Baby Steps

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Dear Caroline, 

Yesterday was intense. I think I understand on a very basic level but I don’t think I truly understand what it all means just yet. 

I don’t understand how difficult that conversation must have been for you. I do and I don’t. I know that it must have been a lot, that it must have been overwhelming, waiting on those text responses with your breath held, your heart pounding. I don’t know how you felt.  

I don’t know all the thoughts racing through your head, but I know some of them. I know you had to have been scared, nervous, afraid of how it might turn your world upside down. 
I know what it means to you. Acceptance. Validation. Finally. It also means transparency. Being honest about something that’s never been talked about before. The understanding that I am more than just your “friend”. With blessings and well wishes. 

So tell me, my love, how do you feel? What is it like? 

We are becoming a family. A whole, complete, cohesive family. With love and support. There will be bumps ahead. Some I can see and some I’m sure I haven’t even thought of yet. 

I am completely sure that we will get through all of it together. You and I. Me and you. I can’t help but feel like we’ve started something very special. I understand that not everyone will want to be a part of it and not everyone will approve. But what we have is amazing. 

We can explain and we can demonstrate what love and family and unconditional support look like. We will include all of them. I will love them all because they are part of you. 

Baby steps, my love, baby steps. 

But yesterday felt like we ran a mile. 

Love, 

Stacy

700 or 10

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Dear Caroline, 

We promised that we would always be honest with each other. No matter what. We whispered that promise to each other in bed the other night through tears. That we would always talk and work it out. That we would never let resentment build until it was too big. 

In the interest of that promise, I have some things I need to tell you. 

I have the hardest time when you are ten miles from me. When you are 700 miles away, I can text you anytime that I like. I can propose to you and profess my undying love. I can send you photos. When you are ten miles away, you are further away than ever. 

I talk to you in a hundred text messages a day when you’re 700 miles away. You are with me in everything I do. You are always right there. I’m happy with ten text messages a day when you’re ten miles away. A phone call is hard to come by. You’re so close. So close that I cannot touch you or see you. 

I can deal with the distance between us when 700 miles separate us. I struggle to understand when you are ten miles away. 

It’s never hit me as hard as it is tonight. 

You’re so close that I can feel my skin goosebump at your touch, but I can’t tell you about it. I can feel your breath on my neck, in that spot that makes me shiver, but you don’t know. 

Maybe it is because so many things delayed our reunion this weekend and we missed time together, though it was for a very good cause. I’m not sorry about that at all. 

Maybe it is because the nights (and afternoon) we spent together was so different and emotional for me. 

Maybe it is because I came home from work to you for the first time ever and I loved it so much. 

Or maybe it is because you did so much for me yesterday and I loved it so much. 

Maybe it’s the orchids, the laundry in the hamper, the made bed with the pillows askew. 

Maybe it’s the groceries, your toothbrush on the sink, your dresser drawers growing ever fuller. 

Maybe it was ring shopping, goofing off, walking the dog, watching a movie with the kids. 

Maybe it was the way you said you loved me, blowing bubbles from the bath all over the bathroom, or our tears. 

Whatever the reason, I want you home with me tonight more than ever. 

Love, 

Stacy

Life Saver

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Dear Caroline,

It’s taken me a long time to get to the point where I understand some of the things that led me here and even longer to talk to you about them. Some I just don’t even know how to tell you. Some we’ve discussed and talked about at great length. Some we’ve only barely touched. 

I thought it might be good to lay it all out here for you. To give you something to refer back to when I’m being difficult or you’re frustrated with me. To remind you how far you’ve helped me come and how much farther I have to go. 

My life has not been easy. Some of it was my fault. Some of it was not. 

I remember the first time I ever kissed a girl. How good it felt. How right. I also remember the first time I ever kissed a boy. How rough and sloppy it was. How awkward. 

I remember the first time I was ever intimate with a girl. How easy it was. How I understood everything about how it worked. I remember the first time I was ever with a boy. How I just could not wrap my head around why it was better and was supposed to be this way. 

