Eight years ago today, she boarded a plane for Boston. She wore jeans, a black shell, and a matching cardigan. Her cardigan cinched in the middle with a black satin ribbon. Her hair was pulled back, neatly gathered with a shiny metal clip. While her trip was for business, she knew she would see him. Her stomach was in knots; her palms sweaty. Thoughts raced through her mind, so much so that she couldn’t concentrate on a single one. He was picking her up from the airport that afternoon and for the next week she would spend her days working and her nights with him. It was the longest flight she’d ever taken. It was the boldest thing she’d ever done. When her plane landed she gathered her luggage and made her way to the sliding double doors that led to the covered drive where he would be waiting. She saw him immediately, but pretended she hadn’t. She was too nervous. He was there, waiting in his green Toyota 4Runner, with rust on rear bumper. When they finally made eye contact she smiled. He jumped out of his truck to grab her bags. He was wearing shorts and t-shirt. As he came closer she looked at the ground, too scared to look up. And then he kissed her…
W. was President then. Condoleezza Rice had been sworn in as U.S. Secretary of State, becoming the first African American woman to hold the post. The Patriots won the Super Bowl that year and YouTube had just been launched in the United States. Prince Charles had married Camilla and Johnny Carson was dead. Life was trickling along the way it always had.
I’d just come out of a dreadful marriage the year before. I was content living in the single world, determined to soul search and fall in love with myself again. It had been a long time since I’d loved myself. I’d moved back in with my mother. The familiarity of home was comforting. There, the food was always hot, the sheets always clean, and the hugs (right when I needed them most) came often. I wrote a lot, back then. It was my therapy, my outlet, my companion for a short time. I went on a few bad dates, one so bad that during the middle of it, I fell asleep. I quickly decided I wasn’t interested in falling in love for the time being. Slowly but surely I was finding myself again; remembering the woman I was before taking that hasty trounce down the aisle.
And then out of nowhere, I met him.
He was older than me, but far more wise and I liked that. He was single, never married, and had no children. He embraced the fact that I had a five year old; his niece and nephew were around the same age. He didn’t care that I had scars and came with baggage. He had it, too, but the baggage didn’t matter when we were together. He wasn’t like any man I’d ever met. He was the perfect mix of Irish and Italian. He loved his booze, he loved his family, and he had the raw, unadulterated temper his heritage so honestly gifted him. His temper, though, meant he had passion. He cared about things that mattered. Not about money or status but about the good of the world. He despised a litter bug, and the guy at the grocery store who wouldn’t return his cart after shopping. He always thought of others before himself, and thought if everyone did the same; the world would be a much better place to live. His family was his rock and they came before all else. After his parents divorced, he grew up in a house full of women. Perhaps that is where his stubbornness came from. He knew all about our mood swings and our often emotion laden and irrational ways of thinking. He loved his mother and his two younger sisters unlike anything I’d ever seen. The deep bond they shared and the intense sense of responsibility he felt for those three women, made him a hero, in my eyes. Above all else, he made me laugh. And when he made me laugh, I could feel it throughout every inch of my body. It was a feeling of absolute bliss, of absolute love.
A lot has happened in our lives over the last eight years. There has been death and new life. There have been marriages and also divorce. We’ve watched our parents age and the children in our lives grow. There has been illness and injury; surgeries and trips to the ER. There have been celebrations, pets lost, and new jobs, broken down cars, new homes, fresh gray hairs, and two new pair of glasses. There have been bad days, mistakes, arguments, tears; I’m sorrys, and forgiveness. There has been support, encouragement, and long nights spent on the phone just for comfort. There have been airplane rides and car drives; sleepless nights, and painful goodbyes. There have been love letters, and silly poems; thousands of e-mails and text messages just to say I love you. There has been joy, tenderness, desire, hope, need, loyalty, attentiveness, and friendship. There has been love. And there has been distance; exactly 993 miles of distance.
A lot of people do not understand our relationship. “How do you do it,” they ask? “Why don’t you move there,” Why doesn’t he move here?”
But it’s not that simple. There are many factors in play – many people who matter; people we just can’t walk away from so easily. There is a child who is still searching for her place in this world, but, who for now, is home. There are obligations and loyalties and responsibilities. There is unfinished business.
It doesn’t matter, though, who doesn’t understand. Admittedly, there are times we, ourselves, don’t understand. What we do know is that we share something special, something neither of us can deny. What matters is that we recognize just how far we’ve come. What matters is that our families and friends understand and that they love us, support us, and encourage a love that isn’t always easy but one that is pure.
In this life, we make plans for ourselves. We map out directions; try our best to follow the blue prints to The American Dream. But when we least expect it, life throws us a curve ball. It’s the universe’s way of telling us it has different plans. Sometimes we like them, other times we don’t. But we adjust and we adapt and sometimes, if we are lucky, we fall in love. No one says that love is easy, though. Fairy tales would have us believe that true love is never marred by real life and that our soul mates always arrive in knight’s shining armor after we’ve searched the world over. Sometimes, though, soul mates are found when you aren’t searching at all. Sometimes they arrive in shorts and a t-shirt, and are driving a green Toyota 4Runner with rust on the rear bumper. And when they kiss you for the very first time, you know. You know that your world is right. You know that the scars and baggage no longer have any meaning. You know that you’ve found the person, your very best friend, with whom your life is meant to be shared. You know that you’ve found the one, even if he’s 993 miles away.