Open Letter on my Anniversay: Letting Go of Fear

IMG_6080

One year ago today, I went on a Match.com date with a guy I call Jimmy Jailbait. You may have read the story; I peed myself cause I waited too long to head to the bathroom. Tonight I’ll head to his house after I work-out. Then I’ll cook dinner while he’s at a “back to school night” with his ex-wife and kids. But tonight, instead of pee, it will be tears. Like many other days this year, I’ll just cry.

I’ll cry because I’m happy. I’m learning to let go of fear. I’m returning to that sweet, bright, happy person I used to be. To the core of myself that loves people. To the one who wasn’t cheated on by really important people in her life. To the one who wasn’t surprised by lies. I’m making a return to the one who knows people are worthy of trust.

It’s been a rough year. I can’t count the times in the past year I’ve driven to work in tears. I can’t count the times I’ve cried through sessions with my counselor. And how many times have I cried with my friends? I’m supposed to be in love. Why am I crying?

I already know. It’s because I feel like I’m “walking the plank” with Jimmy. Because I am. I have been so vulnerable. I’ve revealed so much to him. Lame things. Insecure things. Horrible thoughts. Things like “I can’t go to see the Wonder Woman movie with you because she’s beautiful. I will feel like a nothing sitting in the seat next to you because I know you’ll think she’s hot. I’ve never been insecure about my looks before. And now I’m not sure what is happening to me. Aging? Being cheated on numerous times? I’m not sure what it is.”

And Jimmy is there. He hears all of my stupid-ass shit. He lets me cry. He lets me be funny. He lets me be strong. He lets me be weak. He lets me be damaged. And sad. And smart. And powerful. And goofy.

He has let me in too. He has been vulnerable. And honest. And caring. And I can see that he really listens. I feel really loved.

I see how he treats his kids. I see how he treats my kids. I see how he treats his ex-wife. And I see how he treats his peers – and the server at the restaurant. And I’m in.

He gives me a lot of his time. He shares a lot of his thoughts. I do feel very loved. Maybe that’s what scares me. I have felt loved before. And then…

The thought of facing the pain I’ve felt in the past makes me cry. I’m crying as I write this. But I’ve never been one to shy away from living. So here I am. Living.

I can trust myself. And I can trust him. I just need to keep breathing.

____________________________________________________________________________

* Over this past year, I’ve been to lots of counseling, read lots of books, and I love listening to Dr. Laura Berman’s podcasts. In January, my friend Debbie and I will launch a divorce support group called “Rebuilders.”  Stay tuned.

Advertisements

That Marriage: The Big Lies

IMG_5745

Recently, I was on-air getting ready to chat about something: The Blake Shelton concert coming to the area, why coffee is good for you, or maybe some big news about flip flops. A FB Messenger “message request” popped up. I didn’t recognize the woman’s name. The line that caught my eye just as I opened the mic was “I’m fairly certain we were sleeping with him at the same time.”  The messages continued until we got to this screenshot.

Some divorces are easier than others. The one I am writing about now was devastating. For the past few years, I’ve regarded my ex as a person in deep pain. No matter how much I’ve wanted to lash out at him, I’ve stopped myself. It felt like kicking a dog when he’s down or pouring salt in a wound – whatever cliche you prefer. Mind you, not lashing out has probably been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. My plan is not to lash out now, but to share part of the story – about how I dealt with rage. With anger.

It’s hard to know where to start, so let me say I married a person I didn’t really know. The marriage was full of jealousy, lies, and insecurity. He thought I was a liar. When I “liked” FB posts from a former boyfriend I was “disrespectful.” When I had meet and greet pics taken with country music singers, I was “celebrity humping.” When I went out with groups of male and female friends, I wasn’t “acting the way a wife should.” And when I wrote a memoir about a very difficult time in my life, he was horrified. I shouldn’t have gone public with that sort of info.