I remember struggling with my 15 year old self, trying to make it make sense. Being upset to the point of vomiting because I knew what it meant. I didn’t want it to be true. It couldn’t be true. I wasn’t gay. I couldn’t be a lesbian.  Just those words, those labels made me uncomfortable. 

So I retaliated. I would prove to myself that I just hadn’t found the right guy. It was me. It was the sexual abuse I went through as a child that broke me and why I was uncomfortable with men. I wouldn’t deal with rape until much later.

Men were attracted to me. They fed me lines, they told me all kinds of things, and I wanted to be normal. I wanted, more than anything, to prove I wasn’t gay. 

So I tried them all. Skinny ones, large ones, short ones, tall ones. Clean cut ones, tattooed and pierced ones. Good guys, bad guys. Boys with experience and boys who had never done this before. Rumors spread. Sometimes I encouraged them. Especially when I had recently spent the night with their sisters, girlfriends, cousins. I hoped that if everyone was focused on which guy I slept with this week, they wouldn’t notice the girl who’s hand I was holding. The girl who’s ear I was whispering in. The girl I cried over at night because I was an experiment because she wasn’t gay. No matter how many times I tried to tell them that it was okay, I wasn’t either, it was never okay. 

I tried to tell my mother at 16. Things were very unsettled at home then. I was just young and experimenting. 

I tried to tell her at 21 after my first marriage dissolved after years of physical and mental abuse from the children’s biological father. I was just confused after my first divorce. 

I tried to marry my best friend. To keep my feelings bottled up. To do what I thought was best for the children in a tiny community. He was a great guy. Funny. He adopted the children as his own, both figuratively and legally. We tried everything to make it work. It didn’t. 

So many nights spent alone with a razor blade, trying to cut, trying to bleed it out. Trying to forget those nights lying next to a man and crying myself to sleep because it’s not what I wanted. Giving up my keys to the gun case voluntarily because I didn’t trust myself. Dealing with depression and anti-psychotic medications, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications. Being hospitalized for a time. Doing more than contemplating suicide. 

Trying to find answers. Why did men feel that I was obligated to do what they wanted? Why did they feel that they could say or do anything they wanted to me? Why couldn’t I be happy with that? Why couldn’t I be normal? Why did I have these feelings inside me? Why did no one understand? Was it me? 

Then I found you. Everything fell into place. Everything made sense. I explained to my mother for the third time at 31 that I was gay. That I’d found what I was looking for. That you were more than worth anything I’d have to deal with in this town, from family. You saved me from myself. From the dangerous downward spiral that I was inevitably heading for. 

You. 

You are my everything. I don’t know that I can ever thank you enough. For bringing me back from the brink. For helping me make sense of my life. For helping me be okay with who and what I am. 

For loving me even though you understand that I have been broken many, many times and then put back together with rude, uncaring hands. 

Thank you for being patient with me while I learn all about myself. While I learn that it is okay to tell you what I do and don’t like. For trusting me. For loving me when I don’t know how to love myself. 

I love you. 

Stacy

Play With Me

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Dear Caroline,

I love my new tattoo. The one just for you. Your name, if you can read music. I tried so hard to make sure it’s the exact length of your hand. I can’t wait for you to touch it.

I want to play with you.

I want to stay up late with you and make cracker and cheese plates and picnic on the living room floor.

I want to get you a kayak and spend the day on the river, laughing and getting a slight sunburn.

I want to surprise you in bed in the morning when I’m fresh out of the shower and dripping wet by climbing on top of you and letting my hair drip onto your face.

I want to throw water balloons in the house.

I want to go camping and hiking and road tripping and I want you to tell me stories about all the places you’ve been. I want to stop into tiny family diners on the small side roads and wonder with you how it started.

I want to hide around corners and shoot you with Nerf guns.

I want to make silly faces at you when you’re taking an important phone call.

