What do I want?

I grew up in a single parent home. My mom never brought anyone around us. She stayed single until the man I call my dad came into our lives when I was 13.

When they first started talking, my mom took me aside and asked me to write down everything that I would want in a father.

I wrote a whole page.

Extremely detailed, down to eye color and traits.

When it got serious between them, she showed him the note and he fit everything except 2 things.

He wasn’t rich and he didn’t have green eyes.

God sent her exactly what she and I needed.

So in that same respect, I decided to write down my own list of “requirements” for a future love.

If he is out there, then he will find me. Until then I’ll work on myself so I will be ready and be the woman he needs when he shows up.

When I wrote this, it was so hard not to think of Frank since he fit so many things. I made sure to include the traits he didn’t have as well.

Physical:

Dark, tousled hair. Blue or green eyes. Chiseled cheekbones. Jaw like an anvil. 5 o’clock shadow or beard. Straight white teeth, full lips. Beautiful smile with eye creases. Dimples. Thick neck. Broad, rounded shoulders. Broad, muscular and hairless back. Narrow waist. Bubble butt. Thick thighs. Defined calves. 5’10” and above. Veined arms. Rough, hard working hands. Long fingers.

Character traits:

Contagious laugh. Eye sparkles. Killer wink. Sings while he works or driving down the road. Bursts into spontaneous dance moves. Pulls me to dance anywhere, anytime. Hugs from behind. Hands in my hair. Smart. Mechanically inclined, handy man. Artistic. Creative. Crafty. Athletic. Competitive. Loves board games, playing sports. Musician. Loves to talk and read. Appetite to learn new things. Charismatic. Funny. Sarcastic. Kind. Empathetic. Strong. Loyal. Passionate. Giver. Loves to touch. Bubble bath joiner. Dancing in the kitchen. Karaoke singer. Good job that he loves. Savings account. Little to no debt. No kids. No previous marriage. Intense lover. Dominant and submissive. Playful. Talented kisser. Unafraid to be consumed by another. Has strong male friendships. Outgoing. Would rather be outside. Grill master. Chef. Barista. Beer drinker. Whiskey shooter. Truck owner. Doesn’t snore. Veteran or first responder. Excellent communicator. Great relationship with his family. Willing to be silly. World traveler. Treats me with respect. Values my opinion. Always watches my back. Rubs my shoulders without asking. Opens my beers. Cooks dinners. Spoils me with attention. Good morning and good night texts. Speaks another language. Movie buff. Challenges me to be better. Love notes, cards, flowers for no reason. Hiker. Backpacker. Strong enough to withstand my storms. Loves to hold my hand.

I don’t know if he is out in this world, but this is what I want. So if the universe is listening, get him ready for me. I’ll work on my end.

Storm warning

I’ve been seeing the sign for weeks.

The darkness covering the skies and distant rumble of thunder.

I’ve been ignoring them, hoping to outrun them and keep the sun shining on my face.

I had been getting jittery and more uneasy until I realized it was that I was nervous about his birthday trip. That I didn’t know how upset it was going to make me.

Trina and I drove up to Tennessee early and got in some hiking at a local state park. I wore one of frank’s favorite shirts in his honor. It help me feel closer to him as I let the silence of the forest absorb me.

I always forget how much hiking helps me. How I can just let go and let the peace flow into me. Trina was a great hiking partner, giving me space and silence and waiting till I was ready to talk again.

The next morning we went to the distillery first thing and I was surprised to see it so busy for a Monday morning.

They have started doing a tour that ends with the tasting inside a barrel room and it was the coolest experience.

You get to taste the top level whiskeys surrounded by the barrels. The slight chill i got from the air was quickly warmed by heat from the whiskeys.

He would have loved it.

I got a bottle of single barrel, the one we always liked the best and had it engraved.

“Franco” forever loved 2018

It was hard for me to write the words on the paper and had to choke down tears when it was complete.

It was still a beautiful experience and it helped to be there with the ones who love me and let me lean on them.

As it got closer and closer to Christmas, I was trying to decide what to get his mom.

I looked at ornaments with sayings, keepsakes and nothing felt right until I found a frame that I could have a message typed out in and it had a spot to clip a picture to.

I put his name and debated long and hard about putting his birth and death dates. I decided that the day he died wasn’t as important as the fact I loved him.

