Sugar Packets and creamers had been strewn about the table. Piles of salt were scattered here and there from multiple lessons on how to balance a salt shaker on its side. The ashtray was full, and smoke was rising from a freshly lit cigarette. Bits of leftover S.O.S (“shit on a shingle” or otherwise known as chipped beef on toast) sat on a plate. The low rumble of conversations filled the diner. Kevin and I were talking about life and debating our ideals. Our voices started to escalate and turned to yelling. All of a sudden Kevin’s giant fist slammed down on the table and all of the sugar and salt fluffed up into the air like fake snow. “You hypocritical Christian bitch!” Kevin belted out. “You stupid atheist asshole!” I yelled back in reply. The diner patrons quieted down around us. We glared at each other. Then his mouth started to curl into a smile, and I started laughing out loud. He did the same. The people sitting around us must have thought we were crazy! That was just a typical night for us at Miller’s diner or any diner for that matter. We would drink coffee, chain smoke, and talk about life. Some nights were emotional, and we would be each other’s shoulder to cry on, and some nights were shouting matches. I loved our time together on those nights. The sight or smell of a diner today still sends a pang of pain through my heart.
I had grown up worshiping Kevin in my early years, but after a few years of partying on my own I had a change of heart as to my ideals and started to adopt my strict Christian upbringing. We argued about this a lot. I still saw him as my hero and my heart, but I wouldn’t budge on my Christian beliefs. To be completely honest, I even got a bit self-righteous there for a time. My new way of loving and protecting him was to try and save his soul. Regardless of the disagreements we had, he cared for me just the same. He still made me feel like the strongest and most beautiful person. He made me feel like he needed me and that I was a princess in his world. How Ironic it was. I was claiming to be the Christian one, and as an atheist he was the one with the unconditional love and was not trying to change me?
Some time had gone by and Kevin was adjusting to the life of being a father. He had also married Becca. I don’t remember many details about their wedding. I was not there. I think they did a private wedding with just the two of them or maybe with only a small amount of family. The pictures were beautiful. It was in a park or somewhere outside. He was wearing his Irish cap. He glowed with happiness! He loved Becca so much. She completed him. They were best friends and needed each other.
(Kevin and Becca on their wedding day)
Kevin was always seeking love. He needed and wanted so badly, something or someone to mend his broken heart and mind. He also needed to protect and to look after someone. It was how he was wired. If Kevin didn’t have anyone to protect or love he would lose it. He would spiral and not know what to do with himself. (He related to and admired the character Gaara from Naruto for this reason. He saw himself as a sand demon tortured by his pain, only to be saved by love) All I knew was at that time he was the happiest I had ever seen him. He loved his beautiful baby girl Bryanna and loved his wife Becca with everything that he was. He was so proud to be a father. He would show me pictures and talk about Bryanna all the time, every time I would see him.
(Gaara from Naruto)
While he was busy with his family, I had met a “good guy,” the kind of man you bring home to mom and dad. We had gotten engaged and were about to be married. During that time things got so busy that I lost touch with Kevin. He and Becca had a falling out, and Kevin was seeing another woman. I never met this girl, but I know it had caused a lot of drama in the family. (I said he was my hero…. I never said he was perfect okay.) My memory is hazy around this time, but I do remember that he couldn’t come to my wedding for some reason, maybe due to the family drama. I was disappointed and heartbroken, but I understood.
What I do remember is that the day of my wedding I was freaking out. I was 19 and thought I knew everything up until that point. I thought I was so grown up and had everything figured out. (Oldest sibling syndrome I guess?) Well, I didn’t feel like that the day I got married. What was I doing?! Marriage is forever!? Well…no turning back now. At that moment, Kevin showed up at the back door of the church where I was getting ready and waiting to go into the chapel with my bridesmaids. He poked his head in and said, “Hey kid…wow…You look beautiful!” I blushed, “Thanks, Kev.” I replied. “I am sorry I can’t stay Taw-shina, but I wanted to bring this to you.” I looked down, and he handed me a printed picture of my Mom and Dad (my biological father) of the day they got married. They were my age when they got married (19 yrs old). I took the picture, hands shaking like a leaf. Why did he bring me this? Where did he get it? I didn’t know what to say. I looked up at him, but before I could say anything, he said, “Don’t be scared kid. I thought this picture might help you. I have to go, but I will call you later. I love you.” I was speechless. He grabbed me and gave me a gigantic Kevin bear hug. The few seconds I was in his arms I felt safe. I didn’t want him to let go. I told him I loved him and thanked him as he left. I patted my tears protecting my wedding makeup and put my big girl face on. Time to face the music. In every fearful step, I kept thinking: He came to see me….me. Kevin came to see me…I can do this…Kevin said not to be scared.