I want to buy a huge container of sidewalk chalk and decorate the entire street in front of our house until it rains and we laugh at the swirls of color that the puddles make. Then I want to dance with you in the rain barefoot.

I want to make huge messes in the kitchen with you. I want to put flour hand prints on your arms and shoulders while you leave powered sugar ones on my ass. I want to lick the batter off of your chin if you miss while licking the spatula clean.

I want to break out the coloring books and teach you to paint even though I have paint steaks in my hair and on my cheek.

I want to build and remodel and repurpose and recycle interesting items we find in thrift stores.

I want to paint the items in our home bright colors like lemon and aquamarine.

I love you so much. It’s going to be great.

Love,
Stacy

Forever and Ever

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Dear Caroline,

I’m sitting in the waiting room, waiting for news on how my mom’s procedure went. I hate when they put her under. She has such a hard time with anesthesia. 

I’m looking around at couples and helpers of all different races, ages, walks of life. I’m studying faces while trying to be inconspicuous and non creepy.

Then I smile to myself. When we are old and our health fails, I’ll be right here, in this chair, in this waiting room, waiting for you.

I’ll hold your hand when they start your IVs. I’ll kiss your forehead when you have a fever. I’ll help you back and forth from the bathroom or with the bed pan, whatever you need. I’ll bring you soft foods, soups and Jell-O. I’ll lay my head on your chest or stomach and tell you how much I love you. I’ll rub Vicks Vapo-Rub on your chest and back when you have a cold, start your hot baths when your muscles ache. I’ll brush your gray hair back from your forehead and kiss your cheek.

I can’t wait to take care of you. To always be right there when you need me.

I can’t wait to climb into bed together as little old ladies and hold each other, our skin papery and wrinkled, our hair gray, our breaths short and wheezy. When arthritis has morphed my hands into something else and I can barely squeeze your hand back and my knuckles are too swollen to ever take my wedding rings off.

I look forward to that adventure with you, my darling. As long as you’ll have me.

Love,
Stacy

Greatest Hits

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Dear Caroline,

I absolutely cannot wait to get home from work tonight. Tonight I’ll get my music notes tattooed and my moon.

My moon represents me. I tattooed your sun first and over a year ago, when I did the kid’s stars. I’ll have my sun, my moon, and all my stars on my ribs, reflecting quietly and beautifully that you guys are my universe, in my ribs, held forever in my heart. I hope that’s what you’ll think of every time you see them.

I’ll get my music notes. Two measures only, what they mean known only to you and my tattoo artist. I’ll put them on my left hip, where your hand rests when we spoon. You’ll know I’m yours. I’m already planning out the plumeria blooms around it, the exotic and beautiful flowers that remind me of you. The ones I’ve painted for you before.

This week has been hard. It’s hard to know what you’re going through. It’s wonderful to know that I am not alone. That you too feel the jealousy of others spending time with me, doing things that we can’t right now. I hate knowing others can see your smile and hear your laugh and don’t understand what pain it causes to be away from that. To be afraid that they don’t fully appreciate what they have when they have your time. I’m glad to know that I’m not crazy when I feel that way when you’re with anyone, even family.

More so, I want to apologize for last night. In a moment of weakness I’m afraid I said some things the wrong way. I’m afraid it came out all wrong. I want to try again.

I want you to be happy and confident in whatever decisions you make regarding your career. I’m not going anywhere. Ever.

I read somewhere a while back that a soulmate is not someone who comes into your life and makes everything blissful (although they can). A soulmate is the one person who understands you, helps you become the best version of yourself, who makes you happy, shakes things up, and challenges you.

I want to be that for you.

I want you to know how amazing you are. How in awe I am of you every day. I want you to learn new things, experience life to the fullest, challenge yourself. I think that I said it wrong last night.

I did not mean to imply that you are wasting your time by not making moves. If you don’t want to right now, for any reason, then I don’t want you to. If you feel you have more to learn, more to do, please do it, my love. Your goals are mine as well. It’s important to you so it is a priority for me.

