Saturday, February 27, 2016

Different Loves 4A

I wrote Chapter 5.
It won't be published here.
It's the last chapter.

But I also realize that there are many more
Loves that are important.
And today, Doug haunts me
From the grave.
This is a story of love lost.

He's Chapter 4A.
Not because he doesn't
Qualify for or deserve
A chapter of his own,
But because, in so many ways,
He was part of Dave
And me.

I already told you the story of how I met him.
(if you don't know it, click "story" to read)
Dancing in the cellar at UPS.
How I was entranced,
By him,
His energy.
How in that hot room,
With music pulsing, pounding,
He pulled me into his arms,
And pressed against his chest,
I breathed him in,
Cool, bracing, cinnamon and smoke.
Like the air had too much oxygen,
Dizzying and clarifying
All at once.

Once you experienced Doug,
His intensity,
You never forgot it.

I told you the story of his death.
Dave holding on,
Doug letting go.
The horrible irony.
I don't think I told you
How his death,
Even more than Dave's,
Destroyed me.
Broke me.

This chapter is the in-between
Of the story.
Of how love was lost.

I told you that Doug and I dated
A little
Our freshman year at UPS.
Too much alike,
Too much intensity.
Too much.
Like magnets,
I was drawn to him,
Only to crash violently into him,
Out of control.
But one turn of a magnet
Pushes back with equal force.
It was confusing.
He'd go missing for days.
Then I'd find a note like this one:

I never knew
Quite what to do.
Never knew how
To handle him,
What to think.

As I got to know him,
As he opened his wounded soul
To me,
I grew to love him.
To care about him deeply.

And of course,
I was in love with him, too.
Everyone was.

He was brilliant.
In so many ways.
Not only wicked smart,
But he was like the
Moon and the stars,
He illuminated dark places.

Somehow, even with letters like he wrote,
We drifted apart.
No big break up scene,
Just a gentle floating away.

I saw him from time to time.
It was a small campus after all.
And each time,
His eyes would search mine,
With a sharp intensity,
Familiar by now,
But somehow painful.

I thought it was love lost.
Maybe there was a lesson
About learning to hold on.
I didn't know that the loss was
Only beginning.

A few years later,
Dave and I started dating.
Doug recognized the emptiness in me.
He told Peter, "This is bad.
She's going to hurt him."
(like she hurt me?
had I?)

Dave moved into my apartment.
Doug was there every day.
Every day.
He saw the changes happen
In me.  In Dave.

Soon Dave and I were engaged.
Doug took me aside.
Hands on my shoulders,
Eyes, sharp, intense,
Boring into mine.
"You won't hurt him?
I couldn't stand it if you hurt him."
"No.  I love him."
Searching my eyes,
Looking for my truth.
"Okay then.  Okay then."
He pulled me close,
Held me tightly against him.
"Okay then.
You do know this is a package deal, right?
Two for the price of one.
We're a family now."

And we were.
A trio.
The three of us together.
So many
Talking until the sun rose.

So many nights,
On that battered couch.
Dave and Doug talking,
Me, laying across the two of them.
My head in Dave's lap,
My legs over Doug's.

And the nights Doug hurt,
When the demons of his past haunted him.
I'd hold him on
That damn couch.
Laying back,
His head on my chest,
Our legs tangled together,
Absorbing his tears,
Cradling him,
Until he could finally

Dave checking on us,
Soft eyes,
"Is he okay?"
"No, but we'll keep him safe.
We won't lose him."
I thought I could do that.
I really did.

Crazy times.
Like the two of them driving
Into the mountains and coming
Back with a
Charlie Brown tree.

Or my first birthday
As a wife.
I came home to a
Dark, empty house.
I called Mark, Erik.
"Where the hell are they?"
"Did you try the West End?"
Of course.
They were there.
"We'll be home soon."
They walked in.
Drunk.  Oh Lord.  Drunk.
Made me close my eyes while they
Carried something to the bedroom.
Laughter, hammering, swearing.
I watched tv.
Two hours later,
They emerged, grinning.
"Look, honey!"
It was a microwave cart.
"Really? Really?
That's the best the two of you
Could do?"
Bewildered, both of them.
I almost felt sorry for them.
On my next birthday,
Doug baked me a cake
And brought me flowers.
Dave bought me an
Amethyst ring.
Seems they could learn
After all.

