She had made an appointment for me at the WIC office in Frederick and I was extremely grateful for that, she was telling me that I would still need to remember to take my prenatals and that the woman at the WIC office said they could supply me with some until I found a local OB to see me. She had even already started to help me find that too. I was honestly surprised that she wasn’t going on a long tangent about how this was my fault, like she did after my car accident. It never truly made sense to me how when things happened her first recourse was to blame and do damage control instead of seeing if I was ok and what she could possibly do to help me. But this time she kept going on about how important it was to take care of myself better now…. That I needed to get my sleep and eat right so that the stress I had been putting on this poor child could stop and the last trimester was a happy one. She informed me that I would not be allowed to call Jesse for any reason while I was staying in her home and that under no uncertain terms would there be any exception to that rule. And then she went on to explain the other rule, the one where she completely understood how difficult a decision it would be but given the circumstances it would be the best thing for me to do. She went on to tell me that I would be able to go back to school and that ”this” child could have a chance at a great life…. This crazy woman thinks I am giving up my baby?! This looney tune has most definitely lost what marbles she had left because there is no way, no how, that I am giving up my baby….Good lord, this is HER grandchild?! What the hell am I supposed to do now? My own mother is telling me I can’t stay if I keep my baby…. “this baby”… I don’t even know what I am having yet? I don’t know anything right now but I know that I know she is not making me give up my baby, I will sleep at the neighbors like I did as a kid until someone can help me… I will call Grandma, Uncle Bob, Jenn or Dani, I will walk my butt back to Albuquerque if I have to!
I didn’t have to walk. There were many very disturbing conversations that took place between Jess and I over the next month, even a threat of death on his end, he was trying to stay clean, and he wanted us back and seemed willing to do anything, including no more booze. I wanted that too. I wanted that more than anything. So, my grandmother bought me a return flight back to Albuquerque. As I stepped back off that plane in 1997 I promised the little growing life inside me that it would be different, that no matter what he would always have me and even if this didn’t work out as planned that I would still be there. I promised to do everything under the sun to keep us together as a family this time and that I would be the best wife and mother ever. When I looked up in the Albuquerque airport and saw Jess standing there with flowers in his hand my heart lifted and I ran my hippopotamus-sized-self into his open arms. I remember that hug for a couple of reasons… it was genuine… and it was the last time it would be felt… I hadn’t felt that kind of affection from him like that… a vulnerable feeling exchanged between us… and I wondered…could he really stay clean and sober? Could this really work and was that horrible fight just what needed to happen to push everything in this direction? Or was this yet another of my very naïve ideals…
Chickie at the desk threw a mental rock at my head and snapped me back to the task at hand, just not in enough time for me to not take that walk done memory lane. I could still feel the excitement inside, it’s just not really easy to set aside sometimes with the way life has gone so far but as I headed out to load Justin and my luggage in to my rental car, not in that specific order, I looked around at vaguely familiar surroundings. A lot had changed in the years I had been gone, the airport was even bigger than it was before, which really only meant I would get even more lost. The years had passed but my ability to find my way out of a bag with a map and a flashlight, that hadn’t evolved at all. I really have become best friends with my GPS through it all. Justin was still tired so he was much more pliable, even though I was doing it one armed. I often wonder if the kids ever laughed inside their own heads at some of the stuff I did with one hand and them on one hip; I laughed, a lot.
