Unspoken Fears

It happened much earlier than I anticipated. Rico seeing how deep my fears and anxieties run.

We had been texting all day while he was at work and he told me he would see me around 10:15pm.

10:15 came and went. 10:20, 10:25, 10:30……

I immediately went spiraling down into worst case scenarios.

Something is wrong. He is never late. He got in an accident. He’s hurt. He’s dead.

I tried to stop these thoughts. Tried drowning them out with music but I kept getting worse.

My heart was racing. My stomach was in knots.

I kept saying out loud that he is ok. He’s just running late.

But my fears got the best of me.

Starting making plans for what to do after I get the news that he has died.

Who I would call, where I would go and it just kept going.

Then I heard the front door unlock and I ran from the bedroom and hugged him tight.

“You’re late. I was worried.”

He didn’t notice my emotions at first. I had my head buried in his neck.

He told me the problem that happened right as he was clocking out and what he had to do.

I told him I needed him to text me the next time he would be late as I turned and went back to the bed. Laying there, trying to get it together.

He finally understood how upset I had gotten when I couldn’t stop the tears from streaming down my face.

He tried to comfort me but I pushed him away and told him I needed time. For him to go and do his normal nightly routine.

He held me close, kissed me and said it would never happen again.

After I got under control, I came out and apologized and we continued our night.

I guess it’s all I can do. Try and have open, honest conversation when I am struggling and what I need to feel safe.

First steps

I thought I had it all figured out. That I had dealt with my emotions about selling the house.

I was so wrong.

I go to the closing on Friday.

I had put the house on the market on a Friday morning and by that afternoon, had accepted an offer.

It all worked out really well and has been a really easy experience.

I moved my hiking gear, some basic clothes and my cat to Texas and then spent a week with Rico before I left for a month long road trip.

That trip took me all around the U.S. Seeing places on my bucket list. I brought Frank’s orb with me and I felt him next to me so often.

Just enjoying the views and at times I just wished I could put my arm around him and rest my head on his chest like I used to do.

I circled back around to South Carolina with a few days left before the closing and I still have so much to prepare.

Dump runs, goodwill runs, selling furniture, loading moving vans.

It’s all overwhelming and I can’t stop crying or feeling so lost.

This house has been the anchor to Frank.

The place that we built together.

It’s where I felt safe and could let down my guard when life got too hard.

It’s been full of laughter, love and of loss.

If these walls could talk, what stories they could tell….

Of family brunches with coffee and laughter overflowing.

To slip and slide parties and movie nights.

To the terrible night of the accident and my anguish in the days that have followed.

To all the love that was made here.

As I walk through the house, the silence is deafening.

The empty rooms just echo with all the plans left undone.

I know that this is the next step for me but I am grieving the loss of the life I knew.

When I finally lock the front door for the last time, I’ll take a deep breath and say goodbye to that life.

To our home.

I am absolutely terrified and keep pulling back from Rico. I keep looking for a way out but he keeps reaching out. He keeps bringing me back into the shelter of his love and won’t let me go. He refuses to let me self destruct. He is so patient and loves me more than I deserve.

I told him that I’m afraid that he and his daughter are going to swallow me up.

That they will become my entire world and I am going to lose my identity.

He reassured me, again, that he’s not going to let that happen and would kick me out to go on hikes and adventures.

I just don’t know who I am anymore.

I told him that I couldn’t remember the last time that I felt pretty or confident.

I have gotten so good at hiding my emotions and my pain that I have lost myself.

The road trip helped me think and realize how much I need to work on myself.

I’ve been ignoring the check engine signs and I still need more time to figure out who I am supposed to be.

To who I want to become.

I don’t have to see the whole path, I just have to take one step at a time.

Finalizing the sale on the house is that first step.

One huge, heart wrenching step.

Adapting and adjusting

I sit here drinking coffee in the eerily quiet house in Texas. Just a few feet away, Rico is sleeping in our bed.

It’s been quite an adventure getting here. Time flew so quickly. Work had been a non stop grind, not many days off as we worked toward our second major holiday.

