Todd left for Hawaii on Wednesday as he had planned. The night before Todd left I had confessed my secret to my cousin, Stacy. Stacy and I have a very special relationship. Of all of the biological relatives I had reconnected with as an adult, Stacy, by far, was the most special. We recognized that had circumstances been different we very well could have been siblings. Had her parents known that my birth-mother was going to lose me there is no doubt that they would have adopted me. Coming to grips with this as an adult was not easy for me but Stacy is one of the most compassionate and loving people that I know and the idea that we could have grown up together was all that I needed to get my life on track. From the day she re-entered my life I have thought of her as a sister and being able to confide the torment in my heart with her is quite possibly one of the greatest of gifts.
The day before Todd left was a very difficult day for me. We had spent the previous day in our motel room making love and talking. My senses were on high alert because I was so deeply frightened that he would not return from Hawaii and still want to be with me. Deep down I knew this was simply not something that Todd would be capable of doing but, still, the fear had been planted and my anxiety ran high – VERY high. I’d been trying to reach Stacy for several days. I knew that of all the people I considered telling, she would understand the torment in my heart more than anyone. Stacy had been married very young to a man that everyone in the family had grown to love. Unfortunately Stacy began to realize early in the marriage that her first husband, as good of a man as he was, was not the person that she was meant to spend her life with. She met Andy during a night job she held at a casino while working on her masters in psychology and their connection was one in which she found the strength to walk away from her marriage. This was no easy decision for her. The agony in her heart was nearly unbearable and her parents were not supportive of her decision. Stacy has a steely strength about her that I have always admired. She listens to her heart in ways that most of us are much too afraid of. Even though there are times that what she hears frightens her beyond belief, she knows that, in the end, she trusts in her family and in herself enough to follow what she hears. This is one of the reasons that I have so much respect for her. Leaving her first husband and following her heart to be with the man she is currently married to was not easy. She weathered significant stress from the family but her heart was her guiding force. This is why I knew that of all the people in my life she would understand my torment.
When I told Stacy about Todd her response was exactly what I needed to hear. “Oh Shit!” “Jason – I’m so sorry!” She said. She’ll never know the impact of what she said had on me. Without having to go into very much description Stacy knew exactly what I was going through and her understanding brought me to a place of peace that I desperately needed. I was able to cry for the first time and allow my emotions to pour out. Stacy understood my pain and I knew that if she had been in front of me she would have held me in her arms and helped me without saying a word. Unfortunately she lives more than five hours away so I had to tell her on the phone. This was certainly not ideal but I did ask her if I could come spend a few days with her and she said that would be nice.
Stacy now has three children so her willingness to have me in her home to figure things out meant a great deal. Simply put – I needed to go “home” and be with the people that mean the most to me so that I could figure out what the hell I was doing. By the time I mustered up enough courage to open up to Stacy I was so confused that I could barely breathe. She understood this which is why I so longed to be with her.
The morning Todd left I left him a message as “Jason” expecting to hear nothing back. To my delight he left me a message during their layover in Los Angeles. He sounded tired but he sounded good and that made me happy. He said that he’d slept well (always a good sign) but getting up so early wasn’t easy and he’d try to call me when they arrived in Hawaii. Just the sound of his voice and the fact that he cared enough to leave me a message sent me to the heavens! Todd said that he’d try to call me when they arrived in Hawaii but wasn’t sure if he’d have a chance.
My usual work routine is to go to the gym at about 2:30 in the afternoon. I like to go late in the day because I have less time when I return until I go home. Because Chad and I commute together we have to leave very early. His office is across town from mine so he drops me off first and then heads across town to his office. Arriving early at work allows me to take a longer lunch break so that I can go to the gym. The Wednesday that Todd left, I went to the gym for my usual workout – which turned out to be exactly what I needed. By the time I was done I had worked myself to the point that I was on the verge of throwing up. I hadn’t realized just how stressed out I truly was until I completed that workout. I workout nearly every day that I am at the office but on this day I had pushed myself far beyond what my body was prepared for.