That marriage almost consumed me – with his alcoholism. Luckily I discovered Al Anon. As I mentioned, the marriage was full of lies. The alcoholism sort of lies. What I did not know, until that FB message, was that our marriage was also full of the cheating sort of lies. His. Not mine. I can honestly say, I never saw that one coming.

After about 18 months of marriage, “Richard,” I’ll call him “Dick” and I agreed that I’d quit my part-time job. I’d been teaching part-time at a university and I wanted to go back to freelance copywriting. On my last day at the university, he left. It was the third time he’d left. The first time was for one night. The second time was for a few weeks. The third time, it was for good. He was convinced I was a lying, disrespectful wife.

Then I lost my house. It’s impossible to pay a mortgage with no job. I had to get rid of most of my belongings as I moved into a tiny townhouse. My kids lost their family home. So I faced the loss of my marriage, my job and my house – all at once.

Dick cheated on his first wife. I found out about one of his indiscretions accidentally after we were married. At various times, my friends had asked me, “Do you think Dick cheated on you too?” And my reply was always the same, “Oh no. He really loved me. I felt it. I can’t even imagine that.”

Idiot. Fool. During the marriage, I was so obsessed with trying to manage his drinking that I never gave a second thought to his ex-fiance. At the beginning of our relationship he described her as a loon. He talked about her for about a month into our relationship – about how she wouldn’t leave him alone via text and email so he had to block her. I’d had some nutty exes too, so I trusted him to work it out. As far as I knew, his last contact with her was when she picked up the rest of her stuff from his garage.

So, there I was, on-air, messaging Dick’s ex-fiance. And she was telling the truth. She knew things. The kinds of things that only Dick could have told her. It was clear they had been communicating since we started dating – and throughout our engagement and marriage. Dick had remained a cheater. The ex-fiance put it this way: “He was a world-traveler who did as he pleased.” Apparently, Dick would give me a kiss good-bye before he left for a two-week, work trip; only to stop by her place en route to the airport. He’d promise to bring both of us the same London hoodie as a souvenir.

Prior to finding out about the cheating, I knew he’d lied about lots of things. I housed that information under the umbrella called “addiction.” So, this betrayal was new. And I was shocked. Throughout our marriage and after he left, he accused me. Questioned me. His emails and texts were vicious.

IMG_5826

Now, I realize his behavior was simply an example of projection – a basic concept you’d learn in a psych class. He was the guilty party. He lied – so I did too? It all made sense. The hypocrisy was more than I could bear. For almost three years I “held onto myself.”  I didn’t give in to rage and anger – but at some point the dam will burst. And the dam was about to burst.

Within a day or two it hit: absolute anger and spitting rage. I had fantasies of collecting dog shit in gallon milk jugs –  so I could add water, then drive to his house and pour the shit all over his precious car. I was especially excited about the idea of pouring it down his windshield so chunks of shit would get caught in the wipers. And the driver’s side window would be good too – maybe the shit would seep down into the door. Pouring liquid dog shit all over his car seemed apropos.

But of course, I’d get caught. Plus, I’m a goody-goody. I had to stand in the corner once in grade school. I still remember the shame. So end up in the newspaper for a crime because of this douche canoe? No thanks.

But I had to do something. Send him a screenshot of the messages between me and his ex-fiance? Put posters up in his neighborhood with his face and words like “cheater” and “fucktard?” Egg his car? I had to do something.

Eggs. Fine. Yes. I wouldn’t have to get out of my car. I could throw and flee. Less chance of getting caught. So I got a dozen and drove to his house. Would he be home? I hadn’t kept up with his whereabouts for years so your guess would have been as good as mine.

He wasn’t home. No cars. I figured I could egg his house. He’d come home to broken eggs on the porch and all over the yard. So I sat there for a while. Then I drove away. Then I drove back and sat. And pondered. No. I can’t do it. He’s an ass. You my dear, are not. Drive home. This too, shall pass.

Perhaps you are thinking I’m a pansy. That eggs are really no big deal. A childish prank perhaps. You may be right. But for me, throwing them would have been unleashing hatred and anger. So non-Zen. So childish. So low. So middle-school. So 7-deadly sins like. Wrath?