(Picture of my Mom and Dad on their wedding day)
(My wedding day picture)
I turned into a full-blown “Suzie homemaker” and was busy with my new husband and new life. Kevin and Becca had worked out their differences and had gotten back together. They had another baby girl: Shannon. They moved into my great grandparent’s house where all of us kids grew up playing outside and having rotten apple fights. I would come to visit them and play with the babies, and he would show me the latest video game he was playing. He had gone full blown Dad mode. He loved all of his girls so much. He worked so hard to take care of them. There are days that I am not sure how I will get by with the money that I make today, but at that time he had two little girls and one on the way and a wife that he provided for. He made a quarter of what I make now, and he made it work. A lot of that was Becca as well; she was a wonderful mother and incredibly creative and resourceful. Through love and a lot of compromises they made it work.
I will never forget a family party we went to one night. I had offered him a cigarette. He turned it down. I looked at him questioningly, and he looked back at me and said, “I quit smoking.” My jaw dropped. “What!? When!?” I asked, shocked. “Well, when you go to the store and have enough in your wallet for diapers or cigarettes, you buy the diapers because if you buy the cigarettes, well, your just a huge asshole, so I bought the diapers and quit that day.” He answered me. “Wow! Kev. I don’t even know what to say? That sucks, um, but awesome and good for you!” I am so proud of you!” I told him. “Thanks, cuz. It wasn’t easy, but I love my girls. I gotta do what I gotta do for them.” He said back to me. Just as everything else so far in my life, he inspired me yet again. A short time after that I quit smoking. I stopped smoking for two years. I kept telling myself on the hard days that if Kevin could do it, then I can do it. So I did. If he only knew how much influence he had on me or how much strength he gave me. If he only knew how much I needed him…he had no idea. He told me to be my own hero, so I tried to do just that and tried not to show him how much I truly needed him. Maybe I should have?
I will never forget the day that I thought I could lose him. I was working at Easton hospital and got a call from my Mom. “Kevin is in the hospital.” “What!? Why is he there!? What happened! Is he okay?! Tell me everything!” I frantically replied. “He has a collapsed lung.” My mother answered me. “That is all we know Shina.” I couldn’t breathe. The room went grey and hazy. I could hear my heart beating in my ears. “What hospital is he at?” I asked my mom. She told me the name of the hospital and gave me the information to call his room. “Kevin! Are you okay!? What is going on!?” I shrieked at him. “Hey kid,” he croaked. He sounded awful. “I am okay. Doc says I will be alright, don’t freak out.” He told me, trying to console me. “ Are you sure? Okay, Kevin, if you say so. What happened though?” I asked him. He began explaining that working in the freezer at his job had collapsed his lung. It had been the severe cold and the back and forth of it all. Apparently, that kind of thing can happen. My heart started to slow, and we started to joke around and talk about his family and everyday life. “I will pray for you Kev,” I told him. “Yeah, Yeah, yeah.” He grumbled back at me. “Do you want me to come and see you?” I asked him. “No, cuz, it’s okay I am okay don’t miss work for me. I will see you soon. Love you!” he replied. “Okay, Kev. Don’t scare me like that again though. I love you too.” I hung up the phone and took a deep breath. The fear and numb feeling that rushed through me when I thought I could lose him was overwhelming. If I ever did lose him, I don’t know if I could survive it. Even though we had our own lives and spent time apart, he was everything to me.
Things went on like this for a few years. I was playing the part of “good wife” and he was working like a dog and being a good father. We saw each other at family parties, and I would soak up every hug and toothy smile I could get from him at those get-togethers. I watched as his little girls grew up and got older and more beautiful with each day. Things were nice. They were calm. It was surreal. Things were never this mellow in our lives. It was nice to soak that up for awhile.
It was all temporary however. The things we were about to face would break him and I. No matter how strong we tried to be, Kevin and I were already torn and injured on the inside.We would need each other more than ever.
To be continued…
Coming soon: Heroes Never die – Part 5 – Heartbreak
Sending you all love and light,