With or Without…Him

Will I ever stop loving him? I truly think not…

Things are better, but only as friends… a friendship which is slowwwwwlllyyyy developing and gaining trust (I think!?). I’m okay, no actually, I’m grateful for the friendship we are creating. I would rather have him as a dear friend than not have him in my life at all.

Just when I really believe my feelings for him have finally transformed into a more brotherly-like love, I will look at him and…

I just stopped over to his house to get a donation for a cause I’m collecting for. Coincidentally, as I’m driving over there, the song he once told me in the smack dab middle of our personal not-together-but-not-separate hell starts playing. Even as I pull in his drive, the song (With or Without You) is still playing. I can’t help but play the moment when he asked me to be sure they played that at his funeral through my mind. A thought I’ve not allowed myself to re-live in quite a few years. But I do now. It’s safer now, right? We are truly just friends. Pulling in his drive, I hesitate to turn the car and song (and sweet memory) off, but I gotta grab the donation and get somewhere else.

He’s just fresh from the gym, wearing sweats and kinda sweaty… I actually think my feelings have changed. No, I mean I really believe that.

Then he holds me for a moment and after all this time of craziness and whatnot, I feel for the first time in years, more than a mere friendly hug. His arms wrap around me just a bit softer and more tender than they did for our last few hugs. They hold onto me just a tad tighter and longer. At first, I don’t want to let go. I want to cling to him for life the minute I feel that something more from him. I do hold on, not for dear life, but like him, just a smidgeon more from my soul and not just from my trained-to-love-him-as-a-friend mind (that protection mode I’ve developed after all this time).

And I think to myself, am I imagining this? Is my eight year long fantasy running away with my rational side? I hold on for a minute right back, then gently push away from him and tell myself, Yes, you’re only imagining that something extra. Okay yeah, the hug is slightly different than he’s been hugging you for the past few years, but it does not, and I mean does NOT mean anything.

Snapped back to the reality, we continue a friendly chat for a few minutes. As I prepare to leave (no matter what type of visit/relationship/hug/whatever, I always, always hate leaving his house!), he grabs his donation to carry to my car for me. I walk next to him to grab my handbag sitting on the table. I’m not sad we are just friends. I don’t look at the picture on his refrigerator with the girl he’s dating now and feel any jealousy or even any hurt or twinge of “what if” like I once would have felt like a nail piercing my heart. No, I don’t feel that anymore. So yes, my love for him now must truly be friendly only; love coming from that pure place in my heart which loves forever when it truly loves at all. So, as I’m standing rather close to him grabbing my bag and he’s got his donation bag, I’m preparing to leave. We are laughing about something trivial and suddenly he sets the donation bag back down…(what? what is he doing? No donation after all?).. Yeah, he sets it back down….to hug me again!

tidal wave

This is an even longer hug than the first one…and just as tender..but maybe I sense something almost sensual in this one as he holds me close and brushes the small section of exposed skin on my upper back. Is it? No! I only love him as a friend… yet my heart soars, pitter-patters, skips, and plays hopscotch like a little girl. And this time I struggle with correcting my feelings and I rest my head in the nook of his neck and shoulder where it has always fit just right and I want to let go and melt into him like I have a million times before.

Oh, will I ever, EVER stop loving him?

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Washed in a forgotten moment

There was one night…it was pounding rain in fat bullets from the sky.  We ran quickly in the house, but still we were drenched!   Tiny Jake was soaking wet and shivering. Grabbing a towel, I wrapped him up snuggly and tight like an infant swaddled.  And you…. You….  I could see directly into your heart through the look in your eyes.  It was big and warm, vibrantly green  and had rays of hope shooting from it like a starburst.  So bright and full, it shimmered all the way through your eyes, dusting me with a mist of sparkling light as you watched me drying Jake.

I could have sworn at that moment that love was not merely an intangible emotion or some silly concept for romance novels and love songs, but solid and as truly touchable as a soft, furry, smiling puppy… shivering and wet from the driving rain. 

Maybe that is why I still ache for you every time it rains…

“…Ladybugs Katherine! Lots and lots of ladybugs!”

Lazing in the glorious sun in my back yard yesterday, chatting with girls and Mark about the big upcoming move, feeling mostly excited and thankfully, only mildly overwhelmed at the moment thinking of all that has to be done…all that’s to be left behind, and what’s to come…  Sweet ladybug lands on my thigh, just hanging out for a moment.  I try to recall what this means.  I have a vague recollection of some movie or some symbolic meaning of this ladybug in this moment.

