Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Happy Anniversary, Chris and Michele . . .

I would be a liar if I told you that I was positive that today is the "official" 14th anniversary of my friend Chris and his wife Michele.

I think I remember their first official "date" being a concert. Ray Charles or the lesser-known Del Amitri seem possible but it might have also been some crap-production Handel's Messiah or a Phish concert. A quick Google of "Concert, December 2, 1995, Connecticut" was of little help, as you can probably tell.

What concert they went to was of little consequence in the grand scheme of things. What DOES matter is that a love that endured much was born that fall/winter and I was none too happy about it.

Let me clarify . . . Chris, from the first day I met him, was my presumed Best College Friend. He was the total package. Funny. Genuine. Caring. Smart. Charming. Catholic. No - I didn't want to date him but I needed to hitch my wagon to a positive force if I was going to survive the college "transition." It all worked sooooo swimmingly. Until that damned Biermann girl came along.

Let me further clarify . . . I liked Michele from the minute I met her too. We were cast together in the play. Not just any play. No. No. We were doing "parallel" versions of Dracula that had a traditional male vampire and a "reimagined' version with a female blood sucker to fear and love. Sound crappy? It WAS! Our director that semester was a Yaley (the brilliance and the pain he brought to our campus productions was felt deeply, I can assure you). Michele, a talented freshman with legit credentials behind her, was having none of this "creative license" crap and I adored her and he swaggart and attitude on the whole thing from jump. I'll give you one example . . . the night of the DRESS REHEARSAL Michele technically QUIT the show when our director tried to force her to use a ladder, horizontally wired to the beams of the theater, as a "monkey bars" (if you will) over a dangerous pit. A change to the show he hadn't thought out and hadn't presented before the very moment we got to that point in the play. Ah. It was wonderful to see the spark in her. I saw me and her making many a beautiful theater production together and I was anxious to socialize with her too.

Then. It happened. Michele met Chris (she came over for Days of Our Lives one afternoon (one of the many things Michele and I both loved was bad day time soaps)) and the rest was history. Suddenly my Best College Friend and my budding Best Theater Buddy were smitten and I was on the outside looking in. It was obvious from jump. How could I have let me worlds collide? Curse you Dr. Marlena Evans!

So - it was time for that patented (and much lamented) Sean the A#$&hole! It was so easy . . . make Michele's life hell as long was she was around and I would get Chris back and we'd all be happy. Chris would marry someone that didn't challenge my role in his life and Michele would no doubt find another man to love and marry too.

People who only know bits and pieces of me or who don't really "know" me don't believe the negative and nasty and vindictive side of me that plagued me for sooooo many years. It was very real. It was very ugly. It was very destructive and it was very, very common. I don't miss it at all . . . I live in fear of it coming back (but don't "miss" it) and I am truly sorry for all the people that got clipped in the crosshairs of "that" Sean.

Back to Michele . . . by the time semester break was over (a month in to the relationship) . . . I was in full swing. New comforter purchase because Chris and Michele laid on my bed together to watch Scent of a Woman? Check. Nasty comments to Michele at spring musical practice? Check. Rumors and gossip to bother Chris? Check. Petty, little crap coming out of me as a way to "assert" I was a better friend than she was a girlfriend? Check.

For the next FIVE YEARS I tried to assert myself. This girl from Maine (who actually holds some sort of record for being the youngest girl in state history to bag a moose (I should have seen her power coming)) was not to be messed with. She took all my crap. Like a CHAMP. She even dished it back at me on a regular basis. She was always more comfortable and confident than I was ready for. I admired and feared her for that.

Long story short . . . Chris was content to have us both. I wasted all that time that I could have spent getting to really know her and I went from moments of greatness to moments of great mortification and I just wish I could go back and undo/redo it.

Chris proposed to Michele. We were all elated (really, I was happy for them) and then I realized that I had to go in to damage control . . . I had to somehow back pedal years of being "me" and try to force Michele to understand that I had always liked - LOVED her.