When I wasn’t at work, I had been working on the house. Painting, packing, reorganizing and getting it ready to go on the market.

I had a photographer come in on Thursday and Friday morning, Trina and I loaded into the rental car, along with the cat and drove out to Texas in one shot.

The house went live at 9am and at 8pm, my realtor told me an offer came in. I looked it over and accepted it.

A process that I expected to take a least a month, took one day. As long as all my inspections turn out ok, we will be closing in early July.

It’s been so strange how things have fallen into place for my transition here.

It’s like the entire universe is finally pulling for me to be happy.

It still feels like a dream. Like I’m just here to visit and will be gone again soon.

I don’t know how long it will take to finally feel like this is home but I am so peaceful.

The first thing I did when I got “home” was take out my photographs and put them around the house. I put Franco’s flag and picture on the nightstand on my side of the bed. I put his orbs on the windowsills in the kitchen so they can be seen every day and catch the light.

This house needs a lot of work and a lot of love.

I was able to see Rico’s daughter and when she saw us, she was in shock and then came running up to me and crying. I just bent down and picked her up and held her close. We played for a few minutes and she bawled as we left her. I also cried when I got back to the house.

She is so tiny and has the biggest brown eyes.

I thought I loved her already but that sealed the deal on my heart. I was so sad that I made her upset. Rico and his ex just laughed and said she would be fine but I felt terrible.

We get her tomorrow and I look forward to playing with her and figuring out how our little family dynamic works.

I leave on Sunday again to start my road trip and take down time for me. It will be a nice break to see my family and old friends.

I have been learning more about Rico and his daily routines. It’s going to be a learning curve for us both but I am so happy.

He loves me so much and just wants to keep me happy. I just hope I have enough to give so he feels as loved as I do.

The Ashes

The night that I got the call that you were gone from my life…..

I watched the dreams I had for our future shatter in my hands. The pieces drifted to the ground.

My mind screamed in agony and it was like a fire in my heart erupted. All of those pieces ignited around me and my world went up in smoke and flames.

To save myself, I partitioned my pain. I locked it in a box and shoved it as far inside of my heart that I could.

Then all that was left was the ashes of what had been my life.

That’s how I lived every day. That’s how I get by. That’s how I am able to “handle the situation so well.”

Whenever some of the pain manages to find its way through the key hole. I turn up my music just a little bit louder, to help drown out the sound of my tears.

I withdrawal from every one and I write it out.

This is my way of talking about it. This is my way to say out loud that something inside of me is broken and doing this helps to set that pain free.

This is my safe space to say…

I’m a lost cause. Don’t waste your time on me. I’m so damaged beyond repair. Life has shattered my hopes and my dreams.

I tried to tell Rico that in the beginning when I realized that he had feelings for me. To let him down easy.

I told him that I didn’t want to hurt him, or give him hope for something that I wasn’t sure I could do anymore.

That I couldn’t be who he needed me to be.

His reply to that was:

I’m what I need to be. I try to learn, try to love and try to be better than I am. I understand that I will never be perfect but I can strive for it. I’m what you need me to be. I’m loving, understanding and compassionate. I will listen and learn. I will be by your side no matter the situation. I am the me that will hold your hand when your scared, angry, or confused. I am the one that hopes for the chance to prove he can be what you need in life. What I am is incomplete but hoping to be complete tomorrow.

He told me that it’s never too late to start over and that I had forgotten that what could be, never ends.

That he wanted all of me that I was able to give him. Even if it was only a piece.

Half of my heart would be enough for him.

Being with him and moving forward together is helping me. It’s forcing me to break down my barriers and confront all my fears.

Today. I donated about 90% of Franco’s clothes that was still hanging in his side of the closet. It was not easy. Each shirt, has memories and pictures associated with it.

I just had to shove them in a bag and keep repeating out loud “it’s just a shirt, he wouldn’t want to you to keep them.”

It’s a huge deal. I have purposely not moved or touched a lot of his clothes. He placed them there.

I still had our clothes separated into sides of the closet.

It’s progress towards healing.

To letting just a little of that pain out. To sit with it, let it caress me, knowing that it’s sharp edge will cut me and leave me dripping pain.

