Friday, October 1, 2010

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Reposted from a Facebook note since I accidentally deleted the original post and had to rewrite it

I fell in love and gained an instant family. Also I spent a month driving cross-country and moved to a different town. 

It's a long story, really, so I'll try to sum it up. That really means I'm going to make you read an eleventy-jillion word essay describing the past year of my life in minute detail. It's like the Christmas letter from HELL!!!

November/December 2009- The holidays are particularly sucky. I turned 35, broke up with the guy I was dating, and came to realize that taking antidepressants is actually quite vital to my well-being and going off of them was a really bad idea, all in the same weekend. It was like this. It takes time to get back up to a normal dosage of happy pills and in between I am NOT in a good place. Things are bad. I am at my sister Lib's house for Christmas. I am trying not to be miserable because, "Hey! it's Christmas!! And Family!! And niece and nephews!! I should be So! Happy!!"  but mostly failing

I get a message on Facebook from a stranger- Todd Valencia. He says he came across my blog and he says incredibly nice things about my writing. [I offer to remain his devoted servant for as long as he keeps giving me literary compliments, but only in my head.] He wonders if I write fiction and if I write anywhere else online. Stranger is kinda cute. I write back.  We send tentative messages back and forth. I tell no one, not even my sister because I'm secretly kind of ashamed at myself for hoping there's a chance this will turn out to be something. Because really, what are the odds? I have no idea what I am in for.

January- The messages get less tentative, and longer. We find we share a fantasy of making a living as writers one day. I begin to find minivans increasingly attractive. We start challenging each other to short story challenges and critiquing each other's work. 

Todd tells me about his divorce, his two children, what it's like being a single parent. We both admit to interest and bemoan the fact that there are so many solid and practical reasons why we could never become involved with each other, such as geographical distance (He's a Californian living on the east coast, I'm an east coaster living in California), The Army (current possessor of his soul and physical body, and bent on sending him to Afghanistan a few months hence), religion (I am a Christian, he is... not), age (he is eight years younger than I am and I have recently sworn off of dating younger men), and, confusingly, musical tastes..? (I will tease him until we die about the fact that he listed slightly differing musical tastes as a reason we could Never be Together).

February- Todd sends me flowers for Valentine's day. Conversation culminates in an anguished discussion where both parties acknowledge that strong feelings make a simple friendship impossible but I insist that I can't reconcile my devotion to God and a relationship with an unbeliever. I tell him we can never speak again. Oh. The Drama.

Three of the worst days in history later- God tells me [in a cloud of fiery splendor (not really)] that I'm doing the wrong thing. I argue that church people are very firm on the not-dating-non-Christians thing. He asks who I'm going to listen to. I tentatively decide on Him. Todd and I resume communications and he forgives me for "dumping" him on Valentines day with the stipulation that he will never ever let me forget it. We share our thoughts and feelings via incredibly long daily emails and frequent chats that last into the wee hours of the night (for me, in CA, and the late hours of the morning for him on the east coast). We are falling in love. We have never even spoken on the phone. 

March- The army decides that maybe they possibly will discharge him or not because of the custody situation with his children and his ex-wife which we will not go into here. I (kind of) jokingly volunteer to a marriage of convenience in which he goes off to war while I stay with the children. We both pretend this is not an option either of us would seriously consider. We both pretend it would just be really practical and convenient for everyone.

March- The army decides that "Yes, no, he can't not go" and Todd begins the great debate about what he is going to do now. Options are: taking advantage of GI bill and going back to school, or getting one of those job things doing the same thing he's doing for the Army as a contractor. We decide that the time is long overdue for us to meet in person and possibly date or maybe just elope to Vegas on first meeting. Todd decides to come back home to California for the summer while he figures things out, which, since his family and his children's mother live conveniently close to me, works out nicely with the aforementioned plan.

April- Todd finalizes plans for leaving North Carolina and driving to California at the end of April. We eagerly and nervously anticipate meeting in real life.

My grandmother becomes unexpectedly ill and I tearfully explain that I am flying to Rhode island to say goodbye. Todd insists without hesitation that he is willing to drive to Rhode Island, pick me up, meet my entire family, and drive back to California with me. I tell him he is crazy and does not know my family but am willing to be convinced. I wonder if I am insane, or if he is, or if both of us are, for thinking this could be a good idea.

Late April- My wonderful grandmother is laid to rest and mourned not solely by her six children and their various and assorted spouses, twenty grandchildren, and no less than twenty great grandchildren;  but also by many other friends and loved ones. I did not get a chance to tell her about Todd, but the fact that his daughter shares my Mimi's birthday, a day I was also born on, confirms my feeling that she is somehow looking out for us.

The next day, May 1st-  a minivan containing the love of my life, his two children, his brother, and two cats pull up in front of my parents' house as my mother feels the sudden and inexplicable need to wash the outside of the front windows. We exchange slightly awkward greetings in front of nosy family members. We go on a date while Uncle Ben babysits the children. I go back to my sister's house for the night, and that turns out to be the last night we spend apart until late July.

May, early- We vacation in Rhode Island, blissfully getting to know each other, while the kids and I = instant love, and they bond with my niece and nephews as if they're all already cousins.

May, rest of- We spend a leisurely three weeks driving cross country- two relative strangers who know each other very well, and two children who seem to accept this new family arrangement as if it's always been this way. We sightsee in DC, kidnap, er, compassionately relocate a chicken from North to South Carolina, dig for diamonds in Arkansas, gaze in awe at the Grand Canyon, and cavort in a very, very cold river in Sedona. We weather countless pit stops, disciplinary issues (I am not allowed to treat the six year old like a baby, no matter how cute he is and no matter how many times he flashes his dimples), poor driving skills (Todd's, totally Todd's) and wanting to kill each other for several brief periods of time. I find out that the house I've been renting for the last year is being sold, and I have to move out by the end of June.

June- We arrive in California, lives and relationship miraculously preserved against the odds. We decide that if we could weather three weeks in a car with two small children immediately after having met, we'll probably survive anything and promptly decide to move in together. 

To be continued...

Part two
Part three

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