When I returned to my office that afternoon I began prepping for the following day of work. I usually have between 20 and 50 emails during the time that I am at lunch so I scanned through them all to be sure that there were none that needed an immediate response. My boss had a visitor and as I was chatting with her my cell phone rang. It was Todd. Normally I don’t answer my cell phone during the work day but it was Todd and I jumped at the chance to speak with him. “Hi!’ he said. “We’re here!” “I can’t believe we’re here but we are.” “How are you?” I didn’t want to tell Todd how I really was because I was actually quite stressed but the sound of the happiness in his voice made me happy. I told him that I was “okay” and that I already missed him. He returned the sentiment and told me that he felt really good. I was very happy to hear this because that always meant that he was coping well.
“I miss you Jason” he said.
My heart was instantly full. I was actually surprised at how happy his words made me. I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy while he was gone but this was only the first day and I could already feel the ache beginning. We chatted for a bit but he suddenly said that he had to go because he could see his son coming down the escalator. He told me he loved me and was just about to say something else when I heard a shuffling sound and then the phone went dead.
The moment I heard him tell me that he loved me my eyes welled with tears. I was so happy that it was hard to control my emotions but I was at work so I had to get it together before I went back into my office. “How am I going to get through the next two weeks?” I thought to myself. I was already having a hard time and he had only left that morning!
As I was making small talk with my boss’ visitor my cell phone rang again. It was Todd. I jumped up and answered it. “Hi” “It’s me.” He said. “Sorry I had to go so fast but…” “I know, it’s fine. Don’t worry about it.” I said understandingly. “I just wanted you to know that I miss you and I’m going to be okay.” “I really love you Jason.” “I really do.” At this point tears were solidly streaming down my face and it was taking every bit of strength I had not to let my voice crack. I was biting my lip and clenching my eyes tightly as I listened to the voice of the man in the red truck who had stolen me heart. My tears were tears of both joy and misery. I felt as if I was in the middle of a tug of war between my conscience and my heart with no idea what side would win.
I told Todd not to worry about me. I told him the truth when I told him that this was a “little” harder than I had expected but I would be okay. “I have to go” he said. “I love you.” “I know you do, and I love you Todd.” I said. “Have a great time and call when you can.” Were my closing words to him before I hung up. Never before had I been so happy to hear from someone. How this man in the red truck had wreaked such havoc on my heart was beyond comprehension. But wreak havoc he did!
When Chad came to pick me up from work that night I was giddy with happiness. The entire drive home all I could do was think about how happy I was that Todd had called me and that he was doing well.
The next couple of days I had good moments and bad ones. I’ve never been good at the unknowns of love and I was desperately afraid that Todd would decide not to come home to me. Todd called every day and each successive day he sounded clearer and stronger. He had his moments, as we expected he would, but he was clear on the one thing I had hoped for: he knew he couldn’t give me up and was coming home to me.
As the Saturday of Todd’s wedding celebration grew closer I could feel my anxiety mounting. Todd and I had spoken often of how he would get through the ceremony without feeling paralyzing guilt. He knew that he would never be able to live the rest of his life without being with a man so he understood that this was something that he was going to need to accept as being part of his life moving forward. Being able to have one man that he loved and trusted, was something that he felt would allow him to get what he needed but still be a good husband and father. I was more than happy to be that man. Still – there was that lingering fear that continued to grow as his wedding day grew closer.
Erica has been my best friend since we met at the age of 15. We have weathered many storms together and no matter what we have always been there for one another. We left the “label” of “best friends” behind years ago because at this point in our relationship we have grown passed it. We are family – she is my sister and I love her dearly. I had wanted desperately to talk to her about Todd but Erica can be a little harsh at times. Not to mention she’s very much a part of my family so by sharing what had been going on with Todd, I ran the risk of placing her in the middle of something that she may not be comfortable with. I had been trying to get her to connect with me and make some time for several weeks but nothing seemed to happen. Erica has never been the best at returning phone calls and becoming a stay-at-home-mother seemed to only make this worse. This was one of the few times in recent years that I truly needed some time with Erica and I had tried to be patient with her hectic schedule but as the date of Todd’s wedding grew closer, my patience began to run out. I finally snapped the day after Todd left and Erica and I got into a heated argument – on the phone. I RARELY get so angry with her that I hang up on her but I could feel myself about to completely lose it so I hung up and threw the phone across the room.
