Never let go…

Dad let go of her hand but she never let go of dad's hand.

Dad let go of her hand but she never let go of dad’s hand.

 

Humans of New York (http://www.humansofnewyork.com) posted this photo with the caption “Dad let go of her hand, but she never let go of Dad’s hand.”

My earliest and perhaps most innocently poignant memory is of having to let go of my dad’s hand. I guess myself at around three. My mother and father were viciously arguing. My sister and I were hiding on the stairway. My heart was racing; scared of the fighting and petrified I’d get caught for sitting on those steps listening to all the loud yelling I didn’t understand and be punished for my curiosity. Two policemen showed up. They appeared larger than life and what frightened me most was the billy club each had dangling from their belt. Menacing, baseball bat looking clubs as big as my leg, which I knew were there to be used. In my confusion for sitting on the stairway…or maybe it was the automatic assumption I’d carry with me for the rest of my life that as usual, I’D done something wrong …whatever it was, somehow I knew instantly that billy club was to beat me with. The minute I saw it, I ran as fast as my legs could fumble themselves up those stairs in my panic, too scared now to even worry about being quiet!

I ran straight to the top of the stairs and turned into the first door on the left, my parent’s bedroom. My bedroom was straight ahead and the same distance to run, but somehow I felt sure that billyclub would come looking for me in MY room. So, I thought I was quite clever to hide in my parent’s room where they at least wouldn’t come first looking for me, maybe buying myself a few precious seconds before the beating.

The yelling downstairs had ceased. I could still hear talking; the policemen and my parents’ voices, but no more yelling. I wanted so much to hear what they were saying…to know what I had done this time…and get a clue as to how bad the billyclub beating might be….ohhhhh, how I wanted to know! Sheer terror kept me hiding behind the leather rocking chair in the corner of my parents’ bedroom, though. I didn’t DARE peek out and be nosy with the billyclub man there, no matter how overwhelming my curiosity was!

My sister had gone under their bed. I stayed behind the chair for what felt like my last eternal moments before my inevitable death, making myself as small as I could to hide completely and occasionally putting my head sideways against the floor to peek under it and see my sister under the bed.

That lasted forever and I must be missing some time in there because the next thing I recall is my mother standing in front of my dad by the big wooden front door downstairs. My mother facing my dad directly, his face looked sad and hurt, not angry and mean like my mother’s and I knew something was horribly awfully wrong. My dad smiled and laughed perpetually. I’d never seen this look on his face ever.   Not once on my entire three years! My mother held mine and my sister’s hands on either side of her, facing him and saying to us, who do you want to go with? This was a hard question. I didn’t want to hurt either of my parents’ feelings and I didn’t know what the right answer was. I love my mommy so much and I love my daddy too! And forever without one of them seemed an impossible choice. At that moment, I really believed this was the most final and permanent decision I’d ever have to make in my lifetime. My sister immediately piped up with, I’m going with you, Mommy.  She either knew the right answer because she was an older, wiser five years old or it simply wasn’t the dilemma for her that it was for me? I didn’t know. I was looking at my dad’s face right that moment, still that sad look that was hauntingly unknown to me and I knew I couldn’t leave my daddy alone no matter what. My sister had already picked mother. I couldn’t leave my daddy alone with that expression on his face and I could feel the hot anger seething off my mother, while my dad felt quietly just hurt and defeated maybe…somehow seeming much safer than the alternative. I stepped over to my obviously wounded gigantic daddy and said, I’ll stay with you, Daddy.

It was decided. My sister left with our raging, seething mother and I stayed with our wounded, broken hearted Daddy, just knowing I could love on him enough with hugs and kisses to chase that sad look away and bring back his usual jolly smile. Strange that the few seconds it took me to make that choice feeling afraid because I believed it would be forever and I’d answer wrong, was immediately replaced with as much confidence as any three-year-old could have after answering such a question. I knew I belonged with my daddy. I loved and adored my mommy like crazy as any child does, but I knew the minute I took those few steps over to stand by my daddy’s side, that that was exactly where I belonged in this world, even if it DID mean I’d never see my beloved mother’s face again. I felt sad, but I was no longer afraid that I’d answered the question wrong. Yes, I belonged with Daddy; my happy, laughing, loving daddy with the smile that lifted my heart high in the air full of joy every day.

