I always go back to the first day. I suppose it wasn’t the first day we met officially, but it was the first day I seen him.
I was standing by the south wall in the old casino; 21 years old. I had just successfully finished my third year towards a degree that I didn’t finish until many years later. I was a single mother, with a beautiful five year old son. I was desperate to find employment because I didn’t feel confident or ready, or worthy of starting a career. So I reverted back to what was easy. My previous employment at the casino.
My cousin had come with me. As I waited to speak to my supervisor, anxiously hoping to have my position back, my cousin sat at the machine just west of the slot cage. I stood beside her looking around nervously for the supervisor, while the pinging and clinking of the machines continued on in the background.
Then I saw him. He stood tall, dirty blond hair, and green eyes. He looked strong when he walked, despite his being husky, but his face had a sensitivity to it that lured me. He was dabbing the sweat off his brow with a Kleenex, and I remember giggling.
I got the job, and a few weeks later, we worked 15 minutes together. It was the first time we spoke. I remember where were standing, how he looked, and how I looked. His eyes appeared more blue, brightened by the blue colour of our casino uniforms. His hair short, and slightly spiked. My long brown hair pulled back in a pony tail, my wrists and neck covered in home made hemp jewelry. Within a month we finally had a full shift together. We had so much fun working together that day, and all I could remember was the laughter. He was bright, humorous and I felt comfortable around him.
A few weeks later, he asked me out for dinner, and me being naïve and insecure, I didn’t realize it was a date. I didn’t think he was in to me, he couldn’t have been. How I wish I knew more about self love at that time. I casually invited a close mutual friend of ours out for dinner, and he had graciously pretended not to notice or object. When I picked him up from work for our date that evening, he didn’t mention the car seat in the back. Never inquired until I brought it up a few dates later in our courtship.
By August 28th, 2003, we were officially a couple. He accepted my son with open arms, and we did things together as a family. That first year was amazing; there were a few events, that at the time I marked as hiccups or quarks, but for the most part we were happy, and were building a solid foundation towards a bright future together. Or at least that’s what I thought at the time.
In May, 2016 in the early days of my grief, I read “All the Things We Never Knew” by Sheila Hamilton. I could relate to so much of her feelings, and experiences. They were very different, yet, so similar in just as the title of her book states; All the things I never knew. Those “quarks”, those “hiccups” weren’t just parts of his personality, though some were, but the bigger ones, the ones that made me at times think “what is that about??” and then shrug it off…were part of a disorder that years later changed the mind and soul of a man I so dearly loved.
I often think if I had known in the beginning, recognized the signs instead of rationalizing the behaviour, maybe, just maybe, earlier intervention would’ve changed the outcome for him and for us. I always go back to the day we met. I always think about those first days, months and the first few years. Should I have known?
The should haves, would haves, could haves…. they’ll destroy you if you let them. I COULDN’T have known and I didn’t. I was 21 years old. I was so IN LOVE! Not only was mental illness not discussed, it wasn’t as prevalent, or didn’t seem to be at that time(maybe because it wasn’t discussed) and to me, he was perfect, and I was so lucky to have him as my partner and father to my son and future daughter.
I always go back to the day we met . .