Learning to Live with Me

I have a bunch of online friends that I've shared my life with for the past three years. They get to read my intimate thoughts and they get to know me on a level that many people in my every-day life don't even know exists. And as well as they know me and as well as I know them, sometimes it's easy to feel like we don't know each other at all because we've only been there for part of the story.

So I decided to write a "brief" life story. That was the intention, at least. I was thinking that surely I could condense things down enough.

Apparently I didn't realize how long-winded I can be.

I was in a much more secure forum there, a place where I get to choose who sees what I write. Obviously I can't have that comfort level here in a public forum with no restrictions to my audience. So names will be changed or removed but I'm going to try to leave everything as intact as possible so that you can get a better idea of me and how I came to be me.

This is my life as I remember it as I've seen it and as I've felt and lived it. I'm sure some things are romanticized in a few areas and glazed over in others, but it's my life from my perspective.

Of course if I touched on everything you'd be reading for days, so just know ahead of time that there are quite a few things left out that I'll have to go into at a later date.

So sit back, get a cup of coffee, and enjoy, but keep in mind....this is a tremendous step for me to make so much of my life so public....please be respectful of that.

I came into the world in the old fashioned way. One man, one woman.....ten months gestational period. Yes, ten. I was due December 14, 1981. They even tried to induce me on New Year's Eve of 1981. Setting precedence for the rest of my life, I did things my way, no matter how hard they tried. And on the 8th of January I made my entrance into the world.

I grew up in a tiny, disappearing town in Northeast Oklahoma. Picher. Everything you've heard about it on the news is absurd and slanted, ignore it.

Picher is the place of my fondest memories.

I grew up in a house of love, with a close-knit family, and in a community that looked out for each other. It was a Mayberry kind of town. Actually, Rascal Flatts' song Mayberry is somewhat based on Picher from what I'm told. (Joe Don Rooney, their guitarist, is from my home-town)

Daddy had a game-breeder's license with the State of Oklahoma. He raised chickens, ducks, turkeys, pheasants, quail....you name it, we likely had it. I had a pet rooster named Chips that I adopted in my younger years, carrying it around like a baby, laid on its back with its feet up in the air. I also had a pet mallard (duck) named Quankers, and in about 1st or 2nd grade, we welcomed a pet raccoon into our menagerie of pets. I named him Ricky-Ticky-Timbo-Nosarimbo. (My teacher had read us the book Tikki Tikki Tembo the day my dad brought him home, so my imagination ran wild when it came to naming him)

My hometown originated as a mining town, so the area is scattered with huge (or what used to be huge) hills or almost-mountains of gravel and chat left over from the mining process of the town's early history. We called these Chat Piles. There were two just south of my house. When it iced or we got a good, packed snow, the whole community would converge on the chat piles for an amazing time of sledding, tubing, and rocketing down the chat, piles.

There would be different heights that we would go down, a "bunny hill" of sorts for the little kids or big babies, a medium hill for the braver kids or adults that had a healthy respect for their own life, and then a typically ridiculously tall and steep hill with a ramp at the bottom that my dad and uncle almost exclusively shared. (Is it any wonder my dad was always in and out of the hospital all the time?) When it snowed, my dad would get us out in the yard and build snowmen and igloos. We'd have to go outside in spurts. As any kid, we'd stay out there until we were half-frozen, then make our way inside to thaw out and put warm, dry clothes on. Once our fingers returned to their normal skin color, we were out again.

My whole family originally lived within minutes of each other. My maternal grandpa, Papa, lived a block and a half up the alley from us. My other grandma lived all the way across town.....maybe a mile away, if that tells you how small Picher was (although, believe me, I'm not a good judge of distance). Get-togethers at both grandparents seem, looking back, to be pretty regular, although I have more memories at my Grandma & Pa's (Daddy's parents). There were more kids in that side of family. All of us grandkids spent our days either swimming in the pool, riding bikes or dirt bikes, or walking the trails on the Indian land behind grandma's. Fishing was common, as well. In the summers, normally at a holiday get-together, us girls would go through my aunt Michelle's clothes and put on a dress show that we made all the adults sit down and endure.

