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.