Once upon a time, there was someone else.
I’ve always believed that when you fall in love and when you’re with someone, a whole new world opens up. You create a “room” in space that was never there before and is only there by chance, by luck, by unluck, by fate. Whatever means it takes to get there, your collision of love and shared experiences creates this room in space and time. Sometimes you both leave the room together and you shut out the figurative light. Sometimes one person leaves the room and the other stays in it for days, or weeks, or months and years. Sometimes you both stay in the room forever, but the light goes dim in your room. Sometimes the light goes out. Other people join you in your room, your world. The people you’d never know if your love hadn’t created a room. Your parents, your lover’s parents, siblings, friends, cousins, grandparents, anyone.
I was once torn between two rooms. I guess I was temporarily overlapping. One room was filled with the sound of music – the most beautiful piano you could ever imagine. Decaf lattes. Summer nights. Hammocks. Cutting vegetables with his mother. Coffee with his sister. Career advice from his dad. Breathing machines. Whole Foods. Wheelchair Vans. Serenades.
The other room was filled with moose and wolves. A San Francisco apartment. A Cape Cod beach house. Bacon sizzling in the morning. Yosemite cabin adventures. Shooting stars. Airplanes. Mountains to climb. Mountains to marry on top of. I chose this second room. There was not necessarily right or wrong. There was just heart. And chance. Or fate. Or love. Or all.
So I left the safe and cozy first room and they turned out the light behind me. But I had left my muddy boots by the door.
Once upon a time, there was someone else. And not only that, there were his parents and his sister. I was close with all of them. And people don’t talk about it a lot – but when you break up with someone, you mostly have to break up with their families too. I’m sure there are striking exceptions, but often the pain is too great and to continue the other relationships would be tense, painful and sometimes secretive. Often, we don’t have the energy or the heart to do so. So we split apart as well. Sometimes it’s instant like a Band-Aid. Bam! You once considered them your second parents and now you may never speak again. Yet sometimes it’s slow and awkward. You want to remain close but it’s too hard and you slowly drift apart.
Before I met my ex-boyfriend, before we were sort of blindly but not blindly set up with each other, I was told his father was dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). When I actually met my ex-boyfriend we stayed up talking until nearly 4:00 am on our first date, and he told me that his father was not actually dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was fighting it tooth and nail.
I always believed him. The family fought the disease with every strength of their beings. The disease usually kills in 3-5 years and he fought it for well over ten years. Those were a lot of extra years with his wife and kids. With all loved ones.
He lost his battle with ALS early this week.
My ex’s father was the bravest man I ever knew. And not because he faced death. Oh no, he went beyond that. They say there is a fate worse than death and he chose the bravery and beauty of that fate worse than death. He faced life, in pain. In treacherous pain. He struggled to stay at or above the surface of life. Sweet, horrendous life.
I am surprised by his death because it had never seemed like an option. Surprised, but no less impressed. So, so impressed.
I loved him but I lost him years ago. Funny how that doesn’t take away the pain of losing him again.
“In every heart there is a room
A sanctuary safe and strong
To heal the wounds from lovers past
Until a new one comes along” — Billy Joel