29 years ago, my little guy passed away. Austin's story is embedded on here in places, parts and pieces; some longer, some shorter.
The day after he died, a set of my friends came to the hotel where I was staying. I never went back to the apartment; never faced the horrors I'd found that morning when he died.
Anyway, the trio of three guys came to the hotel including the one whom I'd met through the other two.
We'd met in the spring after Austin was born but before I'd decided to keep him, before my friends had a chance to tell him, before ... John never met Austin. But he'd met me and I presumed when I never heard from him he didn't want to be with a girl who had a baby.
This was the mid 80's. Even liberals were conservative back then.
Anyway, John came with the other friends. Asked me to go for a walk along the large lake that I'd grown up on. Sitting on the bench, he held my hand and never said a word. Tears streaming down my face, shame in my heart, he was the calm in my storm.
A few days later, he came to the funeral for a baby he never met and a girl he hardly knew.
Everyone has one, the one regret, the one that got away, the one. Johns' my one. He's always been my one.
We dated for many months, albeit long distance as I'd moved away after the funeral and burial, back home to my parents.
At 21, I was unsure what I was supposed to do. Widows can talk about their deceased husbands, and vice verse; grandchildren can talk about grandparents, and kids can talk about deceased parents.
But a parent mourning the death of a child? No. Everyone shies away from that. Except John.
He did not shy away from me, the now dead child, the mess of my life, the shattered dreams.
But I was a mess. Emotionally, mentally. Totaled. He hung on as best as he could; I pushed hard because fear of losing something else near and dear to me was too painful. Don't fall, just push away.
Like moths to a flame, we could not be anywhere with each other. The love ... palpable to everyone that knew us and even those who didn't.
But like all good romantic stories, we did not end up with each other. I had a child with another man, he married and had two kids of his own.
Last time I saw him, we were at Target at the top of the hill in the town that I grew up in. In sweat pants and t-shirt, I stood there, embarrassed I looked like hell, Gman in the infant seat of the cart.
John asked if he could pick him up. I nodded yes. John lifted him gently out of the cart, nuzzled him against his chest, looked into my infant's eyes, and quietly cooed, "Please take care of your mom for me, okay?" Then he put Gman back into the cart seat, gave me a hug and said he was happy for me. I knew he was engaged and said the same.
I also knew I was a mess. He deserved better than me. He deserved to have the stability he craved and that which I could not give him. Though I was damned determined to try back then.
If just for him. If just to prove... he was the one.
26 years passed and a few months ago someone posted the Ulay Oh. My eyes watered up. The tenderness of the two individuals palpable through the video.
It's here, if you haven't seen it.
Over the years, I'd creeped FB to see if John were on it. He was not. I'm still friends with his friends but I never ask; it feels too intrusive and there's a part of me that does not want to know he's happy and has forgotten all about me. There's the other part of me that hopes he IS very happy and HAS forgotten all about me... and my mess.
And then, after the Ulay Oh video - FB new friends popped up and there was John. And instantly, I was 24 again.
Worse, or better, Adele came out with "Hello" yesterday. In that song, he's moved on, she never did. It's close enough to my reality. As I sat in the library with my Kaplan Orgo book, genetics class materials, my eyes watered. For all the hurt I caused him, me; for all the regret.