As I slid in the driver’s seat it was really starting to sink in, that I was here. I pulled out of the rental car parking lot thinking I am glad to be here yet wishing I wasn’t at all…I don’t want to see the look on my mom’s face… I can’t even imagine what she looks like now, she was battling to gain weight because of the Graves Disease when I left and losing weight rapidly then…will I even recognize her…will she recognize me…my weight went in the severe opposite direction…. I haven’t seen her since I left that day 7 months pregnant with my first. I had only talked to her a couple of times over the years… it was nice that she sent a Baby’s first Christmas ornament for him but I kept her as far out my children’s lives as she more than willingly allowed…. She was going to meet her first grandchild, well technically her 4th, but she hadn’t ever met any of the older ones yet so, this is the first for both of us…. Well the 3 of us that is… I kept driving, following the GPS directions and I started to gain my footing, slowly recognizing the signs along I-270 remembering how long it took to get from BWI to Frederick, not knowing how much further Hagerstown would be though, but knowing inside I was making a pit stop first. I wanted to see his house one more time… the one on Wandering Trail Drive… I wanted to smell him, see his absence for myself, feel some kind of closure, I really wanted to just put on one of button up shirts and swim in it…or one of his sweaters… I wanted to hold one of his gold clubs and swing it again, maybe that would bring him close to me again…maybe he would sense what I was doing and make his presence known… maybe the gold club would hit me in the head and wake me up and all of this will just be some insanely strange dream and I will wake up at home to deal with the normal crazy instead of this…
Chickie at my mental desk interjected again…”normal crazy”? I sighed inside myself and kept driving, looking in the rearview to check on my midget; he was soundly sleeping again. I wondered if he had any idea what was going on. Can they sense the airs of change? Is their intuition more finely tuned at that age without all the life-strifes to blind them? Out of the corner of my eye I saw the off ramp sign for Falls Church Road. I had plugged Uncle Bob’s address into the GPS but I honestly didn’t need it for this drive… I made it all the way to the front of his driveway by following my hearts map. It was dark and there was no light on outside, but it was almost 9:30 at night. I wasn’t sure if my aunt would even answer the door. She wasn’t really my aunt, just the lady that has been with him, sharing life, for years. He wasn’t ever interested in marrying… some of us have our suspicions on why but he never addressed it with us…Terry was just there at all the functions that he was at one day and kept being there…my family was much more capable at drawing lines and limits than they were at openly accepting change… I on the other hand, truly didn’t understand much of the discord between all the adults when I was a child… and there was an abundance of it with them… I did come to find out that my mother wasn’t the first one to steal the heart of someone when it already belonged to someone else within this family….
I stepped out the car and stood beside it staring at the house, remembering the last Christmas party I had attended there when I was 18… remembering Uncle Bob following me out to the driveway and my face losing all its color as he saw me put a beer to my mouth, and then hearing that slow lullaby drawl… “Tina, Darling, just one, you have a long drive back to school…” I smiled in shock and sheepishness. I truly, with every fiber of my being LOVED this man! He never ever was disappointed in me, just direct and honest. Even when I was little… oh geeze was he direct back then… there was no confusing what was happening when he picked my 5 year old little self up, through me over his shoulder and walked me out of the Fredericktown Mall because I kept running around the piano store after he told me not to…and it most certainly honestly smarted when his giant hand found my backside like promised… that was the first and last time that ever happened! It was that kind of dependability that I needed in my life and he was always there to offer it….. And now, it’s gone. Now, there will never be another drive way conversation, another hug with me on my tip-toes to reach his shoulders, and no more giggle inside when he says “I caint” get to the phone instead of “I can’t”… that always cracked me up… I had called his home number after she told me the news just so I could hear his voice again… I called over and over again… she wasn’t going to answer the phone anyways and I was fine with that…but maybe she would answer the door…maybe she would take the on the common courtesy of looking his loved one in the face before shutting the door on my heart again…. No such luck. She did however open a window. As I looked at the house, I could hear the window open and see her stick her head out. And then I heard the words, “Tina you have to leave, I am not talking to any of you”. Why does it have to be like this? What in the world did you adult people do to each other that makes everyone want to run for the hills? Why is everyone so damn separated and exiled from each other? HOW do I stop this from happening in my own life with my own kids? “I caint” even imagine what I would do if ALL my children stopped speaking to me and literally moved as far away as possible… this is not a family…this is a disaster!…..
I tried to question her, tried to get a word out but she slammed that window shut tight and turned the bedroom light off. I don’t know if she stood there and watched me cry. I don’t know if any of the neighbors wondered who the crazy girl outside her house was just standing next to an idling car with her sleeping boy inside it. I do know that it took every ounce of strength I had to drive away from that home, knowing I wasn’t going to ever see, feel, or know any of what my Uncle Bob was, ever again, and that now I had to go deliver that reality to my mother, out of a loyal obligation, nothing more. I wasn’t going to be like what everyone else grew to be… I may have strong feelings of ill-ease towards my mother and have equally justified cause to not want anything to do with her but you just don’t treat people like this in life… its wrong on a core level… There is a line that one should not cross over and this was it for me… I kept driving and got back on the freeway, heading for that night’s final destination of Hagerstown…. I would be seeing Mom tomorrow when she finally woke up, still with the crazy sleep patterns… I truly wonder I there is vampire in us…maybe just a little?
