Husbands….

Torn between the man she had just married, and the love of her life, she makes a decision that will tear people apart, hurt her family, and alienate her friends.

The Hippy Chic

I was scrolling through pictures this morning, sick and tired of being sick and tired, I attempted to distract myself long enough to find this gem.  And I laughed out loud when I saw this.

I happen to be deeply in love with my husband.  We met 26 years ago, under nefarious circumstances.  I was married to his boss, for one.  I fell in love with Dwain despite heroic efforts not to.  I was preparing to marry the man I had lived with for 5 years.  Although I loved him, I was not in love with my fiancée.  I confided and confessed this dilemma to anyone and everyone who would give me the time of day.  I went to a priest, as we were to marry in the Catholic church.  Only my best friend understood.  “You need to stop this wedding momentum and live on your own for awhile,” she…

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   Won’t you come over Valerie?

 

Women.  You can’t live with them and you certainly cannot live without them.  I have been hurt so many times, that when I sense danger, or impending doom in a friendship, I close my eyes and banish them to the list of  women who didn’t make the cut.  As I grow older and wiser (cough) I realize that the close female friendships I have today are way too important to take for granted.  You see, after years of fine tuning my list of besties, I cannot afford to spare a square.  The list has been modified, put to the test and frankly, I love these women like I do my own family; they are sisters, tried and true.

For your amusement I have prepared a list of reasons I have let go of friendships in the past:

1.  She thinks you want her husband.

2.  You think she wants YOUR husband.

3.  You find yourself at the bottom of her priority list.

4.  She is at the bottom of YOUR priority list.

5.  Hysterical Outbursts (my in-laws live across the street and have been traumatized by things I did while drinking.  After seeing me naked on the roof, screaming I don’t care what the fucking neighbors think, I highly doubt they want to hear you babbling I’m pregnant at the top of your lungs.

6. She is a drama queen and lastly,

7.  You are a drama queen and don’t need the competition.

Oh the melodrama….it exhausts me.  But the women who have made the cut understand me in ways that truly knock my socks off.  I am not an easy person to love.  I go through bouts of depression that leave me unable to attend church, social functions and sometimes, to be honest, life.  I have an Irish temper that some would call criminal, however I do manage to keep it in check since alcohol is out of the picture.  I am stubborn-not your everyday stubborn-if I think it will piss you off-well hell could freeze over and I won’t budge.

This is not to say that I don’t have some redeeming qualities:  if you are my friend I will love you like nobody’s business-but I expect the same devotion when it comes to my fragile heart.  I am highly sensitive, as my gal pals will tell you.  Misunderstandings come and go, but the love is always there.

I want to tell you about these women.  They have helped me through a traumatizing, if not interesting adulthood.  They are my  rocks and I consider them to be sisters.  They understand me in ways that most women don’t, and that is worth its weight in gold.  They have survived and even conquered the test of time, which is incredibly important post menopause.  Not many friends will, say, wait five minutes until you regain your train of thought;  or listen to your fiftieth meltdown over your husband’s cluttered sock drawers.  And when you get to the ripe old age of 54, you treasure the women who are likely to get you through the golden years.

I’ll start off with my oldest and dearest friend, my sister.  To say that we have gone through some drama is like saying this year’s election is a bit confounding.  We have put each other through some heady crap, and I am happy and blessed to say: we are stronger and better than ever.  She is there for the crazies, the impossibly ridiculous and the mundane. I love her more than I ever thought possible.  Do I want to hit her over the head with a cast iron frying pan?  Not nearly as much as I used to.

Then there is Tracy-who sat loyally by my side as together we watched our church ministry crumble to the ground around us.  She is the funniest person I know.  And she is my sister in the macabre.  If anything stupid is going to happen, it will happen to one of us, and that is part of the mystique.  I thought I had cornered the idiocy market until I found her.  But we laugh in the face of danger, and I will love her until the day I die.

Pamela is my therapist.  We are so much alike, that when I fist began seeing her, she gave me a Bob Dylan necklace, peace sign and harmonica included. She cried at my tears, and made me laugh out loud-even in my misery.  Occasionally, my husband will call her to tell her I am acting crazy again (which in all honesty means I am suicidal, and thankfully Pamela knows enough to call me a week later and ask how I’m doing.)  We are both redheads (I can already hear the OMGs and WTFs at this mind blowing admission-I was born with red hair; L’Oreal just brings out the blonde in me.  She is my partner in crime, and again, to do without her friendship is unthinkable.