Erica and I exchanged a few texts and emails the evening I had hung up on her and I assumed that would be the end of it. Erica can be even more stubborn than I and it was rare that she conceded when we had a disagreement. As angry as I was, I knew that she would eventually figure out that this had to be something important and would reach out to me. That is one of the best things about our relationship – we just “know” when it really matters.
The Friday before Todd’s wedding Erica called me at work. She was coming to the city with her mom and wanted to know if we could talk: an offering that I was more than ready to take her up on. When she arrived we sat in my office and I closed the door. As I sat talking to her I was reminded of the day that I had told her that I was gay. I had told Erica the night before but it was late and we didn’t talk too much about it. She told me she still loved me and that it was no big deal but I wasn’t convinced and worried that she’d abandon our friendship. The next day I took her out on a small boat at the lake in our hometown. I must have asked her fifty or more times that afternoon if she still loved me because I was so terrified that she’d freak out. This is how the mind of a person coming to terms with their sexuality can make them feel that death would be easier than coming out. By the time we are at a point that we just can’t keep it in anymore, we have usually spent years and years convincing ourselves that all who love us will be so disgusted with our perversion that they will abandon us on the spot. Poor Erica had to spend the afternoon convincing me that she would not abandon our friendship. As I sat in my office more than 20 years later, I was filled with that same sense of hopeless fear.
As wonderful as Erica has been over the 23+ years of our friendship, she can be quite insensitive and equally as judgmental at times. I truly worried that this would be one of those times but I also knew that this was something that I had to tell her. To my delight Erica showed compassion and love as I told her about what had been going on with Todd. Instinctively she knew that this was not something that I could just walk away from. We talked for about an hour that afternoon and Erica promised she would keep my confidence and I knew that she would.
Todd called that Friday evening from a bathroom at the hotel. He couldn’t talk for very long but told me that he missed me and was still doing okay. We talked about the wedding that would be taking place the following day and he seemed to be looking forward to it. I told him that I didn’t expect to hear from him for that entire day because of all days, on that day, he needed no distractions. His job was to be there for his wife and family and be in the moment. I did ask that he call the following day if he could because I wanted to hear how it went. As Todd was saying goodbye he told me, again, how much he loved me and thanked me for helping him to find a way to deal with all that had been going on. It was not easy but I spoke clearly and with conviction as I spoke to him because I did not want him to be at all concerned about me. I wanted to leave him with the impression that I was fine. What I didn’t tell him was that, inside, I was an emotional wreck of worry and fear that his wedding would fill him with so much guilt that he wouldn’t be able to come back to me.
The Saturday of the wedding I had a committee meeting. As the President of my 20 year high school reunion committee, I could not skip it. I had brought Erica on to the committee early on even though we graduated from different high schools. Erica is amazing at planning events and had done both of my weddings to Chad. Now that we had worked through the argument we’d had earlier in the week we decided to drive to the meeting together. Erica arrived to pick me up and as we drove I read this story to her. We talked about Todd and she, as usual, interrupted with questions that, had she had some patience, would have been answered as I read. Her questions didn’t bother me because I knew she’d have them before she asked and it kept the conversation fun.
Hawaii is three hours behind California time which meant that I would be in my meeting at the exact moment that Todd was renewing his wedding vows with his wife. The meeting went smoothly and I read Erica the rest of what I had written on the drive home. We talked about what I thought I would do and if I wanted to save my marriage to Chad. All questions that I was not prepared to even think about. My mind was completely consumed with Todd’s wedding and how he had done. My anxiety was at a critical level by this time and I could feel myself shutting down. On the drive home I had sent a text thanking the host of the meeting for allowing us to use his home – his name just happened to be Todd. The second I hit the send button on my cell phone I realized I had sent the text to the wrong Todd! All I wanted to give Todd on his wedding day was a day without ME in his head and I had just screwed that up! I didn’t say a work to Erica about it until later in the day.