I didn’t understand this was only for the night…or a few days…or whatever it ended up being. I can’t recall. The last thing I remember is feeling that odd confidence that I’d made the right choice and knowing I would be safe forever right next to my daddy, holding tight to his great big warm hand.

But it wasn’t forever. Not too long after this painful choice…a night…two or three days…my mother returned and took me with her and my sister. And, my daddy had to let go of my hand. I never let go of his though. Over the next 14 years, I held onto my daddy’s hand once in a while in person when I was allowed to see him, but every day and night I held onto his hand in my prayers, in my dreams, in my thoughts when I was scared, and in my heart when I felt unloved and unwanted or confused and beaten. And I continued to hold it the 27 years following that as I trudged my way through life, love, rape, abuse, and many scary choices.

Forty-one years later from the day I made that first great big life choice to hold my dad’s hand, I’m still holding that big warm hand in my mind and my heart. My daddy is gone. He let go of my hand again to go to heaven but I haven’t let go of Daddy’s hand.

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Bittersweet

bittersweet

Forcing myself to write…even if it’s not good writing. My hope is that by forcing myself to do it without ant concern or worry of the quality, the tone, the content, or the value, then I might slowly regain my voice again. I need my voice. I need my voice even if no one ever reads my words. I need my voice even if no one believes me. I hope to someday think and feel eloquently again and write that, but until then, forced it is.

Living in my daddy’s big old house is an experience that fully defines the adjective, bittersweet. I head into the kitchen where my dad spent the majority of his time in the 24 years he lived in this house… I head in there to make something for lunch. It is, like me, a contradiction and maybe that’s precisely why I’m so comfortable within that very discomfort? However, this goes far beyond a mere contradiction straight to bittersweet…all contradictions at one time – a simultaneous infusion of emotions, memories, thoughts, words, expressions, situations, and people…pushing right up against each other, smacking each other around the edges of what defines them.

I head into his kitchen… and standing in there as I think of what I might want to whip up for lunch, the urge to be given one more chance to cook for him stings. It stings like 5,000 wasps have landed on my heart and my gut…and they’re angry. They sting all at once and so viciously that my eyes water, screaming for that moment of relief tears would bring. I usually fight them though, almost as though I don’t deserve to cry; as though I don’t deserve that millisecond of relief when the tears finally roll. And I want so badly to just call out through the house into the living room where my daddy is watching golf, some old western movie, or maybe a country music video, Hey Daddy? Can I make you some lunch?  I want to so badly because I think of the million times I could have hollered that out…and didn’t. And from there, I think of the 200 zillion delicious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that man made me over my lifetime. I think of my favorites. I think of him asking me what I would like to eat as though I were in a restaurant and anything could be whipped up at my desire. I think of later years as an adult how every single visit to daddy’s house was greeted with, Hey baaaaaby (that BIG SMILE lighting up his whole face)! There’s some beef stew/spaghetti/steak/biscuits and gravy/ Hamburger Helper/tuna salad/prime rib/barbecue ribs/potato salad (enter any number of delicious Southern dishes in here). Are you hungry?

I need to DO something FOR HIM….do something without asking anything first or in return or anytime within the next week or month or best yet, year, from him. I’m hit with the undeniable, painfully fervent need to do for him…take care of him…serve him… you see, this was who he was. He did this all my life for me and then when I had two children, he simply added two more people to serve up his kindness and generosity, his time and undivided attention, his compassion, his wisdom…all things that he could serve us laced with his love. And my daddy had a great big love for us. In fact, great big doesn’t really even begin to describe it. This man – this old-fashioned, hardworking, traditional values, classic southern man would serve us like a slave maid. And always did so with a BIG smile and happy heart, with never a single complaint or a whine or a tiny hint of much-deserved martyrdom guilting techniques or sighs. No. He served us like princesses and was unbelievably joyful to be doing it. Nothing was too much for him to do for us. Absolutely nothing.

 

(Side note: a great irony to this massive, unlimited, willingness to give and serve we three girls he loved so great big are the hundreds of stories my mother told me growing up about my dad. There were countless ugly stories where he was some kind of chauvinist pig demanding maid, cook, and personal service while selfishly not contributing whatsoever. Actually, worse even than simply not contributing, the stories were more along the lines of, “Your dad didn’t care one bit if we had food in the house or if we all starved to death. There were so many times I didn’t know how I would feed you two kids. Your dad would go on binges for weeks at a time when I didn’t know where he was or when he was coming back or when we would eat again.”)

