Monday, February 7, 2011

40DLD-22: Valentines and Broken Wings

For the longest time, I wanted to deny I had any feelings for any women except for my wife, even denying relationships (and unofficial relationships) that had taken place.  But I think a blog like this is the perfect place to let some of that out, since I may just get some feedback that I need.

I met Annie, along with her triplet sister Sarah (triplet brother Paul lived in Texas), a few months after I moved to Hammond in 2006.  It was a welcome back BBQ at The Mission, across the street from campus.  I started seeing Annie at various places around campus, and she was always a delight to sit and hang out with, and I had more time for that back then because I didn't have a part time job (I was going to school on student loans and the Montgomery G.I. Bill).

Before I had met Annie, she had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  This didn't get her down, though, as the cancer was in remission.  She still had the brightest smile and the warmest attitude I had ever seen.  She may have had physical side effects, but she refused to quit; she was a senior in Communication at SLU. 

Over Christmas break, she had a relapse, and the cancer came back.  She was rushed to the hospital.  I visited her once in ICU and could tell her brain wasn't working as it had before.  She was still all there, but had a very hard time finding the right words to say what she was thinking.  After she got out, I visited her at home, and it was more of the same.  I did consent to watching Gilmore Girls, which I never would have done if not for Annie, but all for the purpose of spending time with her.  When Valentine's Day came around, I got all of her friends to come visit on the day of and shower her with gifts, flowers, chocolate, etc. to ensure that if anybody was gonna feel loved that day, it would be Annie.

I already knew that she had once been a dancer, and taught dance lessons before the remission.  What I didn't know is what she had looked like before i met her.  She was gorgeous.  She's the type who would have been way out of my league.  I saw her occasionally from there on out, sometimes going to visit her at home, sometimes seeing her elsewhere (back at The Mission, or at the live performance of The Wizard of Oz that following summer).  Her family loved me and loved having me around.

That December, Annie passed away.  I was out of town, traveling to Georgia to pick up a free washer and dryer from my grandmother's old house, when I decided to check FaceBook on my phone.  I didn't have a data plan, so I wouldn't have needed to if I brought a computer along, but I checked it on Sunday morning as we were headed back.  I got a mass message from Kevin, the college pastor at The Mission, telling us that Annie was gone.  I guess that's good that I checked it, because Sarah called me later that night asking me to be a pallbearer.  Had that been the first I had heard of it, I don't know how I would have taken it.  It was one thing to be in the car with someone else while reading it on my phone, but it would have been completely different to be in the middle of a conversation and have a bomb dropped like that.

At the wake (and then the following day at the funeral), Annie's mom told me, "She always loved you."  I didn't know how to take that, so i didn't say anything.  Loved me loved me, or just loved me?  Agape or Eros?  I never pursued the question, so I never found out; but there had to be some reason her mother told me that.  And to be completely honest, I had feelings for Annie, too.  I knew she wasn't the woman I was supposed to marry, but that didn't stop the feelings.  I sent her mother a bouquet of purple roses that I had intended to send Annie back on Valentine's Day, but they were crazy expensive and wouldn't have gotten there on time anyhow.  For some strange reason, 1-800-Flowers left my name off of the card, so Sarah had to call and verify that it was I who sent them.  Her mother did write me a very sweet letter, telling me, "Thank you for the flowers...you'll always be Annie's Valentine."  I wrote a song for Annie a few months later, from her perspective and based on the ideas that a) she must be dancing in Heaven right now and b) I'm not really sad she's gone, I'm just jealous of where she is.  The song ended with the Irish folk song, "Oh Danny Boy," with the lyrics changed to "Oh Annie Girl."  I also changed the "I love you" to "we love you."  Eventually, I stopped playing this song, because I knew I had to move on from her.

Still, I couldn't shake what all I was thinking.  I felt like she had needed a boyfriend in her last months, and I was supposed to have been that boyfriend, and I had missed the boat.  I had coffee with Kevin one day, explained everything I was feeling, and he said something I'll never forget: "You were not supposed to be her Jesus.  Now, you, me, the church, the rest of her friends and family, we're all supposed to be Jesus to her together, but not you personally.  That's not your job, that's Jesus' job." 

I guess I was attracted to her because of the idea that she needed me.  I've seen other guys doing the same kind of thing, and quite often it leads to an abusive relationship.  In other cases, the neediness is cute at first, but eventually becomes overwhelming, as you can't shake the clinger.  It's a trap you've gotten yourself into, and there's nowhere else to go.  Now granted, if a relationship becomes dependence-based (i.e. one member of the couple gets severely injured and the other has to take care of them), then it must endure; however, the relationship should never be based on such unstable ground.

Annie wasn't my first broken wing, nor was she my last (more on that later), but through both deliberation and painful experience, I understand now why my wife must be strong and mature in and of herself before the relationship starts, and why I must already be at that point as well.  Otherwise, pain is going to come with an end to the relationship.

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