? Wasn’t this what I wanted? I’d just spent years wishing I would be a bride when each of my friends got married.

I remember talking to Mel about it.  “How do you know when you love someone?”  Even when I was dating and marrying her brother, JK, I wasn’t quite sure.  There were the good feelings, true.  But there was also an element of setting one’s mind to it.  JK used to say that it was more of a “I choose to love you” than a mushy gushy feeling.

So after about a week of thinking, praying, and talking with others I decided that I wanted to reciprocate.  I realized that I loved him.

Surprisingly, after our mutual confessions, it still took a while for him to initiate the next step, like three weeks.  On Thanksgiving weekend, he had bought tickets for The Nutcracker ballet.  I hadn’t seen it since I was a little girl!  We sat up in the balcony and almost had the place to ourselves (although when we were leaving we ran into his ex-fiancée and a friend of hers.)  I so thoroughly enjoyed myself that I balleted out of the building.

We met up with his sister and a friend of hers for a late snack after the performance.  Over potato skins and sodas, he shared with them how he was so impressed with me and one of my newfound skills.  (Do I dare say what it is? It’s somewhat embarrassing.)  They laughed, rolled their eyes, and his sister’s friend asked, “So, when is the wedding?”

This was followed by a slightly uncomfortable pause.  While we had started out our relationship towards this goal and had crossed over the “I love you” mark, we hadn’t exactly decided on the next step.  It was very late in the evening when we started out for home; all the way home we talked about marriage.  Since we’d been to many different weddings, we both had ideas of what we wanted at a wedding.  We’d also seen enough marriages to know it wasn’t all fun and knew that we needed to get some help in advance.

I dropped him off at his youth pastor’s house (he was housesitting that week) and we started saying our goodbyes.  After ten minutes or so, he took off his hat and finally popped the question.

I remember being a little shocked.  (Shocked? what? how could I not expect that?) but of course I said “Yes.”  He laughed, relieved.  (Later he told me that, although we had talked about it all the way home and he’d all but asked me and I’d all but said “yes,” he was still nervous about the actual asking and wondered if I would say “no.”)  Finally we said goodnight, promising to keep this secret to ourselves for a little while.

And then after I left he got into his truck and drove over to his buddy’s jobsite (the buddy with whom we’d gone hiking) to tell him.  His buddy told all his co-workers and within minutes it was all over town.

I, of course, had gone home elated.  Determined to keep our good news to myself, I did not share this with anyone.

The next day he called my dad and my mom.  It was sort of our intent to get their permission or blessing on our marrying, but, as I hadn’t lived with either of them in over half a decade and they had never met The Bull, it wasn’t as if they would have any reason to refuse his request.  As my dad said then, “If that’s what my daughter wants, then it’s okay with me.”  (Then again, my dad did offer to fly to Alaska to hold the ladder so that we could elope. :) )

He also asked Ben and Mel, as they had taken me in and took on the role of parents for me when I was floundering after JK’s death.  I remember Ben laughing.  “Of course!”  Later that night we told our friends and the general reaction was, “What took you so long?”

We set a wedding date almost immediately and began to make plans for our big day.  Plane tickets were purchased for family members who were out of state to join us (although two of my siblings were not able to be here.)  We met with The Bull’s pastor for premarital counseling sessions and made arrangements for flowers and music.  He asked his friends (including the check-me-out hiking friend) and I asked my sisters to stand with us in our wedding.  Invitations were designed and addressed and mailed.  I sewed my dress and his tie.  A friend sewed my sister’s dresses.

We discussed having him move in with me and making my house our house.  We continued working.  He had moved from one job in another town to job in our  town to be closer to home, and ended up leaving that job when they asked him to go against company policy on a matter.  I continued the job that I’d been working for nearly three years.  We put in our requests with our respective employers for time off for our wedding and honeymoon.  The seven months that we were engaged flew by quickly.

And then–I woke early on a Saturday morning, about a month before our wedding, to the ringing of the phone.  The Bull was calling to tell me that his friend–the one we’d hiked with and had dinner with, the one who was looking out for him to see if I would make a good wife for him, the one who first heard of our engagement from The Bull, the one who was going to be The Bull’s attendant at our wedding–had been killed at work the night before.

It was horrible!