Instead I just talked to my boyfriend, my counselor, my friends, and my family. In a few weeks I felt a lot better. The anger passed.

IMG_5746

The eggs in question. A reminder that I didn’t throw them. I probably shouldn’t eat them either. 

I understand that beneath anger is often, hurt. And the news of the betrayal was very painful. I was blown away. I was absolutely joyful on the day of our wedding. And I could have sworn he was too. How did I not know he was cheating? What signs did I miss? Can I trust my own judgement now? Are all men cheaters?

It took me a year to start dating after the end of that marriage – and being in a relationship now has its own travails. There’s fallout after you’ve been lied to and cheated on. It’s rough. And it’s not as if men my age come without their own failed marriage and issues. Luckily, my boyfriend, Jimmy Jailbait and I, talk. A lot. About subjects you wouldn’t believe. (see First Date: The Big Lie)

On the positive side, I have found somebody who trusts me. I think this is a sign that I can trust him. But it’s still hard. But I think I’m doing well. I’m trying to be brave.

There is a lot more I will write about. This is just some background information and a slice of how I dealt with one bit of anger. I will write about what I’ve learned in counseling, divorce support groups, and through books I’m reading. At this point I don’t even know if anyone wants to read this crap.

And as I’d mentioned, I was on the air when the messages between me and the ex-fiance were going back and forth. So if you ever hear or see an on-air person being a little “off,” say a prayer for them. You never know what shit may have just hit the fan.

The Best Text I’ve Ever Gotten

You may have read the story about my first date with Jimmy Jailbait, the one where I peed myself. It’s called “First Date: The Big Lie.” Well, here’s a text I got from him after our 4th date.

Five things before you start: 1) We often talk about each other in the third person. 2) This is ONE text. 3) I got this while on-air. 4) I did NOT strip. 5) By the time I was done reading this, I could barely breathe, as I was unaware of my “effect” upon JJ. 🙂

Dearest Madonna,

I hope you had a pleasant Thursday evening. I had a hot date with an extremely funny, cute, and smart Cougar milf.

I really like this woman, but unfortunately she is sort of a Skank Ho. And as such, regularly seeks to seduce and corrupt me.  It appears that demolishing the strength of my character has become some sort of game or sport for her.

Take for example last night when she was in particularly rare form, playing the part of a sexy Cougar tease.

She opened the evening strutting about in her skintight yoga pants, claiming to have just completed an evening of intense and exhausting exercise.  Yet, notably absent from her physique was any evidence of perspiration or any other telltale sign of extreme physical exertion.

Within 30 seconds of broaching the threshold to her abode, she stripped down to a bra and thong (at least that is my recollection—things are still a bit hazy, as I am quite certain that she included a  “roofie” amid the chewy starbursts that she insisted I consume).

Anyway, whence it became clear that I was not to be corrupted by her perfectly proportioned half naked body, she then set about “stretching” on the floor.  This particular activity was little more than a well masked sales pitch for why highly flexible women (e.g., those who can put their legs behind their heads) are sexier than inflexible trolls.

Candidly, it was tough to resist this Siren’s song, but alas my moral fortitude trumped the Skank Ho attempts at seduction, or so I thought.  For, unbeknownst to me, she was but getting started–as it turned out, stripping and stretching were simply the first arrows she was to loose from her quiver of Skankdom.

The next arrow she launched assumed the form of “spooning” on her couch (in the dark whilst viewing a scary TV show, so as too further set the stage for physical intimacy). In order to spoon her (in the manner that she deemed appropriate), I was forced to place my hand in very close proximity to her perfectly formed bosom.  Of course, I would have preferred to sit alone in a high back wooden chair, ideally one that had been relocated into the corner of the living room. Sadly, such chairs were notably absent from the Lair of the Cougar.  Instead, I was required to recline with her upon a plush settee and ottoman.

