In my youngest years, there was no safety. I was a foster child living in an alcoholic home with a borderline, often suicidal mother.

My very first relationships with boys were abusive. It went on a long time.

My abusive relationships ended when I was 30. I met and dated guys who were nice and respectful but none of them were it. I was unsure of them all, and with my history they were all convinced it was me. I was too. The nervousness, the convinced they would leave. And guess what? They did. It was me. I was sure.

So, I built my own safety…depending on me. I built it for my kids. I built it out of necessity. I never thought it was something I would ever feel from someone else. That ship had sailed…or never been built.

I looked for my brother whom I remembered growing up. I had dreamed of him during abused times. I thought he would have protected me. After an abusive episode I didn’t cry because I had been abused, I cried because my brother wasn’t there.

I thought of him so very much that I honestly felt as if I knew him. As a teenager I walked around New York City, the Bronx and Manhattan, looking for him. I peered into the faces of strangers. I was convinced I would know him if I saw him. I was convinced he was my other half, lost somewhere in the world.

Growing up I had no blood relatives and my adoptive relatives hated me. The memories of my mother was that she was cold, distant. My brother was the only other blood relative I had ever known…and I built a little place in my head and my heart for him.

When I found my birth family, my brother was dead. My brother had died without knowing me. The person I carried around in my heart for 30 years. How was that possible? I had two other brothers and when I met them I grieved for what we never had.

My adoptive cousins had scorned me as not one of theirs. I never felt comfortable but when I met my very many blood cousins, I felt comfortble.

When I met them, laughed and laughed all day. But the first few times I went to my aunt’s house in New Jersey and met all my family, I would go to sleep at night and sob convulsively. Sob for what I never had.

What I had missed. The growing up memories. The place where I should have been. Thinking of my brothers. Growing up without the sister they should have had. The brothers I should have had. Our shared grief over our missing brother. We all loved him so.

But I was determined to restore my place in the family. Where I should have been. I forged relationships with my brothers and cousins.

The remainder of my adoptive family faded away. I never belonged there.

It had taken me a long time to find my mother, and I was always nervous that she would reject me straight away and it would kill me.

I found her and we shared a relationship that I thought was nice for a few years. I’m a lot like her. We visited. We talked. And then one day she pulled away. No reason and no explanation. It was over.

I always said that if she rejected me a second time, it would kill me. It caused a rift or a discomfort between my brothers and I. I didn’t get to go to my aunt’s house anymore. I didn’t get to laugh with my cousins.

I didn’t belong anywhere again.

I think the blow was softened because I had met Michael. He wasn’t a replacement for my brother, my mother, the growing up I didn’t have…the way I could just be bounced out of one family and then the other…arbitrarily.

My adoptive family had no problem rejecting me….I wasn’t really one of theirs.

My birth family had no problem rejecting me…we had given you away and no one asked you back. Well no one ever asked me if I wanted to be given away. Because I didn’t.

And of course my mother, as if she hadn’t made my life hard enough all my life, simply didn’t care that once again I was stripped of my entire family. And that it hurt me again.

Michael and the kids became my family. The only family I’d ever known. The only love I’d ever known…that didn’t just up and leave because, well…you know [insert no f’ing reason here].

In 12 years I never once felt abandoned by Michael. I never felt unsure. He was the most dependable person on the planet. He arrived 45 minutes early when picking me up. He was always where he said he would be. he called me several times a day.

I could always go out in the world knowing he was there. When we couldn’t sell the house in Texas, we had a long distance marriage for 2 years. People said it would never work. People didn’t know us. We talked every day. We flew back and forth. He had his fishing in Texas. I had my Manhattan. We had each other. No one ever understood the absolute safety and closeness we felt even then. A friend said to me, “So what’s the story with you two? Are you separated?” The thought horrified me. He didn’t get it.

I bought a house in the country with a stream in the back. He offered to move to the city. Gift of the Magi.

He fished in Central Park when I lived there and he spent the summer. The image of Michael walking up 96th street with fishing poles in hand still cracks me up. He assured me that if he moved there, he’d get used to it. It’s something I would never ever ask of him.

I was a social person whereas Michael liked home and fishing. I went out with my friends…I traveled…I spent alone time.

I never doubted, not once, that he was there even when he was far away. Until I met Michael I always slept with a night light. I don’t know why. I had night terrors as a kid…when I was in foster care, status in limbo….they returned now and again as an adult and I slept with a night light.

Once I realized he was there, always, the night light went away. Even if we were apart. I knew I could call him any time of the night and he would be there for me. Never ever ever impatient that I woke him or I didn’t know what was wrong.

He would always listen and always care. It amazed me the first time he did it and, knowing he was there, I started to sleep like a rock. Nightlight gone. Night terrors gone. Safety..check.

No matter where I went or what I did, the safety of knowing someone was there was something I’d never known.

Maybe it’s a comfort children are supposed to feel from their parents…or from your siblings…or from a rather large family you can wrap around you when times are tough. But it’s not something I got from any of those places.

Not safety as in I can’t take care of myself because I certainly can. And I can take on just about anyone.

It’s more of an inner comfort that someone is there for you. Really there for you.

I only had that with Michael. A person who would love you that you could depend on. Before I met him, I never thought it existed.
….

A week after Michael died I had a very sophisticated alarm system installed. I probably don’t need it and it didn’t really make me feel better.

The safety I yearn for cannot be bought and installed.

The wind is blowing through a big, gaping hole in my soul. And it threatens to blow me away. I reach back for a tether of some kind and it’s not there.

Michael was the only person in my life to promise to never leave. he’s the only one I ever believed.

….

Now what?

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