Before I started school, my aunt Carolyn babysat me while my mom taught school and my dad worked at the hospital across the state line in Baxter Springs, Kansas. This is where I met R., my childhood best friend. When we started kindergarten, we only went half-days, so my aunt would pick us up from kindergarten. R. was friends with a boy from the afternoon kindergarten class. We'd pass this boy as we were leaving and since R. liked him, I knew I had to like him. I took it a step further, however. I was crazy for that boy for 5 years. And never let him know it because my best girl-friend fell for him in 1st grade, before I ever even had the first class with him (we were never in the same class until 2nd grade)

The summer after third grade, we uprooted and moved to Arkansas. I had no clue my parents had been entertaining any notion of moving so I felt more than justified at my hatred for the whole situation. I hated Arkansas and I would refuse to be happy here. And I did just that for a long, long time.

I had a difficult time adjusting. I went from a small community of less than 1500.....about 50 students in my entire class to a community of almost 5,000 and almost three-times as many students in my class. Back home everyone was either white or Indian and I was taught that we're all essentially the same, no matter what our skin color. So I thought that everyone grew up just like me, believed just like me, behaved just like me, and thought just like me.

I was in shock for a couple of years as I adjusted to the very different lifestyles and behaviors that I came in contact with. Not everyone was taught to respect, to listen, to be fair. Not everyone was reasonable or logical or even half-way decent. Back home, if the teacher stepped out of the classroom that just meant we could talk to each other in a voice somewhere between a whisper and a conversational voice. Down here, when the teacher stepped out of the classroom, the students were jumping, screaming, throwing stuff (not just paper or pencils), hitting each other....it was ridiculous to say the least.

I never really found a group of friends that fit me. Never have, actually, in the 17 years we've been here. I had one group of friends for grade school, another for junior high, yet another for college, and still another and another and another for the years since then.

In Junior high I convinced my dad to buy me a horse. I don't remember how I came to want one, but he 'rented' a horse for me to ride for several months to make sure it wasn't just a phase I was going to grow out of. It was the best thing we ever did for me or that poor bony horse. While under our care her skeleton began to disappear and she started to look like a real horse again. I named her Wonder, because it was a wonder she was alive. After it was established that this wasn't a phase, we bought my first horse. We owned my first horse for about 15 minutes. We went to a horse sale and from the second I laid eyes on her, she was mine. Number 237. She was a buckskin with a doll-face and a beautiful build. I told Daddy that was the one I wanted, the price was in our range so that's the one I got. Right after we bought her, a man told Daddy that he didn't want to put me on that horse because she was straight off the race-track. Daddy turned around and sold her to the guy bidding against him. I think we've both regretted not keeping her and seeing what she was capable of.

A short time later, we bought a black Tennessee Walking Horse. I named her Pride. (Got this name from a series of horse books I'd been reading). She was a good horse. Stubborn and wouldn't run unless you just made her. She was a gaited Walking Horse. I wanted a running horse. But I made do. In the meantime, Daddy set his eyes on a buckskin horse he wanted for himself. The guy wanted too much for her by herself, but Daddy was able to buy her and her half-brother for barely more than he wanted for the one horse alone. So it was a done deal. The buckskin was his, and her brother, a feisty two-year old, was just another mouth to feed.

Once Daddy got Dollar, the buckskin, broke well enough to let other kids ride her, he started breaking the brother, Bo Jangles. He barely had him broke before I was demanding my turn on his back. He resisted and resisted. We disagreed a few times, but I never gave up. I never backed down. I'm pretty sure it was one of those "Fine, have it your way" moments when my dad finally agreed to let me on Bo Jangles' back.

I crawled up on the horse, who was barely more than green-broke, and held my own. The next time we rode, I wanted him saddled with my saddle. We went to a horse sale a short time later, which was about a monthly occurrence at this time, and Daddy bought a couple of hackamore bits for Pride, my walking horse. She didn't like a bit in her mouth, so this was perfect for her because instead of having the metal bar in her mouth, this "bit" only put pressure on the side of her nose to let her know which way to go.

