The first time we met, we fell in love instantly. Shortness of breath and a racing heart were not my normal reactions to the male gender. I hated them. But there was something about him that made my mind spin and reconsider my opinion of all men; that opinion based solely on my father and his lack of being one. This boy/man stood across the high school library staring at me with blue eyes, blanketed under long blond hair looking just as intrigued as I. The girl I was with, I learned later was his ex, introduced us. His name was Billy. All I could think of was, “Shit! I’m screwed.” I’d never been interested in a relationship, didn’t trust any male, and yet, suddenly I wanted to. Of course, being the hard-headed, you-can’t-make-me kind of girl that I am, I manipulated fate by allowing us to become friends. And even though he asked me out many times over the next couple of years, I managed to wiggle out of saying yes. We did become friends. The best of them.
Before Billy, my routine was strictly hanging out alone in my room, reading, writing or studying . the quiet life made me happy…then. After our eyes met, I began venturing out into the world. The first world I explored was Dungeons and dragons. He taught me all about Dwarfs and elves, goblins and wizards and the amazing world of magic. All of this inside the protective shell of the local library. There were others who visited this world with us, once a week for months we got together and escaped the challenges in our own lives.
Next, he led me into the universe of computer games, which at the time, involved solving puzzles via writing out moves…okay, so I’m old…to graphic battle fields, taking over lands and building war machines, ordering troops around and strategizing. Woot that was fun! I got to know him pretty well during this time and slowly but surely I let him into my world. And then College hit.
I went to a local college, okay three. Hated the first college. Got my associates at the second and Bachelor’s degree in biology at the third. Dropped pre-med and focused on my first love, writing… to my mom’s dismay, but she got over it.
He went away to college. Not by choice. It was his parent’s rule that all their children live away from home. It’s not an excuse, just a reality. At first all went well. I would spend every work break talking on the pay phone…yeah yeah…with him. I think I spent half my salary on phone calls. We talked about everything and never got bored, no awkward silence. I started taking his devotion for granted. I still didn’t want to date him, because of fear of betrayal, so I began playing with is feelings. Every time he came home for the summer or holidays I’d say we weren’t dating and when he went away I said we were. Now realize that I wasn’t consciously playing him. I was a kid with no experience on male loyalty and allowed my perception of the male gender to dictate my choices. I didn’t think outside my box. It was too comfortable in there with my books, schoolwork and job to keep my mind busy.
Needless to say, I was forced outside my comfort zone when another girl at his college began sniffing around. I knew this because he, in so many words, told me. I’d sort of broken up with him, in a sense, since we never did any romantic relationship bonding, right before he left for his sophomore year of college. He was always honest with me, but it still crushed me when he told me he was interested in dating her. Okay, let’s fast forward a year. Reliving that time still gives me heartburn. Let’s just say, I got my act together. I went to counseling and dug up the root of my problem and in doing so, realized not all men sucked. That’s right ladies. Any man that tells you that all men cheat or think of cheating, doesn’t tell you anything about men as a whole, but tells you everything about the man saying it. Remember that.
A year later we started dating and when I was ready for making us permanent, (for me having sex meant permanent) I told him it involved two rings. Yes people, I went there. We said our vows to each other, in private, before repeating them in front of an audience. Our official wedding took place five years later.
The first two years felt like the battle of the sexes with only two players. He worked a lot. That wasn’t an issue to me when we lived in separate houses. I thought it would change when we lived together. Yeah, a little bit ignorant on my part, and our communication needed some tweaking. When I tell him, sarcastically, yes, it’s okay to work on my birthday and he does, it’s time to rethink the use of subtle negative inflections. Worse, my mother agreed with him. I got over this…months later. That was just the beginning. We, I, argued over him going to his Christmas party every year, for several months before the actual event. Nasty fights. I grew up in a house where you fought without logic and the first to draw blood (figuratively), won. In my defense, he worked for egotistical, misogynistic employers. For example, the one event I was allowed to go to, met with a pissing contest between his boss (the president of the company) and I. He just had to tell me that he asked my husband if the company should invite spouses to a informal meeting at a restaurant and that more specifically, my husband said no. I mean WTF? Why would he want to create discord between my husband and I. Yes, I blew up at home. So he won one. Boo me. No amount of logical explanation appeased me. His decision affected me personally. Why wouldn’t he want me there? So what, that I was(at the time), an opinionated, ignorant hot-head who disliked everyone he worked with. That’s no excuse. Yes. I know how ridiculous that sounds…now.
I make it sound like I was miserable. I wasn’t. I did have many logical moments when my heart joined in with my mind and I did hear him through the roaring in my head. Sometimes I chose not to listen.