To taking a deep breath in and breathing that pain out. Feeling just a bit lighter.

I haven’t been able to take down Franco’s photo wall yet or his memorial pieces.

That’s just too big to climb. So I’ll just take smaller steps and go the long way around.

Eventually I’ll reach the top of this mountain of pain and I’ll be able to look down at everything I went through.

To be able to see the beautiful life that came from the ashes.

The Next Chapter

Here it is.

2021.

We are a little more than a month from the third anniversary of his death.

I’ll spend it like I always do. Quietly. Reflecting on his life, our love and losing him.

It’s been a strange year for me and for the world.

2020 brought a pandemic that shut down the world and forced us all to slow down and find alternative ways to connect.

To be fair, 2020 was probably one of the best years that I have had financially.

I didn’t lose my job and was lucky enough to keep working the whole time.

However, with everything shut down, I stopped spending money and focused on my financial plan to get debt free.

I have managed to complete 2 phases from my 4 phase plan.

The third phase is currently underway and about 1/3 of the way done.

This new year, 2021 is a year of change and growth.

I will be putting Frank to rest at sea this year. I’ll take his ashes on a final ride on his repaired motorcycle. From our home, to his finally resting place in the sea. To know that I can visit him anytime I want to. On any shore. He and I will share every sunrise and sunset as the light dances on the water.

I will take some extended time alone to find peace with that release. To deal with all the emotions that will come from completing that for him. Either by hiking or a road trip by myself.

Then it will be time to move on to the next chapter of my life.

I will be moving to be with Rico and we will start building a life together.

He and I knew from the beginning of our reconnection that it would happen.

We have been quietly making moves and making our way to this point.

I have started to slowly pack up my home. I won’t sell it yet but I’ll have it ready to go on the market when it’s time.

It hasn’t been easy. I have a check list that I broke down to very small tasks so I can feel like some progress has been made.

It’s hard emotionally for me. I will pack a few pieces then have to stop until the tears pass and I can start packing again.

It’s a rollercoaster.

I am at peace about the move and the decision to completely change my life.

It’s seeing empty walls and shelves that makes it real that I’m leaving this life and this home.

To start a brand new adventure.

To help co-parent a child. I’m excited and also terrified. I never imagined I would have that experience and it is an immense responsibility.

This is the first time that I’ve talked about the move. No one outside my immediate family, close circle of friends and my boss know.

It’s not really anyone’s business anyways but I’ve always felt that it’s better to work in silence until everything is in place.

I don’t want to make it a big deal. I just want to work my last day, say “have a good night” and walk out like I have countless times.

Like I will see everyone the next day. The only person that I was scared to tell was his mother.

I felt the need deep in my soul to ask for Frank’s mother’s blessing to move forward.

It was last piece of the puzzle that I needed to be ok with moving forward.

She has given it and I can’t explain the intense relief that I felt reading her words. Like I could finally take a deep breath.

Now I feel ready to move forward, with the full love and support of all my family.

In His Words

I have always been a sentimental fool. I keep the smallest mementos. Random items that have no value other than the joy. Anything from tiny toy dinosaurs, rubber ducks, a scribbled note or photograph.

When I was upgrading from a flip phone to a IPhone, I emailed myself every text message that Frank had sent me that I had saved on it.

A few months ago, I was deleting my old emails and stumbled across those text messages. One by one, I opened those email. Those texts, just snap shots of countless conversations that I had with him and how much he poured his heart out to me.

It was very hard to read but also very beautiful to see his love. To read the words, spelled terribly wrong. To know that he meant it and he did love me just as deeply as I did him.

I knew I wanted to somehow create something using his words but I just couldn’t figure out how to do it until now.

I found a company that would take the words and then use them to create a photo. Recreating my favorite photo of him and I.

I received it in the mail recently, I ordered it in time to be here for his birthday. A gift for me, I guess. I left his misspelled words exactly how he had written them and as I hold it in my hands, I’m reminded how much of a “Great Love” that I had.

I always wished for a Great Love. The storybook kind. The kind of love story that was told throughout the ages.