The next time we rode, I wanted a hackamore on Bo. We hadn't found a bit he would work well with, so I wanted to try it on Bo to see if it would help him. Daddy thought I was crazy. The horse couldn't be controlled WITH a bit, he certainly wasn't going to be able to be controlled without one. He later described what happened as if you had jacked up the old horse and slid a brand new horse right under him.

I knew in my heart that Bo Jangles was my horse from that moment on. And he was a running horse.

During Junior High and Senior High, my sister and I were active in the youth group at our church. Sunday nights after church Daddy and I went and loaded up the horses and brought them into the arena. There would normally be upwards from eight kids lined up along the fence of the arena. Three or four of the boys rode our horses in horse shows with me, only one other was ever able to handle the still wild-hearted Bo Jangles. The others normally rode Dollar, Bo's sister, or Sierra, another horse we'd come to acquire. Those that weren't practicing for the shows with us, normally rode Pride or one of the other horses we'd had at the time (at one point we had either 11 or 13 horses, though not all were old enough to be ridden).

Daddy and I would go nightly to feed the horses. It was one of the favorite times of my life. Still is. And most nights, especially during the summer, after feeding or riding the horses, we'd stop at the gas station on the way back and he'd get him a Peach Nehi and I'd get a Black Cherry Clearly Canadian. Happy memories of simple times.

I stopped showing in about 10th grade. Other things occupied my time. Boys was high among them. I've always missed it though.

In high school I was a band nerd. But that wasn't a bad thing at the time. Our band was the biggest it'd ever been. We got over 130 people in it at one time. Our shows were amazing. In 10th grade, our half-time show was a group of Beatles songs. Our football team crashed through the rally-sign and onto the field to "Eye of the Tiger". I remember it being a lot like he football movies you see, Remember the Titans, Friday Night Lights, We Are Marshall. The atmosphere at the games during those years was electric. At those times, during those years, being a band nerd was amazing. Away games were always a blast. There was such comradely. Everyone had fun. And as with anything to do with high school, there was always flutters of sitting near that certain guy. And even when that wasn't the case, or even when seats were assigned, you still had fun because that's all we knew at the time.

My junior year, the band director (that had built the band into what it was over the 5 years she'd been there) had a baby and found work elsewhere. Closer to where she lived, 45 miles away. The band director that replaced her was a polar opposite from the director I loved. I quit half-way through my senior year because of the way he treated the students. Since then our virtually nonexistent band seems to focus more on gyrating hips and tacky dance moves than it does the music and the discipline and the comradely.

I was 16 when I decided that I wanted a job. My sister had worked at the local radio station for a couple of months collecting news from the local law-enforcement agencies but she was switching jobs to work more hours at the local hospital in their bookkeeping office. So I took her job as "Investigative Reporter". I went to the Police Department, Court Clerk's Office, and Sheriff's Office every day to collect the news. I worked 3 hours on a long day, so it's not like it was really work. Besides, I got to look at all those young guys in the city uniform, even though they were far too old for me.

In 1996 my parents bought some land and started building a house the following year. We moved in December 19th, 1997.

I worked at the Radio Station for several years, even working two jobs my senior year when I started as a clerk at a local grocery store. Eventually I gave up the radio station for the bigger paycheck.

I graduated Salutatorian of my class in 2000. I found out the night before graduation. I had less than 24 hours to write what I personally thought was the best speech of our graduating class (I could be biased though, plus I had some really great help from my parents). Not many in my graduating class were really close. We were friends more with the classes graduating before and after us. There were never any real bonds between classmates. I didn't focus my speech on fabricating such stories, I focused my speech on what was coming, on the life that awaited us. A speech I still read over from time to time.

I commuted to college, 50 miles away, for the first year and a half. Then I decided to get a job in my college town and take an apartment up there. I lived in Monticello during the week and made the obligatory drive home every.weekend.