My heart ached for his wife, now widowed, and their son, who was so young to lose his daddy.  We spent some time with his wife and their friends and co-workers that week and participated in his funeral and burial.  It was a terrible, ugly situation that is still difficult for his family to this day.

We tried to get back into the swing of getting ready for our wedding.  Eventually, we asked the friend’s brother to stand in his place at our wedding and included in the wedding program a memorial for his friend.

At one point towards the end of our engagement, I felt that I was drowning in all of the details!  I even had to-do lists to keep track of all my to-do lists!  I was looking forward to the wedding, if for no other reason that it meant we were done with planning the thing.

Our family arrived from out of state.  My co-workers threw me a shower and other friends put together a co-ed shower/party for us a few days before our wedding.  We felt very loved.  It was a nice weekend.

The morning of our big day finally arrived and the weather was beautiful.  This was the second week of June, and it was nearly 80 degrees (which is really hot for that part of Alaska.)  Not a cloud in the sky.  We opted to take our pictures before the ceremony, so he got to see me before the wedding (we kinda broke some traditions with our wedding.)

Except for the tradition of starting the wedding late, sadly.  But I want to say that it wasn’t my fault.  I was all ready!  I had to wait for the wedding guests to find seats.  :)

Happy Valentine’s Day, honey.  I hope that we have many, many years left in our story together.

Flowers are nice,
Gifts, sweet
Dinner’s romantic
But you make me complete.

What Came Next

Yesterday I talked about my first love.  It is a happy, sad story.  In honor of Valentine’s Day I thought I’d share more about The Bull and how I came to be married to such a wonderful, caring guy.

When I finished yesterday’s story, JK had just passed away unexpectedly and quickly.  I was 20, he was 24.  We buried him in Alaska.  He loved Alaska so much and I was so very sad that he never got to get back.

After the funeral I stayed in Alaska for a few weeks, wondering what to do next.  I had family in three different states and could have gone anywhere I liked, really; but the only place I really wanted to be was with JK.  Except that wasn’t exactly possible.

I dropped out of school and made plans to move to Alaska.  It was the second best choice.  JK’s sister Mel and her husband Ben invited me to stay with them till I got back on my feet.

So in May I moved out of our little apartment.  Uncle Ben flew down from Alaska to help me move.  JK’s dog, my cat and rabbit and hamster, and all our stuff was loaded into our little yellow truck and we headed up the road to Alaska.  It was quite a trip!  We had only a few days, as Uncle Ben had to be back to work in a few days.  We drove an average of 22 hours a day for four days and one half hour to make the drive from Phoenix, Arizona.  When we finally arrived Aunt Mel made us dinner and I fell asleep on the couch watching Star Trek:  The Next Generation.  I have never fallen asleep in front of the TV, not before that and not since then.

Then I tried to settle into my new life.  Getting used to Alaska was easy.  Summer is beautiful, even if it is cooler than what I was used to, and rainy.  I was in awe over all the green!  Long days made for lots of time for fun activities and losing track of time and staying up way too late .  Winter wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  One day I went out to start my car before I left for work wearing jeans and a t-shirt.  It was a little chilly but not too bad.  My poor car gave a weak rrrr-rrrrr-rrrrrrr but would not start.  Going back in the house, I glanced at the thermometer and was shocked to see that it was 20 degrees below zero!  And there I was, running out to start my car without even wearing a coat!

I found a church I liked and began to make new friends.  I decided to find a job, rather than continuing with school (I had withdrawn after JK died) and jumped from job to job.  In three years I held eight different jobs (six in one year!) before finally settling on a career path that was satisfying but didn’t pay the bills.  Go figure.

After about a year at Aunt Mel’s, I found that I needed my own space so I moved in with friends.  When that fell through (in a grand and horrible way which was quite expensive for me!) I moved back in with Aunt Mel while Uncle Ben and I built on a tiny cabin.  I moved in as soon as I could and it was never finished.  Very rustic.  Kinda like camping. I had a wood stove for heat and an out house and I hauled water in big blue containers for drinking and cooking.  But, it was mine and I had manageable monthly payments.

