Updated: Dec 24, 2020
All of my "firsts" happened in a 2-year period of life and like a whirlwind, it was all gone, but I was still there. First Boyfriend. First Date. First Dance. First Love. First Pregnancy. First Miscarriage. First Engagement. First Breakup, First Make-up, First tragic loss caused by the sudden death of a loved one. First Bottom. First arrest. #Love #Loss #Grief #Recovery #Reflection
How many decades does it take to understand why the ones we love are taken from us? Time allows pains to ease as memory fades. #RIP
Looking back 30 years and grappling with how I have handled a sudden loss to tragedy. His name was Robert Eugene Arredondo, but everyone called him "Pete"
It was 1991, I was 21 and had never been in a serious relationship. I wanted a boyfriend. After high school, I began to lose weight, and by the time I met Pete I was down about 100 lbs, looking great, and was clueless about most everything. Choosing to completely stop doing drugs, and I was no longer smoking cigarettes. We drank only in social situations, which was going to country and western dance halls. He was a cowboy, a real cowboy to me because he owned horses and cows and he was active in team roping. Lots of dirt, cow poop, outdoors, two-stepping, boots, belt, and buckles trucks and trailers. That qualifies as a cowboy in Texas.
He worked in the same mattress factory where I worked the summer after high school. He and I met on a bet when his cousin bet that I wouldn't go on a date with him and I was always up for a dare and took the bet, plus I had seen him around the factory and he was well-liked by everyone. On our first date took me to see Clint Black at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and it was the last time I have there since. From then on we spent our time together going to lunch every day to alternating which house we hung out at as we lived 30 minutes apart and the late drive home each night was long and tiring.
He was a team roper and loved to compete so we went from rodeo to rodeo and dance to dance. I was treated so kindly by him and we were in love. Around all new people, none of which even knew what drugs looked like. I was different. I never dressed like the other girls who wore their boots and jeans, I was always a fat girl and those jeans don't really do that well on big girls. This was before the stretch fabric was even a thing. My family loved him and we spent a lot of time with my parents just hanging with them at my family home playing games around the dining room table or putting together giant puzzles, family trips to theme parks. I had changed my life and was loving it, it seemed as if everything in life was going to work out. We were able to laugh and love and spend all our time together without any problems. It didn't take long before we knew we were meant for each other. He asked me to marry him and we were happily engaged. I had become a social person with lots of new friends. I could hardly remember all of the hard days of being a troubled teen. After we had been together for a year we found out that I was pregnant and we were petrified. We both did not know what to do or say to our parents as I was pretty sure this would be a great disappointment because we weren't married. I am not sure why because I was already planning our wedding and this should have just sped things up but, I think mostly Pete was worried about his parents and their deep Catholic faith. We definitely handled it all wrong. Kept the news to ourselves afraid of what our parents would think about it. I did go to the doctor and kept my monthly appointments. I was excited about it but for whatever reason around others, we were in denial not telling a soul. About 3 months into the pregnancy our coworkers began to notice the weight gain and the buzz was out. People were talking.. We still did not confirm this with anyone but ourselves. So immature. On my 4th month checkup with my doctor, I went in and went through the normal exam but something was different. The nurses were quiet and went in and out. I was sent to receive a sonogram and remember how the man doing it would not speak to me, having the screen turned away from me. I knew something was wrong. I had Pete waiting out in the truck for me that day as being seen together in the gyno office would alert inquiring minds in our very small town and even smaller clinic. My next stop was the doctors' private office where he notified me our baby was dead, no heartbeat, sorry. I think I crumbled into a million pieces at that moment, all alone in the office. Now what? I gathered my things and went to the truck where Pete was waiting for the news and we wept.
The procedure was going to be an E&C. Whatever that means, I know the first word stood for evacuation. But the catch was it was a holiday weekend Presidents Day which happens to fall right around Valentine's Day. I was told I would carry my dead fetus around inside of me for about 5 more days before the procedure could be done. I was a bridesmaid in a wedding that weekend! I was a wreck. We still did not tell my parents or his about what was happening. We were both in shock and mostly didn't talk about it. I was a robot the entire weekend going through the motions of celebration at a wedding, but inside I felt dense and cold. I remember very little about the wedding I was at that weekend. Going to the hospital and checking in by myself I can't even remember either, I was in a daze and had told Pete to go to work that I would be okay. We were so naive and had no idea how things worked.
The next thing I remember the procedure was finished and our baby was gone. Lying in a room by myself waiting to be released for home I had not planned for a ride home nor did I plan there would be a recovery period.