We had our first child two plus years into our marriage. I’d found my calling. I stopped working and we agreed I’d be a stay at home mom. I was still writing, but my one hundred percent devotion would go to our children. And then we forgot how to be a man and a woman and husband and wife. The mother-father instinct blossomed overwhelming the other parts of us. I realized our lack of adult communication—in all forms— when my daughter was a year old. Once I brought it up to Billy, it was easy to fix. Six years later, we had two more children another girl and a boy. The only reason we stopped at three is my health. Gestational diabetes. As soon as I got pregnant with my son, I had to inject insulin to keep my blood sugar stable. Actually, my husband did the injecting, I couldn’t stab myself once with a needle, ever, let alone, four times a day. Any ways…You would think that three young children would keep my insanity occupied. Nope. Not this nut. I believed without fail that a father had to be in their child’s life. Existing as a co-parent not babysitter and doing so because of love not obligation. Okay, I lucked out. He was the perfect daddy and husband. And yet, I couldn’t enjoy what I had. Always worrying about the future, about my ability to protect my children, wondering if I my husband would always love me and not allowing other people in who were sure to disappoint.
And then my small world was sent rolling out of control. In 2004, seven years after my mom died from cancer, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. All I could think about were my children asking myself who would take care and protect them as I have. I trusted no one, talked myself into believing no ne else could do the job better. For a bit of insight into my ignorant psyche, I’ll tell you that I drove everywhere not willing to give up that smidgen amount of control.
Cancer meant giving up control of my world to beat it. The days leading to my first battle decision, to remove both my breasts, were tough. I decided on a double mastectomy because, hell if I beat it, I sure as hell wasn’t going to go through it again. I had to tell my children why I wasn’t going to be around for a few days and then be cooped up, sick in bed for a while. I imagined the horror on their faces. The crying. Questions I couldn’t answer. I dreaded the task. Even when my husband told me that everything will be all right, and a small part believed him, the emotional pain continued to floor me. I planned the day before surgery, to tell them at dinner. I agonized with coming up with the right words to cushion the blow. What I finally did say was, “Mommy’s going to have surgery tomorrow to remove my breasts because they are sick and then I’m going to have plastic surgery to put back healthy ones.” They looked at me with blank stares. Not concern or worry. And then my oldest said “You’re going to have plastic boobs?” Okay. All the tension and fear that had been building leaked out in tears from laughter. I laughed so hard. It was great. And that’s when I realized, maybe there was hope.
As soon as they wheeled me into my room after the seven plus hours of surgery, I was determined to get out of that hospital as soon as possible. Control issues reared its ugly head again. Okay, so I’m a slow learner. I walked across the room to the bathroom instead of utilizing the small potty by the bed. I needed help at first, but despite the pain doubling me over, I succeeded. Nothing could win over my need to get back to my kids, but then again, despite my effort, they kept me for the allotted duration. Then came round two, treatment. Four months of intense, non-stop chemotherapy. It was a new way to treat my type of cancer called dose dense, pioneered by the oncologist I chose to assist me with defeating it. Every two weeks, two and a half hours for the first four sessions and four hours for the last few weeks with injections in-between to keep my red blood count and white count high enough to keep it going. You’d think that would be enough to whittle me down into a puddle of tears. Nope.
Losing my hair did that.
I remember showering, not an easy feat being that the treatments left me weak and nauseous all the time. I just finished shampooing my hair when I looked down at my hands and saw thick clumps of my long thick hair, entwining my fingers. The sight broke me. I knew I would eventually lose it, but the knowing and seeing, had very different reactions. Let me first tell you that before my surgery and subsequent treatments, my husband told his company that’d he’d be working at home until I’m back on my feet. He’s not just my best friend, he’s my hero. Okay so… I broke down, curling up in a ball at the bottom of the tub crying until my stomach hurt more from grief than pain. My husband came in and took my hand telling me that we would get through this. He said I was beautiful and the toughest person he knew and told me it’s okay to cry after I told him I felt like and idiot. He helped me finish my shower and brought me back to bed.
I’m eleven years a survivor.
And a better person because of it.
I learned, more than anything else, that in order to trust someone, you have to trust yourself. I fell head over heels for this person, I didn’t even know. A stranger standing across the high school library who was fated to be my partner in life. I let go of anger and hate and stopped taking everyone’s opinions personally except for the one person who knows and loves me unconditionally. Everyone has a past that haunts them and makes them do uncharacteristic things. Even my father. I now know why he is who he is. It doesn’t excuse his absence, because eventually you have to make choices based on your heart and not fear, but it helped me forgive him. It gave me the strength to free myself from my confusing childhood, and hold tight to the good memories. In retrospect, there were many good times had. My husband showed me that I could trust him, through acts not words, even though he never did anything to cause my fears and concerns. Needing confirmation is still part of my damage, but I’m managing it better now. Being sick gave me the courage to open my eyes to everything and everyone, showing me all the wonderful things I’d been closed off to. I see my battle as a hard slap in the back of my head from my mom. That’s another long story.
My children are now twenty, seventeen and fifteen and they love all their family. They are respectful, smart and absolutely wonderful human beings. I’m glad I changed into a better person before I could hurt them with my damage. I’m closer than ever with my sister and brothers and grateful to be here to see their children. My husband and I are going strong and have more fun without the stupid arguments. I’ve learned how and when to communicate my frustrations. What is ridiculous and what is important. I exited from my reclusive, weary, little cage to join the rest of the universe. It’s actually an amusing, sometimes sad place, but I like living here. I’m happy. Really happy, because I like who I am and I’m afraid anymore. And I have so much more to write about… who knew! And yes. We still play MMO’s together.
Be Safe. Have Strength. Breathe in Peace.