When it became clear to the Skank Ho that my personal ethics were not to be compromised, she then fired an even more powerful arrow from her seduction quiver. This particular missile was sent not once, but repeatedly and sporadically throughout the evening. It assumed the form of the her tight and shapely buttocks subtly gyrating in quiet synchronicity with the melodies comprising the musical score of our television program.  Suffice to say, in our spooning position, her gyrating buttocks were proximally located to my manhood.  After a discreet “adjustment”, I was able to return to the viewing of the program. Yet, as I would learn throughout the evening, any reprieve from her assaults or sense of sexual safety I might experience was fleeting and illusory.  Again and again, this particular projectile was fired at me.  And, each time I endured the bitter sting of its enticing barb. And, each time, following a few “adjustments”, I was coerced into reengaging the seductress in her game of spooning.

In spite of her best efforts to detonate a grenade of sin upon my sense of right-and-wrong, I remained veridic to my convictions.  It was only when I was about to leave, that I experienced a most profound shockwave to my ethos.  The Skank Ho carefully drew a final arrow from her quiver and loosed it truly and directly upon my heart — it was a simple weapon, yet a dangerous one, too.

The bolt she fired was a lovely and impassioned kiss — an osculation whose sweet taste still lingers in my mouth. It pierced me — a fulmination of the decency and integrity that I had avowed to uphold. It struck my virtue as a hammer would a glass.

But by happenstance, this bolt had been omitted from her opening salvo. For, had she wielded this particular armament during our initial greeting, it would have breached the armor of my morality (and, most likely would have engendered the pitching of a tent–one so tall and true that it might have proven difficult to collapse).

Although I had been assured that I would be free to depart the Cougar’s Lair at 10:30pm, I was not released from her Cougary confines until nearly 1:00am.

As the above recollection accounts, I was fortunate to escape with my integrity and righteousness still whole.

Upon returning to my domicile, and following a very long and very cold shower, I retired to the comfort and asylum afforded to me by my bed. I fell dormant by 2am (and, my subconscious only subjected me to a single dream whose cast included the Skank Ho).

So, how was your night?

Cougar Bait, PhD

_________________________________

To say that I was gasping for air is an understatement. Ladies, he’s mine.  🙂

FullSizeRender

Jailbait, Me, family, and friends a few months after we met. (Thanks for cooking Ming!)

First Date: The Big Lie

At some point during our 5.5 hour first date, “Jimmy Jailbait” and I had come up with nicknames for each other. He’s 8 years younger than me, so his was easy. Mine was Trollopy Madonna Cougar Skank ‘Ho. I obviously have a sense of humor. The revealing chatter was quite a hoot. But not nearly as much fun as the part where I peed myself.

We met on Match.com. Mr. Jailbait “winked” at me. I never responded to winks. If a man was truly interested, he’d write a message, right?

What I failed to mention was that I was desperate. My online dating life was in the toilet. My inbox was full of messages from 26-year olds who wanted to hook-up with a “magical” MILF or men who had profile pics with selfies featuring actual toilets.

Jailbait’s profile was great. Or maybe good enough. Remember, I was desperate.

Our first date was at a restaurant I’ve been to many times. After ten years of dating, relationships, and a debacle of a second marriage, I’d learned to keep expectations low.

When I first saw Jailbait I said something stupid like “You look just like your picture.” Now he knows this is a lie as he is cute and adorable and his profile pics kinda sucked. I guess dumb things fly out of my mouth on occasion. Only many hours later would things fly out of my bladder.

Anyway we ate dinner and I had one beer and a soda. He drank lemonade and water. A few hours into the date I had to pee. And I ignored it. I have a bladder the size of a whale. I’m not one of those pansies who has to pee every five damn minutes.

The conversation was rolling. We were laughing. We were chit chatting about all kinds of crap; divorce, kids, work, politics. And I remember feeling stupid about getting up to pee. Like I’m telling my silly story about the time I did some stupid thing – and now it’s Jailbait’s turn to tell me a story – and I have to stop him to say “oh sorry, hold that thought, I have to pee.” No. Sorry. First date. I don’t pee. I’m much too demure to contain actual urine.

