Wow. Today knocked me down. First, I wake up to an old photo you plant on my phone in the middle of the night, and then I REALLY wake up to the FB memory of us leaving the hospital after your diagnosis. Remember that? When we thought you had liver cancer and you would live? Good times.
I’m so fucking sad that I decided I wanted to write about some of your more surprising, funnier, or more embarrassing shit. I wanted to write some things because you are SO STRONG in my heart today that I have to get this out of me or I’ll cry myself into a tsunami of pain that I don’t know if I can recover from right now. I have to keep my eye on the ball. I have to get packed. I have to get out of here. So, I’m hoping that writing to you and about you will help me and ground me. And I hope I don’t embarrass you too much. ❤
It’s interesting. When I met you, everyone called you Mike. But you had introduced yourself to me as Michael, and I never called you anything different. When you met new people, they’d ask “mind if I call you Mike?” and you’d say, “I prefer Michael”. There’s a meaning to this. Stick with me.
I wonder if anyone knows how filthy your mouth could be, and always at the most inappropriate times! I wonder if anyone knows that something physically was wrong with you and you were literally unable to whisper. Because you’d be “whispering” foul language to me at the worst times (“oh Jesus effing christ are you fucking kidding me right now lady?” and other things of this nature), and EVERYONE could hear you, and you didn’t ever believe me! LOL Babe, they heard you. Every time. Funerals. Reunions. Lunches with mom. The line at Panera. They all heard you.
I wonder if anyone knows you were wickedly sarcastic. You were really good at psyching people out because you’d invent a story and stick it out to the bitter end. No matter how stupid it was. You were a race car driver. You invented the pet rock. There was a store call HISbergers that carried only men’s apparel. Whatever it was.
I KNOW that not many people had ever seen you drunk, at least not as Michael (more on that later – stick with me). It didn’t happen often. But those that did, knew that if you were drunk, you almost insisted that everyone around you was, too. We’d have get-togethers, and your admission charge at the door was that whoever entered had to take a shot of Yaeger. Yes, Yaeger. You made the worst, strongest drinks in the world. The worst. But you were a great drunk. Many a night, you had to get me home safely after a night of shenanigans and you were also a great drunk caretaker. One night, I had my head hanging out the car window all the way back to the hotel and I begged you not to let me die like Anna Nicole. You NEVER let me forget it! But you took really good care of me that night and I didn’t die like Anna Nicole, so there ya go.
I wonder if people know that I met a man who was pretty neutral about dogs. You would casually pet them and expect them to go away. You were a “no dogs on the couch” guy. I think that lasted about 8 or 9 minutes. You always said I changed you. But I think I just gave you a safe space to be who you were meant to be. I wonder if they knew that you became just as passionate about saving dogs as I was. I wonder if they knew how much you cringed when they told you how patient or wonderful you were to “let” me do this rescue stuff.
I wonder if people know we didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day because we thought it was stupid, and we forgot our anniversary half the time. We were never the “selfie” couple and didn’t banter back and forth on FB for the world to see our love. We didn’t care about that and had nothing to prove.
I wonder if people know how much we went through and the depth of our commitment. They don’t need to know. I just wonder if they do. Your mom, my kids, your kids, my dad, our animals, my health, your health. I’m clearing out the house and I have come across exactly 24 boxes of animal cremains.
I wonder if they know that every time one of our rescue’s animals passed away, we took some of their ashes and planted them in our backyard with a baby tree and there is now a Good Karma tree that will live forever. I wonder if they know that you and I cried for every one of them, together burying those ashes.
I wonder if they know how amazingly strong you were. When your mom died and I was doing her hair and makeup for the reviewal, you were my strength when I lost my breath. And it was YOUR mom. And when you delivered her eulogy, you were the symbol of strength and grace. When my son disowned me, your strength and clear-headedness got me through it. When I was losing and then lost my dad, you were EVERYTHING. You took care of EVERYTHING. You led his memorial service and you spoke eloquently and beautifully, and you had the strength of stone when shit got real. You physically and emotionally held me up. Literally. Held me up when I started to collapse.
I know that not many people know of your pain and your history and your past. I will keep it that way, but what I can share is that here’s where the “Michael” part comes in. And it’s one of the things you told me (there were so many) that I will ALWAYS keep in my heart. ALWAYS.
So many people knew Mike and loved him. Most of the people that loved and knew Mike through his whole life fell away when you were Michael. I wonder if the people who hurt you, know they hurt you. I wonder if they know that when they rejected me and our relationship, you took that personally and let them go. I suspect they don’t know.
You told me that you didn’t like to be called Mike because it took you to sad and painful memories. It took you to a life that wasn’t yours and you didn’t want to go back to. And you told me that meeting me, gave you YOU back. You never wanted to be Mike again because Michael meant a life of acceptance and love with no conditions or expectations. I think I’ll always remember it most, because you told me this a few times in our lives together, but you made sure you told me that when you knew it was time to say good bye.
I’ll never share our last conversations because those belong to us. And I hope you are okay with me sharing this part. Because one of the biggest gifts you could have ever given me was thanking me for letting you be Michael, after a lifetime of living by other people’s expectations. In the end, to tell me that your biggest regret was not meeting me sooner because you didn’t know who you were until you met me. About a week before you died, I climbed in bed with you and we lied together looking at photos. You kept comparing old pics and more recent ones and pointing out to me, “Look. See? I was never smiling. Now look. See? Smiling in every one.” By making sure I knew this before you died, you told me that I did it right. You let me know that I was a good wife and a good person, and that I had made a difference in your life. You erased everyone that had ever judged me or made me feel like you were too good for me. You wiped away everyone who told me how lucky I was to be married to such a saint or a patient man (read: he loves you a lot, do you deserve it?) You erased everyone who had rejected me or broken my heart. You wiped away years of pain and sadness and doubt. And while I died on July 30 with you, that is one of the few sparks of light that kept me alive, was knowing that you died knowing you were loved, accepted, wanted, adored, and valued just as you were. That you KNEW, you FINALLY knew, what a beautiful man the authentic Michael Booth was. And selfishly, I needed to know that you knew that. That you truly, truly believed that you were as wonderful as I told you you were.
Until I see you in the middle of the night tonight ❤