That Special Someone

Two hands creating a heart

I was thinking recently about how, when I was a teenager and growing into an adult, I would observe couples together at social events or in our house when my parents had company.  I would think how nice it was that at the end of the evening, each couple got to go home together, that they would have each other to share stories of the day with, to cuddle up close at bedtime, that they each had someone special who was their own.  And I looked forward to having that experience when it was my turn.

When I got to live life as part of a married couple, those evenings were as I imagined they would be: the comfort, the companionship, the sharing of stories of the day.

Now, I have moments when I recall certain memories that only he and I shared, certain things that only the two of us experienced together.  Those live now only in my own mind.  I can talk about them, but no one actually shares them.  He was THERE.  No one can actually remember with me now, or fill in the blanks as my own memory fades. It’s a simple thing that we don’t really appreciate fully until it’s gone … like many simple little things.

And now, like others I’ve spoken to who find themselves in similar situations, I don’t really fit into groups of couples anymore, and they’re everywhere!  Couples who were friends are still friends, of course, but socially it’s difficult for me to join in on occasions where couples are the norm.  It just hurts to be there.  A lot.

I observe the random loving glances, the shared smiles or laughs, the small physical encounters as they brush past each other.  And it’s still beautiful to see – I will always appreciate it – but I’m not a teenager anymore, imagining what it will be like to have it one day.  I know what it’s like. I know what I’m missing.

That special someone. The one who could finish my sentences, the one who knew me inside and out, better than anyone else in the world and sometimes better than I knew myself.  The one who was the other half of me.

No matter how true my brain knows it is, there are sometimes moments when I cannot grasp how he can actually be gone and how I can be here.  Alone. Still breathing.

 

 

“GRAMPA!!!”

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My kids’ Grampa, Flintstone Park, 1995

The door opens, a child barrels into the house, jumps into the arms of the man waiting with joyful anticipation, and yells: “Grampa!”  The man swoops the child up in the air and they hug each other with big smiles on their faces.  And I burst into tears.  Because it’s happening on a TV show and I know it’s something I will never experience in my home; it’s a small thing, in the middle of a comedy show that makes me laugh time and again, but it hits me hard just as many little things do when I least expect them.

Growing up, I always felt that I missed something in not having grandparents around the way other kids I knew had them, sometimes just down the street.  I only knew one grandparent – my dad’s mom – as my mom’s mom had passed away before I was born and sadly I have only vague memories of her dad because I was very young when he died.  My dad’s dad was never in our lives, or in his.  His mom lived until I was sixteen years old, but we lived about 800 miles away and only saw her about once a year.  I know she was a very good lady, but unfortunately, as my brother and I were the youngest of thirty-one grandchildren, she seemed old for as long as I can remember.  We had chats during our visits, but she wasn’t healthy enough to run around and play or to have us bouncing on her knee, and because of the huge family, our visits were generally crowded with activity, people, food, etc. and seldom quiet enough to actually bond closely.  I know my dad and mom had great respect for her, and I know many stories of her that confirm her character and determination in caring for her family and getting through very difficult times.  Circumstances dictated the nature of our relationship.

So when we had our children I was so grateful they were going to have grandparents close enough to build relationships and watch them grow up.  As parents, we’re always glad when our children can have something we didn’t have, or that we didn’t have enough of compared to what we would have liked to have.

When we brought Michael home from the hospital and over to my parents’ house the first time, my dad looked at him in his little car seat and told me he would pay me $10,000 for each one I had if I just kept making more!  My parents were part of my children’s everyday lives from the start, and when we moved to Alberta, there were regular visits and phone calls, and many memories were made.

Of course, both Grammas and Grampas are very special, but the relationships are different, at least that is what I have observed myself and in some other families too.  Grammas are a lot like moms; they can be fun but they also teach, correct, worry, and try to keep things somewhat organized and safe because they want to make sure their grandchildren grow up to be responsible people with good manners who obey the law and, well, you get the point. They’re often more relaxed than moms, and they’re good at reminding moms not to be too hard on kids.

But there is something about Grampas; just as dad is often perceived as the “fun” parent while mom is busy enforcing rules, making sure the house is clean, and trying to prevent any major injuries, Grampas seem to be the calmer ones, letting the kids have fun, go on adventures, try cool things, probably because they are being entertained themselves just by watching!  Grampas are full of mischief and stories and secrets.

Our children weren’t in the stage of life to be parents yet when Pat had his accident.  But during his time in hospital in Ponoka, he always lit up when little ones came to visit other patients and wanted to get close to them.  I remember him saying that he really wanted to have a grandchild.  I asked him what he wanted to do with a grandchild and he said, in his childlike way: “I could hold them on my knee and kiss them.”  He had it figured out.  he would have been a wonderful Grampa.

