In January 2001 I entered the US for the third time. I had visited twice previously, to meet an American girl I had been talking to online whilst continuing my studies at university. Things had gone well – very well in fact – and we both wanted to see whether this relationship had legs to go anywhere.
After graduating, I packed my bags and headed over here to see what the future had in stock. As time went on I fell deeper in love with her than I thought possible, and children and marriage followed, in the fullness of time. She was an amazing person, who taught me more about life than my nascent experiences had up to that point.
Cancer took her from me when she was barely 30.
I hit the wall (more than once).
I begged and pleaded with the universe and/or God to bring her back.
None of these things were particularly effective (well, crying helped a little I guess). She was still gone, the world kept on spinning, and I was still the father of two young children that I now had to be both mother and father to.
In a couple of months it will be five years. Five years. It doesn’t seem real. Or should I say, it seems both real and unreal. Some days it feels like it happened a few days ago, others it feels like it’s ancient history from decades past. And then there’s most days, in which it’s just there. I don’t poke it, although sometimes it pokes me. Occasionally something on TV will make me think of her, or I’ll catch a snippet of a song on the radio and remember that she liked it. I’ll smile for a few seconds, before the guilt kicks in and takes the smile away, with interest.
And this is my life now: In a strange country (after 14 years it’s still strange, if not stranger than it’s ever been) by myself, with two children in tow, trying to pick up the pieces and move on.
It’s such an innocuous phrase, right? Don’t get me wrong it’s good advice, but it’s almost like an iceberg: much of it is contained beneath the surface. My “move on” was understanding that I had two people who were now completely reliant on me. My “move on” was trying to push down the suicidal thoughts that swam through my mind endlessly in those first few weeks and months. My “move on” was figuring out that if didn’t take serious steps towards a healthier lifestyle then I was probably going to drop dead of a heart attack inside a decade, and maybe sooner if I was really good at it.
All that from such a small phrase.
And so five years later, here we are. I’ve lost about 160 lbs, so there’s that. And I’ve resisted the urge to jump off a tall building, so there’s that, too. Single parenting though? Well I could be better at that, but given that neither of them is in jail or doing drugs then I’m going to chalk that up as a win.
Let’s see what happens tomorrow.