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Until you know what love is

Splinting a break is still the steadfast treatment for a healthy repair to a broken bone. Whether a doctor uses a cast surrounding the broken appendage, an aluminum rod surgically placed alongside the break, or a piece of wood carefully wrapped by gauze around the problem area, it is essential for proper healing to provide a rigid structure for a broken bone. Without that foundation, the body cannot send the repair cells to the break. Without that foundation, the break cannot overcome the gravitational damage that keeps it from just bouncing back into place. Without that foundation, the bone will remain in the broken state and will become fixed in that state of damage.

Broken people require the same treatment. The split must be strong, straight and specifically chosen. And that is what Micheal was for me.

Even in his brokenness when he did not know what love really was, he fought to keep me even when I tried to leave. He chose me. My brokenness knew that I was no one’s choice. Like many others who are broken this way, we flee. We actually create a new reality for ourselves that we are getting out before things get bad. I tried. I broke up with him after 5 weeks of serious dating. I was flippant and rude and prideful. Two hours later, he would show up on my parents’ doorstep to tell me that he was not accepting that decision. I would not be there.

I was sitting in the back of a patrol car at that moment. I had decided that very evening to e my own person and do whatever I wanted to do. I was 17 and nearly grown. I made quick plans to ride with an older adult to drop by her baby’s daddy’s house and then we proceed to the liquor store. To begin my tour of free-living, I dropped by Micheal’s after-school job to tell him about my moving on. I defiantly declared where I was going and that I would not be waiting for him, like I normally was, when he got off at 8:00.

During my two hours of singleness and freedom, we hydroplaned off a steep, mountainous road where there was no guard rail. I was six miles down a rural highway in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. It was 1993 and we did not wear seat belts regularly. I had not had mine on for most of our giddy trip around town breaking up with boyfriends and visiting our friends. But I had put that seat belt on less than a mile before we wrecked because a little voice in my head said, “It is raining. It is December. It is freezing. Wear the seat belt.” (Disclosure of voice comes in another chapter.)

I honestly thought that my head was going to be knocked off by that huge tree limb that smacked into the windshield on my side of the car as we skidded through the forest. When the crunching noise and movements stopped, and I opened my eyes, I was relieved to not hurt. My head was still on my body! My driver-friend was yelling obscenities (I was only thinking them at the time) and decided to exit her door. I couldn’t get my door open, so I had to climb out on her side. The car did a lot of shifting when we moved so I knew we were not on solid ground. I bolted out anyway.

Because we were pretty much grown (please apply sarcastic tone), we clawed our way up that steep, muddy embankment and began hiking back to town. (Spoiler alert #1 -no one had cell phones in this day! Spoiler alert #2 - we wouldn’t have had any signal at that location anyway.) A few cars passed by us without even slowing. I don’t really blame them. We were walking in the wilderness at night with no car anywhere in sight. Then again, two young girls were walking in the wilderness at night with no car anywhere in sight.

I was very grateful when a pick-up stopped and only allowed us to ride in the back of his truck. He would take me to my dad's and stepmother's home (further called my parents--you have to get unique names when you gave so many mothers and fathers).

It was a quick stopover. I told my parents (the more innocent version) that we had wrecked and that we needed to go the sheriff’s department. They did check question if we were hurt, but they were not sympathetic to my fear of driving to the sheriff’s department on my own.

I found myself sitting in the back of the patrol car at the scene of the accident alongside the driver. We were having heart-to-heart debate about why she would be given a ticket for crossing the center of the highway when it was clear that she had never intended to cross the center of the highway.

The details were not on me as I surveyed my surroundings. I'm 17 years old locked into the back of a car with a man whom I do not know with the power to ever let me out. He was determined to give a ticket for an accident. The car was not where anyone could have ever seen it from the road so it was probably fortunate that we clawed our way up to the road. The man who operated the wrecker could not circle the vehicle because there was no ground to the front of the car. There was simply a ledge of a cliff. That limb that wanted to take off my head had smacked the car with enough force to get it lodged in place. Without the tree limb, we would have enjoyed smooth sailing to the bottom into a ravine.

And as the car was wench up toward the road, all sorts of yelling commenced when gas started pouring from the boulder-punctured gas tank. Sadly, all the cigarettes had to be extinguished and it was one of the first times I had wished I had one.

I can still hear those thought-provoking words over that radio that night. “How much longer before you return?” Muffled reply by patrolman. Return comment over radio, “There is a guy down here waiting for one of those girls.”

I am a broken person. I am no one’s choice. I have evidence to prove it. When my driver-friend said, “Oh, I bet that is my brother. He’s always checking in on my me,” I had full trust that it was her brother. Silence fell over that squad car, but my head was full of rhetoric.

No one would really have cared if I had gone off that cliff or not put that seat belt on. My parents sure didn’t care that I’d been in a wreck. They didn’t care that I was afraid. My mom was the reason I had been sent to my dad’s house so she didn’t care. My Granny was still mad at me for moving to my dad’s house and not telling her. My Nanny would be upset if I died. In fact, she would not be happy at all and then she would have to pray a rosary full of Hail Mary's for me day-in and day-out because she is a good Catholic and she loves me. Well, THAT was something, at least. But there was not going to be anyone waiting for me at the sheriff’s department, nor would there be anyone waiting for me out of concern ever. I had not told anyone where I was going except for my ex-boyfriend. And since I had broken up with him, for like no reason, there really was not ever going to be anyone waiting for me.

You know where this is going, right? That broken (idiot) ex-boyfriend, Micheal, was pacing back and forth on the sidewalk waiting for me. He was livid, too. He had told me to be at home so we could talk about this break-up. When he had shown up, he was mad that I was not there. He got madder when my stepmother had quickly told him that we’d had a wreck. She thought I was fine, but really didn’t know much. So he had been forced to go to the sheriff’s department and wait around anxiously, worried that I was hurt and that no one had bothered to take me to the hospital to check things out.

You don’t know what love is, until you know what love is.

Micheal loved me, in spite of my own self or what I thought I wanted. In the 3 months that we had known each other, he had considered whether I was his choice or not. And when he chose, he held steadfast to that choice even when I tried to change his mind.

And love begins with a choice. Often the choice is camouflaged as just getting to know someone. Sometimes it is a methodical, intentional voyage to love someone because they are really hard to love. Sometimes love just bubbles up before you even can even recognize that you made choice. But love always begins with some sort of choice.

And that evening, Micheal had made a unique and freakishly disturbing choice. He had voluntarily shown up, for me, when Mr Biological had never shown up. Micheal had seen my flaws and had shown up any. Conversely, he barely knew me compared to my mother and my father; they knew all my achievements and awards, but they had never really chosen me. Micheal did.

And, Micheal’s choice that night stood as the foundational splint that would support a brokenness, that had been with me since birth, to start the healing.

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