In the summer of 2001 I went on a trip to New York City with a group of Criminal Justice majors. It was a blast! We went and we did and we had a time of it. I was the only one on the trip that didn't drink, so that made things more entertaining for me.

November 2001 through April 2002 was my longest run of doctor visits. It started with a strained shoulder and a chest infection in the winter months. In late-January or early-February, I rolled over one morning to turn the alarm clock off and heard a loud popping/snapping sound. An explosion of pain shot through my chest, leaving starbursts of every color before my eyes. I'd been having issues with popping in my chest for a couple of months, but it was nothing more than the sound of a joint popping, with no discomfort whatsoever, except it was at my sternum where no joint was present. This time was very different. It hurt for days and I eventually went to the doctor over it. No one seemed to really buy that it happened as innocently as it did.

We did x-ray after x-ray. On February 27th, my grandfather's birthday, I had the bone-scan done that made it appear I had a tumor on my sternum, right beside my heart. The twenty-four hours after that was the.most alone and afraid I'd ever been. But the good news came the next day, on my sister's birthday, that whatever it was, it was not a tumor. Eventually the Dr. diagnosed that one set of ribs had grown ever-so-slightly longer than the other set of ribs, causing my sternum to be offset at an angle. The snapping and pain I felt when I rolled over that morning was at least 2 of my ribs dislocating.

In March I broke my hand four-wheeler riding with my then-boyfriend. It was late and we were crossing a creek. He was on a four-wheeler behind me. Some other kids had ridden back there and rutted it up pretty bad, so I was trying to straddle the ruts to keep from getting stuck. My back tire slipped in a rut and the oversized Polaris Sportsman 4x4 rolled over on top of me in the creek (yes, I know just how lucky I was!). Fortunately the boyfriend got the four-wheeler off of me. There was no way I was going back across the creek and taking the shortest distance home, so we continued on the trail we were going, which would take about 2-miles to get home, instead of just under one. My hand hurt, but I was okay. I thought I'd just sprained it, nothing I couldn't hide from my parents. No sense in letting them know just HOW stupid I was. Driving with only one hand, I got stuck a few times. Eventually my four-wheeler got so stuck that we had to leave it. We rode back to the house and got my dad to get him to come help us get it out. It was almost 10pm by this time on a Sunday night. When I met Daddy at the door, I told him I thought I'd hurt my hand but that I was going to sleep on it. He asked and almost insisted on taking me to the ER, but I told him it wasn't that bad. It couldn't be broken because I could still move it.

So I slept on it and during the night it turned a rainbow of colors and distorted in shape and size. The next morning I drove myself to the doctor 30 minutes away. I had to hurry, I had an appointment in Little Rock that afternoon with a specialist who was confirming the Dr's diagnosis on the dislocated ribs. My mom called to check on me and was shocked when I told her I'd be home as soon as they finished putting my cast on.

The first cast, a blue cast was later traded for a white one. I kept having intense burning sensations, to the point that I really thought I had open sores underneath the cast. They cut it off to make sure. My skin was red and irritated, but otherwise intact, so they replaced it with a white one. This has always been important in my mind because my cousin Jerrid was the first one to sign my white cast.

The Sunday after I got my white cast on my grandma called early that morning to tell us that my Jerrid had been in a wreck.

Who knew my life would change from that moment on......

Jerrid had been in a wreck and was life-flighted to Wichita., Kansas At first they weren't sure he was going to make it. Then they knew his back was broken and he would be paralyzed, but they didn't know to what extent he would be paralyzed. He had died twice since the wreck but they eventually got him stabilized. He was out of the woods, but he was paralyzed from the abdomen down.

I talked to him daily on the phone. He told me "I love you" for the first time ever. And we told each other from then on out. He promised me some cherry yogurt if I came to see him. I would never dream of telling him I couldn't stand yogurt. The next weekend my family loaded in the car and drove to see him. No one knew we were coming. No one knew to expect us. We walked in and Jerrid's face lit up.

"I knew you were coming".

It felt like we shared a connection.

