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I don’t have a lot of what I would call close friends, but I’m okay with that.

I thought it was because it takes me a long time to really get close to someone – or let them get close to me. But my best friend pointed something out to me just the other day. She said I test.

When I asked her what she meant, she said I test people to see if they are going to stick around. And when I thought about it, I had to admit, she was right.

Maybe the reason I tested was because some of them didn’t stick around…

When I was a kid, my best friend in the world was my brother, Johnny. He was two years older than me, and my big brother, so he was kind of like my ‘protector’. If one of our other brothers, or someone at school picked on me, he was there to set things right.

One of my favorite memories in my life, was when we made a figure eight race track in our big garden (this was in the late fall after harvest). Johnny would let me drive the old Comet car we had. I say car, but it was more like the bones of a car. There were no interior seats, so we used old milk crates turned upside down.

I think I was about nine at the time and didn’t know the first thing about how to drive, let alone manage a stick shift, so Johnny would help.  He would yell, “put in the clutch” and shift the three speed for me. Since I was too busy holding onto the steering wheel for dear life, when he told me to put in the clutch, it was too much to remember to let off the gas at the same time. So when I did take my foot off that clutch pedal, the car would throw forward so fast, I would fall off my crate seat and have to jump back into the ‘driver’s seat’ as fast as I could before we crashed. It was great fun.

Our mom used to say we were ‘as thick as thieves’. I’m not sure what that actually means, but I always liked it when she said it about us.

Perhaps I could pin point the beginning of the testing to her. When I was eleven, she died. Yep, just up and died one day. No advance warning, no kisses goodbye, no I love you….just gone.

Maybe what’s even worse was my dad left too. Not physically, but emotionally, he went with her. My older siblings took that as an opportunity to flee too. Without the physical and emotional stability firmness of my parents, it was easy to walk out and start their own lives. And I’m actually proud of them for doing that. If I would have been older, I would have done the same.

Johnny stayed for a few years, and then he was off too. But he always came back. And when he did it was wonderful. It was like he had never left. Some days we would sit around listening to The Eagles or maybe Jackson Browne, but other days we would go find an adventure together, just like old times.

But one day he didn’t come back.

It’s weird, I can remember everything about that moment. I was home for lunch – with my boyfriend. I’d just made a tuna sandwich. Back then I liked to put Fritos inside the sandwich to give it some crunch. I had my sandwich on a plate and got myself a Mountain Dew – (Mountain Dew, really?).

As I was walking around the corner from the tiny kitchen we had into our tiny living room, to sit upon our big pillows that served as our sofa, the phone rang. I sat my soda down and picked up the phone.

The voice on the other end told me my brother was dead. I remember just sitting – on the floor – right there by the phone holding my plate with my tuna/Fritos sandwich in one hand, and the phone in the other.

So at the very young age of 21, I arranged the funeral and cremation for my best friend and brother.

It wasn’t long after his death that my boyfriend asked me to marry him. He was there for me through the funeral and saw how devastated I was and I think he felt sorry for me. As soon as the word “yes” came out of my mouth, he took it back. Looking back on it, I’m sure he was just as scared as I was at the thought of ‘forever’.

Somehow we ended up getting married just three months later. And as most all couples do, we fought. But whenever a fight came up, the threat of divorce was always there. After 18 years I finally said yes to the threat and we parted ways. And here’s the strange part, even if you want a divorce, it’s hard, because someone leaves then too.

And then a funny thing happens when you go from being a part of a couple to being single –  some of your couple friends go with the divorce. The women I used to hang out with, have a glass of wine with, go on hikes with and share stories about our kids with, started to look at me like I no longer fit in the club. And in a way I didn’t.

I did meet a really wonderful woman back when I was married. She was married too, and didn’t see a reason to end our friendship. Even after I tested her to see if she would stick around – she did. She’s that best friend I mentioned earlier.

I lost a few more friends along the way, and gained a few too. I’ve had a few romantic relationships, but they didn’t last long. I knew it would take a very patient, kind, loving, strong man to see through the pain of loss in me.

Through all of the things that have happened in my life, I still see myself as lucky. I’m lucky I have continued to find amazing people to connect with.

I have also found a wonderful, patient, kind, loving, strong man who sees through my pain all the way to lovely, happy me.

Sometimes we fight, but the D word is never uttered. There is never a threat of leaving even when he is at his wits end with me.

He listens to my stories, holds me when I cry, rocks me in his arms, kisses my wet cheeks, and tells me everything is going to be alright. He sees that I test him and he continues to be loving and patient with me.

He makes me smile and laugh out loud. We spend way too much time together (but I kind of like it that way). And every night he holds me close.

And, if he goes …he always comes back.