I was thirteen years old when a blue-eyed boy with golden curls stole from me what should have been mine to give. He was nineteen years old.
There wasn’t any remorse. In fact, he tried again. But that time, I saw him coming. I fought, and he wasn’t able to hurt me a second time. I didn’t tell anyone what happened, not a soul, for a very long time. When I did tell, I didn’t find relief. And I didn’t talk about it again for many, many years. It is a scar that is deep, and it is ugly. It will always be a part of me.
#MeToo is important. The abuse of power needs to stop. But #MeToo is a double-edged sword. Every time I see those words, I physically recoil. A gut punch. I am a member of a sisterhood that I don’t want to be a part of. I wish the sisterhood didn’t exist. What I appreciate about the message, though, is that it is growing. It’s loud. Insistent. It’s not hidden behind fear. Perhaps the next person in power will understand that he could lose that power, lose everything, if it is leveraged to manipulate.
I Googled the blue-eyed boy a few years ago. He died in a motor vehicle accident on February 4, 1996. I’m not proud to say I felt no sorrow. He was a bad guy. More anger than I wanted to hold on to had accumulated over the years. “He got what was coming to him”, I thought. “He won’t hurt anyone again.” I’m not proud of that response, either. The innocent girl I was would have possessed more compassion. But the innocence? He took that from me, too.
January 15, 2017: My son was thirteen when Bullseye found him on the porch. It was a cold, fall day, and Justin had locked himself out of the house. Skinny and skittish, Bullseye sidled up to my boy, as he sat waiting for me to come home. “We’ll get him fed,” I said, “but he’s not our cat.” As the days got colder, I softened. “We’ll let him come in from the cold,” I said, “but he’s not our cat.” Then, “We’ll take him to the vet. Get him checked out. Give him his shots.” And softly, “But, he’s not our cat.” Finally, “This is Bullseye. He is our cat.”
Bullseye never really warmed up to anyone but my son. He would stiff-arm anyone that tried to hold him. He’d brush up against you, and then quickly dart away. But Justin could hug him and kiss the top of his head. He could scratch his ears and stroke his soft fur. He never left his side.
There were many years in between then and now, when Justin was not entirely lovable. As his mom, I loved him fiercely, while Bullseye loved him gently. At the times where he needed that the most.
Bullseye died yesterday, nestled in the crook of his boy’s arm. I stood holding Justin, his body quaking with grief, and the years melted away. So many memories! Bullseye stood sentinel over Justin through twenty years of angst and laughter, hardship and growth. When Justin was in a car accident at nineteen, he was bed-bound for six months. But he was not alone. He was never alone.
Justin spent a great deal of time over the last year nursing his old partner. He loved him well. But it was time to go, and it was a peaceful journey over that rainbow bridge. Farewell, dear Bullseye. Thanks for looking after my boy.
April 27, 2016: Someone I “used to know” passed away on Monday. I found out about it today. She was 61 … hit by a car while crossing the street, and cared for by the same hospital that saved my son’s life. A 19-year old driver. So foolish and careless, we are at 19. I keep thinking … what do you do with your time if you know you have 61 years? 48? 89? Who do you spend your time with? How do you spend your days? What did I say to Maria the last time I saw her? Would it have been different if I knew it was for the last time? I feel inordinately sad. Rest well, Dancing Heart. Rest well.
November 13, 2015: You never know when a good, hearty belly laugh with a friend will be the last one you will share. I said goodbye to a dear friend today. Ardelle was my probation officer. I rather enjoy saying that.
She had been in my life for as long as I can remember. She knew me as a joyful six-year old. She knew me as an angry, rebellious teenager. As an adult, she knew me as a friend.
Ardelle meant different things to me at different stages of my life. The most pivotal was likely the wise advocate and advisor to this chronic runaway. Last week, I was sharing stories with my sister, who also spent a bit of time in the Denney Youth Center. I told her that Ardelle was an adult I respected, at a time when I respected no other. My sister said it better. She said, “Ardelle respected US, when we really didn’t have it coming.” Amy was right … that undeserved, unwavering respect can change a person. After a time, you begin to believe it. You start to wish for better things from your life. The days unwind, the chrysalis opens, and eventually, if you’re lucky, you become the butterfly she saw in you all along.
I’m so glad I grew to be friends with Ardelle. We called ourselves the Beach Bums. The group of us would road trip it to the Oregon Coast. We’d walk on the beach, looking for sea glass and agates. We’d eat squirt cheese from a can. She’d challenge us to a balance-a-spoon on your nose competition at a Lincoln City beachside diner. We’d laugh. Laugh. Laugh. The kind of loud, raucous laughter that makes your belly hurt.
Ardelle was one of a kind. There won’t be another. Her presence was a glorious gift. But she isn’t really gone. She is a part of me, like she is a part of everyone she touched. Farewell, dear friend. Until we meet again …
December 17, 2014: There are those old friends that remain in your heart long after you have them in your day-to-day life. My best friend in high school lost her son when he was just eighteen years old. Not too long after, my own son was in a near-fatal accident. I spent a month in Harborview’s ICU, then another six months nursing him as his body slowly healed. It was my own cowardice that kept me from staying in touch with my friend over the years. The dichotomy of one son lost and one son broken absolutely took my breath away. Her 50th birthday … late notice, and I had previous plans. I talked to her mom once, and she said the family would love to see me … catch up … laugh. “Let’s get that scheduled”, I said. More time passed, and then it was too late. Her mom was gone. I wouldn’t ever get the chance to see those bright eyes or hear that distinctive voice. She was a beautiful, loving, patient mother.
Facebook gave me the gift of reconnecting with my friend’s brother and sister. I came to understand her brother’s passion for hockey and his unwavering adoration of his children. And her sister … lover of animals, especially Pit Bulls. Funny … loving – countless friends who spoke of her with such intense fondness. She went in to the hospital a couple of days ago, and she had been on my mind. “She’ll be better soon”, I thought. “I’ll see if I can get in touch with her when she’s out”. She brought so much joy through her obvious love of life. But she passed away last night. Again, I won’t get the opportunity to “get around” to calling. My regrets in life are few, but today I have one more. My heart is broken. Rest well, beautiful girl …