When I was 15, I accidentally fell in love with a 20-year old, Jeff*.
I know, that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. I didn’t know how old he was, I just knew he had saved me once, and then he stuck around.
I spent the next six years of my life bouncing back and forth between loving him and hating him. I gave him more of my energy than was responsible by any stretch of the imagination.
When I was 17, he cheated on me… kind of.
We were fighting and said we were over, but we both knew it wasn’t going to last. I forgave him. We found out later that the girl he’d slept with was pregnant. She also got hooked on drugs.
By some miracle, she carried that baby to term and delivered a healthy baby girl. That baby girl came home with us. Her mother’s rights were terminated by the court, and Jeff was all she had. I was Mommy to that baby girl. Jeff proposed shortly after we brought her home, when I turned 18.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out so well once I left for college. Despite promises from Jeff that he’d move closer to my university and we’d stay together, it never happened. We went from living together to a long-distance relationship. Then, we went from a long-distance relationship to nothing.
Despite the end of our romantic relationship, he still allowed me to be a part of baby girl’s life – I was the only “mom” she even knew. When he realized the toll our separation was taking on her, he started bringing her to visit every week. She’d stay the night with me, and he’d have nights to be the 23-year old guy he wanted to be.
This arrangement has been working out pretty well for the last three years. We’ve toyed with the idea of getting back together, but we know we shouldn’t. The idea of being married to him is great; the reality is scary. He has a long and scary history of breaking my heart. He broke my heart again four weeks ago.
See, Jeff is from Washington state and it’s been his dream to go back. A month ago, he was offered a great job in his hometown. When he called to tell me about it, he sounded like a little kid on Christmas. I couldn’t have been happier for him. It struck us at the same time what moving meant, though. He’d be taking his daughter all the way across the country – away from me.
We had until May 7th to find a solution. That was his deadline to accept or decline the offer. On the 2nd, we were still fighting for an answer. I was laying in bed when I realized that the answer was simple: he needed to go. He needed to worry about himself and his daughter, and not me. I knew from his voice during that first phone call that nothing other than going to Seattle was going to make him happy. He needed to go for it and let the pieces fall together. He will not be without support, family, money, or love. Neither will our girl.
When I told him this, he cried. He felt like he was making a mistake for not finding a solution that included me. I told him that if this life move was meant to include me, it would find some way to, but right now, I’m staying put.
They started their road trip on Wednesday. Jeff planned a crazy six day adventure with all kinds of fun cities in the middle. Every couple hours, my phone rings, and I get a travel update from the best three-year old travel reporter in the world. I spend some time crying after each call. They’re in Portland tonight and will be at their new home tomorrow morning. It’s taking everything I have not to get on the next plane and meet them there. I don’t really know why I wrote this here, The Band.
Am I wrong for feeling this way about a little girl who isn’t even mine? Am I being ridiculous?
*Names changed to protect privacy.