This day is a rough one for me these days.
For seven years, it was one of my favorite days of the year, because it meant spending time with the most amazing people I ever had the good fortune to cross paths with, all my brothers and sisters in the great United States Marine Corps. All of whom I miss. A lot.
Then after I got out, there was always a pang of sadness, because you can never find a brotherhood like that again, and I miss it dearly.
This year, though, it marks one year since I lost the first love of my life. Robin passed away last year, after fighting breast cancer for 364 days. That was the lowest point of my life. Ever. I spent a couple months after that being functional enough to work and take care of my children, but spent every night drowning my hurt and trying to deaden myself enough to keep going. And putting off sleeping in an empty bed.
I was lost. I didn't know what to do, and I had lost my best friend, the person I confide everything in. I'd lost my other half.
In truth, I'd been preparing for it, even if I had been in denial for a long time, watching her slowly slip away.
That night, it was extremely difficult to come to terms with the relief I felt since she wasn't suffering anymore. Then I realized it was up to me to put it all back together again.
I didn't know where to start.
Months passed, and I dedicated my life to growing old and alone, and telling kids to stay off my lawn, maybe strapping a bunch of balloons to the top of the house... My life was open again. And by open, I mean lacking direction.
Then, on a whim, in between getting loaded and playing video games, I noticed a dear old friend was on Facebook, and I wondered what she'd been up to for the past 10 years. I figured she was married or at least in a relationship, but I wanted to see how she had been.
We spent the next few months trying to talk ourselves out of where things seemed to be headed. The timing was all wrong, we were on different sides of the country, neither of us wanted to get into a relationship. The timing was wrong.
And then we fell in love. Or were already there. It's hard to tell when you aren't looking. People had been telling me to start thinking about moving on. I didn't want to. Then I did.
It's hard to believe how far you can come in a year. How I can go from the spot where I wished I'd have a stroke and drop dead, or may have drank too much and accidentally taken too many pills, the only thing that kept me grounded was knowing that I had to be here for the kids. I was depressed, bitter and afraid of feeling.
Then I started getting better. Moving through. Then Tina and I reconnected, and I really think she saved my life. I was still afraid of falling in love again. That fear is oppressive. You are afraid to open your heart again, constantly worried that something will happen again and your heart will be completely destroyed this time. It's not a completely rational fear, really, but it can be overpowering.
So I let myself love again. I tried to move cautiously, but I couldn't. Tina deserved more than that. I was also afraid that I was just trying to fill a whole in my heart, to find a replacement for Robin. That was a big worry at first, mostly because everyone says it. I wasn't looking for a replacement. You can't replace people.
I was moving on.
Today, I'm pretty much an emotional mess. I miss Robin deeply. I hate that my children lost their mom. I miss my brothers and sisters in arms, and part of me wishes I never got out. I miss Tina, though there is a light at the end of the tunnel as she is moving out here soon. And I'm nervous, and slightly scared about the future.
We are putting two independent households together. Two separate lives touched by pain, but shining through together. Five incredibly headstrong and opinionated children...
But compared to where I was last year, I am hopeful. I am happy again, against all odds. I look forward to all my tomorrows again instead of dreading them.
And I found out I can still love deeply.