Sometimes words come for people I least expect to find. Seasons – I think it has a lot to do with time of year and the memories we shared; ghosts come back to greet me, and I am inspired to remember intentionally so that I can put all of these words to good use. . .
The last time I saw you, I drove to Aly’s Coffee Coup and spent about twenty minutes sitting in that space. You were nervous, maybe even agitated – perhaps that I even felt the need to see you, or that I actually followed through. We spoke briefly about how my life was going, and the baby I held inside of my belly. We spoke about coffee and owning a business. We spoke about Tim’s fiancé and how good you thought she was for him – he was finally trying to be happy. I sensed my presence in that town caused a deep unrest that were the sun to shift just slightly, we would find the old life still waiting, and everything could change. It was also maybe that you saw me as a threat, and not a welcome memory that you might find comfort in, but a terrible distraction for your son when all he wanted at that point was to just move on.
I still remember driving off, and I cried the entire way back to my dad’s house where I was staying for just a few more days before departing back to Texas. That same trip “home” was also the very last time I ever saw Tim on Falk.
As I contemplate all that it is you knew about my/our story, and the role you played in the love we were building, I cannot adequately explain why I would write you now, why it feels important to me to create and organize these words in a way that will reach your heart – all I know for sure is that you did matter, and the time we knew each other and got to share in life were cornerstone for me. You are a part of my foundation, though brief in the concept of a lifetime, some of the most impactful and important days of my life were spent when you called me Chrissy.
Only family ever called me that; nobody in Texas has ever been afforded that… Connection. You were the bridge between the days when I was a young woman and the very start of my journey to becoming Woman… Wife. Mother.
You may see yourself in this story as simply Tim’s Mother. Who are you to me now? Why should I even look back? I write now on a cool Monday morning because you were more than that – and I never really got the chance to tell you what you meant to me. However, I fear my intrusion would make accepting these words impossible because you might focus solely on the disbelief that I would still have thoughts of you at all, ‘why can’t she just move on?’
I consider that you might regard my role as the mystical Tooth Fairy, barefoot on a Thanksgiving night in a dress, getting on the floor to play with the boys – here one minute, gone the next when it perhaps mattered most. You might regard me as the searing end; the choice to leave and abandon the love I could have healed for all of us. You, I consider, rarely think of me and when memories present themselves you would rather they leave entirely. . . It is not my place or right to know what you think of me, but I do wonder if you would at least accept these sentiments with an open heart, because I have nothing but sweetness to share.
The thing I remember the most about you was your love for your son, how you smiled when you spoke of him, the way your eyes focused with adoring pride at the man he was becoming. He was the best thing you ever did. We would both beam at him with love; you did love the way I loved him because for me, he was special – we both saw that when most others could not understand him.
You always had dirt under your nails and spoke of the garden and the chickens, a coffee mug pressed between both of your hands. We talked, about anything, about everything… I still make scrambled eggs the way you do, and bowtie pasta with a bouillon cube, crushed red pepper, broccoli, and pork – in my head I always see you standing in front of the stove throwing together something for us to munch on as we discussed the day. Sugar cookies for Christmas…
My memories are not all pleasant, like sweeping up glass in the kitchen early Monday morning as I packed things into boxes when I should have been at work, but you showed up to find me home. The conversation which ensued detailing why Tim had looked so broken at work that day and why I lied to my boss to get the day off. My heart quickens even now because the vivid tendencies of my mind can easily take me right back to that moment – arguably the start of the worst period of my life thus far. . . The memories are not all pleasant, indeed. I should have said yes when you asked me if you could be my Mother a few days after my own had died. You, sitting on the couch in my “new place” where I shared living with my brother, your red car parked in the driveway behind my old grey Nissan. Me, broken and unsure of how to breathe let alone choose the next phase of my life out of fear and desperation. Choose it I did, and so we said goodbye, and four weeks to the day after my mom died, I was on a plane to California.