Funny thing about those kinds of loves.

It always ends in tragedy.

I miss him so much.

I miss those eyes. Those beautiful blue eyes that I would get lost in.

I miss his funny faces and the way he would side eye me when he was being sneaky.

His birthday is so hard on me and the anniversary is looming ahead.

Things are changing dramatically for me and I am stepping forward to the next chapter of my life

Excited for the future and yet terrified beyond measure.

Terrified that this chapter will have a terrible ending as well.

Fear hasn’t stopped me from reaching out. It’s trying but I refuse to let it win.

I am carrying his love and his words with me into this next chapter.

He taught me that love is always worth the risk.

4 Questions

What was it like to love him? Asked Gratitude

It was like sitting in a snowy mountain cabin. Fire burning, music playing and just relaxing on the couch. It was beautiful, quiet, warm, comfortable. The kind of love that was effortless. The kind of friendship that didn’t even require conversation. It was like the feeling that I got from riding my motorcycle on a wide open road, on the perfect day. The kind of love that brought peace to my soul.

What was it like to be loved by him? Asked Joy

I was safe, secure in his love. He always had my back. He was my best friend. He was my lighthouse. No matter how far I travelled or how bad the storms were, he guided me home. He was always down for all of my crazy plans and never said no. He was my partner in crime. He was the perfect teammate and we were perfectly matched. He was strong in the the things that made me weak.

What was it like to lose him? Asked Sorrow

It was like losing my anchor. It shook me to my core and destroyed me. I lost my bearings as the waves tossed me around. I didn’t just lose him. I lost the life that we had planned. I lost who he would have become. Who I would become after a lifetime of loving him. Even after all this time, I think of him daily. Miss him daily. I don’t think I’ll ever recovery from losing him. Something broke inside me that day. I locked it away until I am strong enough to face it. I don’t know if that day will ever come.

What is it like loving someone new? Asked Life

It’s hard. It’s beautiful. It’s butterflies and many tears. It’s moving forward with our lives together and honoring my past. It’s wearing a bracelet for Frank and one for Rico, on the same arm. It’s showing him all about my life but not letting him see when I break. It’s keeping that brokenness from him. Unwilling and unable to share the depth of grief with him that I feel. It’s not trusting the world. It’s fear that Rico will be taken from me as well. It’s loving him hard, crazy, and as fully as I can each day. Just in case there isn’t a tomorrow.

The Unimaginable

I’m so sorry that I didn’t give you time to process and I rushed you to recover from the shock of losing him.

I made you pretend to be a rock.

To not let anything show and just be strong for everyone around you.

Two weeks.

That’s all the time I would allow you to grieve.

When the last person left you and it was too hard to be at home.

I made you go back to work.

Day in and day out, I made you smile and laugh and pretend like nothing had changed.

To pretend that you weren’t going through the unimaginable.

Suffering so deep that it stripped you to your core.

Your heart froze over, you hid away the broken parts of you so no one could see beneath the surface.

I hate that this made you feel so alone.

Isolated in your pain.

I’m sorry that it resulted in you crawling into a ball and weeping in the shower.

That you felt like that was the only place that you could let your guard down.

You needed time and I robbed you of that.

Your loss, your pain. It deserved to be heard.

Looking back now, the trip to Africa was the best thing that could have ever happened to you.

You were prepared for something to go wrong.

You made your Will, wrote out all your burial instructions and put all your trust into the unknown.

You let go of the fear of dying and accepted your fate, no matter how it would play out.

Little did you know that it would test you beyond all that you could have imagined.

Digging down for strength that you didn’t know you had.

Trusting people again. Trusting that it was your destiny to complete the trip.

You told your mom that initially. That this was meant for you and you walked to it with intention.

Maybe it was the lifeline you needed.

To start figuring out how to live this new reality.

To deal with the daily pain, to fight back against the darkness.

I know that sometimes it gets overwhelming and you break down.

The rollercoaster doesn’t climb as high anymore, the fall isn’t so deep now.

I am truly sorry that I made you pull away from anyone who tried to help you.

It’s a coping mechanism that I’ve always had.