 “Ladybug: Perhaps best known as an emblem of luck, the Ladybug is a love symbol too. Asian traditions hold to the belief that if caught and then released, the Ladybug will faithfully fly to your true love and whisper your name in his/her ear. Upon hearing the Ladybug’s message your true love will hurry his/her way to your side. Ancient farmers of the land have considered the Ladybug a good omen as she controls aphid populations. The number of spots on a Ladybug’s back is said to indicate the number of months to pass before the wish for love comes true.”

My ladybug flew off and then returned briefly to the same spot on my thigh.  She only hung out with me for a moment…long enough for me to curiously wonder.  Later I found the above explanation when I Googled animal symbolism.

Strange feelings stirred this weekend with Mark’s visit.  He shared some upsetting news with me and it turned my world around.  It was as if some ancient forgotten feelings were gently brushed. There seems to be a woman he has casually dated, who is claiming she is pregnant with his child.  Oh geesh…hello and welcome to the Jerry Springer Show!  What the heck is this?! I remained fairly calm at first but the feelings slowly snuck up on me as I pondered and tears threatened to spill.  I was hurt. 

Only last Christmas I asked him if we could have another baby.  He was adamantly and decidedly against this. Mostly I was teasing him, but I was really hoping at the same time.  A part of me longs to know what a planned pregnancy feels like before I hang up my reproductive abilities forever.  I love our children and wouldn’t think to change a thing regarding them, but I have the saddest sense of never knowing the excitement that comes with learning I am pregnant, in spite of the fact that I have two fabulous children.  I only know the, “Oh my GOD! I’m pregnant..what the heck should/am I going to do?”  I don’t know the, “Yay…LOOK we’re having a baby!” feeling.  At one point, I was absolutely certain I would have this with Dave, but that’s not going to ever be and I resigned myself to the mercy of my children’s father hopefully granting me the third and first expectedly planned child.  Again, not to be…

And now this…a “stranger” having a child with MY children’s father?  A half-brother or sister right in the delicate era when I’m desperately trying to explain intelligent life-choices to my teen/pre-teen girls?  Immediately following my pleadings for a planned child? It’s upsetting to me in a very selfish way and in a not-so-selfish way in regards to my daughters and the family we have created in spite of the divorce.  Mark confessed strong hunches and disbelief that this really is his child.  I admit I share these hunches, but I can’t tell if this is wishful, desperate hope or actual intuition.  Really feels like intuition, as the circumstances surrounding this pregnancy as relayed by Mark, are clouded in a dark suspicion.  Apparently he had “the” conversation with this woman and even prior to their intimate relations which resolutely explained his unwillingness and total lack of desire for any more children.  I certainly am no hypocrite and fully understand taking chances and what happens sometimes, as I have one unplanned child with this man and another one who borders between the planned and unplanned – but purposely and knowingly (on both our parts) taking a BIG chance area.  However, something just feels different with this.  Mark and I never had this conversation he had with this woman, until last Christmas…years after our two children’s births.  And keeping these children was never a thought to Mark.  He would discuss no other options with either actually.

I did finally find my voice to say softly, “Dammit, I wanted us to have one more and I even begged you last Christmas!” I was a little comforted when he replied, “I know and it would be totally different if this was you.”

Something passionate and historically forgotten (but not lost?) for this man, this unbelievably fantastic father of my children, awoke with those words. Momentarily I forgot my sadness and the- what-will-this-do-to-our-children fears and it dawned on me that there IS one person on this planet with whom it is different for me in a good way.  A place on this earth where I have carte blanche and the huge margin of error I’ve never known and always hoped to have somewhere in my lifetime…or recognized might be the more appropriate word?  Hindsight tells me I always had it here, but never fully realized or comprehended. And as hurt and afraid and sad as I felt, it was temporarily overcome by love for this beautiful man, who after everything, does love me and does put me in a position of greater respect.  This man who, other than our two terrific children, has more reason than anyone to NOT put me in this position.  The same man who knows of so many of my faults, mistakes and truly ugly characteristics…still chooses to give ME this place, this status, this beautiful acceptance and WIDE berth of error. 

I flash back to the deciding moments I’ve had with Mark.  The tearfully spoken “Ummmm…guess what?” moments in which this man responded with every support and every ounce of respect any one could offer a woman in such frightening times.  He never once veered in his choices to want and to love our children, unexpected, unplanned, whatever….  Never once.  I did.  I was confused and scared and undecided..reflecting on ALL our options.  While he, he was stout and strong and beautifully decided.  And my selfish, spoiled self rears its ugly head now to scream at this other woman, “Na na na na boo boo…I’M the mamma dammit…I’m the wanted Mamma.  He was never willing to discuss adoption or abortion with me!”  It never even occurred to me that Mark had any other responses to, Guess what?  I’m pregnant than full and total support and strength.  Seems he does.  Although in my defense, I was not a grown woman with a professional career who engaged in the I DO NOT want any children discussion with him just prior to our pregnancies.  Seems as though our accidents were more in the area of mutual accidents and never came across as even possibly planned or pre-meditated, as this situation screams.

