It is funny, the most painful memories aren’t the ones of loss or bad things happening—at least not for me. I look back on the death of my twin brother at the hands of a drunk driver as sad, but not really painful any more. The same goes for the memories of Shelley’s and Gee’s deaths because of the cancers that killed them. While these memories are sad, they’re not painful.
Right now the most painful of memories are basically happy ones—they are of watching Ellie smile when she wakes up and realizes that I’ve brought her iced coffee or cheesecakes because I love her; they are of hearing Ellie’s musical laughter; they are of long talks Ellie and I used to have through the night; they are of late night Scrabble games; they are of hearing Ellie calling my name and asking for my help because her sister and friend are tickling her; they are of me telling Ellie how I want to kiss every freckle she has and count them all. The most painful of all memories are of the mundane moments and times I spent with Ellie—like carrying her clothes and purse when she is shopping—or sitting at the spa waiting for her to finish her appointment.
While all these memories bring a smile to my lips—they also bring pain. These memories bring such sharp and biting pain because I doubt they will ever happen again. I am beginning to doubt I will ever see the beautiful, smart, funny, compassionate and strong woman I have loved for over 20 years again. I think she has been lost to her addictions as surely as if she had died—for I have not seen a single sign of the incredible woman who said she loved me in almost a year.
I honestly believe that if Ellie were still there—she would be fighting her addictions tooth, claw, heart, mind, and with every bit of spirit that the feisty, red-headed, stubborn Irish woman I love had at her command. Yet, all I see is her addictions and the lies they continue to tell.
With the memories of David, Shelley and Gee, things aren’t painful—not anymore. I have had years to realize they are truly gone. The sad memories are sad. The happy memories make me smile and laugh. I know there will never be any more memories with the three of them. They are dead and I have buried them. David’s ashes are scattered in Lake Conway—the lake we spent many summers of our childhood—fishing, canoeing, swimming and sailing. Shelley’s ashes are scattered to the Atlantic Ocean off a beach on Cape Cod. And my beautiful late wife Gee is buried on a hill that faces east only 3.5 miles from where the home we once shared stood.
With Ellie, I was looking forward to spending the rest of my life with her. It certainly seemed that was her idea too. I doubt that she would have told me she loved me so many times—in both English and Korean—if she had not meant it. I doubt that she would have told me of what she wanted to name our children—the first two anyways—Cadence and Kelley—if she had not wanted to have those children with me. I don’t think she would have mentioned how much she adored Asians with freckles—which is what our children would have been—unless she wanted to raise them with me.
I told Ellie that I hoped she was the last woman I ever asked to marry me because I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her and no one else. I have loved Ellie all of her life in some form. First, it was as the exceptionally adorable, if horribly tempered, daughter of two of my long-time close friends—her parents, who I have considered part of my family for 30 years. Then, when she got older and a bit less hellacious to deal with—I loved her as my friend in her own right. Finally, last summer, I realized I loved Ellie as a man loves a woman he wants to marry and spend his life with.
In many ways, I don’t think Ellie’s mother was much surprised. After all, she had basically told a mutual friend of ours that she wouldn’t be surprised if Ellie and I became closer than we were almost three years ago. I guess she had seen how my feelings for Ellie had been growing and changing long before I was ever aware of it. I doubt I will ever love anyone the way I love Ellie, because the circumstances we had are so unusual.
I still dream of my beautiful red-headed Irish lass. I keep praying for her to realize she is ill and to ask for help. I keep praying for God to give her the strength, the will and the courage to fight her addictions and the self-doubts and anxieties that fuel them. I keep hoping she will return to my life.
But, over the course of the last nine months—I have begun to realize how deeply her addictions have brought her down. When the proud, devout, strong and intelligent woman I love effectively prostitutes herself for the better part of four months to feed her addictions and doesn’t see anything wrong with that—she must truly be gone. That is, after all, what she did when she had her relationship with Jarrod.
Jarrod, by all evidence I was able to find, was sleeping with at least three or four other women at the time Ellie was “dating” him. Jarrod was providing her with the alcohol and marijuana that her addictions crave and he was using her for sex. That is a pretty textbook definition of prostituting oneself as far as I can see. As soon as he tired of her as a plaything, he dumped her—as I had warned her would be the case.
Even after all of the hell that I have been through because of Ellie’s lies and her addictions—I still want to marry the amazing woman I love. I just don’t believe she survived her addictions any longer. I certainly have no evidence that my beloved Ellie still exists. All that seems to be left of her is her physical shell. Just as Gee, David and Shelley have left their physical shells behind and moved on to some other form of existence, I think that my Ellie has done the same.
The woman I love certainly is not the drug-addicted alcoholic that seems to be inhabiting her body. My Ellie had some amazing hopes, dreams and goals for herself—I know because those were one of the things we often talked long into the night about.
The drug-addicted alcoholic seems to have lowered all the standards, hopes, dreams and goals Ellie once had. Instead of being a student on Dean’s List each semester, the drug-addicted alcoholic seems happy to pass well enough to keep her scholarship. She nearly lost it last fall because she spent most of the fall semester in an alcohol and marijuana induced daze—like I predicted. She managed to do better by the looks of it this last semester by following advice I had given her—whether she admits that fact or not.
My Ellie also cared about her friends—they were the family she picked for herself as she told me in an e-mail. Ellie also once wrote that no matter what her actions and behavior showed—she wanted me to know that she always, always, always wanted to be friends with me. I believed her then and that is one reason I have stayed faithful to my beloved Ellie as long as I have.
But, I just can’t do it any more. I can’t fight for us—for our love and our friendship—without her fighting beside me any longer. I don’t have the strength or the will to do it anymore. If I saw her fighting her addictions—if she apologized and made her amends for the damage her lies and bad behavior have caused—then I would still keep fighting. If I saw she had made a place for me beside her and was committed to keeping me there beside her as I have been at being with her—then I would keep going. But, I haven’t seen anything from the woman that said “Sarangheyo” so many times to me last June. If it isn’t worth it to her to fight for us—then I’m not going to either.
So, with unbearable sorrow and grief, I am finally giving up on Ellie. It is not because I don’t love her—because I have never loved any one more. It is because I just don’t see that she exists any more. I know the woman that loves me would want me to move on if she had died—and as far as I can see—she has died in all the ways that really matter. Her body is just a physical shell for some debased addict to call home now, and that addict is slowly destroying her body too.
Good bye Ellie. I wish things had turned out so differently. I wish she had the courage, the strength, and the will to beat her addictions. I wish she could see herself the way I do—then maybe the demons and self-doubts that feed her addictions wouldn’t be so strong—then maybe the way Ian, her father and Jarrod have treated her wouldn’t matter so much. None of them love her the way I do.
I will keep praying for Ellie, as I have been doing for most of the past year. I hope, someday, Ellie finally remembers how much we loved each other and what the years of friendship, love and devotion really meant. I hope someday Ellie realizes what we could have had and what her addictions made her give up and all they have cost her.
May God watch over my beloved Ellie. God bless her and protect her, even from herself. May God grant her the strength, courage, and will to fight her illness and return to being her true self. May God grant her the wisdom to see the truth—both about her illness and about us.