He insisted that I sit beside him and hold his hand. He'd had a scare before we got there and he wanted my comfort as much as I wanted his. His lungs had backed up with fluid and his subclavian port had come out, shooting blood everywhere. He coded and flat-lined, but fortunately they revived him. All was not lost. To think of the heartache we would have walked in to had things turned out differently. But they didn't. We walked into a room of smiles and relief.

We spelled off my aunt and grandparents, who had been staying with Jerrid. We sent them home for rest. I slept on the hard, cold floor beside his bed that night. Beside the pump that had failed to keep his lungs drained. He and I were both so afraid of a repeat performance that I don't think either of us slept.

He dubbed me "Turbo" while I was up there. I never knew just why, but it was perfectly fine with me, because it was Jerrid. I started thinking more about him. Thinking about taking care of him. Thinking about maybe moving up there someday. It could be me and Jerrid against the world.

We continued to talk virtually every-day. Jerrid moved from the hospital into a rehab unit where all the nurses were swooning at his smile. He totally had the bad-guy thing down pat, and now he had one heck of a battle wound to show for it. The girls had a hard time resisting him, even in his Kawasaki-green wheel-chair.

Late that summer, early into the fall, my parents made a discovery that shook their world. One of their employees and trusted friends had stolen a very significant amount of money from the Nursing Home that my parents owned. And she never touched a penny. She found a glitch and used it to write check after check after check. She forged and altered bank documents so that my parents didn't realize it for months. She had one more check printed when my mom found out.

That one check would have sunk everything my parents had ever worked so hard for.

My mom was reeling from the betrayal of someone she considered to be such a friend. And yet she composed herself and she set out on a mission and even though I'm sure she struggled with bitterness, she overcame what could very easily have destroyed her. In doing so, she set an example I would always aspire to follow.

Fall of 2002, my family was in from Oklahoma and Kansas for the Brookshire Family opening weekend of deer season. My cousin, Josh, brought a friend with him that had come the year before, too. Only this year his friend was single.

It was the only time in my lifetime that I can remember being so forward with a guy. And the only time a guy's shown his butt quite the way he did. Once he mooned me, I felt obligated to let him know what I thought of him. I found a reason to drive back to my apartment one day, insisting he ride with me for the two-hour roundtrip. On the way back we'd been talking and I stopped by a lake to show him a place I went to regularly. We got out and were walking down the bank of the lake when he stopped and wrapped his arms around me. After a few seconds of whispered words, he leaned his head in and kissed me.

It was over from there. At least for me. The night before they left, I gave him strict instructions to wake me up before they pulled out to head for home. Home for him was 11 hours away. He woke me up and gave me his phone number. We talked almost every day. No, we talked every day. I got a weekend off in December and drove to where he lived to spend the weekend with him. It was one of those spur-of-the-moment things. I called him, asked his plans, and asked if I would be interfering. He seemed legitimately excited, so I packed my bags, called my aunt to see if I could stay the weekend with them and asked for directions. I'm sure it was around then that it became quite obvious I'd never felt this way about a guy before.

I went up there and we had a great time. He took me to see Just Married one evening. Another evening, he took me with him to his company Christmas party. I was crazy about him in that "I can't keep my eyes off of you" kind of way and he seemed to have the same trouble of it.

For Christmas, my family always met at Grandma's house in Picher. He came down with my family. Jerrid brought his new girlfriend with him. It snowed and iced that Christmas. My cousins, Josh, John, and Chris as well as myself and The Boy went to the chat-piles. We sled all day. Then The Boy and I went to Miami to see a movie with my cousin Lisa and one of her friends. After that, we came back to Grandma's. Jerrid wanted me to come sleep in Grandma & Pa's bed with him. I chose to be in closer proximity with The Boy instead, afraid if I stayed with Jerrid that I would be awake all night talking.

The Boy and I continued on as ever after that. We never once argued. It seemed we were perfectly matched in everything but that he was at the point where he was ready for a wife and a home and a family. I absolutely would not consider marriage until I was done with college. But I was scheduled to graduate in December. Twelve months wasn't a long time.

