Updated: Jul 23, 2020
In widowland, it is called, "Chapter 2." This is the universal term amongst widows that describes the person you love next after the one you loved died. Not the people you meet on dating apps, go on a few dates with, text, and spend weekends with. Chapter 2 is the next one who you fall in love with, as hesitantly as it may be. It is the person you are willing to say, "Okay, maybe I will take down some of these walls and give life in this way another go." The person with whom you make new memories and new plans. It is the person you take a new chance on.
In an Uber ride in Arizona a few days after Scott left this world, there was a moment when my entire life flashed before my eyes. It was a moment that seemed other worldly. I saw clear as day, my life cut in two pieces. It was laid out in front of me with a line down the middle. I looked at Jessi and said, "I think I am going to have a whole new life. Like a second life." This was in the midst of my uncontrollable tears because we had just left the funeral home where I had kissed my husband's lifeless body. The grief that lay ahead of me was indescribable, but I never forgot this moment in time.
I had planned on this second life 2-3 years after saying goodbye to my love. I have no idea where I got those numbers. It seemed like the right amount of time. But what does that even mean? Is there ever a right amount of time? While I planned this second life, I planned on finding a nice guy to do life with. That was it. I had already had the love of my life and that doesn't happen twice.
History has shown me, more than most, that my plans aren't worth much. As much as I try, good or bad, I do not have control over most things.
We met on a dance floor. Ironically, it was the same dance floor that Scott used to spin Kate all around. I was there again with Kate on a December night and quite literally bumped into him. It was a sort of situation that if either one of us would have made one tiny different decision for that night--we would not have met.
I sold myself well, "I'm a widow with kids and a shit ton of baggage. You don't want any part of this." He drove us home (not the safest since we had just met him, I know, but I was in a real YOLO time of life). As he dropped us off, he got out to walk us to the door and kissed me. (He will tell you that I kissed him, but it is my word against his. So, you can decide who to believe on that one.) I got in bed chatting about the night with Kate and my phone buzzed with a notification. I had just gotten a Facebook message from mystery guy.
Neither of us were looking for a relationship or anything serious. We did enjoy each other's company though and could talk for hours and hours about everything. We had a so much fun each time we hung out. It was effortless and so there was no reason to stop spending time together
One weekend in January, I took Lily and her friend to Kahlahari water park. It was my first time flying solo on an adventure of that caliber. I had put my big girl pants on over and over to just get through the first day. It was going to get the luggage from the car that put me over the edge. I couldn't find the right entrance to get to the car because this hotel was massive. I walked in circles finding entrances, but none of them the one I needed. Once I finally found the correct door, I had to move the car so I could unload our luggage onto a cart that and in doing that lost my parking space. It was a northern Ohio freezing winter day. Every space taken, so I had to park at the parking lot across the street. Tears rolled down my face on the run back to the hotel. I was frustrated, sad, and angry all at once.
Laying in the hotel bed, after the longest day ever, I was texting my mystery guy, Mike, about all the heavy emotions I was feeling on this trip. I was silently crying as I remembered the amazing feeling of laying in the hotel bed while I waited for Scott to just take care of it--the parking, unloading, dealing with people sort of things. Mike responded in such a way that was so different from anyone. His insights and care were profound. He didn't shy away from the uncomfortable things in my life. He didn't say the cliche annoying, "you are stronger than you think" sort of phrases so often told to me. He didn't tell me that everything happens for a reason. Instead he listened. A lot.
I talked about Scott a lot. Because he is on my mind a lot. Scott is a part of Lily, Avery, and I's life and will be forever. I write about Scott. I post old pictures on social media. None of this scared Mike away. He gently listens, sometimes talks, and mostly just holds space for all of us to grieve and love Scott. It was then that I realized this was different. Lily mentioned to me in passing that Dad would have definitely been friends with Mike. I agree. I know he would approve and that is near impossible because according to Scott, no one loved us well enough, himself included.
When it was coming up on a year since Scott passed, Mike gave me this beautiful gift. He thoughtfully picked a picture, one where it showed so much of our personalities. It is one of my favorite things I own, truly. It is gorgeous. Mike had this made knowing I would display it, knowing he would see it every time he came over. I am not sure what kind of love that is because I have never seen it before, but it is exactly what I need.
At some point, I had to decide. Am I going to live, like really live again? Am I going to love without abandon like I did the first time? Am I going to let these walls down and work through some heavy shit with another person? Am I going to let someone in that space again? Even though that sort of love can cause unimaginable pain when it leaves.
And slowly I started dropping the walls. Piece by piece. And with every hesitation and pull back, Mike stood by with love and support. I might have been annoyed if I was him, but he somehow understood things before I did. He just kept showing up and being there in real ways.
Then one night I was saying good-bye to him and felt the words come up in my throat in an easy familiar way. I almost told him I loved him. I choked them back and smiled. It took a few more weeks for me to find the courage to share those words with him. I sent it via text and waited for a response. He told me of course he loved me too and just didn't want to tell me before I was ready.
Some people do not get to experience falling in love once in their lives. I get two. I am in love with Chapter 2. And I was in love with my Chapter 1. Neither negates the other. They both co-exist. That is a weird reality that most people couldn't live in, but somehow I found a man who gets it. He gets that I can be completely in love with him while still loving Scott. And that is why it works.