You see it now, that so many people are suffering in silence.

That they too struggle and put on a brave face.

Pain finds pain.

You can feel it now. The way it radiates from someone.

It’s in their eyes. Just a slight brokenness that is barely visible behind the mask of smiles.

It’s in the those moments that you connect with the broken-hearted, that you see how far you have come.

You didn’t give up, you didn’t turn to drugs or booze to numb the pain.

You pushed away the unimaginable.

Look at where you are now, compared to where you started.

You still say his name as often as you can.

You couldn’t control the fact that he died, but you still tell his story.

So others know and remember who he was, what he did with his life and what he meant to you.

I know you will always miss him, your best friend…

Just know that the rest of the world misses him too.

2.5 Years

I had a thought today that stopped me in my tracks.

It’s been 2.5 years.

2.5 years without him.

2.5 years without looking into those beautiful blue eyes. Laughing at his funny faces. The way he would stomp his feet and growl at me.

I look at his orb with his ashes every morning. I think about where our life would be. What adventures we would have gone on together during this time.

How has so much time passed and I am still so lost without him.

It’s my birthday in a couple weeks and it still hits me so hard that he won’t be here to celebrate with me.

I’ve been bouncing between being super happy and excited for the future and feeling so empty and afraid to move forward.

I am dating a wonderful man. He loves me so deeply and is so understanding of my crazy moods. There has been so many times when I can’t fake a smile and he just gives me the space I need to collect myself. He doesn’t push, he just waits for me to come back to him.

He knows that I struggle every day with loving him. With feelings of guilt and unworthy of love.

I have been having crazy thoughts about he and I. About starting a family together.

That is one topic that has been off limits, non negotiable. Even before he and I were together when we get just kids. I wouldn’t let kids be an option.

Now, I dream of our babies. They are beautiful, smart, kind and artistic. The best parts of each of us. He and I have talked about it briefly. It’s something that is open for discussion at a later date. He is 50/50 on it, I’m more like 25 pro/75 con. Which is actually a huge, scary step for me.

He has a daughter. I want to love her and I want her to love me. I want to be an example for her.

A strong, sensitive, kind, throat punching example.

Maybe our weird little family will be enough to curb this strange desire to have a child. Maybe it will only make the desire stronger.

I’m just keeping my head down, working my ass off and paying off debts.

Working my way to whatever my future will be.

The Butterfly Effect

I have been struggling for the past few weeks.

I will be doing normal tasks like driving to work when all of a sudden, my mind will flashback to the morning that I got the call about Frank.

Instantly taking me back to there. To how it felt when my world crashed around me.

How my heart shattered.

I was supposed to cook dinner that night but had gotten so sick from all the stress from working Valentine’s Day. I told him to go out with friends.

We texted sporadically throughout the night till it got late and I couldn’t stay up any longer. I text him that I was going to bed and he told me goodnight.

Just a normal night. He went out often in the summer when the riding weather was great.

Then I was awoken from a dead sleep by my phone going off and I struggled to see the caller id. Wondering why his mom was calling me so early. It was around 2 am.

“Stephanie! Is frank there with you?” She was so distraught and I told her “No, he went out with some friends and isn’t home yet.”

By this time, I had stumbled out of bed, turned on the lights and was walking downstairs to check the couch.

“Two officers just came to the door and said that Frank has been killed in a motorcycle wreck on 85.”

I was speechless.

I turned on the downstairs light and the couch was empty, I checked the garage and his bike wasn’t there.

“He’s not here…..he went out with friends……he’s not here.”

That’s all I could say….I just kept repeating it.

I sat on the couch and just started sobbing.

She asked me if I wanted her to come get me and I said yes.

I tried calling my boss and it went to voicemail so luckily I had her husbands number so I called and told her what happened, that I wouldn’t be at work. That she was my family here and I didn’t know what to do. She asked if she needed to come over but I told her no, that frank’s mom was coming to get me.

All I could think of next was that I needed to talk to my mom so I called the house line and immediately started crying hysterically when she picked up.

I don’t even remember what I said but I remember her praying over me and I told her I needed to get dressed.

