The temptation to write a response to, “She helps me live” has prevailed. I apologize for the sappy p.d.a. but our life has surely been an open book lately, so why stop now?
If you know Pete, you know that I could have had a much easier time if I had chosen a different path in life. However, as the song goes, “I don’t want easy, I want crazy!” But for all that we now have, the family, the friendship, the love… I wouldn’t trade him for the world.
As a young girl, I always imagined I would marry a man who would completely take care of me and our many children. I thought it was a simple and attainable plan, even into my late teens. I wasn’t consumed with any particular interests and never really set my sights on a career path. I just imagined the big house with the picket fence and being a happy mom and wife.
I was extremely shy as a teenager, but being a petite blonde helped to make it fairly easy for me to meet boys. I appeared to breeze through high school because I fit the mold and mostly kept quiet. I was friends with everyone from the jocks, to the theatre crowd, computer nerds, and the metal heads. I even had the honor of being named homecoming queen in my senior year. What people didn’t know is how filled with anxiety I was to ride in the car at the parade, wave to people, or to be announced for my crown. All I could think was, what’s wrong with me? why can’t I enjoy myself? Why am I so embarrassed by the attention? Anyone else would be thrilled! Of course, on the outside everyone saw nothing but my usual smile and a lucky girl in a pretty dress. Yet, on the inside I was tied in knots and filled with trepidation.
My way of dealing with my introverted ways was to have friends and boyfriends with very strong and sociable personalities. This kept me included in all the happenings with very little effort on my part. I was even lucky enough to go away to college with two of my best friends which helped lead into a new social life.
On my first day in the SUNY Cortland dorms I met Pete. He was so friendly, enthusiastic, and animated that it kind of freaked me out. He was psyched to be at college and ready to experience it to the fullest, while I was battling panic attacks and merely working on making eye contact with people.
Pete always made me laugh, played countless pranks on me, and really helped me see all the silliness in life. When he told me he was a “Deadhead” and introduced me to a groovy new kind of music, it felt like an undiscovered part of me had been unlocked from deep within. We were friends first, confidants, and that would set the tone for us… forever.
Pete’s superpower is empathy and combined with his perceptive listening skills and inquisitive nature, he discovered how to draw me out of my once indestructible shell. The connection was undeniable. For the next 10 years we drifted in and out of relationship levels from friends, to more than friends, secretly dating, openly dating, breaking up, engaged, not engaged, taking a break, dating others, making up, living together, and then eventually marriage. I was fully aware of what I was getting into after our extensive dating history. But I guess I just couldn’t give up on the way he made me feel.
It was an era of obsessive and unpredictable behaviors fueled by assorted drugs, alcohol, and episodes of manic depression. Quite frankly it was enough insanity to send any right minded girl running for her life. However, every now and then when the time was right I would catch a glimpse of the exceedingly kind soul beneath all of that chaos. You could call it rose colored glasses or maybe I have Superman’s x-ray vision, but Pete’s authentic self was always crystal clear to me.
Those who have read Dear Lilly, and some of my friends and family, may consider me timid and too agreeable because of the ways I have navigated through the toughest times of my marriage. From the outside it could appear that I let my husband come and go and that I accommodated for his lack of responsibility. When Pete was at the height of his addiction he left me alone with our baby in a new state, miles away from my support system. I could have hated him for that, but instead I bloomed and grew the strength of what felt like twenty men. Our daughter gave me courage that I never knew existed. I worked and cared for her all alone until he was ready to return. I was not angry with him because leaving us was not at all malicious or intended to hurt us. He was just struggling with the demons of a troubled past and couldn’t love himself, let alone a family.
Why am I telling you this part of our story? Because now, after being together more than 20 years and having four beautiful children together, things have never been better. I continue to hold that strength and I appreciate what we have today more than ever. My views on marriage and family have changed drastically from what I expected as a young adult. Thankfully we made it through those challenging times. I now see it as part of the bigger picture, our journey and our growth.
Today as a sober husband, Pete showers me with affection and praise every day. He wholeheartedly supports my dreams and aspirations without pause. We have learned how to work creatively together as parents and partners in all of our crazy undertakings. He’ll even devour my awfully mediocre cooking and swear its delectable on a daily basis!
Today as a sober father, he loves our children tremendously, protects them, nurtures and encourages them with every fiber of his being.
Today as a sober man, Pete has dedicated himself to helping others deal with addiction, abuse, bullying, and self hatred. He Inspires me with his unfaltering determination to make a difference in the lives of those struggling with difficult issues. He has overcome countless disappointments, setbacks, and rejections and continues to push forward and generously offers his time and heart to others.
Pete, Today you are the man I always knew you could be and so much more. But more importantly, you can finally see him too. And that has made all the difference.