But in the end my heart was broken. I was hurt so bad that I couldn't even begin to think a nice thought towards him if I had a gun to my head, even though I knew in my heart that it was no fault of his or my own that "we" weren't meant to be.

I was determined to get over it so I focused my thoughts anywhere else but on him.

That following summer I quit my job, gave up my apartment, and asked my aunt for a place to stay for the summer. She readily agreed and so I was off to Kansas. Though they never said it, I once thought my parents were afraid that I was going there to try to win The Boy back. They never knew that the only motivation he had in it was that I wanted to be able to face him and get over the hurt that still occasionally struck me.

On the drive to Kansas I vowed to myself to be the kind of person that people would consider themselves better off for having known. I wanted to infect everyone with my smile. To be the kind of person no one could help but to be friends with.

Anyway. I went jogging almost every evening. I put on my shorts and a t-shirt or tank top and would jog a mile, sometimes two miles. I'd either jog out by the lake or I'd jog at the school. On one particular night I'd just gotten done jogging at the school. I was emptying a cold bottle of water as I pulled into my aunt's house and--to my horror--had to park next to his truck.

"Not a problem," I told myself. Life had gone on without him and that wasn't going to change simply because he was in the one place I'd considered would be safe from him. I put on my game face and got out of the truck, smiling politely with a casual greeting as I walked past him and my uncle to join my aunt and her friend in the front yard.

I put on my smile, kicked back in my chair and propped my legs up in front of me. It couldn't have been better timed that he drove past us just as I was laughing out loud at something one of them had said. He honked and I glanced over with a quick wave. I couldn't have looked happier at that moment. Life went on without him. And for some reason it was so important to me that he know that...that he know my life was not ruined simply because he was not in it. (See, I've always been one to put too much thought and emphasis into things that other people never even realize has any meaning to me!)

That evening my uncle told me he was engaged and I found myself bracing for a wave of pain that never came. I had moved on, I had healed.

The summer passed far too quick. I made so many friends and--for once--was the person I'd set out to be. Several times I found myself in the center of so many of the get-togethers. I was an outsider, which seemed to make me a novelty. If they didn't love me for my accent, they loved me for my smile and my laugh and my quirks. I remember two of them being awed by my ability to disappear when I wanted, too. The spotlight would get too much for me. The attention would be too overwhelming sometimes to the point that if I didn't want to be seen, I'd simply choose not to be. They never figured that out. They never learned how I did it either, which, I think only added to my appeal.

I was the girl who had her heart broken and survived. I went home a better person for it.

That fall I started a job at the Sheriff's Office, where I now work. I went back for what I'd planned to be my last semester of school. I was going to graduate early because I'd taken college courses in high school and had tested out of two Comp courses. My scholarship would carry through to the following semester. I looked at it and saw that one more semester would give me a minor in Criminal Justice. So I went for it. It was free, anyway.

That winter, though, my world changed again. In November all the guys came down for hunting season again. Except The Ex, now.

I'd gotten so busy with school and work that Jerrid and I hadn't talked since early October. He was enrolled in college at this time, too. My cousin, Josh, told me Jerrid's girlfriend had broken up with Jerrid and he'd taken it pretty hard.

It became one of those things that you meant to do but never thought to do....calling Jerrid, I mean. Every time I thought about it, it was never a good time. So I put off for tomorrow what I should have done that day.

December came and I still hadn't found time for my cousin. One night that month I was headed home from visiting an old friend. It was about 4:00 in the morning when I was driving home and had the overwhelming urge to call Jerrid.

But that was silly. Jerrid would be asleep.

So I put off for tomorrow.........and tomorrow, he was gone.

Shortly after I had the urge to call him, he took his life.

My dad broke the news to me before church the next day and I slipped into zombie mode. I remember crying and falling to pieces in my room, but having the distinct feeling that I was being cradled in the arms of someone. Of course, my faith tells me exactly what happened at that time. Exactly Who was holding me.