I have not always acted honorably in our various life challenges as people or as parents with Mark.  In fact, there are many occasions when I have acted horribly and been just mean and hateful.  I can blame some of these on circumstances, innocence, and youthful self-righteousness and I have had cause to regret them anyway, but they will now always be sources of shame for me after this one little sentence he spoke like a gift from God.  Have I really given Dave K.  every chance, every forgiveness, every excuse for a million horrible and hateful beyond explanation behaviors and actions against me while being selfish and stingy with these in regards to my children’s father, who has repeatedly and thoroughly proven himself as far more deserving of forgiveness and acceptance than this, or any, other man?  Am I this blind?

I was.  I must have been.  Was the intoxicating joy and perfection I felt with Dave and never once prior so much that it knocked me senseless and blind to see the beauty of Mark’s love and respect for me?  I’ve always been admitting and openly praising of Mark as a man who worked hard to change his early shortcomings and surprisingly became the greatest father I could have ever hoped for my children.  I have almost always been open to seeing this and believing in it from the actions-speak-louder-than-words faith, but I just never really “got it” fully.  Am I part of the reason he succeeded so well in this?

I never would have guessed or presumed this.  EVER!   And it smacked me so beautifully and lovingly that I was taken aback with a brand new love and gratitude for Mark, the most beautiful father, ex, and friend any woman could dream of.  I fell just a little bit back in love with him this weekend. Whoa…life sure is surprising in its sudden and totally unexpected twists and turns!  I can’t even imagine what this will or will not bring… or what it even means…

Broken wings

She felt like a child still in so many ways…wondering why the world always seemed to roughly push against her when she tried to stand up for herself and expect to be treated like an equally important member of society…  It was so uncomfortable to stand up for herself against anyone for any reason at all and the slightest resistance or push back and she just crumbled…feeling more and more weak and pathetic. She often wondered why she was so easy to knock down?

As a child, she hadn’t been permitted the luxury of finding her own way, questioning authority, having opinions, or expressing  any type of individuality.  These things simply had not been permitted or tolerated in any form.  What evolved from this was a fearful person; one who fit smoothly into the world and so many lives of others merely because she wasn’t equipped with a backbone to go against the grain, much less, stand up for herself.  Although it sometimes seemed to her that she’d been born without a back bone, a genetic deformity of sorts, logically she understood her mother had removed it entirely over a slow and degrading 17-year-long process. A few times when it seemed  one might be trying to develop in her, it was quickly squashed and eliminated.  One did not question adults, either respectfully or otherwise.  No questions whatsoever.  One liked whatever one was given, one liked what other people liked if one wanted to BE liked or ever hope of being loved.   Always just smile and go along with it.  This made her an easy target for all types of abuse and manipulation. 

So at 5, she didn’t question the teenage boy who insisted she go into his bedroom with him every day.  She didn’t question the other babysitter either, an even older teenage girl  who manipulated her even further.  She didn’t question the elementary school janitor who groped beneath her panties after school.  They were so much older and she desperately wanted to be a “good girl”.  She wanted to be liked and thought well of and maybe if she was ever good enough, someone would come along who could love her.  And anyway, she learned from a very early age that if you didn’t like something, you’d better keep your mouth shut and pretend to or it promised to get far worse.  Plus, she didn’t want to be the fussy, problem child.   God forbid she be an insolent, precocious type child who disgusted the adults with sass or youthful curiosity! She longed for love and acceptance..ached for it actually from her earliest memory on…  Thus, she never questioned or argued, never pushed back against any type of authority…no matter how uncomfortable or wrong it felt.  She didn’t suffer from a lack of identity, inner strength, or sense of righteous indignation, she simply never was permitted to develop any from the beginning.  She was always a chameleon, learning to quickly change colors and quietly blend in with whatever color seemed safest in any given circumstance or moment.  Somewhere buried inside her was envy of those people and children who had no trouble speaking their minds or pushing back against an authority figure if they did something which seemed wrong.  She envied them the security that came from knowing if they just did the right thing for themselves, someone bigger and more powerful would be there to support and protect them.