So, as I step in that kitchen where the majority of 24 years’ worth of memories were made, I desperately want to serve him even just for one split second…serve him as unselfishly, joyously, and eagerly as he did me and my two children. I want to show him how happy I would be to do for him even if it’s just bringing him a cup of coffee.   I’m learning so much about my flaws, my weaknesses, my shortcomings throughout the nightmare of the past two years. In my daddy’s kitchen, I realize the bottomless depth of my fears…and I grasp the fullness of my excuses. I may not be one for blame so much, but I’m certainly the queen of excuses: legitimate excuses, ridiculous excuses, emotional excuses, any number of those pesky little stupid explanations for why.

Why… is always such a painful question.  Ouch!
You see, I realize so much now that although I am by nature as giving and loving as my daddy (thank you for that characteristic by the way, Daddy!), I’m the laziest perfectionist you could ever know. Therefore, in spite of my eagerness to do for others – and particularly my beloved daddy – I would rather do nothing than do something in return that could never come close to measuring up to the gift I’ve received. And it always seemed anything I could have done for my daddy would be akin to putting a drop of water back in the ocean after taking enough out to fill 500 Olympic sized swimming pools. If I can’t return a favor equally or better yet, in spades more than I have been given, then I typically don’t do anything at all. Pretty flawed logic, huh? And the bottom line truth of me is that I never had any remote degree of physical, mental, emotional, or financial abundance to ever come even close to matching what my daddy gave and did for me and my children all my life. So, I typically did very little in return other than chronically express my hopes and prayers that “someday” I would be able to do something great big and wonderful in return. I mean, I expressed gratitude and gratefulness, love and appreciation daily, I honored birthdays and Fathers’ days in every way I was able albeit usually smaller ways than I’d have liked and constantly professed my love for him, and I did most everything he ever asked of me which was very rare and usually minor. And meanwhile, out of my desire to match up to his giving magnitude, I did practically nothing of those little daily graceful kindnesses in return. Never realizing how much those little drops in the ocean could have been accumulating over the years…before time ran out.
Standing in my daddy’s kitchen deciding what to make for lunch, the sheer volume of his grace and blessings on me over my 44 years wash over me like a fresh splash of a gigantic salty ocean wave. I am humbled to my knees by it. And as it washes over me, it stings a million tiny cuts in my skin of all the lost opportunities I didn’t get to do for him and burns with the dreaded realization that death makes those little and big opportunities gone forever.

Sunlight Returns

Daddy's home....

Daddy’s home….

Dear Daddy,

I always feel your general presence around me and I’m thankful for that. However, as this long winter has dragged on and on and on without one single sound of your voice and not once watching you come in the door in your big red coat, brisk from the winter air, I realized something today.

As the sun finally shone into the windows of your big old house, I could REALLY feel you today and sense you everywhere. I stopped for a minute looking at that sunlight streaking across the floor and felt your presence more than I have in months. (I’ve really missed you, by the way!)

You are always here, with me each moment… You were the only constant light I knew in my life. The passing lights like jobs, accomplishments, friends, boyfriends, husbands, and even children…were all just temporary flashes of brightness passing in my life, like car headlights lights on a highway. You…you were always shining. Always. And I was fortunate that you chose to shine your light on me every day and in every way possible for the duration of your entire existence here on this Earth. Big smiles, bigger laughs, kind words, hugs, gifts, help, love, wisdom, prayers, listening, friendship, or advice…you were always shining your light on me somehow in any way you possibly could think of. And just like one can’t possibly fully understand good without knowing bad or right without knowing wrong, I’m not sure one notices how very dark their world truly is, until a bright light which could always be seen somewhere scattering its bright particles over every darkness, has been fully extinguished. Your light always shined on me; from a distance growing up, it perpetually shined inside my heart through understanding and trusting in your unconditional love and up close, it beamed on me directly with warm, smiling rays of your brightness, kindness, inner joy, and love.

So, today when the first sunny day finally came through after this horribly long and bleak winter, as I looked at it and took a moment to be grateful for it, you came immediately to mind. And it felt like you walking through that door. For one split second even, I almost expected you, yourself, to come walking in the door from that light as though you had carried it into the house personally to shine on me in your death even as you did in your lifetime.

