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When you’re little, growing up is supposed to be something you can’t wait for. If you believed what you watched in the movies, your future was going to be filled with lots of singing, talking animals and a happily ever after.
What more could a little girl want?
How could someone so innocent ever consider their lives would one day be filled with nothing but pain and regret - as mine is today? I shared the same philosophy and dreams as every other little girl I knew. I planned to grow up, battle a villain, and find my very own prince charming who would whisk me off into the sunset. As a child I was an optimist, envisioning my life being very similar to one of those beloved Disney movies I watched endlessly. What can I say, I grew up in the eighties during a time when Walt Disney had you believing it was possible to dream big. But then again, even the fairytales our parents used to read to us when we were young wanted you to believe that as well.
Honestly, what child do you know who doesn’t become excited when they read about an ugly duckling changing into a beautiful swan? It was those fairytales with their stories of love that had every one of us believe even we could eventually find our own happily ever after. What dear old Walt didn’t warn us about was that not every cloud came with a silver lining. He should have warned us that with the good comes the bad. Some of those clouds are dark, hiding an evil which is content to wait and watch. I have to credit that evil because it’s a soulless creature whose patience seems timeless. It waits in silence only surfacing to attack the weakest of dispositions where it gets into the recesses of their heart to embed itself.
Unfortunately for its victim, once it penetrates those walls, destruction of the mind, body, and soul soon follows.
Lying before me in a sterile hospital bed is the love of my life, my husband; a man whose fragile soul has been at the mercy of that very same evil, vile creature for as long as he can remember. A man who always put the needs of others before his own, regardless of the cost to his own personal welfare. Or, he did, until three days ago when he decided that the people closest to him, the ones who love him unconditionally, would be better off if he were dead.
For nearly thirty years I have stood beside this man before me, watching as an unseen evil devoured him, digging its claws in, slowly destroying him. As I take Alec’s cold hand, I am hit with a barrage of memories – both happy and sad – of our life together. In retrospect, even the photos that line the walls of our family home show the face of a tormented man fighting an internal battle to stay in control. Unfortunately, fighting day in and day out, year after year, against something that powerful becomes tiring and eventually, it can take its toll.
As I look at Alec’s pale face while he sleeps so peacefully in his coma, I wish I could find what triggered his decision to end his life. Or, at the very least, when he reached that point of no return. Understanding his reasons is all I’ve been able to think about for the past three days since we found him unresponsive in our backyard. His empty medication bottles and the bottle of Jack Daniels lying beside him were apparent signs my husband had finally lost his battle.
I can remember the very first day Alec and I met like it was yesterday. My mother was dropping me off at pre-school, but I was terrified of being left there alone, and I was refusing to let go of her hand. My mom was one of those stay-at-home types who loved being surrounded by children. Because of this, she refused to waste money on child-minding services when she was perfectly capable of doing it herself. For a short while, until she grew tired of the cliques and bitching between the other mothers, we used to go to a local playgroup. Just because she couldn’t justify wasting money that could be better spent, didn’t mean she wanted to shelter us from other children – hence the playgroup. She was a firm believer that solid friendships are built when we are children and that every opportunity should be offered to us to build those lasting friendships.
Unfortunately, my mother also doesn’t possess a filter, so there is nothing stopping her from saying exactly what her brain is thinking. That tiny flaw of hers can either provide great entertainment or embarrassment, depending on the setting. She realized that when she could no longer tolerate the actions of the other mothers, it would probably be better for us to stop attending. She stopped taking me and my two older brothers to that playgroup when she could no longer trust herself to not say anything that would result in us kids being shunned from their children’s lives forever.
My poor mom tried everything that very first morning of pre-school to get me to go off with the other children, but all I wanted was to go home. As the tears welled up in my eyes, this little blond-haired boy with big freckles on his nose walked up to me and grabbed my tiny hand. Not a word was uttered as he gestured with his other hand for me to follow. I was hesitant, yet I let that little boy pull me away from my mother and lead me to where some other boys were playing with Lego blocks. Having two older brothers who loved building with Lego blocks, I was suddenly distracted, forgetting that mom was still there. I sat beside my new friend on the mat gathering pieces to build a car like my older brother James had taught me to make instead.
I didn’t learn the name of my new friend until much later when the teacher made us sit in a large circle and tell everyone our names. When Alec spoke, his voice was much quieter than that of the other boys. His smile though, now that’s what eventually, many years later, made me fall in love with him. From that very first day, Alec and I were attached at the hip. At first, I preferred to spend my playtime with the boys in our classroom as they reminded me of my older brothers. The other girls were only interested in playing with dolls, which at the time I found to be boring. By the end of that first year of school, at the encouragement of my mother, I started spending more of my time with the other little girls. I didn’t realize it back then, but all my poor mom wanted was a little girl she could dress up in pretty clothes. She already had two sons, she didn’t need a tomboy as well.
Although Alec had his friends, there was still something about him that was different. When the other boys were yelling and being loud, Alec would be quietly sitting by himself in a corner. It was as if he was two different kids at times. Sometimes he would be outside playing pirates or soldiers with his friends, and there were other times he’d quietly sit on his own reading and drawing. It’s only now while I’m reminiscing that I realize even back then Alec was struggling against a greater force.
Over the next couple of years, Alec and I drifted from each other. Although unintentional, we only seemed to cross paths while in the school playground. Honestly, I always found his group of friends annoying, so I stayed away. His two best friends, Derek and Martin, who remain that to this day, were always doing dumb things to seek attention and were consistently in trouble. I’d like to say that’s changed over the years, but every so often those two revert back to their childhood and do something that sees them buried in trouble. Normally though, it’s their wives they are begging forgiveness from, and it’s always short lived.
During those early days, I gravitated around two girls who were my complete opposite - Rebecca and Marlia. At the time, we considered ourselves best friends, but thinking about it now, I realize our friendship was nothing more than a convenience. Rebecca was an only child whose wealthy parents catered to her every need, constantly giving her everything she wanted. She was always bossy, dictating what we were and weren’t allowed to do. Marlia, on the other hand, was the quiet one. She was the follower, always doing what Rebecca told her to do. Me, well, regardless of how hard my mother tried, I was destined to be the tomboy. Girlie things just didn’t interest me at all. When Rebecca and Marlia were painting their toes or fingernails, I was climbing trees. It would take another few years for our friendship to fizzle out, but during that time I became aware of Alec more than ever before.