I met Reilly at a school dance. I was the last graduating class from my high school; a small rural school that decided it could no longer afford the grades 9-12. As a way to introduce the high school kids who would be tuitioned out the following year, the schools organized events for kids from surroundings schools to meet each other – this dance was one of these means to ‘get to know each other’.
He was the youngest guy I ever dated, maybe three years younger.
He was tall and had dark hair. He also had a killer sense of humor. He knew how to laugh, a bit mischievous, and dared to take risks. He was one that my father probably didn’t approve of, but there is more to be said about that, another day, another story.
I spent a brief time in my life with him the summer before I left for France. I remember thinking back then if only I had met him earlier or later – our timing was off on so many levels, but maybe we got what we needed when we needed it.
I wasn’t a fan of his mother. It seemed like he could never do right by her and he was constantly in trouble for trivial things. I felt like he had the odds stacked against him and sometimes it got to him. I doubt he received much of her approval growing up; I never saw it while I knew him. I bit my tongue many times, which truthfully was difficult for me when I was younger.
I gave him a poem once; words that I wanted him to remember and know, long after our season was over. I believed in him. I didn’t see what his mother saw, I saw so much more.
I remember thinking that this kid could do anything he set his mind to. His determination was of the strongest I’ve known. At that time, I’m not sure if he saw what I saw. Maybe for him though it had to matter. Maybe he needed to believe in himself. Maybe he needed others to believe in him. Maybe it was a combination of many factors.
I knew that his sense of humor was a good thing. I knew that his mischievous side was never with bad intent. I saw a piece of his heart, albeit briefly.
There were ‘present moments’ with him. Get the heck out of that house and let’s just laugh and enjoy life. Who cares what they think! We’ve got today. We’ve got this moment. We’ve got now. There were some magical moments of just being present in where we were. You know those moments where everything shitty in life fades away? No questions. No answers. No worries. We had a few of those. Maybe in some way we brought that to each other at a time when we both needed it.
I knew I was going away to college and he still had a few years of high school. I knew I wanted out of the small town and wasn’t willing to commit to having someone left behind. I wondered about him a few times throughout life. I wondered what happened to him, what became of him, and how he fared in life.
I later learned that it got worse before it got better for him. But you know what? He made it!
Those stories always pull at my heart. The ones that weren’t believed in by some and he outshined himself. Maybe he threw expectations out the window or maybe he just looked at the Man in the Glass.
For a brief moment in life he gave me something spectacular. He made me laugh and was present in every moment we had together. He helped me understand what it means to believe in someone when others don’t see it. There’s something big in that lesson alone. Believing in someone is part of what love is and to some degree he contributed to my beliefs on what love truly is. I will always be grateful for that.
Today he is a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy, a husband, a father, and friends to many. I’m sure that his mother is finally proud of him, but I never doubted that he was going to make it. I never doubted who he was, who he would become, or what he was capable of.
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