I love you Daddy. I miss you. I talk to you every day and I pray you can hear me now even just half as well as you did when you were here.

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?

Gratitude…

Lately I’ve really been thinking a lot about gratitude.  I look for it in others to see how it looks on them.  I regularly exercise my own gratitude and stay in a grateful place…

The more I’m aware of gratitude, the more I see a chronic lack of it in so many.  And I wonder, perhaps mine is too large and thus, easily taken for granted and/or manipulated?  Or do I just happen to have regular contact and life dealings with basically ungrateful (selfish?) people?

My ex-husband is a most generous man for the most part.  I would never deem him selfish  in any monetary sense and yet, the man has a perspective that is selfish to such an extreme that I have trouble comprehending his view, much less reconciling it with the man I know who would help me or our children out with money to just about any length we requested, as long as it wasn’t just an obnoxious request… So, I wonder just how a generous man so regularly maintains a perspective of every day dealings quite as” ME, ME, ME!!!” as this man does?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely grateful for his financial generosity and I do understand that’s a rare circumstance and blessing for a divorced, single mother.  I just can’t help but wonder how someone so financially generous can maintain such absolute selfishness?  The two just don’t mesh.  And my petty side, when faced with this realization over and over, wants to say, “My gosh, you are the most unbelievably selfish man I’ve ever known!”  And yet, I could never in good conscience say that given the overall picture of his mostly quite generous nature, which I strive to stay grateful for and feel it’s the utmost of ingratitude to even think such a thing about him!

…there just seems to be a point though, when generosity goes beyond merely being willing to write a check to help.  Or more importantly maybe it’s less about the money and more about the mutual experience and feelings involved.  It’s so much easier to stay grateful toward a person who is full of gratitude in return!  But a person who think his act of financial generosity is so far above and beyond anyone else’s kind gestures that he treats them as though they just don’t count…or as though they are expected…and still don’t quite make the cut of something to be grateful for…

I’m sure I sound like a spoiled brat…and perhaps I am?  No, I’m not able to help many out with much  money compensation or assistance(although I certainly do when I’m able), but I am that person who does any and every thing else I possibly can in order to feel I’m a helpful human being, if only generous with my time, compassion, or other things which don’t hold a price tag of any kind and therefore can never be measured by today’s materialistic standard of “generosity”.  Somehow it just feels frustrating  to stay grateful for every little smidgen of generosity from a person, when that person is completely oblivious to any gifts  of kindness he’s been offered.  Almost as though anything I could ever offer is merely expected, while anything I receive should fill me with gratitude.

I just don’t know.  It isn’t that I DO things for the gratitude.  I prefer to do kindness anonymously actually…but when that’s not possible and the person does know what you’ve done (or at least knows your intentions), a little gratitude goes a long way toward feeling that kindness made any difference in this world or for that person whatsoever.  I think feeling like your best efforts mean nothing just sucks a lot of the momentum to make any attempt at this at all.

And at least when it’s done anonymously, one can always assume and pretend that it was indeed special and a valuable contribution to some person’s life, day, heart, etc,  somewhere.  Even if it’s not appreciated at all, you’re just not so acutely  aware of how useless your kind intentions and attempts were.

the home that wasn’t

In exactly one week, we head off to a whole new life…a new world to us, new environment, new culture, new (to us) house…..everything new and different!!

I am scared, excited, fearful, exhilarated, anxious, and sad…  I see the sun peeking up as I write and I think of the thousands of sun rises and sunsets which have encroached upon this world for me…  I’ve had the happiest sunsets I ever thought possible right here in this little frustrating town.  I’ve had the absolutely most phenomenal sunrises here as well.  I can say with complete candor, I’ve had experiences and moments here which were the very stuff that dreams are made of…the very fiber of fairy tales come to life.  I have made some unbelievably wonderful friends and known some interesting people.  I’ve laughed till my stomach hurt for days following and my cheeks felt like they had done strenuous Pilates.  I’ve cried more tears than I knew I had in me.  Here, my heart has been so full of love I thought it would burst and so broken, I thought I would die.  I’ve spent days on the beach about which I could have written novels, both comedic and romantic.  I’ve met pilots traveling through, partied with hundreds of people inside military planes.  I’ve gone swimming by moonlight, laughing through the waves.  I’ve skipped in the rain and laughed in the snow. I’ve sat out and I’ve danced.  I’ve lived in ten different houses here, all with unique people and experiences.  I’ve been single here.  I’ve been married here.  I’ve been a mother here and responsibility free.  I had my first real boyfriend here and my first grown-up love.  I’ve learned lessons I never even imagined as a child.  I’ve grown, I’ve stagnated, I’ve flown free as a butterfly and I’ve been imprisoned like a criminal.

