Luke

    How do I even begin? Luke was everyone’s friend.  He never met a stranger.  He brought so many people home I never knew what to expect when I walked in from work.  He could talk to anyone and for hours at a time.

    He was the life of the party.  If we were with friends or at a party and I needed to find Luke I just needed to find  the big group of people because I knew Luke was in the middle of them all.  

    Luke was also up for anything.  Well, almost anything.  It had to be fun.  Luke’s kind of fun.  Luke was wild.  He was a bad boy.  He loved dirt bikes, camping, anything to do with water, snow mobiles. If it was fast and dangerous Luke was there.  He once called me from Clint’s, excited, because he saw a bull in a yard and he jumped on it and rode it.  

    It never crossed his mind that he might get hurt and not be able to work.  Or that he was generating large hospital bills from getting hurt.  He didn’t think, he just did.

    There was a darkness to Luke, though.  A sadness. If he wasn’t out being wild, he wasn’t happy.  If he had to be at home, he was irritable.  I always felt like I had to entertain him or he would leave.  He told me one time that he was never, ever happy.  It made me feel terrible, like he didn’t love me.  He said he loved me more than anything in the world but he just couldn’t be happy on the inside.

    It took me decades to realize that he just couldn’t love himself. He couldn’t sit still because he would start thinking about life and how he wasn’t happy and how he felt like he was never good enough for me.  Or his boys.  But I know he loved us as much as he could. 

    His mom told me once that he was like that as a little boy. He would get piles of presents for Christmas from his grandparents and he would open a couple then walk away to sit by himself.  They would go out to eat and he wouldn’t want to be there so he’d just go to sleep in the booth.  

    My husband.  My  soul mate.  The boy I fell in love with.  We grew from childhood into adulthood together.  From 13 until  46 he was the center of my universe.  

     We went from friends to boyfriend and girlfriend to husband and wife. He was always going to be a part of my life no matter what.  It was destiny. Fate. Whatever you want to call it.  It was always going to be that way.  

    We went  through teenage pregnancy, breakups, death of friends and family, addictions, abortion, epic fights, cancer and just everyday life. He was always there.  Not always physically but we were always in each others hearts and minds. 

    Until the day he wasn’t.  Until the day he went to sleep and didn’t wake up. 

1993

    Beau and I live with nana.  We split her mortgage and all the bills  50/50.  Beau and I share a room. 

    I haven’t seen or heard from Luke.  I know he’s around because Beau tells me that he sees his dad across the street from his school all the time.  This breaks my heart. The one thing I promised myself is that my kids would always have their dad around.  I feel like a failure.

     Beau is 5 years old now.  13 more years until he is 18. I don’t want to be alone for the next 13 years but I don’t want to rush Beau into growing up.  I love being his mom and I love watching him grow.

    I spend six months just being a mom to Beau and after he goes to bed I go out with friends.   Austin is seriously dating Hannah now so I haven’t talked to Austin in a while.  I have no desire to hang out with Hannah.

    I’m still at the insurance company.  There is a guy there, Jeff, that I am friends with.   I think he’s good-looking.  He’s really shy but he has his life together. He is almost 30, never been married and owns a condo.  I know he has a crush on me.  We have been going out to the movies and hanging out but he hasn’t tried to kiss me.  I have never been shy. Sometimes people think I’m shy when they first meet me but it’s not shyness.  I’m a very private person. I’m not going to open up to anyone until I really get to know them.  

    When Jeff and I go out, we meet up and leave my car at work and usually take his truck.   

    We went out to the movies again and he drives me back to work so I can get my car.  He pulls up next to my car and I know he wants to kiss me but he just never does.  I can see him struggling.  I don’t  realize until years later that sometimes I just push my way thru life thinking everyone feels like I feel.  I decide for everyone.  I am either charging thru life telling everyone what to do, or I don’t care about the situation so I don’t do anything at all.  Tonight, I’m charging thru.  Someone has too, right?