So many road trips.
So many evenings,
Cooking dinner together.
So many moments.
Small moments,
Watching Dave mow the lawn
And Doug take out the garbage.
Or argue about who would
Open the door for me.
Walking between them,
To open it myself.
Hearing them in the other room
While I made coffee.
Watching Doug study law books,
Watching Dave grade student papers.
Kisses on the top of my head
When one of them walked by.
Monumental moments,
Kyle Douglas was born,
Named for Doug.
Then Kyle's death,

And then he was leaving.
Going to Hawaii,
Doing his law magic.

Dave was heartbroken.
He went to bed early.
"Make him stay."
Doug and I stayed up
To talk.

"A package deal,
You said.  You promised."
"You don't understand.
I have to go."
"No, I don't understand.
I don't understand at all."
"Shelley," he whispered.
"I love you.
But I have to let go."
I said, "Your own life.
I get that.
You can do that here.
You can find a life.
And still stay with us."
He pulled me close,
Placed his cheek against mine.
His tears, my tears,
Flowed together in the place
Where our skin touched.
"Shelley, I can't.
I can't.
You don't understand.
You could never understand."
"I can, tell me."
"Shelley, I can tell you anything.
I tell you everything.
Not this.
I need to let go.
I can't let go."
I settled down into his arms,
My head on his chest,
Listening to his heart beat.
Trying so hard to hear the secret
He couldn't share.
And I knew, something was lost.

Dave woke in the morning.
He said he stood there
Watching us sleep.
He woke us, asking,
"Could you make him stay?"
"I can't.  He says he can't."
And Dave gathered us
All three together,
In his arms.

For a while,
We heard from him often.
Calls, funny cards.
Laughter.  Long, silly, newsy letters.
We found our balance
Without him.
You do know that the triangle
Is the strongest geometric form?
With only two sides,
We collapsed.
But found our center again.

Then Doug broke his neck
And sank into an abyss of pain.
Chronic, unrelenting pain.
And the addiction that followed.
We were found,
But Doug was lost.

One night,
The phone rang.
Dave answered, woke me up.
"It's Doug.  He needs you."
So I listened.
Sobs across the ocean.
"Shelley, I can't.  I can't."
He needed help,
Rescuing from himself.
In the days before cell phones,
Dave ran to wake up the neighbors,
To arrange a treatment bed and a taxi.

I kept talking.
"Help is coming.  It's on its way.
I'll stay until the taxi finds you.
I'm right here."

"Shelley, I love you,
I've always loved you.
You are my heart.
You always were."

"I'll call when you get to the hospital.
Is the taxi there?"

"It's here, I'm going.
Do you know,
Your love saved my life?
Do you know?"

"I know, love,
I know."

He never made it to the hospital.
Love lost.  Again.

We talked to him years later,
The night before
They removed the tumor
For the first time.

"It's on me, Shelley," he said.
"It's on me.
I love you, still.
Forever, right?
You're my heart.
I love you.

"I know," I said.
I also knew he would be lost again,
The minute I hung up the phone.
My heart sank.
Dave's life on the line.
Doug gone.
Our house full of amazing people,
Yet I was alone.

And Doug was lost.
More lost than I realized.
I thought he was only lost to me.
But he was lost to himself.
Adrift on a sea of
In a place I couldn't reach.
So far gone, I stopped trying.
Except for my entire being
Willing him to come home.

When he died,
Doug being lost
Was etched into my soul.
A scar I still carry.
It broke more than my heart.
It broke me.

I felt every emotion.
Heart-wrenching sadness
And eventually, eventually

Love found again.

He left me a note.
I can't share that.

But Doug,
Yes, I know.
I love you still.
I always have.
I always will.
You're my heart.

I'm still not sure
What the gift of
A love lost is.
Knowing you can survive?
Accepting sometimes there's nothing
You can do?
Knowing that even death
Cannot defeat love.
Not even the lost ones.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Different Loves 4

Then there are epic loves.
The loves that last a lifetime.
Not just happily ever after.
But loves that stay
For better,
For worse.

Of course,
I mean Dave.

I've written so much of this story
Here on this blog.
I struggle with what to say.