We left for Kansas Monday. The services was on Thursday. I tried to keep myself composed. My friends from that summer and The Ex were all there and I just didn't want any of them seeing me as anything less than composed. I looked at the slideshow of my loved Jerrid. The cry caught in my throat and tears slipped over my lashes and then I felt the tug on me as my aunt turned around and made me come sit with her. She gave me Jerrid's sweatshirt to cry into, to hold onto. And while I still fell to pieces, I had my family there to hold me--to hold each other--together as well.

[my heart is knotted up inside my throat just typing this]

And as it always does, life went on and the world continued to turn.

In July, the Brookshire family had their first reunion in years.

The following fall, in 2004, my grandfather (my Dad's dad) was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. He had weeks, not months. Hospice was called in and he was sent home with a death sentence over his head. My dad, having been back and forth to Oklahoma and dealing with the stress of it, chose not to let it interfere with our travel plans for Paris. It was a good opportunity to get some distance, to regroup and compose ourselves. So we set off for the best trip of our lives. We spent a week in Paris and then returned to face the reality of it all. I hadn't seen my grandpa since July. I knew he had lost weight, it was obvious in July that he had. I was not prepared for what I saw when we went to Oklahoma and I went into their bedroom.

::deep breath::

When I walked into my grandparents room, I expected bad. I saw much worse than I had ever imagined. The strong, virile man I'd known all my life was gone. In his place was a skeleton with familiar skin draped over it. He was comatose....

I should probably skip this part of the story. It's just too hard to relive it. Anyway, I went back to Arkansas that Sunday. I had both work and school the next day. So I went home to a empty house.

It was too quiet.

So I went to the Sheriff's Office to talk to the dispatcher working, who happened to be someone that I'd dated briefly earlier in the year. But this night, as I sought a friend to talk to and to give me some comforting words, I found none with him.

So I went home and cried my eyes out into a hot shower. I tried to lay down but all I could think about was the skeleton of my grandpa's body.....

I thought about who I could get to come sit with me for a few hours, watch a movie or distract myself with idle conversation. The only people I could reach were males, and I wasn't too sure that was a good idea. Who knew what inappropriate things might happen in the state I was in. But beggars can't be choosers and sometimes the things we're afraid might happen are exactly the things that happen.

The following night I was sitting at the computer when the phone rang. It was my sister's first anniversary and she was calling. She was coming by.

That meant one thing.

As I saw their headlights come up the driveway, I felt a strange feeling, not physically but almost like the "walking on a grave" feeling, but it was in the pit of my belly. Before I could completely process it, that thought was forced out of my mind by the fact that I now knew, without being told, that my Pa was dead.

A few weeks later, a new guy came around. He was young. I didn't really know about getting into that. But he pushed past my reservations, and once he was there, I kind of liked him there. I fell hard and fast for him.

A complication came up shortly after when I took a test I'd been putting off taking for almost two weeks, a test that I'm certain I knew the results of the minute I had that weird sensation in my stomach the night my grandfather died five weeks earlier.

Yep, I was preggers. But I didn't think I was ready to tell my family just yet because Daddy had just lost his dad and the annual Brookshire Opening Weekend of hunting season get-together was coming up. And this would be the first one without Pa. I didn't want my unexpected news to complicate things even further.

But I had to tell someone. I was afraid that the idea of abortion would enter my mind, and if someone knew....if someone could hold me accountable, I knew it would never be an issue.

So I called my sister.

We told my parents the following Monday.

I knew from the get-go that I wouldn't be able to. I knew that I could never utter the words that I was certain would break my parents hearts.

In the end, I was right; my sister had to tell them for me. She told me to just squeeze her hand and she would do it. We barely got seated and I clenched it tightly. She picked right up as if she'd intended to do it all along.

The second she said the words....."Ashley's six weeks pregnant" both of my parents eyes took a second to process. I was looking at my dad when his eyes flashed to joy. Of course they asked "who" and I told them. I also told them I was going to tell the new guy the next night and see what happened there.

