(This is Part III of VI of a series of entries that chronicle my experience of Faith, from my early understanding of it as a kid and my acceptance of it as a teenager, my rejection of it as a young adult and my struggles with it as a parent of a child with multiple disabilities, and what I have come to know and appreciate about it through the acts of others.)
Part I of VI: Richard
Part II of VI: Mark
Part III of VI: Meighan
Part IV of VI: Jennifer
Part V of VI: Bennett
Part VI of VI: You All, Everybody
It's very strange to write about a former relationship on a blog, especially when you are married.
You walk a very dangerous road when you do this. Very dangerous.
But I've talked it over with my better half many times, and what makes her my 'better' half is that she is cool with it, because she knows I can do it respectfully. She understands that all parts of my past have worked together as pieces of the puzzle that make up the person who sits here today. I consider that an admirable strength of character.
Back when I first started to get acquainted with the Catholic church, back when I first met Meighan, our relationship was fairly superficial. We dated, but it was always on again/off again, and she was always the one flicking the switch, which of course drove me completely crazy.
She was a good friend, and we were kids, but I loved her dearly, and she said she loved me. Though it was not 'love' in the sense that I understand love's meaning today at the age of 43.
Besides, I was one of many, many boys competing for her attention. Meighan was always the center of it all in any given situation, which was exactly how she liked it. She commanded a room when she was in it and I'm sure she had this sort of 'hold' on a lot of the boys of the St. Margaret's Youth Group.
Frankly? I was most likely fairly insignificant to her a lot of the time in those early days. She had a quiet arrogance about her, she was cocky, self-confident. She knew that she was the bomb. That's fine, to me and a lot of the guys I talked to about her, she WAS the bomb.
And like I said...we were just kids. I was a lot more focused on other things at the time too. I was very arrogant myself. I liked to date other girls and I had an Ego that was completely over-compensating for inadequate self-esteem, the shrapnel from years of being ripped to pieces by my Old Man. So while Meighan might have been one of the few people who had an ability to hold me in the palm of her hand (and crush me with it from time to time), it isn't like I didn't do my fair share of heartbreaking.
Though for a brief period of time, we did make a connection that had a lasting impression on me, and I believed it did on her. We expressed a great deal of our feelings toward each other. After that we parted ways and decided to remain good friends, and she helped me study for much of my Catechism classes and helped me achieve my goal to become a Roman Catholic.
That was 1985.
Not long after I was baptized, something happened to Meighan. Something terrible.
Something even to this day I have only received conflicting information about, and because of that I hesitate to say anything more than the fact that she had a medical problem that resulted in something very severe.
She had an 'incident', for want of a better word. Maybe a heart attack, which is what I always believed. Though I have never really known for sure.
As a result of this incident, she ended up in a coma.
I visited her in the hospital, with as much frequency as I could, then less, then less, but according to her Mom, she seemed to react when I would talk, though I could not detect it, so I did what anyone would do...I talked, or I read the newspaper. She also, in recovery, reacted to an article her Mom read read about me in the newspaper.
Some time later, after she had come out of it, we tried to see each other again. This time our relationship lasted a lot longer. She was VERY different this time. She could function normally, not disabled in any way, though she had a few memory recall issues. And she seemed a lot less self-centered.
Things were going remarkably well, and different than our typical M.O., and I actually thought we had a shot this time out. But as always happened between us, eventually, she broke my heart and dumped me.
And this time it was BRUTAL. I never saw it coming. Complete blind-side, because I really thought that her incident had changed the way she saw the world, and I hoped that the incident had changed the way she saw me. I was a fool.
Still, like I said, I kept the Faith. I mean...it's just a girl. There would always be another.
Meighan then disappeared off everybody's radar for a LONG time. Nobody seemed to know where she disappeared to, and it wasn't until the summer of 1989 that my path intersected with Meighan's again.
As was our typical Modus Operandi it was not long at all before we started to get entangled.
She was a bit more Meighan this time. Different still, but more of what I remembered. I was WAY more cautious of my feelings this time around though, that much I can promise you, because by now I was a little older, a little more 'seasoned', and I had grown to be be sick to death of always getting dumped by Meighan every time we went down this road.
Maybe I was just STARTING to learn a thing or two about myself.
When we started this round of our relationship, something was VERY different.
There was a vulnerability in her I had never seen. She was scared. Apparently some guy she was seeing was not treating her well, possibly even some physical abuse. I think she was coming to me in the hope that I might help her, because I was always there for her in the past no matter how bad things ever had become. She also was out of medication, stuff she needed for her condition.