Should I tell about
The first time I met Dave?
The first night we talked?
The first time we fought?
When I finally knew I loved him?
The million moments that made him special?
Or how he died
Leaving me in a world
That no longer made sense?

All of these are part of
That love.
The love that for 20 years
Not only changed my life,
But WAS my life.

Maybe that's the thing
About epic love.
It's so much a part
Of the fabric of
Your being,
That it becomes impossible
To separate it,
To isolate it,
To put it into words.

How do I explain that
He was the very air
I breathed?

It wasn't always so.
I first met Dave
When I was on a date with Doug.
Doug and I had been out dancing.
Crimson and clover.
We were back in his room
Playing backgammon
And in came Dave.
Red and white Hawaiian shirt
Guitar over his back
Bandana tied around his head.
"My name is Dave Meyer,
I'm from Walla Walla, and
I wanna be a rock star."
I thought he was a little crazy.

Fast forward about 3 years.
Old Spaghetti Factory.
Dave waiting tables.
Me tending bar.
"Hey Mitch, when you gonna dump that guy
and go out with me?"
"Not today."
We laughed.
He was fun to be around,
Making everyone laugh,
Making everything better for everyone,
Singing in the kitchen.
He and Becky singing duets.
Dancing around,
Beaming smile.

I was still frozen.
Still aching.
Still empty.
Hollow smiles.
Still waiting for
Chapter 2.

One night, all the employees
Went dancing at Shenanigans.
We all danced together,
In a big group.
Pretending to have fun.
Pretending to feel alive.

"Crazy for You" by Madonna came
Pulsing over the speakers.
So, feeling reckless,
I moved into his arms
And we danced.

After closing the bar, the whole crew
Went to Denny's for breakfast,
Around 4 am,
Most people left.

"Let me walk you to your car."
It was raining.
This is Tacoma, after all.
And I leaned against my car.
He leaned against me.
And we talked.
And talked.

He sang Rex Smith.
"You take my breath away,
I don't know what to say."
And gave me one of those
Signature Dave hugs.
And said,
"When you going to move in with me?"
"Not today."

I went home.
At 8 am.
My roommates were freaking out.
"Where were you?
What happened?"

What happened?
Good question.
Later that day,
From my yard, I saw him,
Driving down the street
Where I lived.
In his orange beetle.
Members Only jacket.
U2 button.
Smiling, singing.

I told my roommates
I was going to the library.
I walked straight to his house.
He opened the door
Wrapped his arms around me,
Picked me up
And sat down on the couch
With me on his lap.

I'd like to say
I knew then.
But I didn't.
I knew he was special, extraordinary, really,
But I didn't know.
My roommate said,
"You can't date him.
He has no goals."
I said, "Well,
It's not like
I'm going to marry him."
(at least not today)

Two months later,
He was set to go back to
Walla Walla for the summer.
Big party at his house.
I was working.
As the restaurant closed,
He walked in.

"What are you doing here?
You're supposed to be leaving."
"I can't leave.
If I do, nothing will be the same
When I get back.
And I'll be damned if the
Boys of summer are going to screw this up."

He had no place to live.
So he moved in with me.
I still didn't know.

Even though he kept saying
"Marry me?"
I'd say,
"Not today."

Chapter 2 came back.
I saw him.
I told him about Dave.
He said, "This one is different."
I said, "Maybe it could be."
I remember writing about risk.
And fear.  And pain.

You know when you're outside
And it's freezing cold?
Your hands are so cold
They're numb?
When you come into the warmth,
Your hands begin to thaw
And it hurts.
It hurts like hell itself.

That was happening
in my heart.

And I fought it.

Four months later,
A big dance.
We went.
And fought.
I drank too much.
Walked home.
Lifted a rock half my size
And put it through the window
Because I didn't have a key.

I called Chapter 2.
"It's too hard.  I can't do this.
I'm coming to you."
"I'll meet you at the airport," he said.
I packed my things,
Headed toward the door.

There was Dave.
I pushed by him, swearing.
He followed me down the street.
I kept walking, angry, hurting.
He ran a few steps and caught my arm.
My bag flew, sending clothes everywhere.

