I burned the tacos tonight.
I didn’t mean to, really who ever means to ruin dinner.
He would ask me if there was more food and I would surely reply that yes there was.
“Then what’s the big fucking deal, you’re human”
We had this interaction a million times, never about tacos but about all of life. The day I walked into his office I was at my wits end, lost beyond belief, overwhelmed to my core. “You pick the counselor or get a goddamn lawyer” I screamed at my husband. I was 28 weeks pregnant with my second child, I had a 12 month old at home and for the second time in as many weeks he had pulled an all night party situation, no communication, just off the grid. Me sitting in our dinning room until the sun came up, rubbing my stomach staring out the window, alternating between tears and fury. Absolutely unable to grasp how I had come to be there.
He picked a counselor and we went and when we were walking in I was unprepared for all the ways my life would change over the next five years let alone the next 45 minutes.
His office was in a little house, converted. There was a couch, his chair, tables, lamps and him: a short, solid, gray haired hippie, barefoot and with the warmest eyes I had ever seen. I mostly listened that night, tears sliding silently down my cheeks as I heard all of the ways I wasn’t living up to being a wife, how I was stifling my husband and wasn’t any fun. Al stopped him there and said with all due respect, Jenn is clearly fun.
Through the tears, and shame and fear and doubt he saw me. Who I was, who I could be, who I wanted to be, he saw the good, the scared, ugly, joyous. He celebrated next to me and picked me up when I couldn’t. There would be no bridge shopping on his watch. He saw me weekly for years, through the birth of claire and the fog that enveloped me, through major surgeries and the end of my marriage. As long as I promised to show up he would be there… I never received a bill
I can say with 100% certainty that he loved me unconditionally. Wholehearted. He and I are a rare breed, arms so open, minds so understanding, hearts so full of joy and love. Giving all of our space to others and often forgetting to reserve anything for us. It wasn’t all shits and giggles but man could we laugh, foul jokes and silly limericks.
The message came in today, “happy belated birthday… on a more upsetting note Al has taken a very bad turn”
The words slammed into me. I knew this could happen. I didn’t want to believe it. The last time we saw each other he didn’t want to burden me, always giving the most space, “you’ve been through this too many times” he said. We talked, we said our things. On a level I knew this would be the last time.
He has given me every tool he had, every hug I needed, every word I needed know. I’m a better woman because of him. I’m a better mother and someday I will be a better partner because of his patience and refusal to give up until I knew I was worthy.
My thoughts are with Jan, his amazing wife and partner in crime. The way his eyes would light up when he talked about her… His kids who he adored and his beautiful granddaughters.
I’m writing this because he would have told me to, if it’s too big to hold in then let it out any way you can.
“There is always a door, Jennifer.”
I love you, Al.