1986. What an eventful year. The Shuttle Challenger accident. Chernobyl. One of my sisters was married and my wonderful step mother passed away. It is one of the few years in my life that I can remember much of what I was doing during each of those events. But it was my step-mother’s passing that really sticks out. See, for a few years, I did not like her, but, as time goes on, we grew very close. I will never forget the night she died and I can remember feeling just awful for not only myself, but for my Dad. I couldn’t fathom him being alone or, even, with someone else. Even though he and Mary had only been married ten years, it was difficult to think of him with anyone else. Which is why I was just so mad at him when he started to date other people. And, he did so pretty quickly. Or, so it seemed.
In 1989, I met someone that I was instantly attracted to. She was cute, funny and always happy. As I got to know her, I knew this was the person for me. I even mustered up the courage to ask her out. MANY TIMES. She said no, all of those times. I was not her type and I was also her boss. I was an assistant manager for a now defunct video rental chain. Finally, though, she said yes and we started dating. Fortunately for me, she, too, fell in love with me and, in 1991, we got married.
Our early years were rocky, financially, but we had fun and after several years, I got a great job doing what I loved to do and, she too, got a job she loved. Our financial picture greatly improved and we bought a nice, cozy little house and had a wonderful child. I was on top of the world.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, we had some difficult times, but, always, got through them. Unfortunately, her health was in serious decline-something which I was oblivious to for a couple of years.
Our world came to a crash in late 2009 when she began to lose her mobility. A few months later, my lovely wife of 19 years left us.
I was heartbroken. The moment she died, all I could think about was how in the world was I going to take care of my son and how was I going to tell him that he has lost his mother. He knew she was not in good shape. I had picked him up earlier from school. Telling your child that they have lost a parent is gut wrenching. I don’t wish it on anyone.
Dating and marriage were the last things on my mind after that terrible day. Trying to cope with such a loss and helping my son get through it were my primary goals-they were all I thought about.
I spend as much time with my son as I could. It killed me, everyday, to have to leave him at home (it was during the summer and school was out) while I went to work. Luckily, some very dear friends and family members helped me quite a bit and my son was able to spend time with them.
As the months worn on, however, I started to talk to someone. As time went on, a very deep relationship built up. I was falling in love all over again. How the hell was this possible? What kind of person was I? I was doing exactly what I got so angry at my father for doing. I was not ‘over’ the death of my wife (I’m not sure you ever are ‘over’ such a thing) but I was falling for another woman.
As the months went on, I asked April to move in with me. She said yes and moved in. The problem for both of us, however, was that my house was really still ‘our’ house, with the ‘our’ being myself and Jo Ellen. My son was going to be going to a high school I didn’t want him to attend and the house had so many memories, we had to move. So, we moved to a county opposite from where we were and began a new life.
Now, the first few months of my new relationship were exciting but full of guilt as well. Guilt because I was moving on. Was it too soon? Was it harmful to my wife’s memory? My son seemed to be accepting and many of my friends and family were too.
Harmful to her memory? No, I don’t think so. She always wanted me to move on, quickly, if something should happen to her. Too soon? Well, I don’t know. How soon is too soon? The next month? Yes. Three months? Maybe. I don’t know. What I do know is that my love for my deceased wife is not diminished because she is no longer with us or because I am deeply in love with someone else.
It is a tricky thing to deal with. I find myself talking about my former life to April. She tells me she does not mind and I believe her, but it is something I am very much aware of and try not to talk about it too much. I fail quite often, but, those 20 plus years are part of me and I hope to build many more years with April. Balancing feelings for a departed one with those for someone you are involved with is a very, very difficult thing.
I love my new life as much as I cherish my old life. I feel like a different person (with the same old body aches, unfortunately) now and, in some ways, I am. I am trying not to repeat the bad habits I had before as well as be more attentive to both April and my son. That’s another difficult thing to do…my son is a teenager now and tends to do what teens do; I am building a new relationship with her and spend a lot of time with her, which makes me feel, sometimes, that I am not spending enough time with my son. He’s a great kid and I am very fortunate to have had such a wonderful son.
April and I were married a short time ago. We are starting a long journey together, one I hope lasts past my time on this planet. I feel that Jo Ellen would be happy for us, knowing that Chase has someone who loves him and is motherly toward him and knowing that I, too, am happy.
And, Dad, I get it.