I left you, and I gave you no say in my decision when you were, arguably, the only real “parent” I had at that time. You offered your heart to me, your home to me, and your love – oh, your love. Steady when the world was falling apart, and I could not see it, not the way I understand it now that I am a mother myself, and I love my children fiercely. If it were me sitting on that couch in that unfamiliar house where my son’s fiancé wept under the weight of so much loss, I would have offered the very same sentiment; you asked me that out of love, and pain, and desperation, and I want to thank you for being that for me though I could not accept it at that time. I am sorry that I could not have understood it – truly the devastation was just… Too much.
Losing Tim was… Is, for it has stayed with me – losing Tim is like choosing to drown. I have to inhale the water time and time again, and force myself to let go, otherwise I am struggling to breathe and fighting the inevitable end in vain. That experience, going from such pure and rare love to – – – no words can define it, really – what it was like. To lose that love. When I “look back” I know we were far from perfect, both of us still so young, but what we had and maintained deeply and equally throughout those two years was how much we just fucking loved each other. All the time, even when we hated each other.
Then, a moment. A speck of time. A blink. For me, every single thing I knew about my journey, who I was becoming, and where I had come from (the part that has everything to do with my own Mother) – it was all shifted. The rug was pulled, and I had a choice: Stay or Leave. I had a choice, fight for love, or die in fear, hidden behind a guise of everyone else’s expectations of “what you do” after something like this occurs, “Chrissy, just move on…” I had a choice. I fled.
What I failed to understand, and I think what you knew, what you saw of the situation and my “decisions” which followed, certainly more clearly than me you understood that I would regret it. You understood a truth about who I was, but more importantly, who I was for Tim; Baez to Dylan you could say… The light I found in your son, the value I placed in a quiet thinker, talking with his hands, a silly glint in his eye laughing about the most recent joke he heard Phil tell. His books and the Bob Ross paintings on the wall that he did himself. The guitar… oh, the guitar. He was… Everything. Dancing in the garage to Joe Cocker and trips to Bi-Mart with a cigarette between his lips, one hand clasped tightly in mine.
I’ve lived a full life since the day I last spoke a word to your face in that coffee coup. Divorce, infidelity, for goodness sakes every single one of my children has a different father – what the actual fuck, right? But hey, at least I married all but one (my son’s parents; adopted from foster care). Who would have thought that would be a part of my story? My home is beautiful, and I drive a Mini-Van with The Rubin Report, Seahawks, and PNW all over the bumper. It’s been exceptional and difficult to be “Mother”. The 4 of them is two times the amount of hands I have, and about 50x’s the amount of patience I can muster most days, but I love to see them happy and I work hard to ensure they know they’re so deeply loved. I love watching them learn and laugh and grow as they start to understand themselves and the world more each day. I have a deeply caring husband whom works so hard to ensure I am loved and treated better than I deserve; marriage the great experiment where you choose a person and commit to working together every day for the rest of your lives… He is an exceptional man, very smart, very honest and seeks self-improvement constantly, and he works hard to provide a wonderful life for his family. He chose me when I had already two children from two marriages – he chose me when he knew I am a work in progress with a tendency to “look back”, and sometimes not the easiest woman to be married to. I am grateful for his love and for the life we are building.
If I were to be entirely transparent, however, I would tell you that sometimes I resent both institutions: Marriage and Motherhood. Rarely do people admit that, significantly fewer still after just proclaiming how much they love to be a mother and feel grateful to be a wife. What I have learned as I get older and dig deeper into my “self”, I really love to be alone. Truly alone, well unless you count the music. I find myself to be adequate company; give me a lyrical melodic playlist and barefoot in nature? You find yourself a happy Christina, indeed. I often dream of an alternate life wherein I chose another path, and I would travel the world with a journal, my favorite pen, and draped in cashmere sweaters atop the same old dingy beautiful dress that I cannot bear to part with because it fits just right. I would be writing about the cities in France, and dancing along the shore in Australia. I would fall in love a thousand times and from my fingers their stories woven into tapestries of written words, the tales of the Bohemian author with her perfectly curated playlists and eclectic treasures in a suitcase by her side… Collecting passion and romance and fine food in foreign lands all around the world. My greatest story would be written about a long lost love, his blue eyes still aglow with sparkle, that same wide smile – the one he gave her when they were just kids from some life nobody else remembers. I would write of his hands, and the smell of metal and oil always right atop his skin. I would write of the first kiss to the very last, how home was lying atop his body at night, listening to his breathes rise and fall, twirling fingers in chest hair. Home …
I’ve made a home in Texas now. I am a mother in Texas now, I am a good man’s wife. I fled; I chose this. Yet it is a difficult road, for me, because of the person I have become. Someone who favors her time alone, yet a family of six means my only alone time now is well after everyone else is asleep. This life, while meaningful in such high measure, is hard. One must be diligent, organized, and disciplined with their time in order to maintain order when so many little people have so much energy! I do my best, all the while, the other part of me – the part that could have changed this, the story that I must write – it beckons me, because I had such a clear understanding of who I would be when I was beside Tim. I’ve since just been trying to make sense of what remained, the pieces of me still coming back together, and so much of it is forever changed. As great as the story would sound to write another ending, there is only the honest truth, and in that reality, I find great sadness and, indeed, regret. Had I listened to you, to those whom truly knew what love was found here… I could have changed the story.
