Friday, June 5, 2020

My First Love Story

This deep gut-wrenching grief is very new to me.  I've had lots of people leave my life.  A couple have been my age, classmates or camp peeps.  But it wasn't anyone that I had really connected with and spent day in and day out with.  So... feeling this soul crushing grief kind of has me in a very new place.  I have had grandparents, uncles, and older friends pass away.  But most of the time that was expected.  So… here I sit in this grief.  Wondering if I will ever stop just randomly busting out in tears.  Will the sorrow ever cease?  Will the guilt that I couldn't do anything ever go away?  Deep inside of me I know it will.... but I am struggling.  In some ways I am really glad that I am dogsitting right now, and have the house to myself.  I have been able to scream, cry, and just be in my grief.  So... part of what I know will help me heal is to write our story... it's not a fairy tale... but it's mine, well ours...

When I was in college I was never ever the girl that said she wanted to get married and have kids right away.  In fact I actually had a ten year plan.  I would graduate from college, get a job, get my masters, then get married.  That's just how I expected it to go.  So the early parts of my life although I developed crushes, and thought a couple times that I had found "the one."  It was never meant to be, and I graduated with my Bachelors and headed off to Cairo, Egypt.  During my time teaching overseas I didn't really have any prospects, and for the most part I was okay with that.  There were a few men that I think if it had been a different time, or if we each had been in a different place in our lives, it could have worked... but it wasn't meant to be.

I will admit that there was a part of me even though I felt content to be alone, I really wanted to not be.  I wanted someone amazing to come into my life and make it better.  I was in Thailand for 3 years.  It wasn't without its' own set of drama and misunderstandings but that is not the part of the story I want to share at this time.  I left Thailand wanting and needing to find a boyfriend.  Perhaps if I hadn't been so desperate, I wouldn't have chosen the first guy that showed me interest and pursued me... but if I hadn't there would be a different story written down on this page.

The first time I met Paul I had just been back in the states for a few weeks.  A friend of a friend had introduced me to someone, and she had a friend that she wanted to hang out with.  So after going to the fair one evening, we went over to Paul's apartment, and drank.  I hadn't drank at all while I was in Thailand, so to say I was a light weight would be an understatement.  We hung out, I drank more then I should have, and needed to sleep it off before attempting to drive.  So... I fell asleep on his couch.  Upon waking up in the morning, I found Paul sleeping on the floor with just a blanket covering him, in the living room just opposite of where I slept.  Upon inquiring of why, he said he just wanted to make sure that I was okay.  Now if I could go back in time that's the moment that I understood that at the heart of who he was, there was kindness.

Over the course of a couple of weeks, we hung out, went out to eat.  Our mutual friend was not a huge fan of us hanging out so much.  I was also interested in someone else at the time, but they seemed to be busy with their kids and co-parenting with the ex.  So... Paul pursued me.  I tested him, we had tons of communication issues, but we started dating.

I know that I am not an easy person to date.  I don't trust easily, and I doubt that my boyfriend actually likes me.  I'm not sure why that is a thing with me, but it is.

Paul had quite a hard life.  His Dad wasn't around much at all, his parents had divorced pretty early, and then eventually his Dad ended up passing away.  His Mom got cancer while he was in college, and passed away when he was in his early 20's.  One time he told me a story about after his mom passed away.  He wasn't paying any of the bills.  He was just sitting in his house and eventually everything was shut off.  His aunt eventually came over and told him he would have to live with her.

One time we were able to drive by where his old house was.  It is no longer there.  Sometimes I think about the childhood and early adulthood that he experienced and I know that it created something in him that eventually would lead to his destruction.

Paul inherited some money and was able to go back to school and finish college.  That is when I met him.  He was finishing up his Bachelors degree in Biology.  He  worked so hard to get that degree.  But then something in him got blocked.  He couldn't handle moving past the college part, and getting a job.  I am not going to sit here and analyze this.  Because honestly I don't know why.  I don't know what was stopping him, but he just couldn't do it.  So, he lived off his inheritance. Paul and I were off and on a lot.  For both of us, it was our first and really only serious relationship.  The first time we dated, we had a good time.  But he didn't believe in anything, and that was hard for a girl who has had deep faith for her whole life.

