I can’t wait until I can replace the question marks with a number and I have a solid answer about when I will see Frank again!! This week has been LONG and strange. It certainly wasn’t typical.
Memorial Day was beyond hard, the next day two days were terrible because I was sick, I made some big realizations, finished my field placement hours, and then the kids and I went to Charleston to watch one of Michael’s deployment roommates, mentor, and friend be commissioned into the Marine Corps. We spent the rest of the weekend, just the four of us, in Myrtle Beach.
Being in Charleston was good for me. I have not been there since Olivia and I left in 2004. I was able to show her where we lived and she was a little weirded out by all the Navy uniforms…which is funny to me. The Naval base in Charleston is where the weapons training station is and they wear utilities and their all white Navy uniform everywhere (because they are students). It is different than being around the Navy guys at Camp Lejeune. All of the Navy students laughed pretty good when the kids loudly pointed out the differences in the uniforms. We were also able to spend a lot of time with the Allen family and I got to talk about Michael. I don’t get to talk about him much, except with the kids, because most people get all sad and strange, but the Allen’s were able to laugh with me and share memories.
Each time Michael left on a deployment he came back a changed man and it was always good. I like to think that Michael and I were pretty wonderful from the start of our relationship, we both made mistakes, we both caused ripples and then waves, but we were committed to making it work. Michael always came to a new understanding about family and life and it always translated into things improving where we didn’t even know they could improve for us. During the second deployment to Iraq Michael and I were newly married and expecting our first baby boy to be born. This deployment was 13 months and it was rough. I worked 40 hours a week, I hated being alone, and he had a love/hate relationship with being gone. He roomed with two men, Dustin and Justin, who had been married and had children a lot longer than we had! They and their families are two amazing groups of people. Their wives are two of the best and most supportive Marine Corps wives I have ever met. They rarely complain, they always back up their husbands, and the both are super moms. To Michael they were strong positive influences. I loved the husband and father Michael was already and I saw no flaws in who he was to us, but there was a noticeable shift in the core of who Michael was and what he planned to be in this life….and things got even better. I am forever grateful to both Dustin and Justin because they guided Michael to a new understanding about priorities. God, family, Corps. Each of them are and were different in their approach, but there is a clear understanding about the way that they conduct themselves in this world. Both families, out of everyone, have been my biggest and best supporters since Michael died. They each just have kind hearts, as do their children, and I always felt like they were sincere when they said CALL!
Michael and I both grew up in the church. I was a Pastor’s daughter and he went to church with his neighbors. I loved church, but it was simply expected of me to go. Michael always said that as long as they (him and his childhood best friend and neighbor) went to church on Sunday and worked hard at their jobs no one really told them what to do, and he like it that way. Michael definitely always was a free spirit, he would conform when necessary and live on his own program otherwise. Little Michael is already a lot like him in that manner. So, we both had a Godly foundation, but when Michael turned 18 and joined the Marine Corps his church attendance and relationship with God was not a priority. Mine carried on a little longer than that. I went to church pretty consistently until I moved back to Jacksonville, NC, and then I went when I didn’t work. When Michael came home from that second deployment God was a bigger priority. We went to church more, prayed, and it was a bigger part of our lives. We both had a problem with church as a whole because hypocrisy got under or skin, it was something that we couldn’t ignore but we didn’t know how to address either. Anyway, Dustin in particular was a guiding force in terms of Michael and God. When we went back to church it was because we wanted to, not because it was expected of us. We were both grateful for the foundations that were built for us, but when we made the decision to go to church it was a matter of the heart, not a matter of obligation.
If it was at all possible, and I didn’t think it was, Michael became even more about the kids and I. He cherished every moment with us and most of our other relationships dwindled as a result. We just spent the time we had had free together…and nothing else mattered. Michael was always a wonderful and serious Marine. He soaked up any instruction that was given to him. After that deployment his decisions were about making him a better Marine. I wish that he had went to be an SOI Instructor instead of going to MARSOC… But that is not what he wanted to do, so I can’t be mad. He was not as valued in terms of his knowledge in MARSOC, which was constantly frustrating for him, but he was still learning things and that is what is important.
The point of that tangent is that being with the Allen’s was good. I was able to share the changes I saw in Michael with them, and they were able to do the same. I gather that he amazed them almost as much as he amazed me. It took me a long time to get here…but I am comfortable in my knowledge of where he is today because I experienced with him the changes of his heart. I was well aware of the fact that despite what some my think, he wasn’t always in a good position with God…and neither was I. That was our personal realities. I am glad that we both figured things out.
I was also able to share my life with Frank with them. They met him once, at the half marathon run, and he made a big impression on them. He is a quiet carer, in that he just does what is needed to care for me (and the kids) regardless of where he is at. He is the most understanding and wonderful person that I have in my life today. Being apart is difficult. It literally hurts both of our hearts. When Michael died I thought I would never have a best friend or a soulmate again (in the true sense of both of them) but I was wrong. It has taken much longer this time around, I am alright with admitting that, but I am spending my life once again with my truest and best friend. There is no one I would rather spend my days with than Frank (and yes the kids…that’s a given). It is hard and at times almost unbearable. I know that the relationship I had with Michael and the relationship I have with Frank is not typical…a lot of people like to get away from their other…I never have. And I realize I am lucky to have found wonderful love twice, I don’t need everyone to tell me that because I live it. I have a true best friend again…and I have met another person that connects to my soul. It is very different than before, but extremely powerful and amazing to feel on a daily basis. Okay…I’ll stop now. I could write for hours because of the amount of time I have had to reflect the past couple of days but I will stop. I’m going home, to the house Frank had built for our family, with a smile on my face and a pain in my heart from missing him.
*I will edit it when I get home from Myrtle Beach!!! Sorry for any iPad typos!!!