"I will not let you leave,
Until you look me in the eye
And tell me why."
So I looked him in the eye,
And began to cry.
For the first time in over a year.
I cried.
He picked me up,
Carried me home
Cradled in his arms,
I cried.

In the morning,
Dave still sleeping,
Wind whipping in through
The broken window,
I thought about the last six months.

It was like I could finally see
This extraordinary man.
His dedication to his family,
His fierce love for his friends,
His formidable intelligence,
His funny, goofy jokes,
His tenderness,
His faith,
His loyalty,
His strength.

With my heart whole
For the first time
In a long time,
I knew.

People wonder,
How do you know?
And other people say
You just do.
You just do.

For 20 years,
We built a life together.
Big stuff like
Degrees and careers.
Little stuff like
Mowing the lawn
And drinking coffee together.
(Me, not him. He never drank it,
Just kept me company.)
Music, always music.
Doug there, every day,
The third leg of our triangle.
Reading to each other
On long car trips.
Me punching Dave in the middle of the night
When he was sleeping peacefully
As I tried to nurse a crying baby.
Hard stuff like
Kyle's death
Kenny's autism.
Beautiful stuff
Like the four children we created.
And ugly stuff
Like car wrecks
Gamma knife
In sickness and health.
"Not today."

Suddenly, it was today.
He was gone.
I tried to be grateful
For the epic love of a lifetime,
That truly did last a lifetime.
But I wasn't.
I was bewildered,
Wanting him here.
Having to be strong,
To be both mom and dad,
To shepherd our children
To adulthood.
Because I promised him.
I told him that I knew he had to go,
But that they would be okay.
I would make sure.
We won't fail.
"Not today."

Love that lasts
Even after death
Did us part.

That's an epic love.
Yes, today.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Different Loves 3

Sometimes love is pure joy.
Sometimes it comes from the most
Unexpected places.
And stays.
Keeping us warm
When the world is cold.

This story is of such a love.
A love that existed outside
Real life.

The kind of love
You put in your pocket.
And take out to hold
When self-doubt
Creeps in.

It was raining.
Football season in Kelso.
The crowd yelling,
The crash of helmets,
The shrill whistles of the refs.
Friday Night Lights.
All the best of
Small town life.

Blue and gold,
Me with my pom poms,

I looked up into the crowd.
There he was.
He had a smile that
Reached his eyes.
I could feel that smile
From 100 yards away.
What caused that smile?
Could it be for me?

He threw back his head
And laughed.
His arm slung easily
Around the shoulder of
His friend.
His eyes crinkled.
His mouth open,
White teeth showing.
Pure joy.
Pure delight.
Not a shred of

His friend waved crazily.
I laughed,
Smiled at them.
And then he smiled.
At me.
That one was at me.
That one was for me.

Do you know that feeling?
That feeling of
Someone noticing you?
The little flutter in your heart?
The way your stomach drops?
The way your breath catches
Just a little?
The way your smile
Is somehow now
Beyond your control?
The way the blood rushes
To your face?
The way the world seems to exist
Only for you?
I'm sure you do.

After the game,
Rain in my hair,
I gathered my things.
Headed toward the gate.
Everyone was leaving.
And there he was,
Leaning over the rail,
With his hand outstretched.
And that smile.
That smile.

I looked at him,
He held out his other hand.
Both hands reaching.
Yes, you.

I set down my things,
And walked to him.
Hesitantly, I put my hands in his.
He held my hands, gently.
Looked down at them.
Kissed one
And then the other.

He looked at me.
His smile.
At this close range,
It jolted me,
Like electricity.

Then he pulled both of my hands
Toward him,
Folding my hands into his
And holding them next to his heart.
I could feel it beating in his chest,
Under my palms.
We were inches away from one another.
The railing of the fence between us.

He told me his name.
I said, "I'm..."
And he interrupted, "Beautiful."
I looked away.
He moved slightly,
To hold both my hands in one of his
To take his other hand and touch my chin
To turn my face back toward his.
"Beautiful," he repeated.

He reached in his pocket
Gave me a piece of paper.
"Will you take this?
Will you keep it?"
"I don't know."

He handed me the paper
Folded small.
It sat in my palm
Daring me to open it.
I closed it into my fist.
And watched him walk away.