Instead in place of dates, I put “Always remembered, forever loved”

Then a beautiful poem:

Your Life Was a Blessing. Your memory a Treasure. You are loved beyond words. And missed beyond measure.

Having that printed was the straw that broke me.

I just broke down and lost it.

It was beautiful but hurt so damn much.

I printed out a picture of his mother and him and put it in a gift bag.

I went over to her house on Christmas and she wasn’t expecting a gift at all.

It hit her hard too and we both sat in tears for awhile.

She told me how she hadn’t felt like decorating for Christmas and implied how hard it had been with everything this month.

I realized that I haven’t been checking in on her often and I need to do that. She is still important to me and I have been so absorbed in trying to fight my own demons….I forgot that she has her own.

I still think about him daily, mourn him daily.

The loneliness hasn’t been as bad with Trina and Dick here but I miss the touch of someone who loves me.

Arms to hug me after a shit day.

The simple intimacy.

I feel so guilty about thinking about finding someone new. I don’t want a replacement for him. I want someone who can stand on their own but am so afraid to let someone get close to me.

The walls I’ve built around my heart are so high. Impossible to get through.

I don’t know how to trust someone.

To allow myself to get close enough to be broken again.

I’m still picking up the pieces of my life now.

Snowy memories

It’s snowing here.

First snow of the winter. It had been broadcast for days about this snow apocalypse.

It finally started about 7 pm with an icy sleet.

I could hear the sleet hitting the windows as I huddled under a blanket. Lights off, using the Christmas tree for a warm and homey glow.

I actually decorated the house for Christmas. Garlands cover the mantle, above my kitchen cabinets, over the back door. Every horizontal surface is covered in warm lights and ornaments.

I knew that December was going to be tough so I am trying to bring in as much joy as possible to my surroundings. To keep my heart from sinking.

Even going as far as buying a tree.

First Christmas tree in a long time.

It’s a simple 7 ft prelite tree but the impact it makes is huge.

Trina and I decided we would only put ornaments on it that we had received as gifts or on our travels.

As an homage to our hawaii days together, I leid the tree with shell necklaces.

I have been so blessed to have her here.

I had forgotten how positive, funny and lighthearted she made me.

There’s a spoken rule in our friendship that we can tell each other anything without judgement.

I know that I can tell her my secrets and she will keep them safe.

Unless they are embarrassing. Those are open game to share with our fellow best friends.

She has helped to keep me from spinning out of orbit lately.

It’s Franco’s birthday next week. Ever since we moved to South Carolina, we made yearly trips to the Jack Daniels Distillery. Saw the barrel Christmas tree, took the tour, sampled and always bought an engraved souvenir bottle.

The last time, I bought him a used keg barrel and shelves made from the barrels. Perfect birthday gift to decorate our bar with.

When we were looking at them. He completely ignored the very clean, pretty ones.

He honed in on the barrel with stains, paint marks and rust. It had a roughness and character that was him.

I miss that ruggedness.

I miss his dirty hands in mine.

I miss watching him comb and oil his beard. Sometimes I put some of his beard oil in my hands and rub them on my shoulders so when I turns to hold his flag, I can smell him.

I miss watching the snow with him.

Last year, we awoke to the first snow day of winter and I was like a child.

I dress warmly and pronounced loudly that I was going to go build a snowman in the backyard.

As I gathered the snow that had collected on the outside table in my hands, I brought my hands together to create the snowball and it completely disappeared. Like a cloud of flour thrown in the air.

I just frowned and kept trying to make the ball but it wouldn’t keep the shape.

I opened the door and yelled inside “babe! How do you make a snowman?”

He yelled back “start with a snowball then roll it.”

I shut the door and sat looking at the table and snow.

“Babe!……how do I make a snowball?

He comes to the door, rolling his eyes and shivering at the cold air. “You just clump it together in your hands”

I demonstrate the clumping method I had tried and it was obvious that the snow wasn’t wet enough to stick together.

He just looks at me, shrugged and walked away to look for snack cakes in the pantry.

I complained loudly about the stupid fucking snow ruining my plans and I stomped my feet and came pouting back on to the couch.

He just looked at me and smiled his happy fat kid smile as he downed a snack. I just laughed and snuggled close to him to get warm.

That is the part I miss the most. How damn easy it was to be around him. My best friend. My battle buddy. My Alpha male. The one who always had my back.