If you choose to experiment and branch out, I will support you just the same. I will love and support you unconditionally, no matter what. Forever. As long as you’ll have me by your side.

I only want you and I want you to be happy.

You are my everything.

I love you.

Love,
Stacy

Tragedy and Tears

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Dear Caroline,

I can’t express how happy I was to share our bed for a night. Sundays truly are my favorite day. We haven’t shared our bed in eight very long months.

In light of the recent Orlando tragedy, I find myself more afraid than ever. It’s not because you’re right around the corner from where it happened (although you are), not because I’m worried about you being able to take care of yourself (you certainly can), and not really because sometimes I forget that people hate us because we love each other. It’s more and deeper than that.

I feel that I have struggled to fit in, tried to do  things the “right” way, tried to deal with my feelings privately and quietly and in such a way as not to upset or offend anyone, kept my preferences quiet, and been unhappy for most of my life and all of my adult life, if I’m completely honest.

I’m terrified of losing you. I’m so afraid that now that I’ve found you, you can be taken from me. In an instant, everything I’ve ever wanted in another human being, all these feelings I’ve never had before, all the things I didn’t know I wanted, can change. It can disappear. We can be in a perfectly safe place together and it can be gone.

You’re right. We have limited time together in this life. Maybe we’ll find each other sooner and love each other longer in the next life. I just know that I will never stop looking for you.

I’ve spent this week in tears. At first, I thought it was because I miss you so much. I do miss you. I miss you terribly, but I don’t think that’s why. I think I just realized that our time is limited. What that really means. Even if we did celebrate our 75th wedding anniversary, it wouldn’t be enough. I don’t think it will ever be enough. I will never be able to get enough of you.

Love,
Stacy

Cake and Tears

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Dear Caroline,

I haven’t written much lately and it’s because I have too much to say. I can’t get it all straight in my head.

I miss you. I always miss you. These next six months are going to be so hard. I’m going to rely on you more to help me and talk me through them. It’s so hard to believe you left eight months ago. I think back to the day you left and it felt like my heart was being ripped from my chest. I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the day and here I am, still coping, and still making it, eight months later. I’m looking at six more months and I’m feeling the same way, like it’s never going to end.

At the same time, I couldn’t be prouder of you. I’m so excited to hear about the things you do and accomplish every day. Every comment, every word of praise, every compliment is earned and well deserved. I’m excited about how much more you’ll learn in six months. How much more you’ll grow. I’m excited to be on this journey with you and I’d rather be here with you than anywhere else in the world. I choose you and I wouldn’t trade you or us for anything else in the world.

I’m torn between wanting to cry because I miss you so much and starting an Amazon wedding registry. Between curling up with your t-shirt, my heating pad, and my pillow and picking out China patterns.

It’s silly. I know.

I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you.

But I’ll wait as long as it takes. Always.

Love,
Stacy

Lunch and Selfishness

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Dear Caroline,

I thought I would take my lunch break at work to write you a letter. Things have been crazy and hectic and exhausting here and you’ve got family visiting there, so now is as good a time as any to tell you how I feel.

I miss you so much. I remember the first few months that you were gone that I tried so hard never to say those words. At least not to stay them first. I was afraid that if I did, if I said them too often, you would pack up and come home. I didn’t want to influence you in any way.

I could have driven to Florida at any time in December when you first got there, but I was terrified that seeing me might be too much and that you’d want to come back with me. I waited until February, when I thought you were pretty locked in to come see you. When you couldn’t possibly come home with me.

That was the hardest four months of my life. Harder than anything else I’ve ever done, hands down.

I listened to everyone ask me why I let you leave, why I didn’t ask you to stay and all I could say was, “because she would have”. I don’t know how to make them understand that this is bigger than me. That you needed this.

But maybe I did too.

This distance had forced us to talk. It’s made me be open and honest and face some of those demons that make it impossible to sleep without the lights on. I’ve had to tell you my greatest fears and hopes and dreams. It’s made me so grateful for something as simple as holding your hand or being able to kiss your cheek, something I think most couples take for granted.