Moving through grief, on the other hand, was torturously hard.  It hurt when I heard about a woman who hired her teenaged boyfriend to kill her husband.  (How could she!?)  Or a celebrity couple calling it quits after a short time of marriage because of what seemed to be a trivial disagreement. ( Don’t they understand that marriage is to be cherished?)  I remembered the times that JK and I had argued and wished I could go back and erase them, to say things differently, if I had only realized how selfish and immature I was I would have done things differently.

It seemed, at times, that everyone in the world was paired except for me.  I still remember seeing birds chasing each other in the air and feeling sad.  Even the trees had mates.  One day I saw two trees that had grown together, wrapping their trunks around each other.  I had never been so lonely before.

Initially I thought that I would never marry again.  After all, everybody only has one “soul mate,” right?  Each of us only have one chance and I had had mine and he was gone.  And I had ruined our short time together pretty badly.  That was the end of love for me, I thought.

Over time I thought I would like to remarry and have children.  It had taken me a couple of years, mind you, to get past the deep horrendous grief.  There had been lots of tears over those years.

About two years after JK’s death, there was a guy that I was somewhat interested in.  We would go fishing and watch movies and talk; we had some fun times.  But I was afraid to share my deepest feelings and history.  Nothing ever came of that.

One by one, my friends were getting married and starting families and I began to feel that I was left out and would never have that for myself.

And indeed, when I met The Bull, I wasn’t expecting that he would be “the one.”  Not at all.  See, when I first met him was when a friend introduced me to her fiancé.  I don’t even really remember that day very well.  A bunch of us were hanging out and I didn’t even look at him, really, although I thought his brother (who was also there) was kinda cute.  I figured that a guy who was dating (or engaged!) to another gal was off limits.  So I didn’t give much thought to him.

But I really was impressed with The Bull and how he treated my friend and her daughter.  He was kind, chivalrous.  He put her preferences before his own.  Quite honestly, this was a nice change from some of the guys she’d dated before.  I was very happy for my friend and looked forward to their wedding.

Except it never happened.

Somewhere along the way, they decided that their marriage was not a good idea and after the summer they went from being engaged to dating to “just friends.”  In the spring The Bull moved to a neighboring city to attend college and my friend moved on with her life.  The story was over, as far as I could tell (although I did secretly hope that they would reconsider because he was a gem of a guy!)

Months later, I was sitting in the computer lab at the college  minding my own business (I had decided to go back to school and try to finish a degree, while working full time) when there was a little message flashing on the bottom of my screen.  I had never seen that type of thing before and I didn’t recognize the sender’s user name.  The computer lab attendant then showed me how to get into the chat/ message/ whatchamacallit thingamajig and soon I found myself chatting with The Bull.  My friend’s (his ex-fiancée’s) 25th birthday was coming up in a couple of weeks and he was wondering if I’d like to help with a big party for her.  “Sure, that would be great!” I thought, “and maybe they’ll get back together too?”

Initially all our our planning was by email as he lived in one town and I lived in another.  At one point during the process he asked for my phone number, as there were some details that needed to be discussed and it would be easier by phone than by email.  And he certainly couldn’t ask his ex-fiancée for it.  I hesitated before I sent it.  I had never given a guy my phone number before.  (I know, I was naïve!)  I wondered if I would live to regret that.  ;)

Well the party day came, our plans worked well, and everyone had a great time.  I realized that I didn’t know my friend as well as I thought when The Bull and I both brought her favorite flavor of ice cream in different brands.  I picked the wrong one.  She was totally surprised about the party and I was so glad to help with making such a great day for her.

Well, that was to be the end of the story, as far as I was concerned.  But they still didn’t get back together.  :(  I was very disappointed when I realized that she had no intention of ever dating him again; I finally understood that I needed to let go of this hope for her.  (She did eventually meet another nice guy–imagine, there were more than one nice guys in the world?–and they married a few years later.)

Later on that summer, I was feeling b-o-r-e-d!!  My former fishing buddy was now otherwise occupied (aka, engaged) and I was looking for something fun to do.  One Thursday I emailed The Bull and asked if he knew of any fishing or hiking trips or movie nights or get togethers planned.

Actually, he did.  He called me later that night to invite me on a huge fishing trip with his family that had been planned for the very next day.  This would involve a long car ride and an overnight stop with his family and a trip on a little boat and lots of fish. After getting the details I hung up the phone and thought about it for a few minutes, then called back to commit to the trip.