Ironically, the catch-22  started hitting her early.   She was so hungry for love and affection, any type of acceptance would be welcomed. This must have been obvious and she was often treated cruelly by her peers or friends.  She early on became the common door mat for many to wipe their frustrations and insecurities.  When she was hurt and tried to  discuss this with her mother, desperate for some consolation, compassion and perhaps even just a little sense of support,  mother would yell at her for letting people treat her badly.  This was always so confusing! She wasn’t supposed to expect better, much less demand anything better, right?  Be quiet and content with what you have, or else…it will only get worse.  All she knew for certain is she wanted to feel loved and had to be quietly unassuming and accepting so it  would not get even worse.  

After she left mother’s home and had her very first official boyfriend, she soon realized she had attracted a violent man.  A Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde type man who worshipped and adored her more than she’d ever experienced before, but also would get very angry if she upset him intentionally or otherwise.  This was especially hard for her to handle with any self-respect.  There was the back-bone issue of course, mixed with the open affection and love that flowed freely in moments when her boyfriend wasn’t angry with her.  She knew she wanted more of that, in fact she felt a bottomless pit of need for this love.  How could she walk away from the first person who loved her enough to defend her to others, even if he did physically attack her himself?  At least he didn’t allow anyone else treat her badly.  He loved her most of the time and at least this way the cruelty only came from one person, instead of several.  This was better than anything she had ever known before!

After a few years of his random and violent beatings she realized she must escape soon when he started openly threatening her life if she tried to leave.  She turned to her mother for help… scared and begging for a place of refuge.  Mother said, “You’ve let him treat you like this for years now…so you deserve what he dishes out. You must like it to have stayed so long.  Give it a few years and then if I can believe that you’re really not going to go back to him again, maybe I will help you at that point.” 

Give it a few years?   He had recently forced her into his car and kidnapped her for an afternoon and another time recently had threatened her with a gun.  She never once called the police on him (not wanting to get him in any trouble), and when concerned neighbors would hear and called the police, they never helped.  In spite of her obvious busted lips and bloody noses, they would always say something like, “You two need to separate for a while and work this out on your own.” 

Dad would take one look at her black and swollen eyes and say, “Honey, what did you do?  You know how sassy you can be…you must have said or done something to really set him off this time.  You have to learn to watch your mouth, girl.”

Give it a few years?  The violence was escalating amazingly fast.  She had no where safe to run and she didn’t believe she would last another few years.

In this desperation, she did what she had to do to get free and after a few years of counseling later in life, she realized that mother hadn’t allowed her to have a backbone or to develop any self-respect and then punished and criticized her further for being “weak”.   No one was ever going to stand up for her and she didn’t have the strength or self-confidence to ever stand up for herself, she wanted to be loved too much to ever take that chance.  It was a no-win situation.  She was the world’s punching bag, literally and figuratively… and she could never lose the fear that if she didn’t learn to accept this, it could always get worse.

With this innate sense of constant fear and drastic lack of self-respect or entitlement, she set out in life, mostly hoping not to be noticed much and praying someone safe someday would.

Tweet-tweet memories

Early morning,  birds chirping….so many memories…

She was a junior in college, working the swing shift at a casino in Mississippi…driving home with Jennifer at 4 am, laughing,  feeling so brave, fresh, young, self-confident, and maybe just a teensy bit cocky!  Arriving home at daybreak and lulled to sleep by tiny spirited chirps.  Birds chirping sweetly mean freedom and independence and they whisper softly to you in your dreams that life is just beginning…

Later, she was married…waiting and worrying through sleepless nights for him to arrive home safely.  Sitting up with exhaustion night after night as she heard the birds sweetly start chirping, like an alarm clock confirming another full night of his absence…wondering why…  Wondering what…  Remembering his stories of frighteningly excessive cocaine use and bird chirping confessions regarding his first wife.  Realizing that this alarm clock no longer brought happy thoughts of freedom and a life unwritten, full of opportunities to create future happy memories.  Now this charming sound indicated it was long past time to lock the door.  Yes.  Lock the door.  Birds chirping sweetly mean your husband is still using drugs and your marriage might be a terrible mistake.

Some years and a nasty divorce later, she often stayed at his house.  Him….the only him for her.  The one who brought joy to her simplest thoughts and hope from her worst fears.  The one who showed her how  to smile while sleeping and taught her to wake with excitement and promise…the only one. She loved that he would wake early and go fishing…  Birds chirping sweetly as nature’s background music as he made love to her.  He hated leaving her alone in his bed and simply had to have her in the wee early mornings when watching her sleep made him want her more than anything else in the world… Sometimes it seemed more like a dream and the gentle chirping reassured her this was no dream….he was real and he loved her.  Kissing her softly on her still sleepy mouth before he left, she would linger in the land between dreams and reality waiting for sleep to return….knowing that when she next awoke it would be to his adoring smile and passionate, I-missed-you-so-much-before-the-sun-came-up this morning wake-up kisses.  Birds chirping sweetly mean that you are the luckiest, most loved and adored woman on earth and bring millions of kisses….kisses that taste like falling deeply in love  and smell like the fresh ocean breeze.