I threw on jeans and a tee shirt. The minutes felt like hours and I couldn’t be in our home so I just sat on our porch outside and looked at the stars and listened to the bugs.

It was so quiet and I was so broken.

Susan and I just sat in chairs, in the living room. Not speaking. Just both lost in our own thoughts. I remember hearing the news from the bedroom where roger was laying in bed and it was talking about the accident. As it got closer to 5am it talked about it so often that I asked if he could change the channel. I didn’t want to hear it.

Susan got periodic calls about making sure we had let all the family know before the news station was given the green light to run his name on the story.

I started texting our close friend Neal, that I needed to talk to him. I had terrible news and didn’t want to say it over text. He told me he was up so I walked outside and broke the news to him.

I asked him to call frank’s work and tell all those guys and anyone else that he thought should know before they found out from the news.

I don’t remember much else from that early morning. I kept texting my close friends and then I just felt the intense need to be at home. To be in our home.

Susan dropped me off and I just turned on music to block the silence out and curled up into a ball on the couch and just sat there.

Two of his friends came by the house to offer their condolences. Jaime and Chucky. It was very sweet and I wish I knew what we talked about.

Neal came over later and we just sat on the couch and he wrapped his arms around me.

Because the accident happened early Saturday morning, it was like agony waiting to hear when they would release his body to the funeral home.

His mother did not want anything going out over social media before we had funeral services finalized.

We finally got the word that the funeral home had his body and we went there.

His mom, sister, niece and I.

We had them coordinate everything for a veteran funeral service with the army national guard and paid for everything. Luckily I had just gotten my taxes done so I could pay a good portion of it.

One thing I kept stressing to the funeral director was that he needed to use his best judgement if we should have a viewing or a closed casket. I didn’t want my last memories of him to be torn up. We had no idea the extent of his injuries.

My mom got there that night and by the next day, 2 more of my best friends had drove or flew in.

We bought frames, printed photos and poems, cds for his memorial dvd. Folded countless bandanas for his friends to wear in his honor. A request I had made. Neal came and picked up frank’s other bike to ride lead for the group that was riding to the service.

I stopped by my work and talked to my boss about the flowers I needed.

I was basically a zombie. Getting stuff done and being completely numb. I couldn’t eat for two days. Couldn’t even manage dry toast.

I offered to go to the county coroner’s office and pick up his stuff as his next of kin. They returned a few items. Belt, wallet, his riding gloves and his helmet. It was hard keeping it together when I realized how broken the helmet was from the impact.

I just took it all up stairs and put it next to my bed. It stayed in that same spot for the next two years.

I sat and wrote him a long letter that I would tuck into the casket with him.

They also included his plug earrings and at the last minute, I put them in my pocket before we left for the service. I’m glad I did so they could be put back in.

The one thing I remember most of all when I looked at him, was his hands. The nails and fingers were still slightly dirty from working on Friday and going out straight from work.

Mechanic hands.

Beautiful hands that I loved holding.

For my mind to travel back to that phone call again and again has been agony.

Last night it also invaded my dreams.

If you have ever seen the movie, The Butterfly Effect, the basic premise is that through photos and videos, the main character finds he has the ability to go back in time to very specific events.

My mind decided that I should have that ability too and sent me back a few days before his accident. I bought food to make for dinner that night. I loved on him so much, texting, calling, sending him stuff. He came home that night and we had dinner like countless times before. I got up, went to work. Feeling like I had won. Then I got the call from his mom. He was killed on the way to work.

This scenario played out over and over again. I went back in time to different times. Trying desperately to change something and everything I did just made things worse and I lost him in increasingly worse ways.

Finally it just clicked. No matter what I changed, I was going to lose him.

So instead I went back to happy memories and took more time to love him and to say goodbye.

I woke up destroyed this morning but also strangely lighter.

Like my soul and my mind had finally come to terms that it wasn’t my fault and I couldn’t have saved him.

I could just love him.

To continue to love him.

To miss him.

To reach to the skies and call out his name.

Hoping he is at peace.

Hoping I can also make peace with losing him one day.