It didn’t matter how crazy i got. He could handle it and kept me grounded.

He was my lighthouse. The port in the storm that I could always go to for shelter.

I would give anything to stand at the back door with him again. In silence as he peered out, in his funny way, to see if he could make me laugh. To see his eyes light up at me when I smiled at him.

Maybe the snow will cooperate this year.

10 years

Happy anniversary baby.

I used to joke with him that I would give him 10 years then he would have to marry me or I would leave him. Too bad he did the leaving.

Basically 1/3 of my life was spent loving that man. I wish he was here to celebrate this milestone with me. Instead his flag lays on his side of the bed and his ashes next to the bed on the other side.

10 years.

We almost made it Baby.

Friendsgiving

This time last year I was full swing in preparation for our first Friendsgiving/Housewarming party. I had decided to throw the party after delaying for years. The house was never “ready”. Too many projects not finished.

It was a lot of work but it was so much fun. Tons of people, laughs and lots of food consumed.

I threw the party well before Thanksgiving so I could be with the ones that mattered during the holiday season.

I have been planning on throwing another party but things just keep going wrong. At work, with my finances, my emotional state, my nephew, my dad. Just nonstop bad shit.

I keep going back and forth about it.

The pros:

Keeping the tradition, my family’s traditions going. Feeding people and taking care of them.

Seeing friends, catching up, feeling the love of friends that I consider family.

Bringing joy into the house, into my heart.

Cons:

Having to deep clean the house, prepare food, rent tables & chairs, spend money I don’t have.

Having people come into our home for the first time since he has been gone. Since the gathering after his service.

Celebrating life and love, 2 days after what would have been our 10 year anniversary together and the day after my nephew’s big surgery for his cancer. The possibility that they may have to remove his leg if they can’t salvage the limb.

Am I ready for this? Am I ready to fake a smile if I can’t really feel it. I know there will be the “first” holiday but do I need to force the issue on my own terms or delay the inevitable and wait for the holiday to come and spend it with his family like always.

I don’t know if I am strong enough. Mentally, physically, emotionally and financially.

Masks and Prayers

My male best friend Dick, has moved out here for a few months. We have been exploring and having adventures. Lots of laughs and smiles. It’s been so nice to have him here. To have a male presence around again. I didn’t realize how much I missed doing things with a man. How much I miss romance, hugs, kisses and the security of holding on to someone who loved me.

It even made me try online dating for about 1.5 days. I realized pretty quickly that I am not prepared to be cute and quirky over text. I started out ok but boys are way more clingy and demand more attention then I am able to give. I fumbled my way through before I just realized that I couldn’t do it, apologized and deleted everything.

It’s just been a rollercoaster of emotions lately. Riding the highest wave then coming crashing down again. Needing to be hugged then the next second, needing to be alone. To let the wave crash over me in solitude. So I can break down in privacy. Crying in my car, in the shower.

A reporter from my local newspaper did an amazing article about Uuzilo and our time in Africa but I didn’t realize how much of an emotional toll it would take on me to talk about Franco again. About how I felt after the accident. It took me days to dig out of the hole. To start feeling normal again. Just to bottom out again when a long time military friend found me on social media. Excited to find me and Frank again. Wondering how we were doing and how life has been. That’s the worst. To have to tell them what happened because it just blindsides them with the news. The conversation always gets awkward after that and dwindles away.

It can’t be helped, I guess. Doesn’t make typing the words any easier.

The emotional stress has been taking a toll on me physically. I’m not sleeping well. Caught a terrible cold that I’m still recovering from. Just overall feeling poorly.

I keep treading water but our upcoming anniversary date is looming right in front of me. I took the day off so I can go away and be alone if I need to but I don’t know if that is what needs to be done. I don’t want to hide away but I don’t want to have to fake a smile with friends.

I just need some peace. There is none to be had right now. Not in my life or the life of my family. Dad is still feeling terrible and fighting the after effects of his cancer surgery. Tyson will be having his major surgery the day after my anniversary. I am terrified for him, for my brother and his wife. I want to pray and feel strong but I just can’t…..trust Him.

I’m trying to slip my mask into place. The mask of the strong one who can bear the weight of all this sadness, heartache and fear. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to use my masks and they don’t fit like they used too. I suppose I have outgrown them but like a child clutching a favorite blanket, they help me feel secure.