My Mom, always generous, always the first to help anyone, out of her own pocket, bought her three months worth. My Mom also offered her the opportunity to stay at our house (I was living at home at the time...it was summer and I was home from school). Meighan declined the offer to live there full-time, but she was there often and it was a terrific summer, back when summer actually MEANT something.
One night, Meighan and I went to go see the movie 'Batman', that first one with Michael Keaton, and when we came back, as we sat in my black Nissan truck at the lake, we just talked, and she asked me something that almost made ME have a heart attack.
Meighan asked me for a commitment.
Meighan asked ME for a COMMITMENT.
This was huge simply because it had never happened before. It wasn't her style. I was always the one doing that. But I hadn't done it all summer long. I didn't want one from anyone else, and I certainly didn't want one with HER. How in the WORLD could I possibly TRUST it?
I could not believe my own ears when I declined.
So help me God, I was too stubborn and too stupid and too scared and I just said no that I wanted to wait. Wait for what? Who the FUCK knows? I was a complete and total fool.
One day soon after I woke up to discover that she had left town. I called my friend Robb to try to find out where she was, and he didn't know. I tried to find her, tried to call, but she wouldn't return my calls no matter where I thought she might be. There were no cell phones then. No Internet. And I had no way of finding out where she was, where she might be living.
After a week or two, I had to give up and go back to school.
After I was in school for around a month or two, I was seeing someone else and it was going fairly well. I was with her one Saturday morning when the phone rang. It was Robb. He was making small talk at first, but his voice sounded very weird. I asked him to tell me what was up. He said that Meighan had decided to go back to Georgia and move back in with that same dude who had been abusive to her, and that the day after she got there she had another heart attack.
'Aw shit Rob...why'd she DO that? Where is she now? How is she? Which hospital is she in? Is she in another coma?'
'No man. Ken, I'm sorry dude...She's dead.'
I asked about the services, said I'd be there, and hung up.
I laid back down. Silent. Shock. Disbelief.
My girlfriend asked me what was wrong. I told her I just found out a friend of mine had died. She said she was sorry. I said it was OK. She asked me if I needed to talk about it.
I said I did, but not right now. I just stared. Speechless.
Later, she asked me if I needed her to go with me to Meighan's funeral Mass, and I said I didn't, and she was understanding of the fact that I needed to go alone.
When I was there, I kept to myself, I didn't speak to my friends from St. Margaret's much at all. I knew that I would be unable, that if I tried to say anything, my thin veneer would shatter. I had not cried once since I had received the news, and as I sat and listened to the Mass and looked at the images of Christ and the Saints in the church, none fell still.
I just became more angry. My sorrow became darkness. My pain began to twist inside me.
I was angry for a lot of things from my childhood that remained unresolved and for many other evils unexplained. I'd had enough bullshit promises and all the hurt and the struggle. If you were supposed to be so damn good, then why was my life so FUCKING hard? And why her?
I resented God for taking Meighan away from me, from her friends, from her family. I swore that I would never have anything to do with Him or His Church or anything involving Him.
So I turned my back on Him. I rejected Him. I refused to accept the Eucharist. I had gone to that funeral Mass so that I could say goodbye to Meighan, and instead I said goodbye to God.
I got up, walked out of the Church, got in my car, drove the 2 hours back to school and I never voluntarily went to another Mass again.
If Richard had been there, he would have reminded me of something.
'But beware the Dark Side. Anger, fear, aggression. The Dark Side...are they. Easily they flow...If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you it will...'
It goes without saying that I have carried with me that anger and fear, that aggression, as well as shitloads of guilt over her death, and many other things, ever since. Guilt that I have never been able to purge.
What if I had said 'Yes' when she asked me for that commitment? Would she have gone to Georgia? What kind of an outcome would she have had? Would she have stayed alive? Is it ever as simple as that? No one can ever really know.
This darkness, this...beast within me, became much worse after that day. My internal rage, and the hate it was fueled by, left a lot of people, a lot of good people, unfairly confused and tattered in my wake. I can never really make up for that.
There have been some, along the way, who were spared. Some who were able to look past the scars and the anguish and the fear and even soften me a little. Maybe even get through some of those cannon and fortress I used to keep most people away. Those people know who they are and even though we may never have turned any final corners together some of us remain friends today, maybe wiser and hopefully better people from the experience.
But my Faith?
A twisted, tangled mess, left behind with a beautiful person who was taken from this world far too early, by a man whose spirit was broken.
For twenty years.
To Be Continued...