Saturday, February 19, 2011

Last Summer, Part 3: The Worst of It

I sure didn't plan or expect to have two posts in one day, but this seems to be almost beyond my control. I titled this blog Suddenly Last Summer because over the course of several months in 2010 a number of things happened that affected me deeply, some probably permanently, and I needed a place to talk about those things and myself. Because of my interest in jewelry making, I'm trying to cover that aspect of my life too, so I apologize if you're only interested in that and I keep blathering on about other things in long, dense posts. But I need this. Feel free to skip what you're not interested in. I won't even know.

So, about last summer. I've already written about hurting my back, a problem I hope to correct with surgery early next week. (And the fallout of which -- the limited mobility, the weight gain, the bad moodiness -- I hope to give the boot to soon afterward too.) I've also addressed how an old friend of mine was arrested for sexually abusing minors. That event didn't affect me per se except that it was very upsetting, as I described in this post, and felt a bit like bad things piling on after the whole back thing. You may also have already figured out that I lost my job early last fall when the small company I worked for was closed by the larger corporation that owned it. That was pretty bad news for sure, but we'd been expecting it for a while and in some ways it couldn't have come at a better a time. I say that because when the news came I was already so deranged by something else that finding out my job was going away was minor in comparison. I've been putting off going into this here because it's a complicated matter likely to inspire complicated reactions. But I just came across a photo (as I was trying and failing to create a collage of my Bead Soup pieces) that flattened me, and I figured now was the time. This is the picture.

I'll make a complicated story as brief as I can. This photo is of my ex-boyfriend, who I will here call H, as I often did in real life. We were together for almost 13 years. I met him a few weeks before I turned 30 and left him for another man a few months before I turned 43. We had a house together, a dog, several cats, all the stuff you have when you're decently employed middle-aged professionals. We didn't have children and we never married. But for a long time both of us believed that we would always be together. Probably because of that belief combined with a lot of other things, we didn't tend our relationship the way we should have. We spent less and less time together in our large old home, as I made jewelry in my workroom and he watched TV or played computer games in another part of the house. We took less and less care to be kind to each other in little ways. We both seemed to assume that the other person was being critical when that most likely wasn't the case. We were impatient with each other. We just drifted along together without really paying attention to where we were going. We were not happy and we weren't talking about that. We certainly loved each other but we might have no longer been in love, as people so often say. We weren't acknowledging it and we weren't doing anything to improve the situation.

And then I met T. I wasn't looking for anyone else, but he came into my life in a dramatic way, and without meaning to be, I was in love with someone other than H. And for a year, a solid year, I saw T whenever I could without H's knowledge. This is the biggest shame of my life, and 5 years later it's nearly impossible for me to understand how I could do that, but I did, unflinchingly. I was evasive and conniving, and I flat out lied when I had to. I know that the sneaking around went on for so long because T and I were both trying to figure out what to do, to be sure that we had to be together (as we now in fact are) before we did anything irrevocable, but that's still no excuse. After almost exactly a year, as some of my friends were getting wise that something was up with me but H continued to trust me as he always had, I finally told him about T. I moved out of the house that afternoon, and that was effectively the end of H and me. That was January 2006.

Fast forward to the summer of 2010. I'm living with T on one side of town, while H is living with his new girlfriend on the other side of the same town (he kept the house we shared, having bought me out in what were very easy and fair negotiations for us both). Two years after we split, H -- who was a tall, handsome, athletic chemist -- had met a woman who made him very happy -- she was also very athletic and outdoorsy, also working in the sciences -- and she'd moved in and now they were planning an early August wedding at Lake Placid, where she owned a vacation home. In the intervening years, H had moved through his anger and hurt, we've split up everything (including sharing a dog by passing her back and forth every week or so for a couple of years), and he and I have become pretty comfortable with each other. He still loathed T, but T was okay with that and I was willing to let him take the fall if it meant I could have something of a relationship with H, about whom I cared deeply. I would often see H and his fiancĂ©e at the weekly farmers market or around our little town, and I was grateful beyond words that we'd reached a place where we could talk easily and share a laugh. We had so much history.

A few weeks before his wedding, H's family was much on my mind. They'd always been so kind to me, and I knew I had treated them as shabilly as I'd treated him, so I had not spoken to them since we split. I called him and asked if it would be okay if I sent notes to his family -- his parents, his brother and sister-in-law, and his sister and brother-in-law -- to let them know how happy I was for him, to say that this was what I had been hoping for. H said it would be fine to do that, and I did. It was the last time I talked with him.

He was married the first weekend in August in what by all accounts was a beautiful ceremony that capped off a multiday celebration in Lake Placid. A mutual friend posted a photo on Facebook that both surprised me (I just wasn't expecting to see photos) and brought a lump of emotion to my throat. I was so glad, so very glad, for him.

Then, three weeks later, I was leaving a party when a friend approached my car and asked me to pull over for a minute. I was confused but I did it. The friend told me that H had collapsed while exercising that evening and though paramedics had worked on him for a long time, they had not been able to resuscitate him, and he had died. He was 49 years old, in what seemed to be perfect shape, and he'd been married 20 days. I'm still trying to get my head around that.

So the gist of this post is that a man I had loved and left for someone else found happiness and then died suddenly and much too young, and I feel devastated by that. As I've told T many times through my tears since it happened, I don't wish I were still with him, I just wish he were still alive. I've left out a great deal about how H and I worked through some things after we split -- about how consumed with guilt I was, how apologetic even when there was no going back for either of us -- and about how he said that he knew it hadn't been all me, that it was both of us (H and I). It was a great comfort to me that he decided to keep the house and stay in the same town as I. It was an even greater comfort a few months later when I asked him "how we were doing," and he said that he had realized that he missed me even as a friend when he didn't see me, so he thought we were going to be okay. And we were. Despite some friends who turned on me with a vitriol that I understood but still thought extreme, after the initial hurt passed, H opted to still love me, just in a different way, as I loved him. I felt it, and I'm sure he did too.

And now I miss him. It's been nearly 5 months, and I'm still blown apart. But my position is rather awkward as the-ex-who-left-him-for-someone-else, and there are those who clearly think I have no right. I go to see a grief counselor when I'm feeling really low. I cry in the shower. I avoid driving past his house. I talk with T about it. I'll be fine for a while and then I'll stumble across a photo like the one above and I'm done for. I feel tremendous sympathy for his widow, who should have had so much future with him and who was robbed of that, and for his parents, who are in their 80s and who have outlived their youngest child, which has devastated them. I feel for the friends he left, who had not finished celebrating his marriage when they had to gather for his memorial service, and even for his cats, who were farmed out to new homes (including mine) when he was no longer there to provide lap space and supportive petting.

But I'm human and selfish, and mostly I feel for me right now. Even though I set this part of my life up to be mostly without him, I literally don't know what to do completely without him, as that didn't seem to be part of the deal. I'm flailing.

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