Yeah, uh, how'd THAT work out? Not so well. She was always a gracious lady about it though. She allowed me to come and stay in their apartment while we were prepping for the wedding. She hugged and kissed me at any time we crossed paths but I always knew that she was pretty sure that I was always going to just be that pain in the ass that tried, for YEARS, to drive a wedge between her and the love of her life (I could give examples but they are very embarassing . . . VERY embarassing).

Anywho - Chris asked me to be his best man. SUCH an honor. He has two brothers. He has many friends. All the rest of them were much more genuine and welcoming to Michele. I don't know why he chose me . . . I might never. I guess because I introduced the two of them or maybe it was one last attempt for Chris to reassure me that it was "okay" he could have his Wife and his friend too (I would use the "cake/eating" cliche here but it gets awkward).

So - Rehersal Dinner. Big moment. My big chance. The toast. I wrote the toast and had it proofread and reviewed by the one and only Stacy Simpson. It was touching and warm and funny and emotional and set up how I had a great friend at my side for all these years and didn't realize how important they were, etc. Cut to the chase? Okay . . . so in the end I was toasting Michele for her friendship and her love of Chris. The Zepplin rode over smoother (and less people died) than this toast. It was terrible. People thought I was taking one last cheap shot at her the evening before her wedding. I was too embarassed to even clarify or defend myself. Instead, I cried. For about 15 straight minutes.

I barely slept that night (a) I had a party in my room until about 2:15 AM and b) I felt terrible). The next day, wedding day, I barely spoke to Chris about any of it. We went and had his wedding gift from Michele (a watch) fitted. We went to breakfast with the group. We headed to the church.

As Chris got married, I stood behind him - staring at his beautiful and lovely and wonderful bride and realized how pathetic I had been for the six full years between the day they met and that moment. There is a picture of Chris exchanging vows with Michele. He's holding her hand with one hand and my hand with the other. I'm crying more than Michele. It was gut wrenching for me.

I don't think Michele and I have really "talked" about any of it since. They moved to Vermont so she could start med school the day they got back from their honeymoon and I have only seen her thrice. Once for a college reunion weekend. Once for Grandpa Delenick's funeral. Once for my wedding. She was as much a lady and a class act at those gatherings as she ever was. God I admire her for that. Truthfully . . . I actually use her as a guide in how I deal with my own anxieties towards those that have upset me since my surgery. I "channel" my inner Biermann. It's powerful and beautiful.

Anywho - since I started this blog - there have been many comments left. Many readers come and gone. Many people that touched base. NONE of them have meant as much to me as this . . .

"Wow, Sean. That's all I can say. I'm sitting here at 3am on call at the hospital and just read the last 2 entries and decided I had to write right now. There is too much I could say but instead I'll try to keep it brief.1. I am so, so, so happy for you and Joy and Ava. You and Joy are very lucky to have each other and I'm excited for the wonderful years you have in store as a couple and as parents.2. I miss you. I wish I knew Ava and Joy. Reading your blog has brought you back to Chris and I. We hear your voice in a way we haven't for years. I'm sorry that there has been a distance. Watching Chris read your blog has made it even clearer how much he's missed you and how much he is absolutely thrilled for you. I'm so glad you two had a good phone call the other night. I hope we are on your list of people to reconnect with and/or be honest with if in any way you have not felt the support and love we have for you.3. Thank you for being an inspiration to fix what seems wrong and celebrate what's right in my own life.Happy Surgaversary old friend--love, Michele"

I keep it, printed out, in my work bag.

She cares about me. She loves me. She's forgiven me. She roots for me. She is the friend she always was even when I didn't notice.

Anywho - LONG STORY long . . . Happy Anniversary to you two crazy kids and know that I miss you and love you both and I am so very, very happy that you survived the ups and downs (including me (grimace)) that got you from first meeting, down the aisle, in to/through med school and to a family of four living in Maine. Life is wonderful, blessed and full!

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