I asked my mom to pray for me tonight. She knows how badly I struggle with praying. She prays for me everyday but I figure a few extra couldn’t hurt.

Maybe this time He will listen.

A legacy of love

I’m having trouble sleeping again. I just lie in bed for hours, tossing and turning. His flag in one arm and a teddy bear in the other. Funny, I haven’t slept with a teddy since I was a child but it gives me more comfort now then his flag does.

It’s been a hard to lose that connection but it has forced me to look forward to the future and the changes that are happening.

Two of my best friends are moving out to live with me. One, Trina, had her belonging sent in a Pod instead of driving a moving truck. It was so tiny, like 5’w x 8″h. It only took us about 30 minutes to get the boxes out. She stayed about a week then just left yesterday to go back to AZ. She still hasn’t told them that she is moving. She has been on vacation and will let them know when she gets back.

It was so nice to have her here again. She came flew out as soon as I told her about Frank’s accident and she was the last one to leave. We would make a bonfire almost every night she was here in February. One night, while staring deeply into the fire and sitting in comfortable silence, I said out loud. “I’m not going to the sell the house….I’m not going anywhere. We worked too hard on this house to give up and walk away.”

I know that many conversations had gone on when he first passed between my family and friends about if I was going to leave and go back to my family in California. I have been gone so long from them, since I was 17. I left knowing that I needed to see more in my life. That I had a need to wonder, to explore, to answer the restlessness call in my soul. That restlessness is still there but it’s been calmed living here in South Carolina. There is just something easy about this life. The people want to talk to you, they want to be kind to strangers. It’s different where my family is. They still have that small town feel but it’s faster paced, more stress and more importantly expensive.

It’s never been easy to be away from my family. Growing up was hard as we were a single parent household. My brothers and I spent a lot of time alone since my mom was always at work. My mom may have had to choose between heat or food sometimes but one thing we never lacked was love. There was so much love from our fathers side of the family and from my mom. Normally when a couple divorces, one person isn’t included in the opposite persons family events unless it involves the kids.

Not in my family. My Granny Mac and my Grandma Barbara never let anyone go. Once a Cutts, always a Cutts. My mom had such a beautiful relationship with her ex-mother in law, my Grandma Barbara. We went over for family lunch every Sunday. We would stop and see her whenever we went town. My mom lost her mother when she was young, so Grandma Barbara filled that role. She filled that role for all of her son’s ex-wives. Grandma Barbara actually stood in place for my moms parents when my mom remarried.

Grandma Barbara had 4 sons. She had so much love for the family but she could be tough and didn’t tolerate fighting so we would have ex-wives, ex-girlfriends, current wives….all at the same dinner. I was too young to notice the tension but they all would play nice just to be together. It was a home filled with chaos, babies crying and laughter. It is a treasured part of my life.

My mother remarried when I was 13. A man came into our lives that completely changed it and taught me what it was like to have the love of a father.

Dave showed me the love that a father can have for his child. When he and my mom first started dating, my mom told me to write down everything that I wanted in a father. I must have filled an entire page with very specific traits and Dave fit all but two. He didn’t have a lot of money and he didn’t have green eyes. God brought him to us because he knew that Dave was exactly what my mom and I needed. The love he gives me is unconditional and he has always supported every decision I have made. He taught me how to check maintenance stuff on cars, shoot guns, and more importantly he talked to me like an adult. I could tell him anything and because of that, almost every major life decision that I have made, was made after having a conversation with my Dad and asking his opinion.

I have always struggled with self love, confidence and feeling of not be good enough, since my biological father Bill had moved away and left us when I was so young. I would have this inner voice that would repeat over and over that I wasn’t good enough, that I should stop trying so hard to impress a man that didn’t care about me, that I was worthless. I used it as fuel to push myself to the limits in sports, in my time in the Navy. I used it to be the best, to show this faceless man that I didn’t need him. To accomplish as much as possible to shove it in his face when I “grew up”.

I only remember seeing Bill twice in my life. Once when I was like 7 and really sick, he had come to California for some reason and stopped to see us. The second time, I was a teenager. I had just gotten home from softball practice and my mom called and said that he was in town and wanted to take my brothers and I to dinner. I don’t even remember what we had, what we said. I just remember his hands and his leather jacket. He had huge hands and wore a rose gold ring and a black leather trench coat. He stayed around a few days and went to one of my games. I remember being so conflicted. I didn’t know who he was, he didn’t know me as a person but I wanted to impress him. Then he was gone. I never spoke to him again.