I guess demure would not be the correct term.  He now says one thing that endeared me to him was that I used the term “pussy” to describe someone. What endeared him to me is that he made the international hand symbol for jerking off to describe a thought. Obviously we’re a match made in heaven.

Besides the fact that I was too weird to say “Hold that thought, I have to use the ladies room,” I was also aware of the fact that he was sitting with his back to the wall – and if I got up to walk to the bathroom he’d be checking out my ass. This also made me uncomfortable. Ew. Men are dogs. Checking out my ass. Ew. I’m not one of those women who does some sexy sashay as she leaves the table. I’m more likely to slip on a stray olive.

Five-and-a-half hours later the check had been paid and we were still there blabbing. Ok, I was doing most of the blabbing and he was obviously falling in love with me as I spoke. I guess he had to pee too cause he got up and headed toward the men’s room. I was left behind thinking “Shit! Now what? I can’t leave to go pee cause if he comes back to an empty table he might think I’ve ditched him.”  So I waited until he got back. We chatted for a minute and then I muttered something about heading to the bathroom.  And then it happened.

I stood up. The simple force of standing was enough to unhinge the poor sphincter muscle that had been doing such a bang-up job all evening. As I got to the full standing position I felt the warm rush of fresh pee-pee coming out of my pee-pee hole.

So rather than worrying about what he thought of my pancake ass as I sashayed to the bathroom, I walked like a crazed, 52-year-old, post-menopausal idiot who was trying not to pee herself.

I got to the bathroom and had to simultaneously hold in 85 gallons of wee whilst fumbling with a button and a zipper with a toilet in plain sight. As I frantically sat on the seat to release a torrent of tinkle, I assessed the damage to the crotch area of my pants. There it was: A circle of moistness the size of a salad plate. Trying to dab up the damage was futile. I was laughing, gasping, and thinking at the same time. Hey everyone on Match.com, try this on your first date; pee yourself and then try to think of a way out of the big pee mark on your britches. Go!

I got to the sink to assess the damage from the public perspective. From the backside I was fine. JJ could check out my ass all he wanted. No visible pee. But right there on the front; pee. So now what? No, the dryer was not an option. I’m tall but my crotch does not reach the dryer. Take off my pants to dry the crotch? Oh, yeah, great. Just what ladies want to see when they walk into the bathroom: Some tall chick in her pee-pee thong with the crotch of her pants under the dryer. Plus, JJ would have wondered what the hell I was doing in the bathroom for 10 minutes. IBS? Explosive diarrhea?

I washed my hands. I shook the water from my wet hands onto the front of my pants. Perfect.  I was in and out of the bathroom in the same amount of time that a normal non-peeing-herself-person would have been.

I walked out to Jailbait and he stood up so we could head out to our cars. He, of course, didn’t even notice my damn pants. But, just in case, I motioned to my wet pants and said “Look who just got into a fight with the sink?” He took a quick look and said “Ha! If that would happen to a man somebody would accuse us of peeing ourselves.”

I just laughed. I mean, how ridiculous.

IMG_5716

Jimmy Jailbait and I; 9 months after the first date. I am pee-pee free at the Happy Valley Jam concert.. 🙂

Hands Up!

Yesterday morning I woke up to a text from a girlfriend with a selfie that said “This is why it’s important my man be taller than I am.” It was a cute pic of her making a smoochy face, but I wondered why she’d sent it.

Then I saw it. The pic she took first. The view from down under. The picture she wouldn’t let me post here. I don’t know if I can express to you how much joy the laughter brought. Kinda the way you laugh at somebody who just fell up some steps. Every female friend on the thread woke up to the best laugh of the day. So, like good friends, we joined in by adding similar selfies to the thread. None of them flattering. Blackmail worthy in fact. I have been forbidden from sharing most of them, in fact.