Jackie speaks the same language….she is fluent in Godspeak and is one of the finest women I know.   Last year she made me enter the local Lebanon County Fair, under vintage arrangements.  I was so nervous the night before the entry:  I spent hours picking out just the right flowers, just the right container.  As we arrived at the fairgrounds, I knew she was genuinely sorry to see I didn’t place.  She had entered her zucchini (she laughed as she told me she ran out of the house and grabbed one off of the vine) and we almost peed our collective pants as we turned the corner and saw Best of Show attached to her vegetable.  Her face was bright red, and to this day she feels guilty.  Silly girl.

Dot is my grounding force in life.  She is the voice of wisdom and common sense.  Recently we had a misunderstanding, yet she is in my life again, only this time I won’t let her go.  She was a sister to me when I was going through initial sobriety, and I make her laugh-which is delightful to me in more ways than I can say.  She is the only person that can call me an idiot magnet and get away with it……..because I know she loves me just as much as I love her.

So,  tread lightly in the girlfriend arena.  It’s okay, and even necessary to argue with your better half.  But your girlfriends are your tribe.  And friends of this magnitude come once in a lifetime.

 

Purple Reign

I was sitting at my computer the other morning when the ticker read that Prince had died.  The absurdity of the visceral reaction that followed has me digging deep again. Don’t get me wrong, I mean, who didn’t like Prince?  He was one hell of a musician.  And I mean, what they call a “musical genius.”  And partying in the 90s had everything to do with the man,; he became a legend way before his time.  He was played in every club or bar we travelled, and many a New Year’s Eve was spent dancing to Party like it’s 1999.  And that brings us to the task at hand: making sense of the deep, empty abyss I fell into at the news of Prince’s demise.

It was shocking.  It took me  a minute to truly grasp the severity of the news.  I went into the kitchen and tuned into WXPN, a local Philly station that is pretty much my favorite – you can leave Philadelphia, but it never leaves you.  My brother is in the business.  He led a band Huffamoose, a Philadelphia sensation in the late 90’s and early 2000s.   WXPN hosted his concerts, gave him great airplay and often interviewed him or the band on air, truly giving them a big break.  It was a heady time for him, and I become almost homicidal when I watch the likes of Pitbull, or some other pop sensation succeed with not even a morsel of his talent.  But, alas, I digress.

I listened as Helen Leicht spoke of his death, in a hauntingly sad tribute to a man the world admired.  And then it happened.  The next song was Purple Rain.  I bawled like a child, feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I was inconsolable.  My husband came home from work, and kissed me on the forehead with an “Oh, honey……”look on his face.  I knew if I didn’t understand my grief, well, he sure wouldn’t.  If I were to guess at a number, I would say Dwain listens to me about 13% of the time….and even then he gets this dazed over look on his face, as if to say, “How the hell do you women get through a day on this planet?”

Dwain left to go mow the lawn.  I remained in the kitchen with Helen, screaming the words to the songs, and feeling more despondent by the moment.  And then it hit me.  When I was in my twenties, I dated a series of losers, to the point that my brother called me an “idiot magnet.”  One of the biggest jerks was a guy named Jack.  I met him at the Guillifti’s bar, I with friends and he the server.  That red hair got me every time back then.  And, let’s be honest, he seemed like a bad boy, so hell, I was all in.

We dated for an entire Summer.  One weekend we drove down to the beach, and stayed in a house my friends and I had been renting in Avalon, New Jersey.  The weekend was a disaster.  He was an ugly drunk, and when he passed out at 3 in the afternoon one day, I headed for the beach: with a Prince cassette in my Walkman, a Miller Lite in my hand and a chip on my shoulder the size of Texas, I cried every step of the way.   Because it was raining that weekend, we had spent the better part of the day at a bar in Stone Harbor.  On the drive back to the house, he said, “Can I ask you a question?  Could you get anorexia again?”  If Jack had stabbed me in my heart he couldn’t have done more damage.  Earlier that day I had confided in him that I suffered from bulimia, anorexia and depression for over 10 years.  I was just coming into my own again, making friends with the enemy (my curves) and starting to regain my bearings.  What was he saying?  He was telling me that I was too curvy for him, and that if I wouldn’t mind falling into a disease that almost took my life the first time, well, shucks, that would be great.