I was in the Navy and had just left for deployment when I was told that a Red Cross message came for me and I was told to call my mom. Nothing more. My hands shook so bad that I misdialed twice. When I finally connected, I asked immediately if there was something wrong with my brothers or Dave. She thought they would have told me, but she just sighed and said “Bill died today, he had a heart attack. Your Grandma is flying everyone out for the service.” I just sat there in silence then said “ok.” I told her to give my love to my brothers and my family. There was no way to fly me off the ship to go to the service. It was the day before Mother’s Day so I just ended the call with “If I don’t talk to you again, Happy Mother’s Day. I love you.” That was it. I left the office and went back to work. But that voice that had pushed me and plagued me all my life was gone in the instant the words left my mom’s lips.

In some ways I miss it, that internal drive. I struggled for a long time after with anger at Bill. I struggled with grief for a man I never knew. It took hiking the Appalachian Trail to come to terms and put that ghost to rest. To finally start asking questions about him and wanting to know more about him as a person. To know what traits of him lived inside of me.

You see, my mom never wanted to talk bad about him to us so she chose instead to not talk about him at all. It ended up making me feel like it was taboo to ask questions about him so I never did. His death effected all 7 of his kids differently, as we each had a different relationship with him.

When my Grandma passed, it was a hard blow to the family. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She slowly forgot us but we knew who she was and who she had been to us. I flew home and my cousin Ashley and I planned her service and took care of all the details. Her sons couldn’t do it and Ashley was drowning in the weight of it all. I stepped in and shouldered what I could and it was beautiful. We had a gathering after the service and it was the first time that we had all been together in years.

We eventually had to go through boxes and boxes of her stuff and we found so many pictures and letters she had typed out to people. She did not hold back when she felt you were messing up. I found a letter that she had written to her sister Kay after Kay had passed. It was so full of love and beautifully written that I knew instantly that this was her legacy. The legacy of love. This beautiful, strong woman helped shape me and I now carry her with me. I plan on making an entire wall display about the legacy of love. To honor the people who have impacted my life.

That’s what I keep trying to hold on to. The knowledge and strength that has been passed down to me. I have hard days, when missing Frank threatens to overwhelm. Our 10 year anniversary is coming up at the end of next month. I used to joke with him that I would give him 10 years then he would have to marry me or I would leave him. He would always look at me and roll his eyes. He was not interested in being married again since his first marriage hurt him so badly.

Lately I’ve been dealing with the thoughts of dating again. I know that I’m not ready to start that but the fact that it’s going to have to happen is terrifying. That there will be a new hand to hold, lips to kiss and arms to fall into at night. I fear that I will hold back my heart. That I won’t let myself fall in love completely, always holding back a piece.

I have a very specific type of man that I am attracted to. Dark hair, blue or green eyes, tattoos, broad shoulders and a little chubby. That is my favorite flavor of ice cream. I appreciate all different types of men but if one that matches that description walks by, it turns my head each and every time. When I saw Franco the first time in civilian clothes, I was done. I was the wolf in the cartoons, whistling as my jaw dropped to the floor. Luckily, I was his favorite flavor of ice cream too.

It was really easy to be in a relationship with him. We were friends first so we actually enjoyed being around each other. We didn’t have to talk, we could just blare music and be content. We had a lot of the same interests but each had our own hobbies. We weren’t the perfect couple. We didn’t always agree and we fought. There were times when I thought we were going to break up over the years. When like all long term relationships, it felt more like roommates then lovers. The routine of life took over and things stopped being exciting. We could always talk about our feelings and would sit down a have those hard talks, filled with tears. About how we both felt neglected. We would renew each other and keep trying over and over. We chose each other again and again.

He taught me how to fight for what I loved and to keep reaching out and trying for something I still believed in. That is his legacy to me. Hopefully I will be able to recognize that trait in someone else. Maybe he will send one my way, when it’s time. Maybe I’ll be alone. Either way, I knew great love and even if I never find it again. It was worth it. I would go back and chose him all over again, even knowing how it would end.