The note said
"Hi Michelle.  I know your name.
But I call you Beautiful.
My friend and I were playing a little game.
A contest to see who could get the number
of one of the cheerleaders.
It was a joke.
Until you smiled at me.
And now I want to know so much more
About you than
Your number."

That was all.
I thought it was the end.

But in a small town
Even before Google searches
Things can be found.

A few days later,
Checking the mail.
A letter.
Addressed to
Michelle Bond - Beautiful.

"Hi Sunshine" he began.
"I think that's what I'll call you.
I met you in the rain.
But still, you shine."

I stood in the driveway,
Reading page after page after page.
He lived in a neighboring town,
About 15 miles away.
He told me about his life,
His thoughts,
His love of God.
He asked questions.
A million questions.

Who was this person?
This person who loved words
The way I did?
Who wrote his heart onto paper
The way I did.

Setting aside AP English,
I wrote.
I answered the questions,
I asked more questions.
I wondered.
What does this mean?
What does he want?

The letters continued to arrive.
Every week.
Sometimes two or three or four in a week.
Each one,
"Hello Sunshine."

Months passed,
And soon it was time to leave for college.
The day before I left,
Richard Scarry's Big Word Book
Arrived in my mail box.
"Sunshine, you're going to need
Some big words where you're going."

And he kept writing.
So did I.
We talked on the phone sometimes.
We met and went to dinner a few times.
But our world was in the letters.
In the writing.

I tucked those letters into every
Nook and cranny of my life.
When I opened a textbook
A letter would hide between the pages.
In my dresser drawer.
In the sun visor of my car.
In the knife drawer.
Under my makeup.
In my purse.

He called me Sunshine,
But in truth
His letters were
Rays of light for me.

Whenever things didn't make sense
I had those worn, tattered
Pieces of paper.
Pieces of him,
That I could hold.
I didn't even read them.
Just held them against my cheek
And the light would come
And touch the broken places
In my life.

This love
This love
Was pure joy
Giving without any expectation
Love without any complications.

Blissfully romantic,
He kissed me only once
Holding my face
In both his hands
Brushing his lips
Against my cheek.

After six years of letters
I saw him again.
On my wedding day,
He drove 17 hours to be at the church.
In his dress blues,
He smiled that radiant smile.
Held out both his hands,
Just as he had that very first day.

I placed my hands in his.
"Sunshine," he said,
"Be happy."
He pulled my hands together,
Placed them near his heart.
Bent his head,
Kissed each one.
And smiled.

Then he walked out the door.
Framed by fading light.
To drive 17 hours back.

I received one more letter.
One last letter.
"Hello Sunshine.
You will always be
light itself
to me."
No sadness.
No regret.
An acknowledgment of change.
Releasing the world
We built in words.

But I still remember
This love.
Pure joy.
And some days,
Even still,
I take it out of my pocket,
And hold it against my

Friday, February 12, 2016

Different Loves 2

Some loves that come into our lives
Teach us something. 
About love, about life,
About ourselves. 

Some loves that we strive
To keep 
Are lost. 

Sometimes the love is right
But the time is wrong. 
Sometimes pain between
Two people
Cannot be overcome
No matter how strong the love. 

Some loves are tinged with regret.

I had a love like that. 
So did you, I imagine. 
A love that makes you wonder,
"If things had been different..."

I loved a man once. 
I first saw him looking out a window
On the second floor. 
I was moving in. 
Boxes in my arms.
He leaned out the window and said,
"Are you coming here?"

I squinted up at him, through
September sun. 
I said simply, "Yes."

And he smiled. 

"Wait," he said. "Please wait."
And I did. 

He came rushing out the door.
He must have taken the steps 
Two at a time.

He stood in front of me,
And reached to take the boxes. 
His hand brushed mine.

He held the boxes under one arm
Leaned in
Until his face was near mine. 
He brushed my hair back and said,
"You are?"

"Michelle." I gave him my name. 

"Michelle," he said.
"Yes. Michelle," he repeated.
As if he were trying my name on,
To see if it fit. 

And it did.

Have you ever had a conversation
That you wanted to never end?
Of course you have. 
"You hang up."
"No, you hang up."
But nobody does?

It was like that.
Hour upon hour.
Standing in the hallway,
Sitting on the stairs. 
Walking through trees,
Lounging on the porch.

