I met my husband when I was nineteen years old.
Twelve years later, and nineteen seems like a baby. But at the time, it didn’t feel young. After all, at nineteen, I had moved away to attend college, had a job, my own apartment, new friends, and was heading into my sophomore year of college. I was so comfortable with my life, I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend.
One day at work, a friend told me she knew a guy who would be perfect for me; the only problem was he was in Iraq. Like any sane person, I brushed it off and told her to let me know when he wasn’t in the Middle East. A couple months later, he was back and she asked me if I wanted to meet him on a blind date. Having never been on a blind date, I reluctantly agreed. A few weeks later, we decided to meet at a nice, public coffee shop.
Looking back, it’s funny to remember that first date with aged eyes. After years together, I know exactly how my ex holds his body when he’s nervous. I know he hates being late and was probably frustrated because I was waiting on him. I know he thought I was beautiful by the way he looked at me. And I also know he didn’t know what to say by the way his eyes danced around the room. I know all this, because I know him.
I know he loves low-budget D-list zombie movies that could be shot by a twelve-year-old with a GoPro. I know, if he could, he’d spend every day of the rest of his life fishing on his boat. I know he prefers breakfast burritos to pancakes, and likes more cream than coffee in his cup. I know his likes and his dislikes, because he wasn’t just my husband…he was my best friend.
He was the guy who would watch cheesy ghost shows with me, and support my not-so-secret love of Harry Potter, and eat the green olives out of my Bloody Marys. He’d wear combat boots to the gym, and flip flops in the winter. But most important, he would make me laugh.
But the truth is, he’s not that guy anymore.
Bit by bit, the weight of life became too heavy for him and he started to disappear. My counselor once told me we all walk through life carrying a back pack. As we grow older, and with each new responsibility, the back pack gets heavier, and heavier, leaving us depressed, anxious, and exhausted. And unless we have the tools to remove some of the weight, we’ll be buried by it.
I’m sure most of you know about Facebook’s lovely little invention called “Facebook Memories”. Every time you log in, you get to play the fun guessing game of “is this going to hurt?” The other day, I saw, “your memory from six years ago.”
Great, just great.
I started to wonder what painful picture was about to pop-up on my computer, and then I saw a picture of me and my ex from St. Patrick’s Day. I was holding his arm, and we were smiling. My immediate reaction was, “there he is”. There’s my best friend. The one I haven’t seen in five years. The one whose smile isn’t forced, whose eyes shine bright, and whose joy lights up the room.
I stared at the picture and was sad for my friend. Sad for what became of him. Sad, he’s gone. With each passing day, I grow more and more content with my single-ness. Most days I actually enjoy it. I don’t miss my husband, but I do miss my friend.
And that’s okay.
It’s okay to miss my friend.
Because I’m at peace with the knowledge he’s never coming back. I’m not holding out hope, or trying to convince him to return. He’s gone. And I will miss him. I will miss the man I met in the coffee shop. The one who wouldn’t be saved. But I will remember him with bitter-sweet memories, and appreciate the wonderful, precious, and amazing gift he gave me. My son.