The selfies brought to mind lots of thoughts.  First – my kids taunting me about my lack of selfie-skill. I always took them from down under. And the results were always disastrous. How was I to know you don’t want to see into my sinuses, the chicken skin on my neck, the gobbler on my chin, or my jowls in general?  My kids taught me that I must, under all circumstances, raise my hand above my head when selfie-ing. That’s a lot to remember.

Here’s another thought: My sweetie is a nerd, so he sent me a journal article about how men and women use pics in different ways. We ladies put ourselves in a lower position in the pic to look young and dewey. Dudes post pics where they are in a higher position so they look like the big banana. To sum it up, ladies take pics from overhead to look like hotties and men take pics from down under to show they are the powerful commander of their nose hair. Got it.

Final thought: I work as an on-air personality and just reported that for online dating profiles, selfies pale in comparison to candids. In pictures, women should look off-camera and smile. Men should look into the camera but shouldn’t show any teeth. Sporty pics; good. Posing in sunglasses; bad. Going potty in private; good. Bathroom selfie; bad. That’s a lot to remember.

Enjoy these pics. They are me, my friend Sarah, and my daughter Glynn. This story is dedicated to Katherine….the one who texted that pic yesterday.

medium.com/…/hinge-the-relationship-app-28f1000d5e76

journals.sagepub.com/…77/0956797616688885

Luxurious: Being Able to Take Everything for Granted

I’m a firstie on the daily prompts.  I generally have a lot of ideas of things I want to write about.  I take for granted I can get to writing one of these, whenever.  I have a computer and electricity and fingers.  And all that.

Yesterday I was watching a news channel and saw a segment about a ship that does humanitarian medical work all around the world.  They’d stopped in the Congo.  Or is it just Congo.  It’s “Republic of the Congo.”  Hmmm.  I just take it for granted that I can go Googlin’ while the people in Congo wait in line to see a doctor for seven hours.  The report said some of the adults had never seen a doctor.  Ever.  I remember how sick some of them looked.  I think of getting in to see my doctor – often the same day.  I had a heart attack a few years ago.  I got flown on a helicopter to another set of doctors.  I was always grateful.  But I know I took that level of care, for granted.

I recently went to Europe for a couple of weeks.  It was hot.  I remember eating inside a restaurant at night and sweating.  I take air-conditioning inside restaurants for granted.  I remember sweating while I was peeing.  I take air-conditioning inside toilet stalls for granted.  I was riding inside a subway car and sweating.  I take the air-conditioning inside subway cars for granted.  Some people I know tell me they don’t have AC. I gasp. I take being a wuss for granted.

I take it for granted that stuff just works.  The TV comes on.  The ice maker makes. The microwave nukes.  I have eyeglasses.  When those things don’t work anymore, I get new ones. The places I shop have food and stuff on the shelves.  If they are out one day, they will get more.  And then I can go back and get more.

My friends are there when I need them.  And even when I just want to hang out.

My students come to class.  And they do what I ask them to.

My son will get off the bus.  My oldest daughter will go to the gym and my other daughter will come for dinner when we’re having red meat.  These things just happen.  And my stepson will come over on Notre Dame game night.

My husband brings me coffee in bed every morning he is home.  He cooks on those days.  And he vacuums and does the shopping.  I take it for granted I can just do job stuff those days.

It’s good to have moments to think about things taken for granted.  What is the saying – “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?”

I am grateful I can take things for granted.

untitled (by Taylor)

I never thought I’d love another women as much as I did in that moment; I was lucky to have a friend like Amy.  We both knew exactly what was going on once that phone rang.  I was in a state of shock listening to my mother talk to Penny, and Amy was just watching everything unravel.  I put my head down in my pillow and lost all control.  Everything I had been holding in the past few months was let loose as I sat there crying, gasping for air.  The next thing I knew I felt the bed cave in next to me, and a hand rubbing smoothly on my back.  I was never one for theatrics, tears, or being “mushy” in any sense; and knowing that, my best friend just sat there rubbing my back.  Nothing was said; she sat there knowing that there was really nothing to say.  And that was exactly what I needed.  After a few minutes my mom came out, somewhat distraught, now knowing that I too knew exactly what had happened.  My grandpa, her father, had passed away that night.