We left right after work.  I met him in his town and we drove together to his family’s house.  Starting out, I was very very nervous.  I didn’t know him very well.  I had planned a birthday party with him but aside from that we hadn’t talked at all.  What do you do when you’re stuck in a vehicle with a guy for several hours??

Well, you talk.  And talk we did.  I was amazed at how much we had in common, ideas, values, plans, politics, faith.  I would not say that I was hooked yet, but by the time that weekend ended I was definitely interested in spending more time with this guy.

To be continued . . . .

Seventeen years ago yesterday . . .

. . . I married my best friend.

I’m not talking about The Bull here.  Yup, I was married to JK before I married The Bull.

(To be fair, I should warn you right now that JK left me a widow so you don’t roll your eyes and write this off as another “young infatuation love ends in divorce” story.  And no girl expects that she will be widowed at the age of 20 and newly married.)

Seventeen years.  It still amazes me that I’ve lived so long.

For this and several other reasons, yesterday was a really difficult day.

There was losing our baby back in October.  By now I would have been big and pregnant and miserable and wishing this baby would be born soon. . . except I’m not big and pregnant, just miserable.   I am missing my baby and so very sad that he won’t be joining us next month.  Honestly, this has continued to be hard (although some days not nearly so bad) for months.  It just keeps going and going . . .

Then I learned that a good friend’s baby was born Thursday, a few months too soon.  He’s doing okay, but the prognosis for a tiny, 1 pound 1 ounce child is very difficult at best.  My friend had miscarried in 2008 and found out she was pregnant again just one month after I found out I was pregnant (2009.)  She was quite supportive after I lost my son.  My heart just aches for her now.  I so desperately wanted her to be able to carry her son to term and spend only a few days in the hospital.  Now they are looking at a month and a half (or longer!) of the NICU with all its twists and turnings.

And it didn’t help when The Bull came home, bringing not one but two pieces of very bad news from the mail.  Neither of them could be dealt with after business hours on a Friday night.  I didn’t want or need these complications!

But to return to JK.  I am not sure what to say.  This anniversary hasn’t been this painful in over a decade.  Losing my son seems to have ripped the scabs off of every painful loss for me.

Partly, I’m not sure what I should do.  Should I grieve? This was a loss of someone I loved greatly. Death is hard and, while he was not my first friend to have died, he was definitely my closest.  I never imagined that our time together would have been so short.

Should I just be thankful for the days we had?  JK and I shared some special times and there are some wonderful, sweet memories back there (which now I cannot reminisce with anybody, as he was the only other person who shared them.)

Should I “forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead”  (Philippians 3:13),  as I was advised once a number of years ago?  Yes, I’d like to forget the bad days, my selfishness, the stupid things I did, the lousy attitude I held towards him, the terrible things I did and said to him.  But he was a  part of my life for two years and five months.  I don’t want to forget.

How do I grieve for one husband, while being married to another?  (Thankfully, The Bull is very secure in himself and not threatened by this sort of thing at all.)

My first husband was a very special person to me.  I still keep in touch with his family.  He was the one who shared with me the fact of God’s love, which totally changed the course of my life.  I would not have moved up here had I not met him because he was from Alaska and planned to return as soon as he finished college.  The Bull and I named our firstborn after him.

Maybe I should tell you a little about him.

I met him at college, the week before school started. I was fascinated that his parents were also divorced, as were mine.  (I didn’t know many divorced people at that time.)  He had a great sense of humor and we had similar likes in music and movies.

But I had no intention of ever dating him.  He was really weird.  I remember one day walking with my roommate and talking about him, “Oh he’s a nice enough guy but I wouldn’t want to date him.”  And guess who we ran into, literally five seconds later?

Yup.

He hadn’t heard me talking (I found out months later), but I was still very embarrassed.

Even more embarrassed when we started dating a month or so later.

We talked lots and lots, sometimes until the wee hours of the morning.  (Thankfully, I had afternoon classes.)  Animation, school, music, parents, living through our parents’ divorces, healing, books.  At some point, the topic turned to God.

Our first date was to see the movie Fantasia in the theater.  This was when it was re-released in 1990, and it had already played the first run theaters.  We had to ride the bus almost 20 miles to find a theater that was still playing the show!  Good times.