As I arrived at the beach, the fog and mist were thick.  Purple Rain in my headphones, I cried.  I raged.  And then I did something I had pushed down deep, (so deep that I had completely blocked it out of my mind.)  I took off my clothes and walked into the ocean, hoping to drown in the process.  I had been drinking heavily that day, and Jack’s words burned in my ears, and in my broken heart.  I had never felt worthy, never enough-another story for another day.  If I was fat, I didn’t want to live.  As I waded into the waves, the words of Prince brought me back to my surroundings.  I knew he understood the pain I was going through.  He understood because he had felt that same pain at some point in his life, you could hear it in the way he sang the song.  I snapped out of my despair.  I sobered up before it was too late.  Why the hell would I want to put up with this moron?

And as I headed back to pack my bags to leave, I couldn’t help but thank him.  Prince saved my life that day.  And every hero deserves to be grieved.

 

 

A church divided cannot LOVE

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The silent scream.

I am not sure how many of you will recognize the subject matter, however, I believe it to be widely known that our church, Zion United Methodist of Iona, imploded after the zealous pursuit by certain parishioners (who will be named in this article) to free the Methodist Conference of our pastor,  Frank Schaeffer.  After the prize winning film An Act of Love premiered last Friday at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania, I can finally address the hidden cobwebs of my aching heart.  I have kept the silence…the secrets, the invisible pain controlled; up until this past week.

It is hard to describe the heart wrenching pain one feels at the demise of their church family.  God was in the house and we felt Him each and every step of the way.  Frank initiated and developed a thriving ministry, bringing Miles Dissinger to the forefront, with his rocking, take no prisoners approach to the worship team’s band Damascus Road.  Together, we were Team Jesus, and each passing Sunday grew more and more powerful.  You COULDN’T stay away, not if you wanted to. Clydette Overturf, our assistant pastor, led the second service in many heart felt and necessary sermons about Hard Times, (one of the most powerful preachers I have yet to see speak, the pain has turned her away from God and into the vast abyss of Atheism.)  To say we were harmed is a wild injustice……to say Frank and his family were “harmed” is understatement at its best.

I began attending Zion in the Spring of 2008.  I was drawn to the second service, as there appeared to be a nonjudgmental attitude, and the praise team director was my hairdresser and friend.  Suffering from serious, if not functioning, alcoholism at the time, I judged myself.  Raised in the Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, Pennsylvania, I had a big fear of God and an even bigger fear of church.  After meeting Frank, my fears were pushed aside and I now attended most Sundays.  It was within these walls that I found sobriety: comfortable in the knowledge that people would be accepting, as I shared my story my second Sunday in attendance.

The tears flow freely as I write.  Oh the people I met there: Rosina, who, despite progressive COPD, attended up until shortly before her death.  Frank himself, one of the most loving men I have had the pleasure of knowing.  We watched our friend’s children grow in the love of Christ, and in turn, they became our children.  I immediately became close with Frank’s wife, Brigitte-we would lunch, hike and talk for hours on the phone.  I was the happiest I have ever been in those early years of his ministry.  In 2014, the world, as we knew it, began to unravel at the speed of sound.

There were rumors, Brigitte confided.  “You will find out this Sunday,” she cried to me over the phone.  “Please, please tell me so I can pray for you,” I cried.  But it was not for her to confide.  That Sunday I went to church with a strong sense of impending doom.  When I first heard the words of my embattled pastor, I shook my head in disbelief.  The rumor was that he had been found having sexual intercourse with Brian, our Praise Team leader at that time.  Frank begged the accusing congregant to come forth, but we found out the hard way that the woman accused of reporting this crime had said no such thing.  Thus the start of a filthy smear campaign to rid the Church of a man who was guilty of nothing.  The Bogers, the Cox, the Baileys.  All were consenting pawns in a movement so vile, it rocked the very foundation of the United Methodist Church.

