August 23, 2000
I’m 16, I live at home. I’m about to embark on the biggest life changing adventure in education for my life and a boy named Aaron is due to pick me up at any moment. I’m nervous, excited. A little confused.
He picks me up at the door, opens the car door for me, and takes me out to lunch at Butch’s. Never mind that I brought my own money and the sandwich I ordered is sticking to the roof of my mouth. The pretzels are easier to eat but the honey mustard is spicy and my drink is empty and I’m wearing jeans and a white sweater-knit tank top and he’s wearing that hat and those eyes. He’s cool as a cucumber and I swear he’ll be able to notice how sweaty I am. I’m still very nervous, but acting cool. Because, duh, this is not a date. This is a “meeting” where I get to ask him questions about what’s it like to be homeschooled. This is an interview, if you will. This meeting will help me determine my future in education. How far do I think I can go? How fast?
August 30, 2003
Three years and at least 9 lives later: I put on a strapless ivory wedding gown. The snapdragons were hung from the tree, the flowers were picked earlier that morning from the Farmers Market. Today I’ll say I do to the boy in the hat, he’s still wearing those eyes. I’m a barefoot bride, walked down my aisle by both of my Dad’s. I’m asked, I answer: I do.
August 29, 2004
On the eve of our first wedding anniversary, my dad dies of lung cancer.
But nothing remembers. I’m pregnant, we just found out it’s a girl but told everyone we were waiting. We found out so we could tell my dad before he died. He wasn’t going to make to the birth of our daughter, I wanted him to know she was coming. I wanted him to know it was going to be ok. Because I wasn’t ok. For a really long time. Tomorrow was supposed to be happy. We saved the cake, we were going to go out to eat and then come home and eat the rest of our wedding cake. Like normal couples.
We never were normal. It wasn’t in the cards for us. Year 1 of marriage was hard. The hardest. There was a fight so bad that he kicked a door in and I mutilated my face with my finger nails. Then I woke up in the morning and went to work at the bank. My dad was dying, I was crying, I thought I made the wrong decision. I was too young to get married. How did things get this far?
Life since then
Our beautiful girl was born. Giving birth changed me. It healed parts of me I didn’t know how to heal before that, but it didn’t stitch me up, I had a long way to go. But my family was finally here. I finally had plus one. Life took off. There were still fights, but no more physical pain. There was a lot of counseling and trying to figure this out. We were fighting for what we knew was underneath all the confusion. We, maybe me, I wanted it so bad. Maybe he never thought it wasn’t already there. He was always willing. He never wavered. But work took over and I had a new kind of battle to wager.
Grief never looked sad on me. Grief looked ragged. It always wanted me to go backwards, to search for how I could have done it different. Grief tortured me with what if.
Companies were born, another baby was born, I wrote a life list.
Shit got real.
We embarked on a personal journey to debt freedom on the heels of a conference I planned with one of my best friends. The conference was all kinds of personal win in my book. It was successful, it was profitable, it was an incubator for dreams to fly. I was all in, for the first time in my life.
But grief wasn’t done with me and it took over and I fled. Fast and furious. I dove down deep, I wanted to disappear. I wanted to start over. CTL+ALT+DELETE.
I can’t believe how far I’ve come. The distance between now and then, immeasurable. I’m not ashamed of my journey anymore. I want to tell everyone about it – because here I am. Because I was on the other side of it and I could finally see it for what it was. I wasn’t afraid of my story, for the first time. I wasn’t worried about someone “outing” me or “finding out” my dark secrets. They weren’t so dark, actually. They were real. I let them see the light of day and I didn’t get swallowed by the doors of hell. (Imagine that.)
Looking ahead I see the horizon. We’re going to celebrate some great things this year; our 10 year wedding anniversary. Which, honestly, I’d like to call our 10 year wedding Victory. I’ll turn 30, both of my kids will start all-day school in the fall, together. The last 10 years look like practice for this moment, and it’s huge. I’m ready. I’m so excited.
August 29, 2013
Standing graveside, my now 8-year-old daughter lays down where the casket sunk below the earth. She wants to hug Pappy and this as close as she can get. Nine years prior I was wearing a black maternity dress, my hair half pulled back, while I held my sister sobbing, together, as we watched them lower the casket below the ground we were standing on. And we had to find a way to say goodbye, for the last time.
Standing there today, I’m less angry. I don’t want to cry hot tears, I’m crying cool ones. Because here we are, still here. Together. And today, we get to remember all the What If’s as they were. As they might have been. And we get to hold our new babies. Who are 8 and 5, who are everything we had no idea was missing.
August 30, 2013
It’s here. Our ten year anniversary. I can’t believe it. I am so excited, I am so nervous. I wrote that Life List all those years ago … on it, I wrote “Visit a farmers market in Spain”. We had always talked about taking a second honey moon of sorts for our 10 year anniversary and had thrown around the idea of Spain. (Correction: I wouldn’t shut up about Spain.)
I knew nothing, other than I think we’re going somewhere. Aaron had us expedite passports a few weeks earlier so I hoped, I wondered. I had planted a seed, only about 1,000 times. But I was ready for dinner at The Piper and being thankful that this man still wore those eyes for me. That through it all, he wanted this girl. This elusive girl, who looked battered and bruised and wondered if she would ever be ready for love. He brought her flowers, told her how beautiful she was and then brought her to dinner. Out of his trunk he pulled a folder and a bag (it looked like jewelry) then he pulled out my chair, ordered me a glass of wine and slid the folder across the table.
He believes in my dreams, he wants to make them come true. I totally cried.
We leave on Thursday for the rest of the month. The story goes: he’s had this planned since May and about July when I started to wonder if he was ever going to do anything about our anniversary – I started asking questions. I thought I got the ball rolling, when really, it was already in motion.
The last time I remember feeling this loved was before my dad died. Not that Aaron hasn’t tried and succeeded since then, he has, but this the stuff of dreams. When someone sees you dreaming that dream and instead of asking how they can help they just go ahead and make it come true for you.
Because we all need help, and I’m not above it, but some times I need someone to believe it for me. Because being this vulnerable in life is risky, a gamble at best, and when someone reaches out and says “I’ll see you, in fact, I’ll raise you” and then they do … you can finally show them your hand in the game.
And they’ll love you anyway.
And it’s fantastic. Being this safe and this wildly out of your body living it.
(Spain is waiting!!!)