No more baby and it all hit me. All the emotions came rushing in on me and I was an alone 21-year-old young lady that didn't have a clue about anything. The loneliness was overwhelming and I was sadder at that moment than ever in my life. Why was I alone? I picked up the phone and called my mother who was at work and when she answered I just sat there crying. I couldn't talk, I think I was able to get the word "hospital" out and she flew into a panic. Thinking I was in a wreck. No Mom, not a wreck. I was a wreck but not in one. Of course, she came straight over to the hospital and comforted me, packed me up, and drove me home. That was it, it was done. I recovered at home and now everyone knew. I had to tell my boss and soon everyone knew at the factory, I don't know if I ever went back. I was relieved of the unnecessary weight of shame that had been lifted and I suppressed the pain of losing my child and we carried on with our plans. Pete never told his family. Looking back at that loss and how it changed me, how it hurt me yet had no idea how to handle life situations that were overwhelming. I am a "ghost" so I did what I always had done, I started partying. We picked up the pace on our drinking and I distinctly remember that is when the fighting started. I would break away from the cowboy scene and go out all night in dance clubs without letting him know my whereabouts. (No cell phones) We were not in a good place and we didn't know one thing about life at the time so we blew it. I had lost our baby and didn't know how to recover from that. Anger was what it came out as. Lashing out in drunken fits at the nicest guy I had known. Something had to change and it was me, so what did I do? I signed up for beauty school. My parents paid in full and I was on my way to a real career. I took a part-time job in a grocery store deli. I postponed the wedding, stating I needed more time to plan the perfect day.
Within a short while of being away from the factory, where we both worked, I found that I was obviously attractive to other men. This was new to me. I had lost and kept off a large amount of weight but that didn't mean my brain knew it. I, of course, didn't know how to handle all this attention that was being paid me by other men. Well in true fashion of a girl with low to no self-esteem and writhing in pain I acted out. I was cheating on my fiance. Not a relationship, just cheating. I knew at times he must have known, things changed dramatically between us and I was the main source of all the destruction again. I was tearing my life apart. I couldn't see it for sure. I was having fun and thought I was missing out on loads of fun to be had. I started partying without him going to night clubs and getting wasted. The end was nearing... I did break it off with him. I needed time to figure things out I think that was my reason. So off I went into this world I had never been. I was young and beautiful and careless with my self, at best. I stopped showing up to school for more than a few hours at a time. I again was partying all night and sleeping all day. Back on drugs in no time flat. Pete and I would still talk but I called all the shots and would hold nothing back. I hurt him so badly. I remember his eyes. I remember the pain in them. All he wanted was his girl back but little did he know I was too far gone to ever come back. I held on to him for my own selfish reasons. I needed to feel that love he had for me and would continue to reach out during the breakup. I was so broken.
There was one night I had a party at my parents' house while they were away for the weekend and it was a wild night, during the party I got a phone call and it was Pete. He wanted to talk to me about something and I didn't have time for him and cut him off being pretty short and sarcastic. We were partying and he was being a downer so I quickly ended the call and went about my life. Not thinking about him or the call again. That would be the last time we ever spoke and I regret how I treated that moment still today. The question of "what if?" stays a long long time. About three days later I was at my best friend's house and I went to take a shower around 5:30 p.m. to get ready for the night. I wore and never took off, this one necklace was a simple leather strap with wire wrapped around a crystal. Loved it. Kinda believed in its energy and good vibes which is all I wanted. While I was in the shower the crystal fell from the thin wire it was wrapped in and cracked in half on the floor of the old cast iron tub. I was instantly alerted and showed it to my friend, and remember her saying that it means someone died. We just kinda looked at each other and kept getting ready for our night out never thinking about it again...
The next morning very early I was handed a telephone while I slept and it was one of my very close friends telling me that Pete had been in a car wreck yesterday evening and he didn't make it. What? Pete is dead! Pete died...Pete was dead???? Couldn't be, I wasn't understanding what I was hearing. I didn't know what he wanted to talk about. What did I do? All was a blur after that. I remember the funeral. I remember the black dress I wore. I remember how my once vibrant fiance was lying there cold and his color was gone. No life, no smile, nothing. He was cold and I hated that so much as he was the warmest person I knew and at that moment I confess I knew nothing about anything or what was supposed to be.
I remember more than anything the sound of his mother's voice crying out loud "Ayyy Meho!" in pain over and over again in the church. I remember the overall sadness that covered that church like a wet cloth. I put a picture of us together in his coffin. I can still see that picture in my head today both of us were so happy and oblivious of life's plan. We both had life and love in our eyes in that picture. How could he be in a coffin now? This man was so amazing in every way. The number of people he had that loved him and depended on his good and kind spirit filled his church for the funeral. I understood why they clung to his goodness as I did too and I had to leach off of him to feel that kind of happiness and friendship. I think I died that day too. I ran hard and fast from that pain and it was many more years to come before I ever even dealt with the fact that he was dead. I prolonged the pain and suffering in my life over the death of our unborn child followed quickly by the death of him. It all gets dark after this day, I moved into unknown territory mostly by leaving everyone that loved me and tried unknowingly to make myself suffer for the pain from the loss I didn't know what else to do with. The lingering question constantly on my mind. What did he want to talk to me about that night I blew him off? It was important I know. Why couldn't I have taken that call and if I had would things be different now? I was in hell. I had to escape and the only way I knew how to escape from anything was to take more drugs. Goodbye Pete you sweet, sweet man. I will see you in Heaven one day I know. You and our unborn child.
I left for Austin.
