I can still remember the first time I saw him. He was standing by the 14 foot windows of the old rope mill - now a converted mall - smoking a cigarette. Now that would be unheard of, but back then it was the first thing teenagers did to rebel, and there he stood, his back to me, his silhouette enveloped in swirls of smoke as the sun slunk away from the sky.
He worked in the food court and I worked downstairs in one of the retail shops. It got quite quiet at night so there was plenty of time to chit chat and visit. He was known for making the sloshy slushies for his friends upon request. He was the typical broken and troubled teen that somehow I thought I could fix. We dated. He treated me like crap. We broke up. He came around again. We dated some more, he still treated me like crap, and eventually he moved on to an older girl from a prestigious family with money. Looking back I guess he was always chasing the higher standard of living, like somehow having an association or money would make it better. It never did of course, and that relationship, not unlike all the others, imploded leaving him in search of another proverbial horse to hitch his cart to.
Four years later we met up again, 1200 miles from home through weird job transfers. It was as simple as becoming roommates for convenience, except 5 months later we were engaged, and 7 months later we were married. I thought it was what I should be doing at the time. We lived together, I had fixed some of what was broken still after all these years, I could provide stability and strength. I was all of only 20 years old, but I could do this. He was 23, eventually he'd stop drinking. We'd settle down together, build a life, together. After all....It was fate that brought us back together.
Except that it wasn't. Meeting up with him wasn't fate at all. It was not fate that we chose to move in together, it was convenience. It was not divine intervention that allowed me to be treated like crap, verbally abused, and cheated on... God doesn't work that way. And it sure as hell wasn't the right thing to do because "I had reached that age"... I was 21 frigging years old. Twenty One.
Today we would have been married 21 years and 2 days. I can't even imagine what my life would have been like had I chosen to stay. I have no idea what roller coaster my boys would have been on had he not passed away six years ago. I know that they would undoubtedly be making different choices now and my relationship with them would be different. I don't know how, but I know it would be.
Oldest started seeing a girl about a month ago and already has strong feelings for her. He's much like me in that respect, so I can't dismiss it, nor would I want to. We feel what we feel, and that's never wrong, it just is the way it is. She is a sweet girl, and this being her first relationship he is taking things at her pace, trying to respect her boundaries. He's putting in a lot of effort. They don't see each other too often, mostly because of her mother, who can be a bit overbearing so I'm told. I met her, she seems nice, but I understand that relationships between mother and daughter can be complicated. Tonight was her 16th birthday. Her family threw her a surprise party at a hall. Now, while I understand that Oldest had time to think about the festivities, she did not, and so her being overwhelmed and spending time with her family and friends is understandable. But she spent no time with him. None. In fact, she was scared the whole night to even spend time with him even at her friend's urging, because she's afraid to tell her mother they are dating. She didn't even tell him that, he had to hear it from her friends.
He. Was. Pissed.
He spent a lot of time picking out a beautiful sterling silver bangle bracelet for her, that he paid his own, good money for. It was a gift he had hoped to give her if they found a few moments alone together. Instead, he ended up throwing it on the table with all the others. He hung with his friends, ate cake, and came out within 30 seconds of getting my "I'm here" text from the parking lot.
My heart breaks for him as I'm listening to the story, because as much as it is his, it is mine as well. Staying in it because you feel a connection, and never getting what you need in return. Afraid to give an ultimatum, not because of not wanting the answer, but because that's just not who you are. Putting in way more time and effort, and getting every logical, and semi-logical, excuse in return. But of course, I can't tell him that because he has to be the one to figure it out. And if he's anything like his mother, he will do it the hard way. My heart is breaking for him, not just because I am his mother, but because I know exactly how he feels. I will undoubtedly watch him give her chance after chance, offer support, walk away from other friends and opportunities to make himself available, try so hard with her mother to fix the brokenness between them, and in the end, get his heart broken... just like his father did to me.
I don't know why I chose the men I did. I don't know why I didn't insist I was worth more. And I have no idea why I chose to sugar coat such a crucial period of my life with labels like "divine intervention" and "fate." All I can do now for him is to gently remind him that while he has to work through it on his own, he deserves more.
And maybe that's where it all comes in. That in the end, it was not fate that brought his farther and I together, but fate that I became his mother. That I have been destined to sit here while he sulks in his room, typing away at a keyboard, trying to pull a positive thread from an otherwise heartbreaking situation.
That it was fate that gave me to him... for moments like these.