We sat through rumors for weeks.  And then it came……the ultimate blow:  Frank approached the congregation with a sermon I will never, ever forget. (At this point in time it was the first service against the second service, if you will.  We were pitted against one another at a time we should have drawn together.  But the dirty workings of one man set in motion the demise of one of the most powerful ministries I have seen.)  Frank told us that he had flown to Boston, to comfort his suicidal son.  Tim, his eldest, had cried himself to sleep every night, praying to God to change his homosexuality.  He was terrified he was going to hell, and kept his sexuality a secret to protect his loving parents and family.  While Frank and Brigitte were there, Frank married his son to another man, an Act of Love that was documented in his file.

There was to be a TRIAL to decide the guilt or innocence of a man who did the loving thing for his son.  During said trial, the District Superintendent,  James Todd, blatantly lied while testifying.  He told the jury of Frank’s peers that he had never seen the paperwork from Frank, admitting that he had indeed performed the marriage ceremony.  How was this news made available to the UMC conference?  A man who was barely visible within the confines of the church….a man so few of us knew-felt it necessary to drive to Massachusetts to obtain the marriage certificate-a month before the statute of limitations was to expire.

And so it was, while the whole world appeared to be watching that a man we deeply loved and admired was put on trial for the heinous act of loving his son enough to dispel the idea that he wasn’t loved by God.  The trial was attended by many of his closest friends.  One evening I received a call from Brigitte.  She was hysterical as she told me that I was not allowed to attend the trial.  The Boger family went to the judge to elicit protection from me after I wrote a blog in which I stated that “I would take a bullet for Frank Schaeffer.”  Oh, the irony.

Frank was defrocked after the trial, and then went on to be refrocked in a decision that did little to heal our hearts.  He was in California now.  The man who had laid hands on the “least of these” over and over again, was run out of the town he had given so much of himself to minister to.  I watched in pained silence as one by one, my friends and I left the church, never to return.  Some of us have found new homes, yet there remains a sorrow so great that we do not speak of it.  It is certainly not for us to judge others.  I refuse to believe that my Jesus would turn a child of God away for a sexuality he or she developed at the age of 3 months.

And as far as the Bogers and Henrys of this world are concerned, I have this to say: I see no love or redemption in your acts of malice.  I will pray that the Holy Spirit will come upon you and that you see the ultimate truth:  we are all sinners, and only God will have the final word.

 

Lover Man

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I want to talk to you about domestic violence: it has touched my life in more ways than I care to admit.  First, as a child, then as an adult and now as a friend of a woman who is clinging to hope as her man stands in court, pleading not guilty to a crime he is very guilty of committing.

As a small child and teenager, I had to accept the fact that my mother was an emotional abuser.  Her words hit me like acid, and 34 years later I am still healing those wounds.  I remember the first time I told my father I loved him.  I never understood why, at the age of 21, my father had never once uttered the words, “I love you.”  I had a straight and loving communication with him, but my siblings were frankly frightened by the man.  He grew up in a British home, where affection and feelings were meant strictly for the hippies and poets of the world.  Please don’t misunderstand me; I knew he loved me, I just needed to hear it.

I approached him with caution, and popped the question.  “Daddy, why don’t you tell me you love me?  I love you with my whole heart.”  He answered my query by gently putting his hands on my shoulders and whispering, “I love you very much, I suppose I never expressed it verbally because such things just didn’t happen in my childhood.”

“I see the fucking whore got to you,” my mother spat from the screen porch door.

And so it went, the duration of my teens were spent in therapy and desperately wanting my mother to love me like I needed to be loved.  I have forgiven her everything; in hopes that she will forgive my inability to understand the gravity of her illness before her death.  It has been a healing journey for me, and it made me the person you see here today.

While attending Villanova University, I met a man named Joey Love.   His first pass at me was so romantic, I didn’t feel I had a choice but to see where it led.  While out with friends at a local Bennigan’s, he passed me a note; it said I want to dance with you on the Michelou.  The Michelou was a restaurant inside a ship down by the river in Philadelphia.  We did indeed dance there, the very next day.

One thing led to another, and before I knew it, we were living and working together at Houlihan’s.  Joey was very popular, and strikingly handsome.  He had charm, looks and wit-and my God could that man dance. We were a popular couple and I thought it was love.

