If only we did not have to grow up. Life as an adult SUCKS! I met and married Mr Potato Head. Jackie became involved with a few men, until she met Mr Super Nice Guy. Then her world changed.
Shortly after the words “I do” were spoken, things changed between Mr Potato Head. He was abusive, controlling and manipulative. I never saw it coming. At 19, I thought I knew everything. It is a Rite of Passage for all teenagers. The parents know nothing. They were never children. They have no clue what we go through.
Mr Potato Head is 10 years older than I am. He had 10 years to perfect his game. He was really good at it. Whatever physical stuff he dished out, I gave it back. The mind games, though, I was no match for. This man interfered in so many of my relationships – family or friends, it did not matter.
It did not take long for Jack to figure out something wasn’t right. She and I were never allowed to have just ‘girl time’ whenever Mr Potato Head and I came home on leave. (It was OK for him to do it when we went to New England to visit his family, though.) Jackie and I had to get creative with how we communicated. Every phone call, card, and letter was listened in on, recorded or read.
In June 1986, Jackie found out she was pregnant. She was so excited! Oh, the plans we made! Then in February 1987, we found out I was pregnant. By this time, she knew she was having a boy and what his name was going to be.
Unfortunately, between my commitments as a Marine and Mr Potato Head, I was not able to be home for her Baby Shower or the birth of her son. I was able to spend about three weeks with Jackie and her son right before I moved to Iwakuni, Japan. It was the best time! No stress. No worrying about everything we said or what we did. We both were happy and carefree.
My daughter was born in October 1987, in a Japanese hospital where I did not speak Japanese and they did not speak English. Talk about a unique experience for a first time mom! Thankfully, Mr Potato Head had already been through it twice before with his ex-wife. I will give him that he made an excellent birthing coach.
As I had told her way back when we first met, I held true to my word. I named my daughter after her. She was my daughter’s God Mother, even though she was a Jehovah’s Witness. She loved the fact I held true.
After our tour in Japan was up, we returned to the East Coast – New England. Mr Potato Head said it was so he could be closer to his older children. In reality, he just did not want to be stationed anywhere I may have known someone. By this time, I was pregnant with my oldest son. Jackie was in and out of a relationship with her son’s father . . . but mostly out. Communication between us became tricky again. As a fact, it was very difficult.
Then she met Mr Asshole. Mr Asshole turned out to be like Mr Potato Head. Communication was very difficult when it was just Mr Potato Head we had to contend with; Mr Asshole compounded it 1000 fold!
In 1992, I finally broke free of Mr Potato Head. Our two children lived with me. Mr Potato Head moved down toward where his childhood home was. I was able to come and go as I pleased! I was able to have phone calls and receive letters without fear of something being misinterpreted and, thereby, creating a living nightmare for me.
Unfortunately, the same could not be said for Jackie. Mr Asshole had her over a barrel and he knew it. He had money. She had none. He made sure she had nothing. Whatever she had before they got together was gone. It was so bad, she had to send her son to live with his father. Mr Asshole was incredibly jealous. Jackie’s son was not even allowed to sit on the couch next to her. He was five-years-old! Who in the hell is jealous of an innocent five-year-old?!
I remember in 1994 I came home on leave. I went to court to be Jackie’s moral support because Mr Asshole had literally ripped a chunk of her hair the size of a golf ball out of her head! It was so hard to NOT say a word to him. He could not stand me. I am an Alpha Female. Once I was free of Mr Potato Head and back to the real me, I no longer let men use me for punching bags – physical, verbal, mental or emotional.
I believe he may have found a letter I had sent or he had listened in on a phone call. I cannot be certain. Anyway, I was forever telling Jackie what I wanted to do to him (which is pretty much everything I wanted to do to Mr Potato Head). Suffice it to say, it was evil, vile and heinous – no less than he (or Mr Potato Head) deserved.
Eventually, she was able to leave. But by this time, they had a daughter together. She was able to cope as a single parent for a brief period. However, as anyone who has ever been in an abusive relationship knows, the abuser will worm his (or her) way back in. Mr Asshole told her she would not have to work because he would take care of her.
The years went on. Our communication grew sporadic. When I was Honorably Discharged and moved back home, I was hoping she and I would finally be able to get a place together where we could raise our children without living in constant fear. She and I discussed it off and on, but never followed through. He had his claws in her, hook, line and sinker.
