The Broken Road That Led Me Home

I will not date…or, if I do, hell would have to freeze over before I would ever remarry.  I couldn't see myself not married to Phil, and besides, wasn't it a widow badge of honor showing that we were a once in a lifetime love?  If I dated, wasn't it disloyal and besides, what man could ever understand the equal but different concept of loving.  Yep….I just couldn't see it and I certainly didn't want to believe that I could love or need someone in the same manner, but very different manner, than my Phil.  While I applauded the other widows that someone found love again, I just couldn't allow myself to be vulnerable enough to let someone in to the level of not being able to live without them…At least until Stan.

I have not been the easiest to love.  We met in the one place I said I would never meet anyone-online.  While I had signed up for the online site as a lark one night, I never did anything with the site.  I was afraid.  Afraid of psychos.  Afraid of the men who shopped for the next best thing.  Afraid of men looking for a sugar mama.  Afraid of –well, quite frankly, everything.  I was afraid enough that I ignored the messages that flooded my inbox for 6 months until I found out I was taking a job in MO.  I had never lived in MO and moving to a small town meant that I wanted some information.  I was more afraid of the job change and the location change than I was of any man because I was NOT going to date especially online.  While I didn't mind hanging out with men I considered a safe bet (as in never ever or remarriage never ever), I wasn't going to do anything except ask questions about this small town.l  I e-mailed the men and women in my age window about the local area.  How was I supposed to know that by sending an e-mail that essentially said that I was just looking for information, that they would get an e-mail that I was really into them?  Gads.  Had I but known.  I never would have sent or done anything.

When Stan e-mailed me back, I spent many, many e-mails telling him that I wasn't worth dating and that my story was too big.  I just wasn't interested in a pen pal or some icky man who serial dated (my thoughts).  I wasn't interested in inviting the psycho to my house in the middle of nowhere.  I wasn't interested –and that is all there was until a shared faith and friendship emerged in those e-mails.  Even when we met the first day I moved here, I looked at Stan as vanilla.  You know,  a really nice guy, but just not interested.  My sister in law convinced me that I needed friends (males included) in the local area and maybe we could pursue faith activities together.  She and my brother also called one day and convinced me to ask him to Branson for the day.  How did I know Branson was three hours away and that we would be in a car for more than 12 hours and that by the time those twelve hours were over, I would recognize that we made really good friends?

That level of comfort led to Stan coming over and helping me set up my house.  Those evening of unpacking and putting up curtains  developed into that kind of friendship that resets a person's batteries.  That kind of friendship led to me realizing that I could really hurt Stan if I wasn't careful.  It took Stan a long time to kiss me.  That was a good thing because when he finally did, I was finally waffling on the well, maybe he can be more than just a friend.  Maybe, just maybe, he was worth taking a chance on.

The fear lingered, though.  It was two steps forward, one step back.  I told myself that while we could be companions, there would never be a marriage.  When Stan proposed on Valentine's Day, my heart literally stood still.  I have never been more afraid or unsure, but in what probably felt like forever, I whispered a prayer and then I knew.  I knew that this is what God had promised.  Many of you know this because I have written about it before, but Stan and my story started before Phil died.

Phil's and my last face to face conversation was the what if conversation.  We had never had it before and Phil was deploying to somewhere he felt was safe and besides, Air Force Academy professors do not get shot working with other NATO troops advising.  As I tried to stop the conversation and then to deflect the conversation by making jokes about Raul the pool boy (I do not have a pool, nor do I know any Raul's), Phil stopped me with one simple question, "Linda, if you died first, would you want me to be happy again?"  Well?  Duh.  He told me that is what he wanted for me and that my heart was big enough to love another. I told him that he would have to push someone into my arms and make it abundantly clear.  Even when he was alive, I still remembered that conversation because it was our last one eye ball to eye ball, heart to heart before he got into the departing cab.

On 24 June 2011, I broke.  The military had sent me the autopsy report and pictures.  When the words didn't match what I had been told, I looked at the picture of Phil's bullet-ridden body.  I cannot begin to describe the images that still live in my nightmares, but I broke.  I crawled under the covers of my bed and I wept.  I cried out to God.  I did not have a death wish, but I asked why Phil and why not me.  Phil had so much more to live for.  He was liked and he was successful.  He had so much unfinished business.  As I wept as only those with no hope weep, I felt a jolt like an electric shock.  As I felt the jolt, I saw myself standing before a minister with another man.  It wasn't Phil.  I could see the love and feel the joy that was shared between me and the unknown man.  I could not see his face.  I just knew.  I immediately denied what I was seeing and wept more.  It  happened again–stronger this time.  It terrified me.  I leapt out of bed and tripped in the blankets.  As I lay on the floor weeping, I looked up.  Through my window, I saw the first complete double rainbow I had ever seen.  God was giving me a modern day miracle and a promise that one day, some day.  I dried my eyes and thought God has his work cut out for him.

On Valentine's Day, in that whispered prayer of my soul, that visual flashed again and I just knew that Stan was the promise many, many years ago.  Over the course of the next few weeks, I am going to write about facing my fears.  It isn't easy.  It takes courage.  My courage often falters, but I never doubt that I am better with Stan that without Stan.  I am thankful for the gift of love even as I often want to run afraid.  I won't because I know that by running, I would be less of a person and that my life would be emptier.

Comments

  1. Theresa Andres says:

    Oh linda. Thank you for sharing. I do remember your first time sharing about your last face to face conversations with Phil. I have followed you since CM and I am blessed that we continued our friendship outside of there. I am very happy for you and I know Phil is probably finally smiling and thanking God for bringing Stan into your life.

    I wish you could know how much your courage, love and friendship means not only to me but to hundreds, if not thousands of people. Love you my dear friend.

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