During the madness of Christmas shopping, I happened to see this couple in one of the stores. They were about my age, dressed in work clothes, and obviously trying to knock out some gift shopping after work. The guy was sort of wandering about, looking at things and going along with the very list-oriented wife. She was so me, at least me as I was in my former life...guided only by the task at-hand, no fussing about, Let's get this done because we have other things to do! She kept telling the husband to hurry up, NO we are NOT looking at those, we need to find a gift for the 6-yr old, and on and on... It was like watching a playback of myself and honestly, I wanted to just take her aside and tell her to slow the fuck down and relax.
Twenty-four years ago, I was a student-for-a-semester in The West of Ireland. That semester is when I met H. My H, you know, the H who hauled us to the Motel 6, the H who engineered ProjectHouseFromHell, the H who was the workaholic and lover of Friday night cocktails and volunteering and collector of all things bargain.
He had grown up in the small village where I was staying. He had never been out of the country. The largest city he had ever seen was Dublin. He was a carpenter, a guy who could put you at ease with his bright blue eyes, his dry humor, and his gentle confidence. We met and were engaged within 6 weeks during that Semester-in-The-West-of-Ireland. We were married three months later. Our parents were freaking out, our friends were telling us we were crazy.
It was hardly all rosy and lovey-dovey and happiness all the time. We were pretty normal. We were broke much of the time and we had our battles and we could not have children, which broke H's heart. There was a constant pull from his family for him to "come home"...this as we were trying to build our own life as a couple here in the States. In all, though, H was a great guy. He was patient and sweet and he tried so very hard to make everyone he met feel happy and comfortable. As a husband he was fun and difficult and smart and bossy and sweet and challenging...and all things a best friend is supposed to be.
It is so very true that you really don't know what you have until it is gone. And then you beat the crap out of yourself when you think of all of the things you should have noticed or should have been more thankful for. I could be awfully hard on H, much like the woman I saw in the store that day. Maybe it is just part of being a wife, that familiarity that once we get this checked off of the list we will move on to the next thing we have planned. It was where I was then...that was only honest. Don't we all bitch and piss and moan about footprints on our clean floor or how come I never get flowers or what do you mean you spent money on THAT? It is when the plan is all blown to bits that you stop and wonder how come you were so anal-retentive about it all. It is so easy to look at another couple and judge and be all about what they are doing wrong.
If there is anything good to gain from my last couple of years it is a new awareness, or a different perspective on what I used to have and how I used to be. Without being too hard on myself or feeling guilty or going crazy with regret. That is really, really hard. A girl is just a girl, after all. I think we all just try to be ourselves when we are going along. (Seriously, there is no sign that tells us, YOU ARE SO GONNA BE FUCKED!, now is there?) And so this girl is just hanging-in and hoping I did the very best I could have done.
Missing you, H!