One evening, after being intimate, I was laying on a blanket in our bedroom.  Joey was standing by the dresser, and he asked me to get his cigarettes.

“Get your own cigarettes,” I joked, feeling especially content in the afterglow.

There was no way I could have been prepared for what happened next.  Joey picked me up, from the floor, and threw me so hard against the bedroom wall that I could feel my brain floating around in my head.  Despite my pleas, he did it again-then kicked and punched me until he was finally  finished.  I somehow managed to find my car keys and drive to my girlfriend’s house: it was 2 a.m. and I knocked on her door as if a demon was chasing me.  When she finally answered, I fell into her arms.  Horrified, she took me to the bathroom and gently washed away the blood and tears.  She wanted me to go to the Emergency Room, but I was in shock and would have none of it.  “I don’t want him to get in trouble,” I stammered.

The most frightening part of my ordeal was the reactions of my brother and friends.  Joey was never held accountable for his actions, as I never reported them. However, I did, in fact, tell my family and closest friends.  Sadly, no one, even my own brother, believed he was capable of what I accused him of. Feeling I was somehow responsible for his actions,  I went back to him a week later.  It was no surprise then, when he stole my Chevette and beat it within an inch of its’ life;  Lucy was my first car, and I had worked very hard to make the payments.  To this day, I cannot understand why I placed more importance on an automobile than my own personal safety.  But that was the icing on the cupcake of our relationship, I left him and  never looked back.

So perhaps you will understand why I want my friend’s partner to be held accountable for his actions.  He pushed her against a wall, so hard that she split the back of her head open.  She begged him to take her to the hospital, but he decided to get in bed and tell her she would be fine.

I wish I could be a fly on the ceiling of the courtroom.  I wish I could see the judge tell him that he will face a trial by a jury of his peers.  Maybe then I would hear the words I have longed to hear since forever: GUILTY AS CHARGED.

 

 

Crazy, jealous bitches……..

All of my life I have had to deal with insecure, backstabbing, hurtful women.  You would think by now, at the ripe old age of 54, I would be free of such nonsense: sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.  And it has nothing to do with my looks, career, or material possessions.  I believe the reason I have been a victim of mean -ass women from childhood on up is this: my innate happiness and love for others.

A few of you are laughing out loud at this moment.  What about your depression?  Anxiety?  Haven’t seen that “innate happiness” lately, now have we?  Oh, but it is there.  I have felt an awkward tug at my soul since I was a small child.  Despite the challenges of my life, I have remained upbeat, loving, and dare I say the word……happy.  And this in spite of the troubled relationships that seem to plague me.

When I was a teenager, the dating scene remained a mystery to me.  I remember one evening in particular, when I had a date with my brother’s friend, Mark.  He didn’t show up, let alone call to let me know he wasn’t coming.  “Michele, you are an idiot magnet,” my brother mumbled sadly.  And alas, he was right on the money.

Going as far back to grade school, when I worked the Weight Watcher’s program and lost 50 pounds:  I have to admit, I thought I looked fabulous in my skin tight, neon blue bell bottoms and matching top.  My best friend, Denise,  felt a bit left out and I sensed it.  I tried to encourage her and give her my dieting tips, but she just wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment.  And looking back, I don’t know why I was shocked at her betrayal.   It was Spring Fling at Belmont Elementary.  Oh, the magic!!  Games of every kind, cotton candy, soft pretzels and burgers.  Music….I remember, “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog” blaring from the speakers that lined the front of the school.  I was absolutely on top of the world.  My girlfriend announced that she and I were going to ride the fire engine, with the hot fire fighters….and, she announced, I wasn’t getting out of it.

I mounted the fire engine steps with enthusiasm.  Oh, this was going to be a great memory!  The day was off-the-charts beautiful, and, well, you know, MY OUTFIT…Let’s just say I was feeling my oats on this glorious day of days.  I walked to the back of the engine and began to take my seat next to my friend.  What happened next was King of Prussia legend for years to come, thanks to her.  You see, when I went to sit down, my bell bottoms split from front to back, leaving me embarrassed, vulnerable and close to hysteria.  Denise’s reaction did nothing to comfort me….she laughed so hard she cried; and, to my dismay, told any and every person who would listen to the details of the most embarrassing day of my life.