    It’s not that I like being bossy, I just tend to surround myself with people who need bossing around.  I’m a decision maker.   Sometimes I make bad decisions, but hey, at least I make decisions.  I’m impulsive sometimes, but I always deal with the consequences on my own.  I don’t rely on any one but myself.

    So Jeff not taking control is making me crazy.  Alabama at her finest, taking charge and making decisions.  

    I ask Jeff “Are you ever going to kiss me?”. He is shocked and just chuckles. So I kiss him.  He kisses me back.  It’s nice.  He’s sweet.  

   Then I tell him what’s going to happen because that’s what I do.  I tell him that we can never be serious because I have Beau and he can’t ever meet him.  There will be no I love you’s, ever. I tell him that we can be boyfriend and girlfriend and we will sleep together and if he decides to sleep with someone else that’s fine, he just has to break up with me first. And he says ok.

    It’s nice being with someone who has their shit together. When he tells me he is going to do something, he actually does it.  And the sex is good.  He is shy at first but gets over that, thank God.  He is the third person I’ve slept with. I have never slept with anyone other than Luke, Austin and Jeff.  

   On New Years Eve we went to a club.  On the way to the club, out of no where, he asks me  “What would you do if Luke came back?”. That shocks me. We have never talked about Luke or Beau.  

  I tell him that I will let him see Beau, of course.  Luke will always be Beau’s dad.  He tells me that I shouldn’t do that and that pisses me off.  He isn’t a parent and I have told him from day one that he wasn’t a part of that.  He has no clue.

    There is an awkwardness the rest of the night.  We have never argued before.  He is drinking and getting progressively drunker by the minute.  A guy walks by and hits on me but he didn’t see Jeff standing there. When he did, he apologizes to Jeff and walks away.  Jeff starts to get all macho like he is going to fight him and this is so not like him.  

    Looking back, I think he was trying to take control.  I didn’t realize it until after Luke died but I take control and it makes people, men, I do this with men and it makes them feel unmanly. I emasculate them. I don’t mean too but I never had a dad around so I just really don’t know what a man’s role is.

   Jeff is really drunk so I stop drinking.  They have a buffet so I get him food, hoping to sober him up.  We are with our group of friends outside and at one point he falls face first into his scrambled eggs.   I am embarrassed and irritated.  We did the countdown and he kisses me and then I tell him I have to leave. I need to get out of here.  What do I do to these men?

    He walked me to my car and kissed me goodbye.  And then he told me he loved me.  My heart sunk.  This could not be happening.

   I don’t say anything back to him.  I get in my car and leave.  He calls me all day the next day but I won’t answer.  I don’t know what to say to him.

    I go to work the next day and try to act normal but it’s awkward. My birthday is in two weeks and we have already planned a weekend vacation.  Now I’m not looking forward to it at all.

   We have fun my birthday weekend but I can’t  get over the I love you bomb.   Now I am thinking about my future.  Jeff loves me and I know we can’t ever go any farther in this relationship.  I won’t have a step dad for Beau.  So I know I have to end this.  I do and I feel so bad.  I still have to work with him.  

   I don’t  want to be alone forever.  I track Luke down and marry him three days later.

   

    

1992/1993

Beau and I finally moved in with Luke.  Luke’s mom found us a place.  I still have no idea why she was involved.  

   It was not a nice place.  I know we couldn’t afford a lot.  It wasn’t in a bad area but not someplace I would have picked. I’d always loved in nice perfect brand new houses.  This was a reality check.

    It was a duplex down an alley.  You pulled up to a row of six garages. We each had our own garage . You then walked past the garages, down a walkway and into a courtyard.  All the units faced the courtyard.  There were two duplexes and one small single unit.  

     We had one of the duplexes.  Luke called me and told me that they had found a place to rent.  

    It was a one bedroom, one bathroom shotgun house.  You walked in to the livingroom, thru the kitchen then the bathroom then the small bedroom. It was $275.00 a month.