But while my children were blessed in having grandparents play an active role in their growing up years and even into adulthood, even though I was happy to see that they had something I had missed, here we are now and they will miss something else that I can’t give them.  If they have their own children one day, there will be stories to share, pictures to look at, and questions to answer. But they won’t experience the joy of bringing home their new baby and seeing the look on their dad’s gentle face that I know would be there: the sweet smile, the tears, the pride.  They won’t later hear their little voices holler with glee: “Grampa!” and neither will I.

After laughing through most of the above-mentioned episode, it took me a little time to gather my emotions together.  I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that the slightest thing can still hit out of nowhere and feel like a stab in the heart in the middle of an otherwise uplifting experience.  We didn’t just lose him for now.  We lost our future with him that was still to hold so much, and this cute little boy on a TV show just reminded me of one more special thing I won’t get to share with the one person I was meant to share it with.

And, as it must, life moves on …

 

This I Know

marriage-quote-ecard I’m compelled to respond to certain comments that have become regular and flippant in our society when relationships go through difficulties or come to an end.  Often I see sarcastic pictures depicting the scorned woman whose man didn’t live up to her expectations, and either continues to make her life miserable or is no longer part of her life at all.  I’m no marriage expert, but I do know something of the dynamics between men and women, what works and what doesn’t work.  I’m not singling out women here to lay blame; it just happens that most of what I hear is from the women’s perspective, so that’s what I’ve chosen to address.

I’ve had people tell me that I was “lucky” to have such a good husband and be married for twenty-nine years, through thick and thin.  I had a very good thing, there’s no doubt, and I will be forever thankful for what I had, but I don’t believe it was lucky.  I think it had a lot more to do with character and commitment, and the fact that we knew each other well enough before we got married to know that we wanted the same things, that we shared goals and dreams together, and that we saw each other not only at our best before we married, but also went through times of trial and saw each other in our less than stellar moments.  We had an open and honest relationship before we decided to join our lives forever.

All relationships have irritations and annoyances because we’re all human.  There wasn’t anything that irritated me during our marriage that I didn’t notice before we got married, and I know Pat could say the same.  I wasn’t starry eyed and blinded by love, I knew I loved him and made the decision to be with him despite the human imperfections, and clearly he did the same with me because I was always much more of a handful than he ever was!

Yet, when I hear people talk today about things that went wrong, they often admit if questioned that they did notice things while dating – sometimes big things – but they dismissed them, thought the other person would change, thought that after the marriage things would be different.  How often does that really work out?  Yes, we sometimes mellow with age, but I’d just like to say that if the guy you’re dating is selfish, a drinker, inattentive, jealous, wastes money, disrespects you in any way, treats his family poorly or has family that treats you poorly, and any of these things – or numerous other possibilities – bother you, make sure they are things you’re willing to accept forever or don’t get married, and don’t make babies with him.  And if you do ignore them or the advice of others around you who try to help you see them, don’t be surprised when things don’t change and you’re left unhappy or divorced.

Yes, there can be something big that arises out of the blue that wasn’t foreseen by anyone, but I’m speaking here about the most frequent situations where people can identify something early on and look back later and know they saw it, or at least signs of it, but went ahead anyway, or rushed in before they had enough experience with each other in various situations to have a pretty good idea of how things were going to be. If women rush into relationships even despite advice from family and friends to the contrary – and they have many reasons for doing this that I don’t claim to understand – they often end up in marriages that aren’t fulfilling and they either feel trapped or they’re alone again after it ends.  The sad thing is that frequently they become bitter and resentful towards men, marriage, and relationships in general, without recognizing that perhaps it’s their own life and way of approaching dating and marriage that is causing their choices and resulting unhappiness.

I wasn’t perfect, but I did take the time to know my future husband, to know his strengths and weaknesses and how those meshed with my own, and nothing in those areas really changed for us in all the years we were married, except that we grew and matured and developed our relationship together and over time it became stronger.  The irritations didn’t disappear, but we learned how to better manage them and sometimes each of us was able to make changes in our attitudes and behaviours to please the other.  And we always understood that we would be together until the end, imperfect as we were, disagreeing here and there, arguing once in a while, and loving each other more and more as we aged.

I never complained to anyone but Pat about things he did that bothered or upset me and he gave me the same respect.  Even my own parents weren’t privy to information about our private relationship. Too often today this privacy isn’t respected and before there’s a chance to resolve an issue, family and friends are all aware of it, giving input and taking sides.  (As a side note, I was pretty sure that if I ever was inclined to complain to my parents they would take Pat’s side and send me home because they knew me well!)

So was I “lucky”?  Was I living some fairytale? No.  I lived in a real life marriage with ups and downs and hard work and many rewards and lots and lots of love.  And we know that even the characters in good stories don’t end up with happily ever after, because eventually one of us is gone forever and the other is left behind to mourn the loss.

I just find it sad to see how many people today don’t seem to get it.  They either rush in, or rush out, or repeat patterns of behaviour that give them disappointing results over and over again, and they miss out on what they seem to really want but never find. I think somewhere along the way maybe they need to change themselves and their way of doing things before they can expect their story to change.  Just my two cents.