Looking at the black sky
Until the sun rose,
Sending the stars to bed.

Have you ever
Poured out your every thought,
Without hesitation,
Knowing they were safe?

Even the darkest ones?
Did you dare to voice them?
To examine them?
To begin to understand yourself?

I did. 

This was a defining love,
A love that searched endlessly
For meaning
And depth. 
Young, idealistic, intense. 

And two years later,
He was gone. 
We didn't drift apart. 
We didn't grow tired of each other.
We didn't fight.
We didn't even break up. 

We faced a tragedy together.
It doesn't matter what it was.
It was out of our control.
But it tore us apart. 
I could talk to him about everything. 
But not that. 
Not able to reach me,
Not knowing what to do,
He left. 

Hundreds and hundreds of miles away. 
And, broken,
I waited for him to come back. 
And over the next year
He did. 
Many times.
And we pretended
That it was the same.
But something between us
Had died. 

Not love. 
I still loved him. 
His absence 
Froze me. 
Beyond mere pain,
I was numb.

Maybe what had died
Was a part
Of me.

I used to blame him
For running.
But long before he ran,
I hid.

In the aftermath of what
We could not control
We made decisions

Almost twenty years later
He called me. 

He had just turned forty. 
Had never married. 
"We never did break up," he chuckled,
Knowing I'd been married for years. 

We talked. 
And understood. 

"I did really love you."
"But I didn't know how."
"I know."
"It's okay."
"It's okay."

This was a defining love.
A love that changed me.
And him.

People say it wasn't
meant to be.
I don't know about that.

I do know
That if things had been different,
It would have been different.
But even in that sentence,
You can see
The absurdity of the thought.
The truth is that it wasn't.
It wasn't different.


But a gift,

And while this love
Is shrouded in a wistful fog of regret,
I am grateful for the gifts.

First love.
Remembering quiet whispers,
Complete acceptance.
Total immersion into a
World of our own making.

First heartbreak.
Remembering anguish
And tears.
And being afraid of
Never feeling
Whole again.

Learning about survival,

Learning about the
Brought on by

The enormous cost of
Guarding your heart
Against the one who
Loves you.

And the futility of
To twist something
Into something
It cannot be.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Different Loves

I really believe that in this life,
there are many loves that will come your way.

Some are family.
A mom's touch, a dad's guidance, a sister's phone call.
A daughter's laugh, a son's tears.
These are all bits of love
rained into our lives.

Some are friends.
Those who listen, those who call bullshit,
those who sit with you when your heart is breaking wide open.
Those who stay, when everyone else leaves,
to help you pick up the pieces.
And make you laugh,
when you thought you never would again.
This is love, too.

It comes our way, every day,
in a million different ways,
different shapes and sizes.

Even romantic love.
There are loves that last a minute.
And loves that last a lifetime.

We must learn to welcome each love,
every love,
and accept it for what it is meant to be.

How can love last only a minute?
I'll tell you.

One day in Tacoma,
I took my Bobcat to the gas station.
I was about 20 years old.
I fitted the nozzle into the tank
and began fueling.

I looked up over the roof of my car.
And suddenly locked eyes
with the boy filling his pickup truck
across the way.

His eyes were bluest blue,
staring through a fringe of sandy hair
under a baseball cap.

And just like a song,
the world stood still.
I was aware of nothing but his eyes,
looking deep into me.

I caught my breath, but couldn't look away.
Time was meaningless.
I was lost in that moment,
lost in an ocean
lost in blue eyes.

And then a car drove between us
and the spell was broken.
I blinked.
With shaky hands,
I finished the task at hand,
got into my car,
and merged into traffic.

That was a two-minute love.
It was a moment I remember vividly
32 years later.
It was almost magical.
It brought me peace and joy.
It made me smile a secret smile.
It makes me feel happy,
even after all this time.

I accepted that this tiny love
came into my life
only for a fleeting moment,
but with a gift to give.

I could have tried to bend it
into something it wasn't.
I could have wondered
"Why didn't I give him my number?"
"What if that was my soulmate and I missed it?"
"Why didn't I..."
"I should have..."

And regret,
would have bled all over
the perfect moment.
Tarnishing the memory.
Rusting the gift.

(chapter 2 coming soon)