Wake up call

I took my last final of the semester today. Algebra. While I’m fairly confident I did well, I won’t know my overall grade until Tuesday.

When I got home, I was exhausted and delighted to finally be done with another term! I called Julie on my way home and went to bed around noon.

When I woke up at 5, I fixed my coffee, checked my voicemail and browsed through Facebook.

Let me just say… Somedays I miss the time when we didn’t have every moment of our lives documented and put on display for the world to see.

Right there in my newsfeed was a picture of my Julie and her ex, Milly. They were smiling and posing in that typical “partner” pose. One arm wrapped around each other.

For a brief moment, my heart stopped. Why would she be with her?? Why is Milly wearing her wedding ring?? Holy shit?!?! What the hell happened while I was asleep??

I clicked on the photo and was able to read the heading, ” Taken a few years back on Mother’s Day. I miss having all my beautiful girls with me during this time.”

It was posted by Milly’s mom and Julie, Milly and who I found out later is Milly’s sister, were all tagged in it.

For years Milly and her family were the only family that Julie knew. They loved and accepted her as one of their own. Milly’s mom called her one of “her girls”.

I read some of the comments and they were all very benign. Milly simply “liked” one of them that mentioned how it had been a great day with both sides of their family getting together.

Julie didn’t comment or like any of the comments or the photo.

I read into things too much. I’m very conscious of my habit of doing this. But, being aware of a flaw and addressing it are two different things.

Some days I feel like my relationship is so fragile that I have to protect it like I’d protect my own child. Others, I feel as if there isn’t a force on this earth strong enough to come between us.

Reading that caption and looking at the photo made me realize just all Julie has had to give up this past year.

Yes, she ended a relationship that was dysfunctional, at best. Abusive at it’s worst. I sometimes catch glimpses of the Julie that had to walk on eggshells to avoid a blow up over something petty, simply because Milly had a “bad day”.

But that was the easy part, for her. She lost a family. Parents, siblings, nieces, nephews. Picnics and barbecues. Family photos and celebrations. She had to muster up the strength to walk away from the only love she had felt in a long time.

I sometimes catch myself thinking, “why didn’t she leave a long time ago?” and then I’m reminded of this.

In the photo she looks happy. The two of them standing together, dressed in their Sunday best, smiling for the camera. Arms wrapped around the other.

Photos can be deceiving. I looked back at my Facebook photos to see pictures of me and my ex. I’ve had friends ask me why I haven’t removed them and all I can say is that I can’t erase my past. Those years helped shape the person I am today, even if I’d never want to go back to that life.

As I browse through them I see our last vacation together. The two of us sitting close, her arms around me, smiling for the camera. Laughing and joking, trying not to remember that our lives were falling apart. Trying to hide the fact that we were no longer in love and pretending didn’t make that fact go away.

I asked Julie about the photo. Asked if she ever talked to Milly’s family or if she felt awkward doing so. She told me that she still chats with her niece from time to time and even her sister, but mostly the line has been drawn in the sand.

Hearing her say that made me a little sad for her. I can’t offer her a mother, father, siblings or cousins to help ease her loneliness should her family decide to pull away again.

Have I doomed her to a life of isolation? One where family no longer means an extension of our life, but just the two of us?

She is going to brunch tomorrow with her mom and dad to celebrate Mother’s Day. Her brother is bringing his daughter down to visit them in the afternoon. All in all, she will have a pleasant day celebrating the woman who loved and protected her for so many years. But, I wish I could give her more.

Holidays filled with decisions and stress, trying to squeeze in time with everyone. Celebrations where everyone blended together bound by our common bond. Moments where we could sit in complete bliss and exhaustion because we had been surrounded by family from near and far.

I don’t know exactly what our family will look like. Her mom has asked if I’ll join them for dinner when I go back after our trip. She said she wants to “catch up.”

Her dad is also an engineer and has mentioned that he wants to “pick my brain” about some structural issue in their basement.

Hopefully, I won’t walk in with my tattoos and rough exterior and make them wonder if she’s made a horrible mistake in taking me back.

Whatever the case, I’ll do my best. My best to give her love and support. Encouragement when her family slips back, ever so slightly, to the place they’ve been for so long.

And I’ll look at that picture of my beautiful girl and know that on that day, she was surrounded by people that loved her. I’m ok with that!

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