The Golden Mile was a trip! I smiled inside remembering driving the circut that Karyn I did, before stopping at Kenny Rogers Roasters in hopes to see Heath and Frog. I didn’t care that Heath didn’t want to be more than friends… ok, I really seriously whole-heartedly cared and was totally befuddled as to why it wasn’t happening! He liked me, I liked him, duh, that was all we needed, right?! Wrong. I still think I made a total fool of myself at Hillary’s party that night and that is why there was not going to be a “we”…. Trying to make him jealous was not really one of my brighter moments, it did give him sarcastic ammunition for the rest the entire school year though! Even now I roll my eyes with that memory. Maybe it was the goofy poems I wrote him… yes…plural… I only gave him like two of them but still… geek-central is not sex-appeal. Maybe it was what little I was sharing with him about my past and my family-circumstances… that didn’t make sense though because he totally accepted me and we were extremely good friends….no, it had to be that he was still in love with her… his ex… the gas station-named girl… Fina… that’s the only way I could remember that chicks name that seemingly broke his big teddy-bear heart… I would never break that heart…. I would love him the way he deserved to be loved and always be there for him, I would totally understand him and we would completely connect on all levels imaginable… I would be his best friend and he would be mine, we would be able finish each other’s words, sentences, and make each other laugh from thousands of miles away because we were that awesome! He would never feel hurt ever again and I would catch every tear that ever fell out of those stormy-blue eyes … ugh… I think that was IN one of my poems…
I got to Exit 32 B in Hagerstown and the GPS led me down the Dual Highway, a right on Robinwood Drive, past a community college (that one day would play a huge part in my life) and up a hill and down again, I made the right onto Woodbridge Drive and the next right and then slowed down to look for Quailbridge Circle, found it and turned right again. Then creeping now I looked on the right side of this circle for 11331. I pulled into the available spot, and with pure excitement running through my veins, I got out of the driver side, opened the back door and unlatched my sleeping Justin from his car seat clamps and adjusted him to lean into me resting his head upon my shaking shoulder. I drew a huge breath in and walked straight towards the unlit door and knocked. I knocked twice more and then confusingly backed up to look up at the numbers that read 11131….. back into the car, strap the boy back in, reverse from the spot, pullout and down another 8 houses and park in THAT empty spot. I turned the car off this time, got out looked up at THAT front door and read the numbers 11331, and then got Justin back out and walked up to that door to knock on it and await again.
My hand had barely grazed the fake wood of his door when it was yanked open. Startled, my mouth opened before my thought processes activated and I stammered out “You’re not Heath”, and the strange guy replied, “No, I’m not, but he is” and then he moved to the side. And there it was. My future. My completely unknown, unimaginable, going to be completely unreal, future, smiling at me from ear to cute, adorable, little ear. His eyes smiled straight through me. That was the same exact stare he gave me on the door step outside Chester Brook Apartments in Middletown, right before our very first kiss. It was like that moment in all the movies where the background fades away and all that you can see or feel is the two soul mates coming to meet for the very first time, accept this time, it was for the second time. I couldn’t breathe, he looked gorgeous, he looked exactly the same as he did when I said good bye in the drive-through at Kenny Rogers Roasters all those years ago… How can he still look like this… How can those eyes still be the same after all these years….and what is that? Is that my heart pounding? Why do I feel like I have ten billion butterflies kissing me everywhere? Why can’t I take my eyes away from his…does he feel this too? Am I losing my mind? Oh my god, I still LOVE him?! Is this even possible? I am married, I have 5 kids, I am holding one of them!! What in the world is happening right now and why can’t I move? My heart leaped forward and I caught myself in the jam of the front door frame… He smiled that jaw-jutting to the side smile he always, always did in high school and then said the words that started the rest of my life over again… “You can come in….”