After Erica dropped me off at home I had to grab a few things and head across town to a friend’s house for a party. The party was nice but, my head was not there. I was lost in my anxiety and worry over Todd. I managed to get through a couple of hours at the party before Chad and I decided to leave. I met Chad there and we were both happy to go. When we got home I crawled into bed and shut down for the rest of the afternoon. Todd sent me a text while I was napping. He said the ceremony was really nice and he was doing well and hoped that I was too. I went to bed that night feeling badly that I had screwed up and sent Todd a text on his wedding day. I had so wanted to give him this day without feeling that he needed to contact me.
On Sunday I got up and felt pretty good. I had convinced myself that I would do whatever it took to make that day a good day! I drank my coffee and fiddled around on the computer for a little while before beginning my weekly chore of mowing the lawns.
I mowed the lawns relatively quickly while Chad was at the gym. When I had finished mowing I decided that another day in the pool would be exactly what I needed. Although I invited Chad to join me, he declined because, again, there were things he wanted to get done around the house. After making a large batch of margaritas I blew up my air mattress and spent the next three hours drifting around the pool and thinking of Todd while listening to my iPod. My mind was once again consumed with all things Todd. My heart knew that he’d come back to me but the anxiety I was feeling made getting my mind and thoughts under control very difficult. The margaritas definitely helped calm my nerves but I was desperately concerned about Todd. Eventually I managed to find a place of calm but it took several margaritas!
I climbed out of the pool around 4:30 or 5:00 that afternoon. Laying in the sun always makes me feel tired so I’d decided to take a nap. I went out the our camper - which had now become a little refuge for me – to try to nap. I soon realized that my mind was filled with too many thoughts to sleep so I decided to write. As I was writing I was hit with a surge of emotion and I completely broke down. I picked up my cell phone and called my cousin Stacy. She answered on the first ring – thankfully. I knew that with her I could let it out and that is exactly what I did. As I was sobbing to Stacy on the phone she told me that she was very nervous and concerned for me. Stacy knows me well and she knew that I was tormented over the situation with Todd.
Stacy and I spoke for about 10 minutes and I managed to pull myself together. Of all the people in my life, Stacy has always had a way of helping me to find my sense of reasoning. This situation was no exception. The kids were demanding her attention so she had to get off the phone. After I hung up with Stacy I continued to write –which by now had become a very good way for me to sort out my own feelings.
I’d been writing for about half an hour when my cell phone rang. My heart jumped when I saw that it was Todd. After a few deep, calming breaths I answered. I didn’t want Todd to know how much of a hard time I’d been having. I felt strongly that my “issues” should not be his problem.
“Hello” I said as calmly as possible.
“Hi Jason, it’s me.” Todd replied. “How are you?”
I could feel my hands begin to shake. I wanted so badly to tell him that I was a mess but I knew that I had to at least try to be strong. Todd continued the conversation by telling me about the wedding and how nice it had been. He wanted me to know that he was doing very well and that he kept remembering the discussions we’d had before he left. He’d realized that he didn’t want to go back to the way things were and that he truly missed me and needed me. Todd was calm and clear and I had no doubt that he meant everything that he was saying. He was absolutely certain that he was coming home to me. By now tears were streaming down my face and I couldn’t hold it back anymore. I began to sob. Todd’s response was sweet, patient and sincere. I told him that I had been incredibly worried about him and how the wedding had been. I went on to tell him that I was terrified that he would change his mind and not come home to me.
“Jason, I keep seeing all these guys everywhere and I could care less.” Todd said. “I know I have you to come home to and that makes me feel so good.. you have no idea!”