Eventually our friendship became love and we married.  By this time I’d decided that the college that we were attending was for the birds and had transferred to another.  Also by this time he’d bought a vehicle, a cute little yellow truck.  So he picked me up from school one day and we went and got married.  Yup, we eloped!  We just couldn’t decide whose parents to tell first that we wanted to marry.

I have some pictures of him.  This is how I remember him a lot.

He, uh, didn’t like his picture being taken.  :D  So I have many shots of his hand, or like this. . . .

I could understand that, I wasn’t crazy about having my picture taken either.

(Oh, those glasses! I LOVED those glasses, until big glasses were no longer popular.)

A year or so before we married, he started having some physical difficulties.  I knew that he’d been born with a somewhat rare birth defect and had had several surgeries that helped him live a little longer, although nothing could fix the damage permanently.  I knew that he would not live a long life but I never would have guessed that he would have died shortly after we married.

The best of times, the worst of times indeed!

Anyway I know that this is a odd, rambly post and I ought to finish it quickly before I embarrass myself even farther!  Just wanted to drop a few memories.  Thanks for reading.  This has been helpful for me to sort things out.

TT: Love and love again

Today is an important day in history.

I’m not talking about the 200th birthday of the 16th president of the United States, although that is pretty important.  I’m talking about something a little more personal, a little more recent.

It was today in 1993 that I was married.  For the first time.  Shall I explain?  I’ll try to make it short.

We were in college.  He was an “older man” of 24. I was a sweet, innocent 20 year old girl.  We were married just a short time before he passed away, complications from a congenital heart defect which several surgeries over his lifetime could not repair.

It was the most difficult time in my life, before or since.  There was the grief, the pain.  The dreams and plans we’d made which were not going to happen, the things we were going to do which would be left undone.  He never got to try the new KFC chicken or see how the siege in Waco, TX would end.  There was the loneliness, oh my I never knew such loneliness.

There was also a sense of shame for me.  Sounds weird, right? Well, how many 20 year old widows do you know?  I despised the word “widow.”  I wasn’t old enough to be a widow, after all.  And I was sure people would think poorly of me or think I was lying or something.  So for several years I hid my “deep dark secret,” only sharing with those I could trust.

While it was the most difficult time in my life, it wasn’t hopeless.  Far from it!  See, this was the guy who had first told me that Jesus came to earth and died on the cross because He loved us.  It was the first time I had ever heard that before! All my life I’d heard about Jesus, the virgin Mary, the cross, etc, etc.  Little old ladies cried during the Easter season.  Christmas was a lot of fun.  But that God stuff never seemed to do anybody much good.

When I heard about the reason for the cross, it changed my opinion on that “God stuff.”  I wanted to relate to this Jesus who died because He loved us.   Because He loved me.

And this was the guy who started that for me.

Today I am thankful for this, for him.  Although the time we had together was short, it changed my life for the better.  Forever.  The eternal perspective that he gave me helped me through that time.  Relying on God to carry me through, literally carry me.

Thank you, my friend, so very much, for loving me.

Eventually the huge, overbearing, all-encompassing grief quieted and settled into a dull ache.  I did move on with life.  I moved that summer, got a job, found new friends.  Romantic movies made me cry because I missed him so badly.  When I heard about marital infidelity and divorces, it made me very angry to think that people didn’t love their spouse.  It was a few years before I thought that I’d like to marry again.

I didn’t really date.  I ended up “finding” The Bull in the most unlikely place when I wasn’t expecting to find a husband.  It is a story that involves a friend, a broken engagement, a birthday party and a fishing trip, a couple of mountain hikes, and a lot of talking.

From the beginning, I was amazed at him.  He has never been bothered about my previous marriage and has even shared holidays with my first husband’s family.  Our children call them “grandma” and “grandpa” and “aunt” and “uncle.”

I am amazed at how The Bull puts up with my faults and mistakes and shortcomings, my foolishness and selfishness.  He works hard at his job and comes home to our family.  He reads to and plays with the children and yes–he even changes diapers and helps with laundry and dishes.  He is an amazing man and I don’t tell him that nearly enough.

I realize that I have been married to two wonderful men, two kind, considerate, loving guys.  Today I am thankful.

And honey?  I love you, and thank you.

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