  Beau was four years old when we moved out.  The first time we went there, Beau and I got out of the car and walked down the walkway to our new house.  I was holding his little hand as we walked past the single unit.  The blinds were open and I saw Beau staring inside.  I looked up, into the house and there was pictures, ripped from magazines, pasted wall to wall.  It was all pornography.  Nothing but wall to wall naked vagina’s.  Who in the hell lived here??

   I grabbed Beau, covered his eyes and ran past this house to our new house. I walked in and was hit with the smell of mold.  It was dingy.  The carpet was dirty and so were the walls.  Everything in it was old. Old appliances, old sink, old shower. I didn’t even want to sit down.

    When I moved out of my mom’s, she mom told me I didn’t have to move, but once I moved I could never come back.  

    Everything happens for a reason. I was on my own now and I had to pay my way for real now.

    Luke was doing construction still.  I was still working for the insurance company. I had a car payment and Beau went to a private school.  Now we had rent and utilities. 

    The first night at our new home we went into the kitchen to cook dinner.  I had never cooked anything in my life except heating stuff up in the microwave.  Luke handed me some polish sausage and told me to start on that and he would cook the rest.  I told him I didn’t know how to cook it. He told me to make the Kraft Mac and cheese.  I started reading the back of the box.  He took the box and handed me the frozen bag of broccoli. I just looked at him.  I had NO CLUE how to cook!  I started crying. He hugged me and laughed and told me it was alright.

    Luke taught me how to cook and I am now a damn good cook.  I cooked every night once Luke and I settled in.  I didn’t know it then, but we wouldn’t be settled in until years later.

    It was way harder living on my own than I thought it would be.  We never had enough money and I could not keep the house clean.  I was so overwhelmed with doing every thing on my own.  When I lived at home as a kid, I had to pick up after myself and I had a chore list waiting for me everyday after school.  

  Now no one picked up after themselves.  There were always dishes in the sink, toys all over the floor and dirty clothes every where. I could not keep up. I was suddenly exhausted all the time.

    Luke was also going thru something and I had no idea what it was.  He had always worked his butt off but now he was missing a lot of work.  I would go to sleep and wake up and he wouldn’t be in bed.  When I asked him in the morning where he had been, he anyways told me that he was having trouble sleeping and he was working in the garage.  

   I’d been noticing that when I got in my car in the morning the seat in my car was moved a little or I would have a little more or a little less gas than I thought I had.  When I asked Luke if he was taking my car at night, he told me no.  I knew he was lying to me so I wrote the miles down one night and the next morning I had my proof that he was lying.  When I told him, he admitted it and said he just couldn’t sleep.  I took the key to my car back.

    He was still disappearing at night.  I couldn’t run to the garage and look because I didn’t want to leave Beau alone or wake him up.  One night I decided to yell out my door to see if he could hear me from the garage. It was about 11:00pm.   When I yelled, John, the guy who lived in the single unit with the porn all over his walls, ran out of his house at me.  

    Soon after we moved in the neighbors told us he was mentally ill.  He was in and out of the hospital for days at a time.  

    When I yelled for Luke that night, he ran out of his house and ran right at me.  I shut my door and locked it.  He was screaming and pounding on my door.  The entire top of my door was glass.  I was afraid he was going to break it and come in and attack me. 

   I ran into my room and shut my door and called Daisy’s mom, Ms. Ada.  She could hear the banging.  She yelled at me to call the police.  I immediately hung up and called 911.  They came out and arrested John.  That’s when I found out what a 5150 was.  They took him away for three days and he came back medicated and mellow. That was his routine.  

    I don’t know why I called Ms. Ada instead of the police.  I think it’s because in my family I knew not have any unnecessary attention drawn toward me.  My mom is a typical southern woman.  She says you should only be in the newspaper three times in your life: when your born, when you get married and when you die. That’s it.

    After that, I refused to walk past John’s. You were not supposed to drive into the court-yard but I didn’t care. I drove in, right up to my door from that point on.  I was furious at Luke for being gone every night.