images

She came out gave me a hug and told me “Focus on what you need to do today, we can always be sad later”.  I wiped my tears, gave my mom and best friend a hug and started getting ready for the competition.  Getting ready was always a process with our mothers, so Amy and I always took to doing it ourselves to avoid a fight about whether our poof was crooked or not, because in the scope of things, especially today, that didn’t matter.  The entire morning was a blur for me, the only distinct details being that Starbucks burnt my first bagel and had to make me a second one, and the fact that I did my hair by myself.

Since cheerleading is mostly mental my mom was worried about how I would preform under this kind of pressure.  My grandpa’s death was on my mind all day, and memories of my childhood kept hitting me in waves.  I recollected playing in the pool over the summer, going shopping with my grandmother, and listening to his old navy stories as my sister and I lay with him by the fireplace.  My mom thought it would be a good idea to let my coach, Mark, know the situation, so he wouldn’t have to ask me about why I seemed “out of it”.  He must have told the gym manager about it, because before I knew it half of my friends were coming up to me asking me if I was okay, and half of them would just stare and see how I was reacting.  Amy helped deflect most of the comments about it and distracted me with anything else to get my mind off of it.  She kept me calm and focused during stretches and warm ups, and did everything she could to make me laugh.  As we moved backstage for my last performance of the year we did our proud circle and shimmied out our nerves into Mark’s invisible garbage bag.  Before they left Mark and my other coach Dre, made sure to come up to me and give me a hug, knowing that I would be okay.  Amy shot them both a look as if to say, “Don’t say anything!” which must have worked because they gave me my hug and a kiss on the cheek with a simple “Good luck T, we’re proud of you” before they left. Amy and I gathered our team into a circle, to give them one last pep talk before we hit the mat.  She hugged me after the team dispersed again, shaking out all of their final nerves, and said “You’ve got this”.

We held hands as our team name was called up to the mat, and separated into our spots.  Our friend Elyse called out “One, Two, Three….” And the whole team jumped into the air yelling “WOO!”.  I landed clean on the mat, everyone was frozen, with our heads down until the music started.  I gave our routine everything I had in me that day, putting on the best performance, for me, to date.  I was so proud of myself and relieved to be done.  When the routine was over I frantically searched for my best friend, sprinting to give her a hug.  She grabbed my hand and we walked back stage again to talk to our coaches.  I felt great, everything that I did, hit and I was ecstatic.  Our coaches told us we were good, but a stunt fell at the beginning, Amy’s stunt.  After watching the video everyone knew it wasn’t her fault and she did everything she could have to save it.  After some final words from our coaches we ran out into the sea of parents waiting for their children, and searched for our moms.  People kept trying to pull me and talk to me but Amy and I just pushed past them for our mothers.  I ran to my mom and gave her a huge hug.  She hugged me back and said “Your grandpa would have been so proud of you!”.  That was when reality set in.

It all started in early November, just after my birthday when I had come home from practice.  I remember having a horrible practice that night and being in a really bitchy mood already, so when my mom asked if we could talk my snarky response was “What now, did someone die too?”.  She just looked down and said “Your grandfather is in the hospital, they think he has a bad case of pneumonia”.  I instantly felt horrible for what I had said and tried consoling my mom that it would be okay.  But it wasn’t.  Within the next few weeks, the pneumonia medicine wasn’t working and he kept going in and out of the hospital, until he was diagnosed with lung cancer in late December.  We would visit the hospital whenever he was there, and as his stays got longer our visits became more frequent.  Cheerleading picked up and I was at the gym three hours a day every day almost right after school, and I wasn’t able to be there for my grandpa as much as the rest of my family.  But that was okay in my mind because I had talked myself into believing that everything was going to be fine.  But I could only lie to myself for so long.  I realized how serious things were mid competition season in March when he was put in hospice, given six months to live, a fact that my mother could never get up the courage to say.  Balancing visits to the hospital, three teams, and schoolwork every day was tough, but Amy helped me through it all.