I’ve played house and wife, mother and employee.  I’ve played conservative party-girl, lost hippie child, and unemployed beach bum.  When I moved away for college and a few years later my world crashed, I ran here.  This has been the only home (“base”) I’ve ever known.  The only place I’ve been able to return to (come “home” to)in the whole world  no matter what happened.  As much as I’ve often felt out-of-place here, out of sorts, and like an “outsider”, over the years, I’ve become this place; both the things I love here and the things I don’t.  This place is a part of me…a huge and irrevocable piece of my growth and my essence.  I will carry people and memories, lessons and experiences from here as though it’s part of my genetic DNA.  In spite of the fact that I did not “grow up” here, I very much did grow up here in so very many ways.  The people and things I’ve done and known here have shaped my soul in a good ways and bad.  The sand from the beaches has become embedded in my skin forever.  The memories rooted in my soul, never to be un-done, even if someday forgotten.  I carry every person, every moment, every encounter, every drop of beach water, every crashing wave, every love, every hurt, every tear, and every laugh with me for the rest of my days.   I’ve been hated here, loved here, nurtured and abused here on every imaginable and unimaginable level.  I’ve wildly dreamed of escaping this hell-hole and I’ve ached to return to its embracing shores…

I’ve never known a “home”, a home base, a place to run to…never.  And yet, I knew that here; the home of a place to go when I was lost and scared in the world (my dad).  The home where I felt I was always supposed to be, the place I walked into and realized I had been holding my breath for so many years, I didn’t realize how beautiful breathing could be (Dave).

This has been the only home I’ve ever known by any definition or connotation of the word “home”.   I am scared to the pit of my soul to leave here…and yet I’m scared equally to stay.  I fear I can never come “home” again, in the way that this is now my home.  I’m a mother and a college graduate and I wasn’t even raised here, and yet somehow it almost feels like I’m leaving the nest for the very first time.  I feel like a high school graduate heading off into the world on my own into the far and unknown beyond.

What will be here when I next return to visit, to live, to escape, to…????  What feelings will remain?  How will I be changed?  Nothing will ever stay the same as it is now and has been.

Life is scary.  Change is inevitable.  This was never my home…and yet strangely it’s also been the only home I’ve ever known.

Did John-Boy seem the vengeful type…or was it just me?

She was torn between desperately seeking the stability and love she’d never known and enjoying her relatively new freedom.  She was seeking her own identity, uncomfortable and unsure in her own skin and never quite sure why she warranted so much attention and certainly not at all sure how to handle such attention politely, without hurting anyone’s feelings.  It’s not that she had not been told she was beautiful by boys and men before or wanted by many, it was that she literally could not see that or comprehend the possibility.  She was a dry sponge full of holes, seeking all the love and attention she had never felt before.  She certainly wasn’t a slut in any sexually promiscuous sense, but perhaps she did fit the description of an attention whore. She couldn’t understand how anyone could love her or think her beautiful in any definition of the word. In spite of her need for freedom, she longed with every part of her being to feel loved and to believe she was beautiful in someone’s eyes…to feel accepted just as she was, flaws and holes and all…

Unfortunately, she felt the closest to beautiful and worthy when she was making other people feel good about themselves and this would eventually be her slow demise in satisfying her own deepest hopes, but that’s another story entirely.  There was a supply and demand in effect seemingly at all times.  Men longed for her attention and she longed to make people feel good.  She could spend hours talking to a stranger in a club about his job, his school, his relationships, his dreams, his broken heart, anything…and treat him as if he was the only person on the planet for the duration of that conversation…often to the annoyance of her friends and/or boyfriends.

By her early twenties, she had ended two significant relationships.  The relationships themselves weren’t bad per se, but she was a lost and meandering spirit.  It was almost as if once the relationship reached a mutually satisfying point, she felt her “work there was done” and her attention needed to go to the next soul seeking her heart, time, and attention.   So after ending two serious LTR’s, which did not go quietly, she finally conceded to her long-subdued need for freedom and her completely suppressed  wild at heart nature…  She dreaded the thought of committing to a relationship with a man because it seemed somehow to always eventually end with a hurt man and her feeling as though her effort to make someone feel loved and important always began with the best of intentions and resulted in their broken heart.  This was not at all what she wanted.

