Love, once had, is hard to forget.

Today is Black Friday, and it’s the day before my son comes home from Delaware. I’m looking forward to having him back and yes, to sending his cat home. The overwhelming stress of keeping cats apart who don’t like each other, of dealing with multiple litter boxes, and of sleeping too infrequently at night have been a lot. But I also missed him so much yesterday. I had planned on baking, but because of my mood and because of the grocery delivery getting my order wrong (I hate crowds), I didn’t have everything I needed. I could have baked cookies or brownies, but that wasn’t what I wanted to bake. Instead, I watched the dog show and I watched football. I talked to my older sister.

She told me she saw a shirt that made her think about me. It said, “I like to bake and watch football,” or something to that effect. Yep. That’s me. Although I don’t consider myself to be an award-worthy baker, I do enjoy it. Mostly I enjoy the look on someone’s face when they eat what I have made.

I’m fighting the blues a little. I have not been deeply sad or depressed since I had cancer. I have often wondered if the strong chemicals they pumped into my body reset something in my brain. I have a history of clinical depression, but these days, my little tricks to pull out of it seem to work – keeping busy, reading, writing, baking. But since moving to NC, I seem to be spending far too much time in front of the television, and that can wreak havoc with my brain. I start to think about things that are just too much to think about. Like, Do we all only get one great love?

Those holiday movies would make it seem so. I’ve had a few loves in my life, but I don’t know what qualifies as the one great love.

My ex-husband wanted to go out with me the moment he met me, though I spent a solid year discouraging his interest. Eventually he wore me down, I fell in love, and, as he told me the day he met me, “We’re gonna get married and have a couple of kids.” That was NOT part of my life plan, but that’s exactly what happened. And such great kids. Even with all of her issues, I wouldn’t take back being Stephanie’s mom for anything. Sean, of course, is my total buddy. We have (mostly) always gotten along. I made a lot of mistakes in my marriage, but my ex did, too. I think he eventually fell out of love with me and was always looking for a way out. The first time I knew this was in 1997, when he said he didn’t want to move to Maryland with me. He had fallen for a military wife he was in a college class with. I was floored. Stunned. I had not seen it coming. But I couldn’t be too mad at him, because I was far from perfect. Eventually, we worked it out, and we were together for twelve more years. But I don’t know that I was his great love. I certainly have very fond memories of our time together, but I don’t think that he does, and that makes me sad.

After our marriage ended, I wound up with the most controlling, deceitful person I’ve ever known. She’s so used to lying that she even lies to herself. But I loved her. She just didn’t know how to love me. To her, love was possession. That’s not love. I’m lucky I got out. The minute the fights turned physical, I was gone.

And then my ex-wife. One thing I can say for us is that we tried so hard, but we were too different. The things we have in common, we still have as friends. But our views of marriage – of everything – couldn’t have been farther apart. I had never had the experience of being in a relationship in which external people (friends) had so much sway and had such heavy opinions. It was a slow, rolling disaster that ended with us almost hating each other. I’m sure I said, “I hate you,” a couple of times. I’ve apologized for my part in that disaster, and I’m glad we salvaged the friendship.

I think part of the reason I am single is because I know I don’t choose well. I rush in (fool that I am) and ruin it. Though I took my time with my ex-husband, and we knew and cared about each other deeply, I can’t help feeling that he thinks the whole marriage was a waste, now that he has this other wife. I’d love to have one of those Hallmark marriages to someone that cared about me at least as much as I cared about them. I think that’s the theme my past loves have going. I was always with someone in an uneven relationship. Yes, every relationship has its ups and downs, but that’s not what I mean. I mean that I felt frequently abandoned and frozen out. I felt that I wasn’t enough. Never, ever enough. It’s hard to trust again when that is your experience. I would rather be single than to be in the middle of a relationship where I felt I wasn’t enough, ever again.

Before you go and tell me that life isn’t like the movies, let me say, I know that! I also know what it takes to keep a marriage going through horrible in-laws, military deployments (constant), sick children, poverty, good times and bad. I know the reality. I know the trade-offs. And I miss it. I miss having someone next to me at the end of the day who cares what kind of day I had. I miss being there for another person and seeing their face when they enjoy a delicious meal I cooked or a pie I baked. I miss holding someone’s hand. I miss driving around looking at Christmas lights or planning an adventure. I have far too much time on my hands lately, and it isn’t good. The book I was working on has stalled. I don’t have the fire in me at the moment, and unfortunately, I’m an undisciplined writer who has to feel that fire.

I’d love to have someone take my hand and tell me I have pretty eyes. I’d love to brush the hair out of my lover’s eyes and ask what they’re thinking and have them really share their innermost thoughts.

The holidays are tough for me every year, especially since Stephanie died. And with the disarray that is still my house, I don’t know if I’ll be putting up decorations. I’d like to, but I don’t know if I am ready to deal with all of this … stuff.

Anyway. It’s Black Friday. If you’re out there in the crowds shopping, I hope you’re being sensible and not overdoing it. I hope you are wearing a mask. I hope you stay well. I hope you get everything you want this year and then some. I hope you have or find love. Maybe someday love will find me. I’m open.

Happy holidays, Jude

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