His words put me completely at ease. I believed him. It had been weeks since Todd spoke with such clarity about our relationship. I told him how proud I was of him and he went on to tell me that he couldn’t wait to get home to see me. The conversation only lasted about 10 minutes but in those ten minutes Todd washed away any doubts I had about him coming home to me. When I said my goodbyes to him I told him how much I loved him and he returned the sentiment. After our conversation I was on a cloud and felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. Now I felt as if I could move forward for the next week of his vacation with relative calm.
Monday at work I was in a great mood. My conversation with Todd the prior evening had made me feel confident and strong. I worked out hard at the gym that afternoon and felt good. Todd called me while I was at lunch and I missed his call. He said that he’d hoped he could talk to me but that it was okay because he figured I was at the gym. I was sad to have missed his call but I need my gym time to keep me sane. I wasn’t able to speak to Todd on this day but he left me a very sweet message that evening saying that he hoped I was doing better after our talk and he missed me and couldn’t wait to see me. That’s all I needed from him and I was in a great mood.
Tuesday was Chad’ birthday and he’d decided to take the day off. This meant that I had to drive in to work alone. I was in a pretty good mood on that day. Todd’s message the night before had made me feel really good. I left him a message when I got to work (as “Jason”) that was coded and basically said that I was doing very well because I had a great conversation with “someone” that I loved and cared about a lot on Sunday and then got a message on Monday night. I also wanted him to know that I would be driving home alone and if he could swing it he should call.
On my way home Todd called. We had another great conversation. He was, again, clear and certain that he was coming home to me. He told me that he couldn’t let me go and more importantly he told me that he didn’t want to let me go. His tone was sweet and loving and it made me feel wonderful. I got a little teary eyed as I listened to him talk about how he’d had some rough patches but he was dealing with them a lot better. He told me that before he left for Hawaii he just wasn’t sure go “do this” but now he’s sure that he can. I was, again, relieved and happy. I told him that I didn’t want him to be worried about how I was doing. I just wanted him to enjoy his trip and call when/if he could. Todd told me that it was a little hard sometimes because he wants to talk to me all of the time but he just can’t. I reiterated that it was important that he focus on his family. Now that I was sure that he’d be coming home to me I would be just fine so he needn’t worry about how I was doing.
As Todd and I were talking about his trip he told me that he wasn’t sure what was going on for the few days between Hawaii and their planned trip to Clear Lake. Originally his wife had planned to go up with the kids on Wednesday and Todd would follow on Thursday. Todd and I had hoped to be able to spend time, possibly the night, together on Wednesday night. Apparently his son was “love sick” and didn’t want to go away so soon after returning from Hawaii. Todd went on to tell me that his son’s girlfriend was fairly “emotionally needy” so he wasn’t sure what would happen for their planned trip to the lake. Admittedly I was a little disappointed that our evening together looked like it wasn’t going to happen but I also knew that Todd’s family had to come first and that if his son needed him then that had to be his priority. I told Todd that I had planned for it either way and that he should do whatever he needed to do. As Todd was telling me about his son’s girlfriend being “emotionally needy” something clicked in my head. Todd went on to tell me that his son was exactly like him: very emotional and caring. In that moment I made a very conscience decision not to be “needy” as Todd had put it. I realized that Todd had spent much of his time away balancing me with his family and that is exactly what I didn’t want him to do. I felt fine and I told him so. I truly wanted the rest of his trip to be family focused. As we hung up I told him that I loved him and he told me that he loved me.
Wednesday I called Todd and left him a message in the morning. I also sent a “signal” message twice that day that I had time to talk if he was around. I heard nothing back from him all day and I was feeling okay because I also had a sense that he might just need a break. That evening around 8 my cell phone pinged informing me that I had a message. It was Todd. He left me a message that they’d spent the day across the island at a popular beach so he didn’t have a chance to call. He said he’d gotten my message and signals but didn’t think we’d be able to talk that day. He wanted me to know that he was doing well, was thinking about me and that he couldn’t wait to see me. His message made me very happy but I sensed something in his voice. It was very faint but I still sensed it. I sensed that Todd needed a break. I made a conscience decision that I would not call back and leave him a message and that I would not call at all the following day. Of course I hoped Todd would call me but I had a sense that he wouldn’t. He had said that he would “try” in his last message to me but I suspected that he’d either be too busy or simply too focused on his family time. Although this is exactly what I wanted for him, there was also the selfish part of me that wanted to hear from him. Still – I made a commitment to myself that I would not call.