This brings me to the story I have been meaning to tell.  From my coworkers to my “friends,” I could never figure out what I was doing that caused such contempt and vicious behavior.  I was nicer than nice to anyone who wore a bra.  I pretended to be stupid, just to make friends.  And as I grew older, I went through jobs at the speed of sound.  I would come home and cry to my mother, who would tell me that the girls were jealous and saw me as a threat.  Suffering from low self-esteem, I would shake my head in wonder and pain.  What in the world was wrong with ME?  What would it take for me to live a life,  bitch-free?

Snap back to reality and the current situation that has brought me to my knees in heartache and rage.  I had a friend I thought the world of.  For the sake of her privacy, let’s just call her Satan.  I worked for her a few years back, and over the years the four of us (her husband and my husband included) became quite close.  Or, so I thought.  Her husband had beaten cancer twice, and, not having many male friends, I cherished our relationship.  Men are different.  They tend to judge less and listen more.  He always made me laugh, and our friendship was 100% platonic.

One day, while shopping at Walmart, (cue hissing) I ran into Satan.  The look on her face was one of anger, disgust and irritation.  “What in the world is wrong?,” I asked.  She repeated “nothing,” all four times I asked that question.  She and my friend, her husband, were planning a trip to Jamaica.  “I only pray he doesn’t have a heart attack at the airport,” she blurted.

“Oh my word, what is wrong?” I stammered.

“Well, you know Steve isn’t going to be around much longer.”

“Oh my GOD is the cancer back?” I cried.

She went on to say that he was so bad the last time they travelled, that she thought he may have a heart attack until it was all said and done.

“I asked him if he wanted a wheel chair, but he won’t have it.”

That conversation had me in tears, worried about my friend and praying for him the entire time they were away.  When they returned, he shared a picture from their travels on my Facebook page.  I had challenged him to post 7 nature pictures in 7 days…..and then to nominate a new person each day.  I was thrilled they were home, happy that he had survived the vacation and eager to get together to see pictures of their trip.

That isn’t going to happen now.  Satan has worked her magic, and he is not allowed to communicate with me.  He tried to take the blame for her, but I have the skills of a private detective, and I use them when needed.  I did the math.  I connected the dots.  I sherlocked the shit out of that scenario, and now I am furious.

You cannot cut off the people you love from human contact with the opposite sex.  We need our friends as much as they need us, and her behavior has caused me true pain.  I will let go and let God at this point.  There is nothing else to do.

But please heed my warning.  When around unstable, self-centered women, wear the loose bell bottoms.  You can thank me later.

 

 

Husbands….

I was scrolling through pictures this morning, sick and tired of being sick and tired, I attempted to distract myself long enough to find this gem.  And I laughed out loud when I saw this.

I happen to be deeply in love with my husband.  We met 26 years ago, under nefarious circumstances.  I was married to his boss, for one.  I fell in love with Dwain despite heroic efforts not to.  I was preparing to marry the man I had lived with for 5 years.  Although I loved him, I was not in love with my fiancée.  I confided and confessed this dilemma to anyone and everyone who would give me the time of day.  I went to a priest, as we were to marry in the Catholic church.  Only my best friend understood.  “You need to stop this wedding momentum and live on your own for awhile,” she said.

I well remember the day I told him.  It was a week before our wedding, and I had lost so much weight my wedding gown had to be taken in 4 times.  I couldn’t eat.  He would take me to my favorite restaurant, order my favorite Caesar salad….and I would reward his kindness by becoming hysterical and sad.  One night I came home to find him in bed.  I sat down next to him, took his hand, and told him I was in love with another man.  To say that my heart was broken would be a grave injustice to hearts everywhere.  I was inconsolable.  I couldn’t stand the thought of hurting him.  While Dwain and I had never kissed, we both knew we had the kind of passion that cannot be denied, destroyed or delayed.

One night, Craig (his name has been changed to protect his privacy) approached me while I lay weeping in bed.  He said, “I feel like I am ruining your life.”  The statement only added to my guilt and pity for the man who had been so amazingly good to me.  I met him when I was suffering a deep depression brought on by my previous lover.  Sitting in a bar with some friends one evening, he walked by our table. “You have amazing eyes,” I said.  Not exactly shy, I gave him my phone number and he called the next day.  Those glorious, cell-free days of the eighties.  Looking back now, I would do it all over again…they were some of the most thrilling and happy days of my life.

