This weekend was hard. I started work on the video we were making for the anniversary – 26th of March – of the day we had to start our new story, journey, losing the love of my life and my best friend. But it’s not something I had anticipated wearing on me so heavily. We have made it so far so quickly, the year has blown by and part of that is the fact that we had no choice but to take this year a day at a time. No more, no less. When the kids would ask who is going to drive them to and from school when Abbi goes to college next year, I said “we aren’t even a few months into this year, don’t dwell on it.”
Now I dwell, but this week it’s been dwelling on the past, on our story. I found a lost and forgotten newscast. I found a bunch of scripts and resumes of hers. Worst, I found pictures. Not worst, I suppose, but it hurt. I could see her, and they were intimate, close, loving photos of of Andrea that are amazing, beautiful, and I had forgotten them. Forgotten, you see, because Andrea didn’t want to talk about the time we spent when these photos were taken. It’s not so much she was embarrassed, it’s that she didn’t want to relive the time and it wasn’t comfortable.
So . . . as my good friend (and by that I mean I’ve never met him and only listen on the radio wishing I could do his job) Ira Glass says on This American Life this story doesn’t contain graphic instances of sex or sexual actions, but it does acknowledge the existence of sex and talks about certain activities. Small eyes should probably not read the next few paragraphs.
Andrea and I had fallen in love, it was deep, emotional, abiding, and amazing. We’d spent a crazy, intense, beautiful weekend in Napa when she told me she wasn’t moving to Washington D.C. Her Dad was not at all happy about it, and it’s not a surprise. The very things he was probably obsessing about and concerned happened were nowhere near as horrible as he probably thought, but every night was passionate, heated, and exhausting as only the first weeks and months of a relationship can be. We hardly slept, but we weren’t like a couple teenagers locked in a motel room. She was adventurous and mischievous and she showed me things I’d never seen in the world.
Three months after we started dating I asked her to marry me. I had graduated college and been offered a job as a sports producer for a community station in Aurora, Colorado. I told her to stay in Omaha and continue her career and I’d drive or fly back every other weekend. Her move wasn’t going to kill our relationship, this one wasn’t going to, either. But she refused. She wanted to go with me and though I’d be as angry as her father about my daughter moving in with someone before they were married, she did it. We were engaged, the wedding date was set, and we saw this as an opportunity to see how well we could live with each other. Her Dad didn’t and refused to speak with her for that period. Not that their relationship wasn’t already strained, but he basically disowned her. My father helped us move and though we were going to live off my checks and buy furniture as we needed it my Dad wasn’t going for it and bought us a couch and a bed to get us started. We still have that bed frame and headboard.
The move to Denver didn’t work. The job was awful, Andrea was lonely, she couldn’t get another job, the world was spinning out of control and she’d call me nearly every 2 hours at work wanting to meet or have me come home. It was really hard on her and she had given up everything to be with me.
In the middle of the craziness, on New Year’s Eve, hours before going out, she was just out of the shower and had on a fitted green t-shirt and just a pair of jeans. She was so beautiful and playful and sexy and I just couldn’t help it. She was a perfect picture. I’ve said before how Andrea hated pictures if she couldn’t control them. An environment of spontaneity wasn’t something she liked unless she’d gotten ready and dressed up for the party or event. I saw her and I was just so enamored with her, though, she agreed to let me take some pictures in our empty apartment.
Andrea had an amazing, dazzling, glowing smile. Her entire face, her eyes, her whole being lit up when she smiled. More than that, she had a kiss that could make me so joyous – you have no idea how much of herself you could feel in a single kiss. When I found these pictures, it hurt just a little because I saw her there, the red lipstick and as I nodded off to sleep on Saturday night, I could feel that kiss. I’m not sure if you’ve been kissed, I mean truly, deeply, emotionally kissed this way, and maybe you have, but I missed her so much I could feel it as I started to fall into sleep. The gentle press of her lips, the slight texture of her lipstick against my mouth, the gently warmth of her there with me caused me to open my eyes and see she was not there.
That day, you see, she was playful, crazy, silly, and just insanely happy. I snapped picture after picture and she showed me every side, every glorious piece of her. She’d showered and done herself up and she toyed with me through the whole session, tossing her hair, whispering in my ear and being herself. You don’t have to be salacious and intense all the time – just because Brad Pitt loves Angelina Jolie’s mysterious allure doesn’t mean it’s perfect – she knew that she could have allure and be silly, laughing, giggling and together. It’s the meshing of your personalities, your souls, falling on the ground laughing that attracts you just as much. I burned through an entire roll of film, pose after pose, her whole spread of emotions on celluloid, and told her that was it.
She smiled, grinning about how she’d told me she’d gotten ready, had her makeup on, and wasn’t going to be late for New Year’s Eve with friends all through the photos. But as I set the camera down, kissed me in a way that made me shudder, and pulled my shirt tails out so she could put her hands on the skin of my back and we both fell to the floor, laughing and smiling. I remember telling her that her makeup would get all messed up and she simply said she didn’t care.
That’s how burned into my brain those pictures are. She doesn’t want to tell her kids that she lived with me before we were married, she doesn’t want them thinking less of her. But how could they? We truly loved each other. We were engaged after 3 short months but married 18 long years. We made it, defying the odds, and still in love through those years. Sure, we had hard times but if it had been bad it wouldn’t hurt this much, either.
But the kiss. She sealed our love the first time her lips touched mine, and for good or ill, I can still feel them, though now it’s longing to feel that touch. Not intense desire but just strong, loving touch. For now I settle of waking up with the memories lingering.