My parents handled it with a love I now feel ashamed for doubting. I saw in their eyes it would be okay. And I clung to that.

I told my then-boyfriend the next night.

I really expected things to end that night. But he took me by the hand and said we'd get through it together. My heart was his even more than ever.

For New Year's he gave me a promise ring.

He was good to me. Every night he came over after work and ate supper with us. I'd go up and take my shower, and he'd tuck me into bed at 7:30 or so, and then he'd stay downstairs and visit with my parents until 9, then he'd go home and get his homework done and go to bed.

He had already decided before I came into the picture that he was going to a college in another state. He would leave in July, a matter of days after my due-date of July 4th.

My doctor agreed to induce on the 6th, as I was dilated 3 cm on the 5th at my appointment. We went home, packed my bags and headed off to the hospital bright and early the next morning.

It was an all-day event for our two families. Of course they enjoyed themselves more than I did. When the decision was made to do a cesarean, his parents were as visibly upset as my own were. I had no fear or worries at this point. After laboring for 10 hours and pushing for 2 1/2, I was too tired to care how he made his entrance, I just wanted to see my son.

Ty was born at 11:05 p.m. I was too drugged to be able to process the miracle of it. It was as if they'd shown me the new $5 bill. "Oh....well......look at that."

I couldn't hold him or see him for over an hour. They had to close me up and get him cleaned up and all that good stuff. It was in the early morning hours that I got to hold him, and even then, the urge to close my eyes was overwhelming. I could tell enough to know my life was changed, though.

The Tuesday after Ty was born (He was born on a Wednesday) I had to be opened back up. My uterine fluids infected my cesarean site (one of those one-in-a-million things and it happens to me!). They opened up a 3"+ section of my site.....no pain medicine, nothing to numb it. Just pushed a Q-tip in it to break it open and then used his fingers to pry open the rest.


Hands down.

Two days later, they opened 1" of the other side.

Both sites had to be packed with sterilized gauze soaked in antibiotic three times a day.

Three times a day my mom and boyfriend would wash up, glove up and remove the old gauze from the site and then pack the site with the fresh gauze.

This had to be done for 6 weeks before it was fully healed from the inside out.

That December he gave me an engagement ring.

I ordered my dress in January. The date was set for September 23, 2006. It was going to be a special and amazing day.

We bought a house in May.

The details of what happened to end our relationship are private, so they won't be expelled here. I'll just state that shortly after he arrived home from school, after facing and enduring a year of separation there was little of our relationship left that was recognizable.

I cried.

I cried some more.

I had a particularly painful melt-down in the floor of my shower, and yet again, I cried.

And then one morning I got myself out of bed, dried my eyes, and let the world continue on. I had been hurt before. I had my heart broken before. I survived. Everything that I had endured, one thing always happened....I survived.

One way or another, the house was going to have to be fixed up, with some help I figured out a way that I could keep it for me and Ty, so we finished fixing it up and Ty and I moved in that December (2006). Life has kinda been in a holding pattern ever since.

A few guys have wandered in and quickly out of my life. Very few have treated me like an actual human being, much less someone that deserves their respect. Hopefully by now, though, I've learned to weed through the players and the jerks. Hopefully, by now, I should be able to recognize a good guy simply by the fact that he would have to be so completely different from some of the guys that have come my way in the past three years.

Although my love life is quite that pathetic and horrible, my life--overall--has been anything but!

Ty is getting bigger and bigger everyday and, cliche as it sounds, I love him more and more every day and I know that I'm so wonderfully blessed.

True, I'm not where I hoped I'd be in my life at age twenty-seven.....but I absolutely wouldn't change a thing even if I could because that's part of life. If I were the person I hoped I'd be, I wouldn't be me, and I think I'm doing a pretty good job of learning to live with me.


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About The Author
Ashley Wife & Mom

Ashley is a thirty-something wife and mother of two boys. She enjoys spending time with her family, as well as reading and decorating their home. Her blogging adventures began in 2006 as a single mother and have carried on through marriage and a new life with a husband, a teenager, and a pre-schooler.