Right before I left for U.S. Finals, the week before he died, my mom and I went to their house, where they had an in-house nurse taking care of him for the time being.  I gave him a big hug while he laid in his favorite recliner and helped him in anyway I could have.  We talked about school and cheer like we always do, and he wished me good luck at my competition.  It’s always upset me that that was my last goodbye.  I always thought last goodbyes are these big important moments of your life and that you just know when they’re going to happen, but I didn’t and it was just like an ordinary day for my grandpa and I.  And maybe that was the best last goodbye, at least for me, because although not knowing hurts, I feel as if I had known that would have been much worse.

Two days after the fastest eight-hour car ride home from the competition, was the funeral.  Something that I thought I wouldn’t have to face for quite a few more years.  Walking into the cold weird room with my family was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do.  It appeared as something straight out of one of my worst nightmares.  After seeing the pained faces of my family, especially my mother who was in hysterics nearly the whole time, the reality hit me.  I couldn’t be in that room any more.  How could the rest of my family expect me to be here for such a sad, morbid event?  I had to excuse myself to the nearest bathroom where I could just sit down and collect my thoughts for a few minutes.  I needed a distraction, I didn’t care what it was but I couldn’t be in that room alone.  After a few minutes of collecting myself I went back into the room and sat with my sister.  She was always the “emotionless” one.  I always admired how she could keep herself together at times like this.  I looked to her to help keep my mind from racing.  Our conversations were helping, but soon people from our other side of the family kept coming up to us and talking about it.  They clearly didn’t know how I handled things like this.  No one did.

I tuned out of the conversation with my sister and my dad’s parents and looked to my mother, who had appeared with the person that I needed most.  I ran up to Aim for a much needed distraction.  Amy and her parents were all here.  I was ecstatic.  The second she walked in we immediately started talking about our teams rank in the country.  Since we won first at the competition we had just got back from, we were likely to place first overall in the country, against the other branches of competitions.  She was telling me how she checked all the scores on line and how we had had the highest so far in our division, and we were most likely going to be awarded the banner for being the best team in the country.

Interrupting our conversation, a small, older man that appeared to be in his fifties announced that he would like to say a few words about my grandfather. The man was with my Grandpa’s chapter of the Knights of Columbus, which my grandfather never attended, because he hated everyone there.  I sat with Amy, and my sister, Katy, as we listened to the man speak.  I was somber the entire speech until the man said “Richard was a very honest man with respect for the law”, that was when my sister and I lost it.  My mom must have heard us because I saw her shoulders move up and down repeatedly, as I tried to maintain my own laughter.  My grandpa was known for always taking a few extra screws from Home Depot and putting them in his pocket before he left, or eating a couple grapes from the counter at the grocery store.  Not that he ever committed any felonies but he most certainly did not have “the highest respect for the law”.  I slowly regained control of my laughing fit with my sister and told Amy that we would tell her later when it wasn’t so obvious.  After the speech Katy and I filled Amy in, as my mom came over to us and yelled at us for making her laugh during the man’s speech.  The service was nearly over and people were beginning to leave, but Amy and her family stayed longer than most.  Before she left she gave me a big hug and told me she would see me later at practice that week.  Her parents gave their condolences to my mom and dad and they left us alone with the rest of my mom’s family.

That was definitely the hardest weekend of my life, and I’ll always remember what Amy did for me those few days, and the weeks leading up to that weekend.  Whether it was the silent gesture of just rubbing my back when I found out, or completely distracting me at the service when I needed her most, she was my rock.  I honestly don’t know what I would have been able to do without her at the competition and at home for the next few weeks.  After all, you never forget losing someone, that I’ll always know.  Ever since that day, May 1st 2010, I’ve been taking the time to appreciate the people I love more, because I’m so lucky to have them in my life.  Especially my best friend, who knows me better than anyone else, and who I love more than words can describe.