I arrived back in Brenham still in a daze from the whirlwind of events that I had been through over the course of just a few short months. I was at rock bottom and sad, very sad. Holding back tears on that drive back home was impossible. The fear of not knowing what was coming up was so overwhelming. Thoughts were swirling in my head. That drive took forever and I didn't exactly know where I was going. No contact with my family for so long, the feeling that I would be rejected was something that very well could have been a reality. Stopping at a local roadside park to think for a while as I entered my hometown to what seemed like hopeless hell. I had no one left. This roadside park was a place I had been so many times hiking among the rocks in the dry creek bed but this time I was scared and alone and on cocaine so the vibe was definitely not what I thought it would be, so soon left. I remember sitting in that roadside park crying watching the cars go by on the highway looking at each one thinking maybe, just maybe, Cindy (my friend) would drive by on her way to her mother's and I could go with her. I couldn't keep one thought together. Everything was scattered. I was probably having withdrawals from the lack of crack. Oh yeah, it was the early '90s so, crack. The one thing I could think of was that I needed to visit the grave of my fiance. From the moment he so tragically died I was on the run. I had not looked back. I had not dealt with his passing. The pain was great and I needed to see his grave for myself. A year had passed and I was at my bottom that day. In all reality, I didn't even know where he was buried. That day, the day we buried him was so far pushed back into my memory that I couldn't remember. I eventually found it and parked trying to place where I was that day in the cemetery. I remember the tent, and the people, and could envision in my head where I thought it was.
When I couldn't find his marker something snapped in me. I fell apart there in the cemetery all alone, I fell to pieces. Crying hysterically and searching for his name anywhere and everywhere among the gravestones. Going from grave to grave crying and talking to myself. Begging. I was in a state of panic. I could not have been in the wrong place. He had to be there. I finally found a bench to sit on and sat there completely defeated. Head hung, completely exhausted and sobbing. I don't know how much time passed before being able to regroup and trying to recollect where he could be, because I had already looked where I thought he was. Going back one more time before I left, I found him, he didn't have a headstone yet. All he had was a metal spike sticking out of the ground with his name on it which was overgrown with weeds. I sat there for a while praying and crying and wishing that he had not left this world. This makes my eyes sting with tears as I type. I was so alone and afraid, had no idea how to live my life, and wasn't willing to listen to anyone about anything. There was no end in sight to this madness I was in. I had to leave. I couldn't stay in the cemetery another minute, this was a disaster.
Getting in my car not feeling any better, if not worse, than when I came I pulled out of the cemetery driveway and caught sight of a car sitting on the side of the road. It was his mother! How long had she been there? She was watching me. Watching me in hysterics running all over the place. Watched me fall apart. She watched me do drugs on that bench? I had to do drugs. I was running solely on them at that moment. I was ashamed. I left but not before we made eye contact. I found out later in life that she was never ever able to get over his death. She could not speak to me without becoming saddened by what could have been. The grandchild we didn't give her. The marriage that never happened. The life her son might have had if I had done things differently.
His leaving this Earth changed the lives of many people for the worse. Family is torn apart and feelings never repaired. Losing a loved one is the hardest thing in the world to feel.
Seems like such a long day in my life. Going through it in my head I know it was all on the same day. After leaving the cemetery I for whatever reason thought that I could go to the movies. I bought a ticket to see Schindler's list not having a clue what it was about and was thrown off by the black and white film and its violent content in my state of being. Sitting through this became impossible. How could I sit through an entire movie without having to do more cocaine? I made it about 45 minutes in and walked out. It took me many years to see this movie and realize what it was about. I was completely checked out that day. Drove to my trusted friends from the past. The older group that I had long ago been separated from. They had become afraid of me because I was a trouble maker and they liked the way their life was and quickly moved me along my way. When I arrived there I could sense immediately I was not welcome. Although none of them came right out and said it I knew. Called a friend and asked what was wrong with them. They thought I had broken into their home and stolen money. I hadn't, but they didn't seem to care and I wasn't a very reliable person at that moment and I did know that so I left. Where do I go? It was getting late and I was losing steam. I needed to get to sleep and soon. I considered sleeping in my car but was too paranoid. So, I drove home. The only place I knew to go. It had been a long time and a hard road since I had last seen my parents and full well expected not to be welcome. They had already changed all the locks in the house to keep me from stealing. So when I pulled into the driveway and looked at my bedroom door, which had an outside entrance, it was cracked open. She had left it open for me like all the times before. I couldn't believe they still wanted me. I was not worthy, but I went in anyway. My mother was awake and must have heard me or seen the lights because she came to my room and I basically fell into her arms crying. She kept asking what was wrong and I could not speak to her. I could not tell her. What would I say? I didn't even know. She pushed no further and saw me to bed. One of the lousiest days of my life. A breakthrough in a way. My life was not ok, I was not ok. This life I had forced on myself was full of regret and pain and loneliness. There was no amount of drugs that could cover this mess I made of myself. Shredded. My soul and spirit were shredded. How was I to pick up the pieces and reassemble my life? Did I have the tools to do this? Not at that moment, I didn't. Things never got worse than that day, but I surely wasn't capable of making them better. Something had to happen to change my life. It does, but not this day.