It’s 2:38 in the morning, and I have an alarm set for 6:30. In fewer than 4 hours I have to drag my ass out of bed (not that I’ve gone yet…) and help get my kids on their way before I head off to my long day’s labor. I am sleepy, but restless. It is always in these wee small hours of the morning (ah, Sinatra — yeah, I like Frank Sinatra, and I HATE Elvis, so sue me!) that I think about why exactly I can’t sleep.
It may be because, as my mom LOVES to remind me, that I am pre-menopausal. Joy. I’m nearly 44 years old and I’m just finding myself in so many ways, and now I gotta deal with this shit? Really? I’m still crying at the idea that my childbearing years are behind me, and now I have to acknowledge that they are really behind me, like not even in the freakin’ rear view. Dude…
More likely, I think, I can’t sleep because I’m alone. My kids are upstairs and snoozing, but my bed is empty. Hubby is away (again) and I have not enjoyed sleeping alone for many years (since the summer of 1986, but I digress). I just can’t sleep without John. He and I have shared a bed for over 20 years and I miss him. I miss the weight of him, the smell of him, the warmth of him. He is my teddy bear and I, like a child, feel lost without him. He is, and has long been, my Boo Boo.
I have never written my man a love poem, though I have written plenty of them over the last 30 plus years. I used to worry about that — that maybe I didn’t love him enough. Now I realize that we are living our love story. I don’t have to write it. I have always written about love I long for and can’t have. I live a real love, not a fairy tale. There was no white knight (per se, ha ha!), no damsel in distress, and the story didn’t end with our wedding. For the sake of our privacy I won’t go into the hairy details of our lives, but I will say that there have been troubles and that I have made mistakes. By his own admission, John has too. Neither of us is perfect, but together we are closer to perfection than either of us could ever be separately. I don’t want to go all Jerry McGuire on you folks, but we do in many ways complete each other — not in a codependent and sick way at all, but rather in the way that two parts with rough edges knit together to become a whole.
I have never understood what he saw in me. We are so radically different as people, and I am so far from anything John knew growing up in rural NH. I am a girl who grew up in one of Philly’s toughest neighborhoods in the 70’s. I saw more violence in a day than Law and Order showed in a season. My family put the “funk” in dysfunctional, and I consider myself lucky to have loved them and survived them. The most unconditional love I had in my life came from my grandmother. John has come a close second to that.
John and I met in eighth grade — really. We sat across from each other in homeroom. I dated his best friend. He finally bit the bullet and told me he loved me, right before his family left Philly for VT. I dumped him for another guy two years later — on Valentine’s Day (yeah, go ahead and boo me — I deserve the hit on that one). Then John and I, along with the other guy and John’s best friend all ended up at Oberlin together. I always laughed about that and how it gave new meaning to “all roads lead to Oberlin”, a popular slogan on campus at the time. I won’t say how many frogs I kissed before I realized John was prince charming. No one needs to know all that about me, yet. Give me time, though…
He asked me to marry him on November 4, 1988. How do I remember? First of all, it was my friend Heather’s 21st birthday. Secondly, it was the date I voted in my first Presidential election. George H.W. Bush won over Michael Dukakis that night. To cheer me up, John proposed. I thought he was kidding until I saw the look on his face. He was deadly serious as only my man can be deadly serious. I said yes…
My only condition was that my grandmom give the okay. My parents didn’t matter nearly as much as Grandma. She needed to give the final approval on that one big relationship decision. She loved him from the moment they met, especially when she saw him eat! (That’s a big story for later.) She loved John down to the ground and loved him for giving her two beautiful great grandchildren. John carried her casket at her funeral, as he had for my granddaddy six years earlier. His grief was as deep as my own. The love they had was based on respect and appreciation — his because she had practically raised me, and hers because she saw how much he loved me.
I remember when the reality of impending fatherhood really sunk in for John. It was the first time he heard Imani’s heartbeat. He got this wonderfully sheepish look on his face as tears welled in his eyes, and he asked the midwife, “can I hear it again?” It was only fitting that his hands were the first to touch our daughter as he delivered her — in the back seat of the car service on the way to the hospital (again, another story for another time…). He was there again five years later holding me and keeping me strong through the birth of our Iain. He has had his struggles over the last few years, as have I, but he is always here even when he’s gone. He is Daddy. He is hubby. He is the head of our house (but I’m the neck, if you know what I mean…). John is the man of this house, my equal partner in every way. I love him so much.
You see, I don’t need to write him a love poem. This is our story, at least part of it. There is love in every word and every memory. There is joy and sorrow, pain and forgiveness. This is not some fairy tale. This is life. This is a 20 year life of two people entertwined by love. No silly sonnet can outdo this. This is the stuff life is made of — the stuff John Lennon says happens while you’re busy making other plans.
I miss you, Boo Boo. Come home to your Baby Bear soon. I love you.