    I called Clint to see if he had any idea what was going on.  That’s when he dropped a bomb on me.  Luke was on drugs.  It all made sense.  He hardly worked, he disappeared and I had money missing out of my account all the time. My $3,000.00 engagement ring was also missing.  I thought I had lost it but now I wondered.

   Also, I had just found out that I was pregnant again.  I didn’t know what to do.  

    I have always felt like I was a disappointment to my mom.  When I was young I was always on the honor roll.  I was a smart kid.  My family always said I was going to be the one who made something of herself.  My mom’s family are all blue-collar.  There is nothing wrong with that but I was supposed to do more.  And I didn’t.  And here I was, 21 years old with a 4-year-old, shacked up with my boyfriend who was on drugs and knocked up again.

   Luke came home and I told him that I knew he was on drugs. He denied it.  I told him Clint had told me.  He knew he couldn’t deny it any more.  I also told him I was pregnant.  He seemed happy.  I looked at him and knew that he was happy because he knew I wouldn’t leave while I was pregnant. I made a decision in that moment.  I knew what I had to do.  I had to leave him.  And I had to get an abortion.

    I called my mom and told her I didn’t like living on my own. She said she knew it was hard.  I told her I didn’t want to live with Luke anymore. She told me that I had better start looking for an apartment. 

   Well so much for moving back home.  I called my Nana. Nana would never tell me no.  I called her and told her I wanted to live with her.  I never told anyone why.  And they never asked.

    Luke came home and I told him two things.  One, that I was getting an abortion and two that I was moving out.  He was upset.  I had already made the appointment for the abortion and told him he had to take me.  We went the next day.

    I knew it was going to be bad, but it was way worse than I imagined.  Luke had to stay there because I couldn’t leave by myself.  

    They called me to the back and had me put a gown on.  I put it on and as I was walking with the nurse, another girl in a gown just like mine, fainted and fell to the ground.  I stopped and looked at the nurse.  I was so terrified. The nurse told me that she hadn’t  gotten the abortion yet, she was just scared.  They picked her up and led us both into a cramped room with benches on both sides of the walls.  There were about 15 of us in there, all wearing gowns, quiet and scared. I felt like a cow in a slaughter-house.  I wanted to leave but I didn’t feel like I had a choice.

    They called us back one by one.  It was going fast.  Every five minutes or so, another one of us got called back.  

  They called me back.  I was so scared I thought my knees were going to buckle.  No one told me it was going to be OK, I was just another number.  I imagine working at an abortion clinic you get desensitized, probably disgusted, by every one’s irresponsibility.  

    They had me lay on a gurney.  I asked how long it would take and I was told less than five minutes.  They put me under with anesthesia. It felt like I just blinked my eyes and I was coming too.  

    There was a girl in the gurney next to me, vomiting.

    They got us up and walked us to another room. Same girls as before but now, stunned and out of it, never to be the same again.  We would always know what we were guilty of.

    They were letting us leave, one by one.  People who went after me were leaving before me.  I was really out of it but I knew Luke wasn’t out there.  They wouldn’t  let me leave.  I sat there forever by myself.  Finally, a nurse told me that she couldn’t make me stay.  I walked outside and sat by myself.  Luke finally showed up.  I was so hurt.  He didn’t seem to care.

    I was asking him how he could be so cold and heartless.  He was driving, chewing on a straw like he didn’t have a care in the world. I was screaming and crying. He finally yelled back, he broke down and cried, told me how much he loved me and that he knew that he screwed up and he had ruined everything.

    The next day I put everything in storage and Luke and I went out separate ways.  I didn’t see him for a year.

    

    

October 1994

   Seven months pregnant. Luke isn’t working. He’s on drugs again. Actually, he never stopped. It was just wishful thinking on my part.  

    He picked me up after work today. All we have is my truck and he’s always driving it.  

    We live an hour and 15 minutes away from everyone because it’s cheaper to live here.  It’s not a bad house but I’m so far away.  

    It’s Friday night. Beau is at my mom’s for the weekend. We don’t have any food at the house. 