We began dating immediately; he was kind, a good listener, and again….those eyes.  Craig took me to Pittsburgh to meet his family.  I felt safer and happier in Pittsburgh than I ever remember being.  His mother and I clicked, I genuinely loved her from the beginning.  His brother became my best friend, and would later get me through one of the hardest times of my life-cervical cancer.  The extended family was wonderful, and years of visits followed.  I finally had the big, happy family I had dreamed of my entire life.

Fast forward to the beautiful Victorian wedding in Lititz, Pennsylvania.  I wish I had kept the pictures, but back then it was just too painful for me.  Friends and family flew in to help us celebrate.  Knowing I was unhappy, my sister came and spent the entire week with me.  To this day I assume my Irish Catholic mother, Mary Lou, sent her to make sure I walked down the aisle.   Two days before the wedding, my sister took me to say goodbye to Dwain.  I had just come from getting my nails done, and I had a Dylan cassette for him.  He just happened to be home, and we talked in the kitchen.  I gave him the tape, tears flowing unabashedly, and turned to go.

“I promise.  I won’t be at the wedding.”

Hearing that, I kept my composure until I reached the safety of my sister’s car.  There are no words to describe the condition my heart was in at that moment.  My sister, incredibly understanding and patient with me, grew concerned.  I honestly believe I was sleep walking through those days.  So torn between the gathering momentum and celebration, and just saying, “No.  I am not able to love you as you deserve to be loved.”

The first time Dwain and I kissed, I freakishly told him I loved him.  “Well, that’s the end of that,” I thought, sadly.  But I didn’t scare him off and it became increasingly clear that we were both in big, big trouble.  Craig and I honeymooned in Cape Cod, somewhat successfully, but there was drama:   My sadness at the finality of everything and his growing realization that I was lost to him, hopelessly and foolishly in love with another man.

A few days after our return, I was upstairs preparing to have surgery for the cervical cancer that had been diagnosed a year before the wedding.  My sister and a family friend had driven my mother up for the biopsy.  Despite my concern for the following day, it was incredibly comforting having them at my house.  I had moved to Schaefferstown when Craig acquired a position with Quaker Alloy as a metallurgist, and moving had been devastating for me.  I grew up in King of Prussia, but a still, small voice had always told me that I wasn’t a “hometown girl.”  Having a not-so-happy high school experience (I was a coxswain for the crew team, and I had a small, close circle of friends) I inherently knew I was meant for another place, a different atmosphere-the Main Line was hard, judgmental a place in which to live and meet with others’ expectations.  Money, money, money…..and the idea of consistently running into the cheerleaders, football players and coolio chicks was unappealing to say the least.  But the move was very difficult for me and I left behind many friends and my family.

I could hear my sister and mother speaking in the kitchen.  Lost in my thoughts, I almost missed the sound: the obvious air and ear pollution that announced his arrival approximately 20 minutes before he made the turn onto Route 897.  My mother, somehow, knew that I was in love with a “long haired, hipster doofus.”  To this day, her witchcraft remains mysterious.  She just knew things.

I stood at the top of the stairs, my heart in my throat.  The look of irritation on my mother’s face stopped me dead in my tracks.  I told my sister I had no idea why he was there, and at that moment, I was at a loss.

As if in slow motion, Dwain knocked on the door.  I opened it.  Unfazed that I was two days home from the honeymoon; unfazed that my mother would rip him to shreds with one hand tied behind her back……completely unconcerned about anything but me.  He looked into my eyes, my knees almost buckling, and I knew.  There was no one else.  Only he mattered.  The last 26 years has been an emotional and passionate roller coaster:  from public stigma to alcoholism, depression and the loss of many friends and family members; we stand united and very much in love.  My sister can tell you that I am not whole without my better half, and extended periods of absence are unbearable for me.  He is the hardest working man I know.  His son is my son and we have a family, Jesse, Dwain, Brad, Chelsea and myself.   We are the Hoffmans-we are one part city slicker and one part redneck.  We are the Bonnie and Clyde of Kleinfeltersville.

If he could just get me the right size underwear.  That would make him perfect….