Yet the story, sounding like the fiction of a romance novelist, beckons back to the start of love, for me, the young woman I was, and how important it is for you to know my foundation exists there. Where he was, where you were.
Who is to say had I stayed things still would have worked out? Who is to say our end would not come some other way, in some other time? Of course, we can never know that but only choose each moment as it comes what happens. I do like to think, and would perhaps even wager, that not only would we have stayed together but been ultimately strengthened by overcoming such great odds against us. I think you knew that, or at least wanted so badly to believe it…
I hope you know that the ultimate decision to leave came January 19th, 2006. Before that it was bad enough to be living in a lie (living away from Tim at all) but when she died, I really felt like I would never be able to make sense of my world again. My mother – for God’s sake – she stole something from me, and then handed me her pain, and then just … gave up. She took in that big painful gulp of seawater and forced herself to drown – if I can use my own analogy twice, but instead of dying to love like I do with Tim, she died to life, and with that end came the beginning of the worst pain I have known. How could I have stayed?
I know now you are not “supposed” to make huge life changes after a tragedy, not for at least a year. Four weeks after and I was gone.
If I never told you I am sorry, then I would like to apologize now.
For what I took from you when I left. For the pain it caused to feel helpless. For the months and years that followed for your son, walking through hell with him all the while I’m sitting crying on some beach in California alone. I am sorry that I did not believe in the truth that was right in front of me, that I could no longer accept it in the state that I was in. I am sorry that I tossed my life away and then still kept in touch with Tim, wanting so badly to just go home but eventually it felt like I was just too late, and I could not figure out how to “undo” it, no matter how many plane tickets you offered to buy. My heart was broken, and I broke his and yours too.
You do not owe me anything, nor do I feel indebted to you except in my heart, with love.
I have always thought of you throughout these long silent years – who you are now. I remember who you were, and I treasure that I got to be a small part of your life. That for a time, I was the Tooth Fairy, barefoot in your driveway on a cold November night. For a time, you loved me, and I just needed you to know that this mattered to me. For a time, I was your “daughter”, and you called me Chrissy… For a time, I got to love your son. . . I hope for the time before the storm, I loved him well. I hope you feel better off for having known we got to love so deeply lest some in life do not love at all; we loved especially deep, and it shaped who I am, and it will always be with me.
It went how it went. Life goes how it goes. I am 35 now, “all growed up”, and our worlds long-since diverged. You have a daughter with another name, and a Grandson to adore. Of your life now those are the only facts I know. I am not asking for anything more – I am not asking for anything, indeed.
I wanted you to know that I am grateful for your part in my story, and I will always smile when I think of you.
Smile and sigh. That same old familiar ache. I’ve learned to just accept it, like struggling to breathe –
Someday maybe I will see you again and I hope if we do you smile with me. I won’t even be upset if you do not say hello because I would know just from a smile that there is nothing more to say. What is done is done, but the love we remember – like the songs we know by heart; the memories we hold dear – there will always be that time that Tim and Chrissy loved each other, and you were there, such an important part of that story.
Thank you for being part of my story.