Thursday was a little rough. I desperately wanted to hear from Todd and I had to fight very hard not to call him or leave him a message. I had many conversations with myself about why I wanted or felt that I needed to hear from him. He’d done exactly as I had hoped he would and I was confident that he was coming home to me so I found myself wondering where all of the anxiety was coming from. I began to realize that my anxiety was nothing more than me being selfish and wanting the instant gratification of being able to have contact with him. I began to realize that if I was actually going to be able to succeed in this relationship with Todd I was going to have to get used to stepping back and letting him have his space. Trying to control everything with Todd would only serve one purpose – it would push him away.
That evening was not an easy one for me. It wasn’t the worst but it wasn’t great. My anxiety was very high but there was no logical reason for it. Todd had given me everything that I wanted and I knew that but the selfish side of me wanted to hear from him. It hoped that he would call me but I also suspected that he wouldn’t. More than once I picked up my phone and put it down. As I went through these hills and valleys of strength and weakness I realized that allowing Todd some space from me was a way that I could prove to him (and to myself) that I loved him enough to put his needs first. After all he had been putting my needs first since he left so it was only fair that I should now do the same for him – no matter how difficult it was for me. To help ease my anxiety I had a couple of margaritas and went to bed early.
I woke up on Friday and the first thought I had was of Todd. I wondered if I should call or leave a message. I decided against it; knowing that it would not be an easy thing to do. I was proud of myself for having not called or messaged him the day before and told myself that it was important that he call me not because he was responding to a message or a signal from me but because he wanted to call. How is he going to have a chance to miss me if I am right there all the time? Even though I know that he does miss me – if I leave him a message or send him a signal then I won’t know if he’s calling because he wants to or because he feels obligated to. Nothing would be worse than if he were calling me because he felt like he had to. I made the decision to wait it out – no matter how hard it would be. And hard it was!
The bigger question for me is why it’s so hard. Why must I always hear from someone or have a constant line of communication? The absolute worst thing that could happen would be that Todd had changed his mind and would break it off. I know in my heart that this won’t happen but the fear is still there. So I keep asking myself – what if that does happen - then what? Although it is almost too painful to think of, there is always a slim chance and I have to get it together. I have learned that trying to prepare for things like this are a part of life. Life is full of disappointments and I had to allow myself to go the place in my mind that I fear the most – no matter how scary or painful. I realized that even if Todd were to decide that he didn’t want to continue to see me, I would be okay. I also recognized that by trying to control the outcome of something I had no control over – I might actually be pushing Todd away. I know that I have to give him this space but it is not easy and it is literally a minute by minute struggle for me. But this is my struggle not Todd’s and I will not force it on him. He has been nothing but supportive and loving and there is no reason why I can’t do the same for him. I have set a time limit though because, although I truly want Todd to have his space, I also can’t move forward in this relationship always placing my needs second to his. So – I will do my very best to wait it out on Friday but if I don’t hear from him I will call and leave a message at some point on Saturday. It will be bitterly disappointing if I don’t hear from him and have to call on Saturday but that is not his problem or his fault. He is married and has a family –as do I –and unless I expect that he’s going to leave his wife and children (which I do not) then I must get used to this. I have to cherish the times we can speak and we can be together and then learn to let him go until our next conversation or our next meeting. This will not be easy for me. I have never been good at the unknown of relationships but I have also never felt this way about a man before so I am discovering a new side to myself. I am stronger than I thought. If I am to succeed with Todd – no matter how that success may evolve – I must be able to be selfless when it’s important but I must also be sure that some of my needs are met. I will not be the “needy” one that takes crumbs as he is able to give them. I want to bring strength to Todd. I do not want to drain him. To do this – I’ll have to fight against every natural instinct I have but when I think of how much I love Todd it feels like it will be much less of a struggle.