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Kansas City MO 64131

THE MAN I LOVED BEFORE YOU

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THE MAN I LOVED BEFORE YOU

Cindy Maddera

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We cleaned out the garage today. Michael did most of the work while I worked in the house, dusting and vacuuming. Occasionally he'd yell at me to come out to decide the fate of this or that. At one point he came in and said "are these collapsable chopsticks?!" and I froze. He'd started to find left overs from Chris out there. This is where things get difficult. What to keep. What to throw away. He's already seen the basement and the pile of notebooks. He already knows there's so many boxes that need to be sorted. In some ways my baggage is is heavier than his. He may have an ex-wife and a child with that woman. Those things come with their own suitcases of drama. Luckily they have a good relationship and try to do what's best for The Cabbage. But if we come across something of his ex-wife's while we clean out and meld our lives, it's easy for him to say "oh, toss that". It's not so easy for me and I struggle with what to keep and what to let go of, how much of Chris I remove from my life. He's not a bad memory that needs to be erased. But he's not here. I am. I am here and moving on, moving forward with this life.

And if it's difficult for me, I worry that it makes it difficult for Michael. Later today he told me that he could see it in my eyes when I saw those chopsticks. He said the first thing he saw in my eyes was love followed up with a look that said "that fucker". He should have been here when I found the boxes of manilla envelopes. It must be hard for him to see that in me, see that I still love another man. How do I explain that I don't love him any less and they both have equal space in my heart? Or how strange it is for me at times to realize those things myself? It's true, we never realize just how capable we can be. I can't imagine. That's what so many people say. I never imagined that I'd have to watch Chris die or even believe that I had the strength to do it. But I did. I looked him the eye and told him that I love him and then I said goodbye. I endured through the scariest worst time. I was capable. I also never imagined loving someone else. But I do. I am capable.

And Michael is so good, so gentle around all of this. He tells me I don't have to get rid of anything I don't want to. The other night we talked about a summer trip to Mt. Rushmore and maybe a side trip over to Devil's Tower. I said something about leaving some of Chris at Devil's Tower and Michael said "maybe we could have one of the Presidents doing a line of Chris". And then he hesitated as if to say "was that an OK thing to suggest?". I laughed because how perfect would that be?!? But it also made my heart swell. He gets it. He gets the humor and I love that.

At the end of the day, we tossed three boxes of crap. Two of those boxes contained things Chris had been squirreling away to make a new Ghostbuster's pack. I had no qualms about letting that shit go. It felt good to be rid of it. It felt even better to have someone strong and true helping me to do it. But I did keep those chopsticks.