Our first date was two nights after The Oldest tried to hang himself; one night after he was released from involuntary confinement at the hospital. People said I should cancel - that it was nuts for me to think I could be with My Man and be present for him and genuinely see what there was to see. But I was determined - our phone calls had already done so much for me, and I didn't want to wait. Not to mention I was still in shock and denial. I rationalised - I only needed to hold it together for an hour or so.
Thirteen months later, our entire relationship has been conducted in the shadow of that night before we met. For 8 months The Oldest slept on my living room floor. He cringed around strangers, so having My Man here was a slow process and carefully timed.
But my hunch was right. My Man was all I'd dreamed of and more than I'd thought I deserved. He has been my strong tower through all of this - any other man would have turned and run away when he learned what was going on. My Man stood. Strong. With his arms extended.
He stepped into the light of a street corner lantern on that first night and I took my first full breath in 48 hours. I felt my whole body relax. I smiled, and laughed, and felt what it was to have strong arms around me. He kissed me, and I understood for the first time that 'weak in the knees' is an actual physical phenomenon, not an expression.
It has not been easy. My Man also has his struggles, and I have to remember to support him. It's easy for me to be consumed by The Oldest's drug use. Some nights I make a vow to myself - tonight we will not talk about The Oldest. I will not say his name. I will let go of my nagging thoughts and be in My Man's world.
So far it's working. Sometimes beautiful things grow in the shadows.