So after ending an engagement with a terrific man who loved her in the most beautifully endearing and devoted way and running straight into the arms of an abuser, she resolved to stay free.  In her partying and carousing with friends she only gave a few hours of dedication to anyone and moved on to someone else…until she inadvertently and unintentionally met John.  Strange that she’d caught him watching her quietly on many occasions and took note of him.  She found him truly handsome in the most adorable boy-next-door way, but he never approached except nonchalantly in passing.  After several of these incidents, they finally had an actual conversation.  He was so damned likeable and undeniably adorable.  She loved his eyes – the way they watched her quietly without attempting to connect with her or pick her up (ugh!) and she loved the way he innocently made her laugh without even trying.  She spent several platonic evenings with him, just partying and having fun.

Since this started innocently enough, she felt no warnings that trouble was brewing.  They were both having a blast and neither seemed intent upon choking the other’s freedom, but they enjoyed their time together so much each day would follow into the next.  She even discovered that he was a few years younger than she and it didn’t  matter at all to her. He wasn’t even jealous of her flirty personalityand he gave her total trust and freedom!!!!  She loved this.  Could it be he actually understood her?    It seemed natural that suddenly one day she realized that their affections had grown big and they were spending all of their free time together…and she didn’t even want to change that or run from it…were they falling in love?

Yes, it seemed so.  This realization hit when she received acceptance to the school she’d applied to upon her last release from a relationship.  She had applied in a moment of freedom and need to not be held back from her goals again…a brief respite between obligations.  But against her design and intention, he was now in love and she loved him in return as well. Uh-oh..scary, as this never ended well for her.  Always seemed to end in a flurry of anger, broken hearts and her immersion in guilt which provoked a need in her to run far, far away.

It was a difficult situation, but they were young, confident with one another, and happy…therefore this could still work.  Right?  No one had to get hurt this time.  Long distance relationships could work for truly happy couples.  Besides, she just wanted to go finish her education at the school of her choosing, not date around or get involved in any relationships.  This should be easy.

They missed each other terribly, though.  The connection was difficult to maintain from such a distance.  And she was immersed in the collegiate life while he was in the town he grew up in and working the job he intended to work forever.  She wasn’t dating anyone else, but she had a few study friends whom she enjoyed hanging out with as well.  They had little in common under these circumstances and their phone calls started feeling like a “duty” to her, not an enjoyment.  He planned a visit.

On this visit, he mentioned shopping for a promise ring to cement their relationship and their desire to progress into the next natural step for a happy couple.  Except, his visit, his presence, annoyed her.  She didn’t know why.  She still loved him.  She just couldn’t feel or find that connection to him anymore once she was removed from their little shared town, at least not enough to accept a promise ring or in good conscience, continue the relationship that was stunted for her and clearly still growing stronger for him. After a few days of his visit, she discussed this with him and ended the relationship.  She felt sick to do this, she adored him, but she felt it was the right thing to do in the midst of her confusion confounded and highlighted by his devoted certainty.  It was over.  He left.  She could tell he was very hurt and she hated that, but he didn’t seem angry and for that, she was so grateful that it almost sparked her feelings again…but not quite enough to change her choice in the matter.  She had to be fair to him.  He deserved at least that and her conscience refused to accept less for him.

Fast forward five or six years.

Back in their hometown for a few years now, she was a single mother, scared and still lost.  One night she runs into him at a bar.  They start talking and reconnecting.  Inside she is scared and far more damaged than she was years before.  In her loneliness and fear, he represents something good and safe to her.  She decides to go home with him.  After all, it’s John Boy.  The safest place she’d known at this point.  He’d never gotten angry at her for who she was.  On the contrary, he had always seemed to understand her when no one else could.  Ahhhhhh…safety and sincerity. 

When they woke up the next morning, she felt happy to be next to him.  No it wasn’t the answer to everything of course, but it was a safe and familiar place at last and she had always adored him anyway.

As he was driving her home, he said, “I don’t want you.  I just wanted to pay you back for breaking my heart all those years ago….  How does it feel?”  Her heart ripped as he laughed.

Well done John Boy…very cruel effective.