There have only been two men in my who have had my heart lock, stock and barrel. One of them is no longer with us. The other is my youngest son’s father. I was devastated when #1 died. He was taken way too soon – just three months past his 31st birthday. I remember where I was and what I was doing when I found out he was gone. I remember the gut wrenching pain and not being able to breathe. I remembered crying tears of agony, of deep, unbearable loss.
What is so strange about all of that is we were never involved with each other in any kind of romantic way. He never knew how I felt. I never told him. I couldn’t tell him. He was an officer. I was enlisted. On top of that, I was married. There were only a couple of people who knew – my mom and my best friend.
Since I was married, I knew nothing would ever come of it. Because I was enlisted and he was an officer, there was no way in hell anything would come of it. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get that man out of my brain or my heart. Looking back, I’m not sure I even really tried. I just made sure to keep my inner most feelings to myself; sharing them only with my best friend.
I remember the day he entered my life. My jaw hit the deck. I had only read about love at first sight. I thought it was some sort of fantasy or some fictional thing . . . Until he walked through the door that day. The man was drop dead gorgeous and yet, he was so down to Earth. His smile lit up any room he was in. I can still hear his voice and his laughter. Oh how I miss him!
Anyway, we learned he was a widow. He had only been a widow for six months when he arrived at our unit. At the time, we had no clue how he lost his wife. We only knew he was widowed.
One evening I was working late and needed to retrieve something from his office. In his desk drawer, I came across a letter he was writing to a friend. I didn’t mean to read it, yet I could not help myself. It was like something was pulling me. As I read, I kept getting glimpses of a gun. Not any specific gun. Just a gun. It was a strange and eerie feeling. The next day, I was talking with my best friend and told her what had happened. She, too, thought it was strange. We both brushed it aside and went about our daily work.
A few months after his parent unit had returned to the States, my girlfriend and I made a trip to Okinawa to visit our former First Sergeant. He was stationed at the same Air Station when the Captain had lost his wife. We were curious, so we asked him. The First Sergeant said she had killed herself. Apparently, his wife was flying down to the Caribbean, carrying on an affair while the Captain was deployed or on Training Exercises. The Captain found out and squashed it. She didn’t like it. She was depressed and her way to end it was to blow her brains out. With a gun. Chills ran up and down our spines. My girlfriend and I just looked at each other. Speechless.
When his Harrier crashed, I was in the hospital. I had just delivered my oldest son the day before. I remember I was climbing back into the bed – I had one leg on the bed and one leg on the floor – when I heard the news that an AV8B Harrier had reportedly crashed. (They had not announced the name because the Next of Kin had not yet been notified. This is when we were in Southwest Asia the first time in the 90s.) My heart stopped. I couldn’t breathe. I started shaking. I told myself to knock it off because he was too good of a pilot. It wasn’t him. It couldn’t be him.
I get home from the hospital. There was a letter waiting for me from him. It was written on 7 January 1991. My son was born on 21 January 1991. The Harrier crashed on 22 January 1991. I was released from the hospital on 23 January 1991. I received a letter from him on 24 January 1991. I learned he died on 27 January 1991.
I never told him when I was due. I never told him what I was having. He knew by the time I received his letter I would have delivered the baby. He knew I was having a boy. There was a connection. An unspoken connection.
Had he lived, we would have been married. I know it. I feel it deep in my bones. There was a connection that was not of this Earth. There are people who may think it’s strange or kind of crazy. That matters not to me. I know what I know. I can’t explain it.
Having my daughter and son around helped me get through that dark period in my life. The challenge of being married to Mr. Potato Head forced me to keep moving forward. I didn’t dare reveal my feelings for the Captain to Mr. Potato Head. My life may have been hell, it would have been made even worse if Mr. Potato Head had an inkling of my feelings.
My children were my world. Hell. Who am I kidding? They still are. If anything were to ever happen to them, I’m not sure I would be able to survive mentally, let alone physically. I lived each day for them. My focus was to do right by them. For me, having them helped me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Their presence kept me grounded and kept me from falling apart at the seams.
It’s been 23 years and my heart still hurts. His birthday is approaching next month. He would have been 55. When my son’s birthday rolls around, it’s both happy and sad. I’m happy because I’m able to celebrate the joyous occasion. I’m sad because I know it means another year has gone by without this special man in this world.
Even though nothing ever happened between us, he had my heart. On the day he died, an unrecoverable part of me died with him. I can’t explain it other than it was a once-in-a-lifetime love for me. I will forever cherish the time I was able to spend with him.
Time does not heal all wounds. It merely makes the pain a little more tolerable.