A newlywed’s conversation

It was 2 days since the wedding.  A simple, beautiful wedding in a tiny white gazebo in the park over-looking the big lake, gorgeous summer day, fresh green grass, and even a few butterflies attended the ceremony. Understated and simple, the bride wore a white sundress and the groom wore khakis and a white linen shirt.  Other than the butterflies, it was attended only by immediate family… The perfect casual summer wedding!

A well-loved and favorite memory of this wedding, for the bride, would always be the groom’s mother hugging her so warmly immediately following the ceremony. She whispered in the newly married girl’s ear,  

I finally have the daughter I’ve always wanted! Thank you! 

As a girl without a mother, this was particularly precious to the bride and made the day even that much more perfect.

The wedding night was not so perfect, but that’s another story altogether.  The couple didn’t go on honeymoon…that was not in the budget and this really didn’t matter much to either of them.

Two days after the wedding, the newly wedded bride is speaking on the phone early in the morning with her mother-in law and discussing various things like the children and the wedding.  God was always a big part of these conversations she had with her husband’s mother too. The bride appreciated this and valued not only having a “mother” at last, but one who could provide such guidance and support on spiritual matters. She felt truly fortunate and blessed!

During the conversation, “Mom” starts explaining that she keeps the picture of her son and his ex-girlfriend up in their living room for the child’s sake because she wants her 5-year-old grandson to have happy memories of his mom and dad together.  Something about this statement feels just a little strange to the bride.  She’s not at all jealous of her husband’s ex girlfriend, after all they had broken up many years earlier, long before she had known him.  So she doesn’t mind the picture staying up, there’s just something that feels a little funny about the conversation when “Mom” says this and she can’t quite put her finger on what exactly it is.  So she smiles into the phone and says, I think that’s a wonderful idea!  Children need to have memories of their mother and father together.  It’s probably a really good idea to do that for <grandson>.

Having shrugged off that weird feeling, the conversation continues as it had and the bride is practically gushing with love, adoration, and gratitude at this great relationship with this Godly woman, who is now actually her “mother”.  Ohhhh so blessed!!

Toward the end of the conversation, “Mom” revisits the photo subject.  She adds,

I really don’t want to take that picture down anyway.  They really looked so great together, you know?  Everyone always said what a beautiful couple they were, but I was always quick to remind the kids that looks aren’t everything.  A relationship can’t be maintained on just looking so perfect together.

The bride says quietly, Yes, I agree.

“Mom” says, Still, no one could ever argue that they sure did make the most beautiful couple!

Not so sure what response is appropriate here and feeling terribly uncomfortable at this moment, the bride decides to end the conversation and go attend to the children.

Thanks so much for talking this morning.  I’m so happy and blessed that I finally have a “mom”!  I love you. Have a beautiful day!

Pink Converse Conversation

Spring cleaning and preparing for the big move and naturally, my (self diagnosed and labeled) Nostalgic Disorder clicks into high gear!

Pink Converse:   Remember us?  Don’t put us into that donation box!  NOT us.  Look at us… Date #2:  You met him at the boat dock to go fishing wearing us. You looked so cute in whatever else you wore that day, who really remembers?  But..but..but….  you could never forget that huge grin that spread across DK’s face as you walked up to his dock, just a little nervous, and with that gargantuan gorgeous smile, he said and we quote,  “You wore pink Converse!!!  Oh my God, I LOVE it! You are truly just too  beautiful!”

Remember how every teeny bit of your nervousness just instantly vanished?  It made it worth how much you struggled to put us on.  Wearing us was worth every swear word and every minute of the 7 minutes it took you to put us on.  And you fished and fished…and laughed…and kissed…and looked at each other with those knowing looks of a long, happy future of these fishing escapades…and the happiest ending that was ever written!  You even caught a gigantic (or so it seemed!) salmon – your first EVER, we might add!  The very same salmon which he cleaned and cooked for the romantic dinner you had that very evening.  Candles flickering, wine flowing as fast as the laughter and as smoothly as falling in love. 

Look here!!  We perfectly represent the perfect date.  You must keep us forever.  Even if just for the glorious memories.

Holding them up in the air to admire them I say, “Oh shut up you stupid shoes!”  Into the donation box you go…..

Thank you and good luck.