Not the Worst Thing

“Why exactly are you going to Lansing, again?” Paul asked.

It was a Wednesday night, and Paul sat opposite me on the sofa, cracking open the bottle of wine he’d brought to share.   We’d been quietly dating for a month or so.  By dating, of course, I mean that Paul would arrive at my house after I’d put Zachary to bed and spend an evening with me there eating, drinking, talking and making love.  We’d collapse asleep exhausted around midnight and sometime between five or six in the morning he would wake up and scurry on home to shower and change.

“OK, I know it’s weird, but Raymond is Ray’s father.  I dated Ray in high school, and again later in college.  Even though we had a real on again, off again relationship, I always got on very well with his family, and have kept in touch with them pretty consistently since I met them.”

This was actually not 100 % true.  I didn’t talk to Ray’s parents after he and I had stopped dating in high school.  Talking to them and hearing them casually mention the boy I’d loved so intensely was too hard.  But as the years wore on and life had taken its tolls on me, I’d started craving their presence in my life again.  I was willing to hear the hard stuff in exchange for the bit of a safety net they represented in my world.  They were warm, unconditional and positively parental; exactly what I was missing in my life after my mother died and my father moved away.

It was because of this that I knew that after Ray had asked me to marry him and then quietly rescinded the request,  he had quickly married.  He had married Josephine, the woman who he had theoretically left to come back to the States and be with me.  It certainly made my blood boil a bit to hear that she’d moved from her native Germany and joined him on his military base in Georgia.   Once he’d served his four years, he and his wife had moved back to Europe.  I never mentioned my feelings to Ray’s parents, though.  They’d never known about our secret engagement, and they were happy that their son had settled down finally.

So despite our tangled history, I considered Raymond and his wife Mary Lou part of my life.  It was therefore a bit of a shock when Ray’s stepmother called to let me know that Raymond was scheduled for open heart surgery.  I knew all too well that surgery was never easy, and I had too much experience with hospitals and illness and parents to not be concerned.   I asked Mary Lou when the surgery was scheduled for, and offered to come to the hospital and visit the day after, which was in two days.  The surgery was on track for tomorrow.

“So he’s like a father figure to me, and he’s having open heart surgery.  When someone has surgery, you show up.  It’s just what you do,” I told Paul.

“Do you think your ex will be there?” asked Paul, a saucy smile telling me that he was not the least bit jealous.

I sighed.  “Yes, his step mother said that he was flying back from Germany to be there for the surgery,” I said lightly, hoping that if I kept telling myself it wasn’t a big deal to see Ray again, it wouldn’t actually be one.

“Well, that probably will be awkward,”  Paul laughed, handing me my glass a little too full.

I took a sip, slowly, considering what it would be like to see Ray again.   But somehow, in light of the upcoming surgery and all that had happened since I’d seen him, it seemed somehow manageable.

“I’ve been through worse,” I answered evenly.  “Much, much worse.”


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