  I’m 23 and struggling to pay for everything. Luke leaves to go get money.  I don’t know where or how and I don’t ask. He says he has a job but I never see a paycheck.  I ate a big lunch so I’m not starving.  I go lay in my bed and watch TV.  I fall asleep.

    I wake up Saturday and he still isn’t home. I’m hungry and pissed. I have no way to get a hold of him. We’ve been married for seven months. I knew the day after we eloped that it was a mistake. 

    How can he leave me alone, 7 months pregnant and with no food?  What if he got arrested? What if my truck got impounded and I have no way to get to work?  I’m upset.

  Saturday night. I’m starving and furious. He knew I hadn’t eaten since Friday at lunch. I’m pregnant. I’m too proud to call my mom.  Luke and I were going to get married when we were 19. My mom said she wouldn’t come to my wedding. She said she wasn’t going to dance on my grave . So at 23 I eloped.  I’m too stubborn to tell her she was right.  

  Sunday morning. Still no Luke. No phone call of explanation. I’m so angry and hungry and I’m distraught because I know he is just being selfish and thoughtless. I’m laying on the living room floor and I’m sobbing and I’m praying and realizing how difficult I have made my life. 

“Please God, let Luke be dead. I can’t do this anymore “. I am praying that he got in an accident so I could get social security.  

I know I can’t live without him so it would be easier if he were dead. 

    He shows up Sunday night. He doesn’t even apologize. He just walks in, hands me a cold bacon cheeseburger.  I hate bacon cheeseburgers, how does he not know this?  I throw it at him.  He walks into the bathroom and I just go to bed. 

I wake up Monday and go to work. At lunch time, I go to my grandmas and eat. 

1991

Luke and I were broken up again. We just argued all the time. We would get back together and then break up. All the time. Responsibility scared him. I know he loved us though.

I just worked and went out with my friends and waited for Luke to call me apologizing again. I was sure he would grow up someday soon.

I still lived with my mom and step dad. After Beau was born, they fell in love with him. He could do no wrong in their eyes and they spoiled him. He called them Grammy and Pop.

Beau was so adorable, with his white blonde hair and bright blue eyes. He was a big kid, too. I was in the store and some guy asked me when I was going to get around to potty training him. He embarrassed me because he said it so loudly. He also made me question my parenting. I thought to myself “should he be potty trained already?”. I told the guy he is only 1 1/2 years old and his mouth dropped open. He apologized and told me to call the NFL.

He was turning three and we were having a big birthday party for him. Everyone could swim in Beau’s pool. Beau thought it was his pool and no one or nothing could be in it unless he was in it. When he got out, he expected everyone to get out so he just never got out. We would have to drag him out of the pool and into bed every night.

That’s how we found out he could swim without his floaties. Charlie threw a pool toy in the pool and Beau starting screaming and he jumped in, fully clothed, with no floaties on, to get it out. We all ran towards the pool to get him. He was only two years old. By the time we got to him he had already swam to the edge and was already pulling himself out of the pool and yelling at Pop. We were amazed! He never used a floatie again. He still loves the water!

Luke wasnt coming to his party because my mom and Charlie didn’t like him. They thought he wasn’t responsible and should have done more for Beau and I. Luke and I, when we were together either spent holidays apart or celebrated them twice.

I was just having my family and friends. Austin was coming of course. He was always there. He was engaged now and getting married in a few months. I really liked her. She had always been a sweet girl.

We had a blast. Everyone stayed late, long after Beau had gone to bed. Me and my friends hung out until late.

I was going to Austin’s wedding,of course. I was happy for him but I was a little sad. He had always been there for me. I couldn’t expect him to be there for Beau and I after he was married.

The night before he got married he called me up and asked me to sleep with him one more time. I was so mad at him that I didn’t go to his wedding. Austin will never change.

I think their marriage lasted two years.

Later this year, Luke bought me a ring and finally proposed. Well he told me he was buying me a ring. He brought it home and handed it to me. I had to tell him to ask me and then put it on my finger. But I said yes….