This is why I am Me. I love you.
Most people spend their lives waiting for a wedding band as evidence that they aren’t alone. Waiting day after day for someone to throw rocks at the window or for someone to roll up in their car blasting don’t you forget about me like a cheesy 80s movie. Reality is that’s not going to happen and that is why Hollywood created movies about it. No love is the same love; there’s puppy love, infatuation love, admiration love; each love is unique. Sometimes we don’t realize it is love until we no longer have it. I was fortunate enough to experience love. It’s not love you see in movies, or the love we all wait for. This love was was raw, and real.
The story of us began on August 22, 2008, when I had just moved into my new house. I guess it’s not so new after living here for 8 years, but a lot has changed since that day. This neighborhood is tucked away on the far side of town. Families with young kids surrounded our house; I guess we fit in pretty well. Gavin my little brother, was running around in the woods with a few of the other neighbors. My mom had asked me to go out and bring him and all of the other neighbors in for dinner; we were having a big neighborhood pizza night. I went and found all of the little ones, searching through the streets and woods. Walking alone, I was calling for Gavin. In the clearing I saw beam of sunshine peeking through the treetops. At the foot of the beam, there stood a four-year-old little boy whom I’ve never met before, but to me, looked like an angel. I walked over to him, his smile, as radiant as the stars. He looked at me with childish eyes as blue as the sky. He said “You know, my legs are so tired.” My first instinct was to offer to carry him home; I knew he was one of the neighbors. The rest of the gang caught up as I gave a piggyback ride to a little boy I hardly knew. As we tracked through the woods I asked him his name and he replied with a giggle and said “John.” From that moment on I was best friends with a four-year-old. We went up to our pizza dinner and he told me about the world. To this day I think half of the stories he ever told me, he made up. His imagination ran wild.
10,080 minutes, 168 hours, seven days– One week, is all it took for me to fall in love. It was neither physical north explainable. I was 12 and he was four, and he meant the world to me. Everything seemed to be falling into place, right as it began to fall apart. John had been re-diagnosed with a rare form of brain tumors. I didn’t know him when he was first diagnosed it two, but two years later he had to continue the battle. He was the best thing that happened to me in a long time. He had the ability to put a smile on anyone’s face no matter what he said, even if he was complaining. His charisma would charm me into doing whatever he wished. I continued visiting him every day, and nothing had changed. Instead of preschool he went to his treatments, and he told me about all the medicines and the new friends he made. The thing about John was, he could make more friends in a week then most people can make in a year. His innocent laugh from his belly, his warm smile, playful eyes and a personality to boot. Life went on, until John got really sick.
As I asked, my parents told me when something new was going on with John’s health. The tumors in his head had to be removed again; this was his second surgery on his tiny school. A 13-year-old can only handle so much. I continued with my daily routine but went to visit John in the hospital instead of at home. There, we would color, do homework and write the letters of the alphabet so he learned what he missed in school. I started to miss a few days of school to go down to treatments with John because he wanted me there. John was in and out of the hospital. As my eighth-grade year was coming to an end, John was getting healthier. He made it to my graduation and we celebrated afterwards. He was home and home for good. He took his medicine daily and never complained. I admire him for that. Ironically, I think of John as one of the bravest people I know, but in his thousands of made up stories the characteristic of the hero was always “brave.” He could never fathom the level of maturity he had for such a young boy.
As the graduation parties subsided, it was back to being with John. Being 13, it was rough always hanging out with now five-year-old but I didn’t mind. It was not always easy skipping trips the movies, and the mall to go to John’s treatments my friends were still there for me and understood the John came first. I grew to be a better person through John. I would’ve never guessed that meeting a four-year-old would have such an impact on the stubborn teenager like me. John now had a newfound tumor in his spine; he had immediate surgery in June and was recovering by July.
The heat of midsummer called for a neighborhood barbecue. We all gathered around the deck listening to music and eating hamburgers and hotdogs. John sat on my lap as we ate dinner. He looked at all the grownups and at five years old he said, “kitty Lauchlin and I are going to get married.” These words will forever ring in my head. We didn’t “love” each other like a teenage couple, middle-age couple, or married. We had our own kind of love. All the adults and I cackled at such a silly remark from such a young boy. One of the dad’s said to John, “Well did you check with Katie Loughlin, if that’s OK with her?” He took one look at me, smiled and said “yeah, it’s OK wif her.” Everyone laughed at the innocence of his remark.
One afternoon, we decided to call all of the neighbors and parents home from work. John wanted the wedding and we were going to make it happen. We weren’t sure how much time we have left to spend with John, so his wish was our command. The doctors predicted that it was a matter of months. Our backyard wedding ceremony comprised of a priest, my brother Conall, a full bridal party: all of the neighborhood kids and my siblings, paparazzi: one of the neighborhood dads, and all of the clergy sat in mismatch folding chairs. The scorching heat wasn’t no match for the beauty of the day. My mom, a professional photographer, ran, literally, back to the house to retrieve her camera. It was her oldest daughter’s first wedding and she was not about to miss the photo-op. From then on I was John’s wife or ‘wifey.’ We waited for her to come back as I kneeled and he started at the altar. I’m so happy that I waited for her to get her camera for if she didn’t, I wouldn’t have the most precious possession I own.
A photograph has this amazing ability to speak: it can express ideas that no one can describe. John and I share the same photo set. My mom took our wedding photos and placed them on to a board, which displayed the three photos. They fully captivated the essence of what the wedding was about. It was about common ground; we understood each other. My photo set, has and always will be sitting on my black bookshelf next to my bed. The matching photo set sits perched on his piano at home, a few houses away. We were married for a crazy, hectic, wonderful, two years.
A beautiful August day, much like the time we first met, things took a turn for the worse. John was in critical condition, but in the comfort of his home. I held his hand tighter and tighter, as a warm tear dropped on our hands. They say if you really love someone, let them go if it’s for their own good. And so I did, I kissed him on the cheek and released my grip. As I pulled my hand away from his small, soft fingers, I felt his fingers move. A shot of hope ran through my body as if electricity was pumping through my veins. He took a big breath and the room fell silent. As the crowded room came to a hush, all of John’s closest family and friends were there to witness a miracle. It was in fact a miracle, but not in our favor. John fought till the end on August 5, 2011, when he was no longer the angel I saw on the words; he officially became an angel.
Now worlds away, our wedding photo set is a reminder that the love we had exists. They express what I could never formulate into words. They remind both me, my family and his family that he touched so many lives just with his joyous smile. I can only do the favor of dusting off my black shelf every week, and ever so cautiously brushing off the picture, keeping it in its premium condition. These three pictures tell a story, and I like to refer to it as “The Story of Us.” People could look at these pictures not knowing his story, the ever so faint scars on his head, or my story, but they can see the bond shared between us, and I hope they too can experience the same love I did. Yes I would like a fairytale love with someone my own age, but I can only base the concept of love off of what size he professes it to be. I’ve yet to come across a love as strong as mine and John’s, but one day, if I do, I will look back at our wedding pictures and hopefully reminisce, thanking my mom for capturing The Story of Us.
Wedding date: 25 July 2009