There really hasn’t been a time in my life where I was really, truly single, but there have been many, many times that I was alone. Even though you are 678 miles away, easily twelve lifetimes, I never feel alone with you.

You may not be physically right here with me, but you are in the spaces between my heartbeats and the pauses between my breaths. I meet you every night in my dreams and I hold you again.

We’ve been together for quite some time now, but it only grows stronger. Exponentially daily.

For all of those reasons and more, I am struggling. I am not good at asking for help, but I am learning.

Help me.

I don’t want to be selfish. I want you to have this time. I want you to go and do. I want you to wander. I want you to be happy and explore and play. I want you to do what your heart and soul need.

For all of these reasons and more, I feel selfish. I am fantasizing about a time when l can wake up and bring you breakfast in bed. When I can lean over and kiss the tip of your nose in that way that makes it wrinkle any time I want. When you are close enough that I can take your hand in mine and confess my love to you while meeting your eyes. When I can write sweet words in books of poetry and leave them for you to find.

Help me. Help me not be selfish.

I love you so much.

Love,
Stacy

Wedding Vows

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Dear Caroline,

Tonight, as I was feeling unwell and trying not to complain, I started smiling, thinking about how you will take care of me and what my life as your wife will be like.

Then I started thinking about our wedding vows. The things I will want to say. Here are some ideas that I like very much.

“On this day,
I give you my heart,
My promise,
That I will walk with you,
Hand in hand,
Wherever our journey leads us,
Living, learning, loving,
Together,
Forever.”

“You are my lover and my teacher,
You are my model and my accomplice,
And you are my true counterpart.
I will love you, hold you and honor you,
I will respect you, encourage you and cherish you,
In health and sickness,
Through sorrow and success,
For all the days of my life.”

“I promise to be your lover, companion and friend,
Your partner in parenthood,
Your ally in conflict,
Your greatest fan and your toughest adversary.
Your comrade in adventure,
Your student and your teacher,
Your consolation in disappointment,
Your accomplice in mischief.
This is my sacred vow to you, my equal in all things. All things.”

“I take you to be my partner for life
I promise above all else to live in truth with you
And to communicate fully and fearlessly,
I give you my hand and my heart
As a sanctuary of warmth and peace
And pledge my love, devotion, faith and honor
As I join my life to yours.”

“On this day,
I give you my heart,
My promise,
That I will walk with you,
Hand in hand,
Wherever our journey leads us,
Living, learning, loving,
Together,
Forever.”

“I believe in you, the person you will grow to be and the couple we will be together.

With my whole heart, I take you as my wife, acknowledging and accepting your faults and strengths, as you do mine.

I promise to be faithful and supportive and to always make our family’s love and happiness my priority. I will be yours in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health, in failure and in triumph. I will dream with you, celebrate with you and walk beside you through whatever our lives may bring. You are my person—my love and my life, today and always.”

“I promise to encourage your compassion,
Because that is what makes you unique and wonderful.
I promise to nurture your dreams,
Because through them your soul shines.
I promise to help shoulder our challenges,
For there is nothing we cannot face if we stand together.
I promise to be your partner in all things,
Not possessing you, but working with you as a part of the whole.
Lastly, I promise to you perfect love and perfect trust,
For one lifetime with you could never be enough.
This is my sacred vow to you, my equal in all things.”

“You know me better than anyone else in this world and somehow still you manage to love me. You are my best friend and one true love. There is still a part of me today that cannot believe that I’m the one who gets to marry you.”

“Our open attitude toward finding adventure together in life is something that I cherish. I love it even more when those great experiences take the form of us making up a home-cooked meal together with a lot of great wine and music. I would marry you for your key lime pie alone.”

I don’t want to steal anyone else’s, but these are some ideas that all had elements that I love. I can’t wait to share everything with you.

I love you.

Love,

Stacy