In 1998, I remarried. She was my Maid of Honor. Jackie and I were ecstatic! We had missed out the first time I got married. Jack was waiting for Mr ‘Right’ to come along. She had always wanted a big, fancy wedding.
Within a year or so, our communication dwindled to hardly anything at all. And then, it became silence. She stopped returning my calls. There was absolutely no communication from her.
Fast forward to the mid-2000s. My daughter, Jackie and I, were shopping in Kohl’s one day. Jackie caught a glimpse of a woman and asked me if that was Aunt Jackie. Sure enough, it was. We stood there, in the Women’s Department, playing catch-up for a couple of hours. During the course of the conversation, I asked her what happened.
Her response? “You were pulling in me in one direction. Mr Asshole was pulling me in another. On top of that, I had Jackie saying something. I just could not take it.” I was shocked. I had not ever thought about it like that. It put things into a whole new light.
We started to keep in touch again. And then . . . nothing. No return phone calls. I had stopped being crushed by her withdrawal years before. Now, I was just saddened. We missed out on so many things in each other’s lives over those missing years.
One day out of the blue, I get a call. Jackie wanted to reconnect. She apologized for disappearing again. She told me she did not want me to be disappointed in her. I asked her what had happened. She said she had gotten ill. She had become addicted to pain medication. She began drinking. Jackie was worried I would not love her anymore if I knew those things.
Wait. What?! We had been friends since the First Grade. Time and time and time and time again I was there, waiting. Waiting to pick up where we left off. Never judging. Never wanting anything other than love and friendship in return.
So, again, we hashed everything out. We were finally back on track again. She was FINALLY done with Mr Asshole. Mr Numbnuts entered the picture for about four years or so. The last couple of years were men-free. She had come to terms with the fact she did not need a man to complete her. Her life was turning around.
We were talking every day for awhile. Then my schedule changed at work. The phone calls became fewer and fewer. We went to lunch or she would come over to the house occasionally. Life was all over the place for both of us.
Last year, everything changed. Jackie turned 50 on 5 February 2015. On the morning of Saturday, 14 February 2015, her heart stopped and she died. She was in the hospital for a different issue. At some point in between the bed check around 0500 and 0630, she had gotten out of bed to go to the bathroom. She was found lying on the floor next to her bed.
I received a text from a mutual childhood friend. I actually had only woken up a few minutes before receiving his phone call, so I did not see his text until I went to answer the phone.
“What do you mean she’s gone? She is in the hospital so they can figure out what is wrong with her.”
“Sweetheart, she died. She died around 0624 this morning.”
I was numb. How could she be gone? She is only 50! I asked what he knew. It wasn’t much. Both of her children, her stepmother and three of her sisters were all at the hospital. She was found on the floor. But that was about it.
She couldn’t be gone! Our last conversation was making plans for a sleepover. We were going to do our hair and nails, eat lots of junk food, and watch the movie “Beaches.” Jackie and I talked about how that movie is our friendship to a T. The one thing neither she nor I had ever contemplated was the ending. Never.
I told my husband. He sat and held me while I cried. He did the best he could to comfort me. He had never really seen me cry before. Almost 16 years of marriage and he had not been witness to me crying.
I went over to her parents’ house. I was not quite sure what kind of reception I would receive because we really had not had much communication over the years. I was greeted by her son. The only thing I could do was hold him tight and tell him I love him as we both cried. I had managed to get the tears somewhat under control . . . Until I saw her sister, Jeanne. We hugged tightly. Jeanne tells me through her tears, “Oh My Gosh! I feel like I am getting one last hug from my Jackie!” The family welcomed me with open arms.
Those initial days after her passing were rough. I tried to be there for the family as much as possible. If something needed to be done, they had but to ask. Jackie has a huge family with lots of extended family. Anything and everything was covered. The only thing left that I could do was offer comfort.
It has been a year. In that year, both of her children and one of her sisters got married. I was able to attend her son’s and her sister’s. My daughter got married. My youngest son is now a Marine. (My oldest son earned the title in 2011.)
Not a day goes by when I do not think of Jackie, her children or her family. I miss her. No matter how much time passed between one communication to the next, we would spend five minutes together and the time, distance, and everything else faded into nothingness. She was my person.
Rest in Peace, My Beautiful Best Friend for Life . . .
I love you more now than I did yesterday; and I will love you more tomorrow than I do today.