Sunday, February 14, 2010

Musings on my lost Valentine

Happy Valentine's Day, people!
Unlike many single people I don't hate Valentine's Day.
 Just because i am not currently in a romantic relationship doesn't mean that i spite people who are. I think it is nice to take a day to reflect on the meaning of love in your life and to celebrate it. And no, i don't think that it is a holiday just for consumerism either; that is, it doesn't have to be about that if you chose to make it meaningful.
This particular Valentine's Day is interesting for me. You may have noticed that 2010 has been an introspective, thoughtful year in the Nikiverse, so far.
 With my recent ponderings on the nature and necessity of love i've been thinking a lot about all the different types of love that one experiences on a daily basis: friends, lovers, family, God, cherry rum snowballs, puppies, babies, adrenaline, fried food, bubble baths.
But today... today my thoughts circle around those fellows with whom i have celebrated Valentine's Days: my first boyfriend who at 18 to my 15 was too old and frankly too crazy for me; the jock who was dumb as a box of hair, but the best kisser EVER; my high school sweetheart who i left behind for college; the one who i loved clandestinely though we both knew it wasn't going to work; my one ill-fated foray into internet dating who stole my heart and then revealed that he was married; and the beautiful boy who changed my life forever:
  I met him at the end of my sophomore year of college, less than a week after my 20th birthday. He was 19 and transferring in from a school in North Carolina. He stayed with my unofficial roommate Matthew, touring the campus, sitting in on classes, hanging out and getting a feel for the school.
And a feel for us.
He fit in with my friends easily and by the time he left for his California home 4 days later i was already properly smitten. We stayed in touch over the summer and by the time Labor Day rolled around i couldn't wait to get back to school to get to know each other in person.
He brought a West Coast sensibility to things that i didn't quite understand, but he was really fun and ridiculously smart.
 Did i mention that he had the most green, green eyes i've ever seen?
I would not characterize it as the most healthy of relationships:
 when it was good it was very, very good
 but when it was bad it was toxic. Have you ever been with someone where the passion was so all-consuming that it was volatile?
 He was really good for me and really bad for me.
 For almost 4 years we were together, apart, together, apart, together, not even speaking to each other, together, apart, together... And then it was over.
He died by his own hand.
And then i died, too.
Well, not really, since i am obviously typing here, but i was shattered to the point of non-existence. Grief is a weird and terrible journey that everyone does differently. It took me a decade to truly be okay, mostly because i spent a lot of time convincing everyone that i was okay when, dude, i was seriously NOT okay.
I still miss him, but it is a healthy, nostalgic missing for a love lost and opportunities denied instead of the shrieking-razorblades-in-my-chest-when-i-breathe that it used to be. In my family we never refer to him -ever- to the point where the subject is taboo. For a few years i sometimes had to convince myself that the whole thing actually happened the silence was so pervasive. Even among our closest friends the only time we could manage to speak his name was when we had had too much to drink and were crying in a hotel closet in Indiana.
I have only recently found myself relating stories or anecdotes that involve him to friends or co-workers without feeling compelled to either share the tragic ending or going out of my way to avoid it. Finally, the stories from that part of my life are simply stories, which is how it should be.
Today would have been Kurt Richard Henning's 38th birthday.
I buried him 15 years ago tomorrow.
His death but, more importantly, his life shaped the woman I am today.
 Love can be brutal, but it can also be kind.
I'll never regret loving him.


Rea said...

Thank you for sharing.

Francie the "wise" said...

You know what, Niki, it makes me really, really happy to know that you are in a place in life where you're able to share that on your blog in such a wise and healthy way.

This internet dating story, though, I have not heard it before. Some day you must tell me this story.

And also...

... I love you.
And Happy Valentine's Day.

Kaaren said...


E. Mark said...

I was thinking of Kurt just last month.

And now my thoughts are with you.

Niki said...

Francie - no one has heard the internet-married-man story; i wouldn't call it one of my finest moments.
Maybe on V-Day next year.

I love you, too.

Niki said...

Skip - i miss your silly face; ask your lovely wife to update her blog ;-)

Melanie said...

I always especially think of you on Valentine's Day because of Kurt. I'm glad you were able to write this. I miss him too. And I love you!

Niki said...

Mel- I love you, too.
Also, i love that picture of the 3 of us by Fox Pond, but do remember being so dang young? We look like children.