I love helping people, and looking back now, it seems like I fall for the ones that I can help.  That was very much the case in this situation.  I wanted so bad to be the one that helped him find his drive.  I wanted him to graduate and then get his life together, get a job, and honestly...  marry me.  If I am honest that is what I wanted.  I don't know that I would have ever admitted it at the time... but it truly is what I would want.  The first time we dated, it did not end horribly, but I think I just knew that he wasn't ready to do what he needed to do in order for it to work.  But the door was never closed completely.

I'm so thankful for that first round of us dating.  I got to experience so many things, and although Paul had only been outside of the country once, and never really left Missouri much other than that.  He was always up for adventures.  It was also nice that he could afford the adventures.  So, we were able to go visit LA and stay at the Beverly Hilton Hotel...  which houses one of the famous award shows.  It was probably one of my favorite trips.  We were able to see so many things, and I know that for Paul it was a dream come true.  We also took another trip to San Diego.  He treated me well.  We were compatible in all the ways that two people should be, yet I couldn't help him do something with his life.  He came to visit me when I was nannying in Colorado.  It was adventure after adventure.  He made me feel beautiful every single day.

We broke up, and it wasn't the greatest of break ups, but we remained friends.  I left for Kuwait/The Philippines.  We spent the year that I was away talking or communicating almost daily.  I still wasn't a huge fan of him just spending his time at the bars, but I honestly loved him, and loved that he loved me.  He loved me in a way that I had never been loved before or since. He loved me with this love that was endearing.  Sometimes it was too clingy, and he was too emotional.  But looking back now I feel thankful to know that kind of love.

When I came back from The Philippines we started dating again.  This time it was more of figuring out what life would be like day in and day out.  Most of you may not even know this part of it, but we were living together for a time.  Yes, judge me  all you want.  I lived with someone that I wasn't married to.  He got us season tickets to MU football games.  And we continued our tradition of going to the Heidelberg before each game, until my Dad and Step-mom started tailgating.  It was good.  It wasn't perfect, but it was good.

Paul had things he was fighting.  I won't go into everything that I think it was, but I will say that there were things that I just couldn't help him with.  He coped with life by drinking.  He felt worthy by the amount of people that liked things he posted, and he kept in touch with.  He never felt good enough.  The thing is that even when we love someone the best we can, we can't fight their battles for them.

Paul and I broke up after an incident that involved him not getting a job, and then drinking himself into a place that I had never seen him before.  It caused a rift in our relationship, and led to a time when we no longer talked for awhile.  But there's something about that first love, and the draw...  it is like a magnet.  Paul and I would never consider seriously dating again.  We weren't compatible as the person that he was in that time.  But I was there as his friend.  When he ran out of money and could no longer pay rent, I went over to his apartment and helped him call his aunts, so that they could move him to their house in St Louis.  When he was feeling lonely or like he didn't matter in the world I would talk with him, and sometimes go hang out with him.

He eventually found a group of people in St. Louis that seemed to enjoy his company.  And the last time we hung out was just about 2 years ago.  Actually it was probably a year before he would pass away.  We always texted each other around New Year's and the Golden Globes.  So, this year when my messages went unanswered, I assumed that he had just met someone and didn't want me to pop back into his life.

But that was not the case.  I have thought about him these last few months, we aren't friends on FB but upon looking his FB page hadn't been changed since March of 2019.  So, this past Tuesday night I googled him and his obituary popped up.  I didn't want to believe it.  My heart hurt.  It was probably the worst pain I have ever felt.  It wasn't just due to him being gone, but I don't think I ever truly grieved the relationship that we had and could have had.  I think that in seeing that death notice, I really had to understand  that there would never be an us again.

Paul didn't reach his potential.  He was given so much, yet what he needed was a childhood and young adulthood filled with love.  I don't know that he got that.  I don't know that he ever felt truly loved, even by me.  I think that Paul saw the world and life in a very different way.  He wasn't able to understand things the way most people do.  I'm thankful for him.  I am thankful for the memories, for the moments that I have in my mind that are just ours.  I am thankful that he was my first.  I am thankful that in the midst of this anguish I can remember that there was good.

I hope in his last moments he was able to feel loved.  I hope and pray that he was able to understand that he did make a difference in the lives around him.  I hope that as I continue to live my life, I can take some of what I learned from him with me.  It isn't the ending to his or our story that I would have ever dreamed, but it's the ending that has happened.  So as I continue to grieve, and process... and will live a life that sees people where they are.  I will try my best to help whoever I can, and I will hold inside of me the story of my first love forever and always.  

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