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homage to an ex


I am a sucker for a good romantic story and I have started many a questionable relationship just because the storyline was hot.  The most solid example of this is the case of my first husband, the only difference is that he wasn't questionable.  He was pretty great.

In 1989 I was a wild child, free-spirited, rockabilly art student, living in San Francisco with a couple of more conservative "normal"  young women.  One of the women had a friend from college who was an officer in the Marine Corps and we were all invited down to Twenty Nine Palms to visit him and his friend on base.  I thought it would be kitsch to go; it appealed to my sense of the ironic.  Little did I know I would fall in love.  With the desert.  A searing 104 degrees melted all my tensions and aggressions and the two Marines turned out to be super cool.  We shared a similar love of Elvis,  classic old movies starring Humphrey Bogart, and cheap whiskey.  They both had romantic sensibilities which may be why they signed up for the military in the first place.  Michael was the quiet Marine, Jason the outgoing one, and I immediately developed a thing for the outgoing one.

Several months later, on a third visit to us girls in SF, I realized the quiet one was the real gem.  Michael was tall and slim with a sweet almost secretive smile.  We gravitated towards each other but nothing was said or done about our feelings.  Then came Desert Shield and the guys were shipped off to Saudi Arabia.  I took the news in stride and immediately got the overseas address to mail letters to Michael.  It didn't quite feel real until the war started but when Desert Shield turned into Desert Storm I finally got scared.  He was putting his life on the line, in enemy territory, and was probably very homesick as well.  I sent him all kinds of care packages and wrote a couple letters a week.  He wrote back although more sporadically.  I was the yin to his yang and we wrote about our hopes and dreams and got to know each other on a deeper level than perhaps we would have if we dated in person.  I would watch the war footage on the news every day and live in a constant state of anxiety until his next letter arrived.

When the war was over and he returned unscathed we began an instant and intense love affair.  I was living in Los Angeles at the time, a two hour drive from the Twenty Nine Palms Marine Force base so we commuted for a while.  Then Michael resigned his commission and moved out to LA.  We got an apartment together and he began to apply to various police and sheriffs departments and even the Secret Service.  He had some very intense interviews!  I was working as a film editor on indie movies; still following my rockabilly heart and thinking our differences were really cool.  We were both total romantics and because we had no money he proposed to me (on Christmas day) with a Romeo & Juliette cigar band as a ring.  It was like something out of a movie.

Then suddenly Michael switched gears and decided to go back to school to become a high school history teacher.  Our intertwined lives took on an even more conservative nature.  Just as he was tired of war, I was tired of my wild ways, tired of getting myself in trouble, and tired of trying to fill the void.  I latched on to him and his family with a vengeance.  His straight-laced but very kind Catholic family took me in as one of their own, giving me their love and support unconditionally.  This was a very powerful thing for me because at the time my parents were going through an extremely ugly divorce with me caught in the middle of it.  As the rug of my life was pulled out from under me I craved stability and was able to get that comfort from his family.  In fact they and a handful of our best friends were the only ones to attend our wedding.  My parents were fighting so bitterly that I told them they couldn't come if they couldn't behave themselves.  I pleaded with them not to ruin my special day and they decided that they better not come to the wedding because they might not be able to contain themselves.  Pretty sad, but his family had my back.  And he of course was my knight in shining armor.

After we were together for 2 years Micheal and I moved to Palm Springs where he had gotten a teaching job.  The tales he would come home with at the end of the day inspired me and I became a teacher at his school too (read about my escapades here).  This was something I would have never in a million years expected of myself but I had become a different person with him.  At the same time though a rift started between us.

When we first got together neither one of us wanted to have children but once I started working with kids I developed a very strong desire to have some of my own.  I was 30 and my hormones had kicked in!  Normally Michael was very easy going and would do pretty much anything I asked of him  but this was not a late night run to the store to get me some ice cream.  This issue he would not budge on.  He very definitely did not want children.  At the same time my drinking, which I had been trying to control for his sake, became wildly out of control.  Thinking it would solve our problems I moved us to Massachusetts following a life long dream of mine.  But it didn't work.  It didn't fix us.  There was no compromise between having kids and not having kids, so in the chaos of my drunken lifestyle I broke up with him.  It was painful it was sad and it was scary.  Right after that I hit my alcoholic bottom and went to AA to get sober  (read about my journey here), but even sobriety was not enough to repair the damage done.  Ironically Michael ended up marrying a woman who had three children and that was a tough one for me to get over.  Obviously it wasn't that he didn't want to have children, he just didn't want to have them with me.  Maybe because I drank too much?  Maybe because of my bouts of depression?  I will never know.

Michael is a terrific guy, handsome with loads of integrity, in fact he's the best I ever had (and I have had many other tries including another marriage).  He remained in the Marine Corps Reserves and went to Afghanistan a couple times and eventually became the principal of a high school.  I know this because I Google him every once in a while; we don't stay in touch.  Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I had stayed with him.  We were very companionable. We had fun.  We traveled.  But maybe it would have been a more conservative life than would have suited me.  Still, you gotta admit we were off to a very romantic, passionate start.  Our story was the stuff of fantasies, we just couldn't sustain it.  And a lot of the time, for me, the stories are not the real truth.  At age 53 I am almost as confused about relationships as I was in my twenties but I do know now to let things develop slowly, and not to jump the gun.  I need to make sure it is not just me being in love with love. One of the pitfalls of the hopeless romantic....


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