Meeting the Families
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When Mark and I met each other's immediate families, it went better than I would have hoped. Mark's mother and sisters had such a natural confidence about them, yet still made me feel at ease. It was kind of strange, but they reminded me a lot of my own family. His father was hilarious, the kind of person folks instantly like being around, and I understood where Mark got his charm from. It wasn't until I met Mark's Italian grandmother, that I got extra nervous.
Mark, the kids, and I drove to the cutest house, something you'd imagine as a model 50s home. Mark knocked, and after a moment, a tiny elderly lady opened the door. "Come in! Come in! It's cold outside. Have a seat—would you like a drink—are you hungry? And don't turn me down, you look like you could use a good meal!" she motioned to Mark, then kindly motioned for me and my children to come in.
After sitting down, I tapped my fingers together and started playing different rhythms. "Mom?" my oldest daughter whispered.
"What?" I asked.
"You're so nervous," she nodded to my fingers.
I quickly stopped, but wondered if she knew how terrifying this was. Glass knick-knacks perched everywhere and I just knew my little kids wanted to touch everything in sight.
"What religion are you?" his grandma suddenly asked, moving her head much more quickly than I'd expected.
"Hmmm… That's good," she said. "Good. You've been married before?"
"Yea—s." I shook.
"You've dated a lot!"
"Yes. I have."
"And what's to keep you from going back to an old beau?"
Mark leaned into the velvet chair, and obviously tried to keep from laughing.
"I love Mark. My kids love Mark. He's the only person I've ever thought I could spend this life AND the next with."
She nodded, and things lightened up after that. She fed us the most delicious treats, and we talked about her life. I found that this woman, who candidly spoke her mind, was one of my favorite people ever.
As we were leaving, my four-year-old tugged on my pants and motioned for me to bend down to her. "Can I kiss her on the cheek?" she whispered. "That's what grandmas are for!"
So I timidly asked Mark's grandma. She blushed, being thrilled with the idea. She bent down, and my little girl went on the very tips of her tiny toes and gave her a huge, wet, kiss.
After leading the kids into the vehicle, I went to tell Mark's grandma goodbye. "Listen," she said. "I believe everything you said, about never wanting to go back to an old beau, and about loving my grandson. And I like you—and your children." She slapped me on the shoulder. "If you two ever have trouble, let me know. I'll know it's HIS fault." She pointed right at Mark and I couldn't help but laugh.
It wasn't until Mark had dropped me and the children off, that I had time to mull over her words. I rested in bed, thinking about how much I loved Mark and never wanted to hurt him or his family—that's when my phone suddenly dinged with message after message from The Schmuck.
I won't leave you alone until we meet in person.
You said you'll meet me next week! One last goodbye.
You should be nervous.
I think you've forgotten how much you loved me.
Check your email.
I slammed my phone on my dresser, hoping he'd really stop texting me after I told him I had no feelings for him—especially in person.
I didn't want to read the email he'd sent, but another part of me was too curious. After eventually grabbing my phone, I clicked on my email. He'd forwarded a message I'd sent to him right after we broke up forever before. And as I read each word, I remembered how bad it had hurt.
I'm sitting at our library; remember the wooded area out back—the place we'd sneak off to when we wanted to see each other, grasping any moment we could get. We'd sit on this stupid bench, hold each other and whisper how we'd never be apart.
Well, I'm sitting here now . . . all alone.
I even bought you a coffee. The steam keeps swirling up and around, kissing my lips when you cannot. I finally set it under the bench—just can't look at it anymore.
But no matter if I can see the damn coffee, or you, or anything that should tie us together, I can't get the memories of you from my mind. And the whole time I'm wondering, was any of it real? What brought me to the wooded area behind the library anyway, when you'll never be here again?
Still, I keep glancing back, like we're so connected you'll know I'm here. And by some chance you'll want to be with me, the way I dreamed about being with you. And give me honesty. And love. And all I deserve because that's what I gave you. But maybe someone else will give me that, someday.
I left my van on. The windows are down and a song that reminds me of you is playing.
Remember the stream that winds in front of "our" bench?
We wanted to cross over the glistening waters, but someone had torn the bridge down and we could never get to the other side.
Well, they've built a new bridge now and the thing is so mesmerizing, it practically blurs my vision.
So I walk up to it, put my hand on the intricate railing and decide to cross. But then I can't. Because a realization suddenly hits me. As I stare through the foggy morning, to the other side of that solid bridge, there's someone on the other side. And I swear . . . it's you. The guy looks at me. Neither one of us cross. Tears fill my eyes because it's tragically beautiful. We could never cross that bridge. We could have easily, but somehow we never truly did. . . .
The man stayed on his side. I remained on mine. That damn music kept playing about love and how it'll never end 'til it practically kills me inside.
So I sat back down on our bench. I drank your stupid coffee. And the man on the other side of the water left.
Neither one of us crossed.
And that's when I knew, it was never meant to be.
After reading the whole letter, I paused, lost in so many thoughts. Why wouldn't he just let me go—I'd moved on and he was still married!
As I prayed to God, Mark's grandmother's words drifted back into my head. "Listen, I believe everything you said, about never wanting to go back to an old beau, and about loving my grandson. And I like you…."
Everything would be okay. Someday The Schmuck will just be a faint memory, I told myself, and he'll never bother me again. I nodded, turned off my phone, and went to sleep.
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