It was so difficult for me to say I love you to Kesner, I felt so guilty about that in the months after Kesner died. I knew I loved him long before I said it for the first time, but I was afraid….
I think a lot of people thought it was the campaign that killed Kesner. I’m sure the stress of it all didn’t help.
Neither did all of the unsolicited advice, especially my own. The more invested I became in the campaign, the more IT came – the advice. “Men register advice as criticism,” my Dad told me once. This was just after he’d given me this book about how men need respect and women need to be cherished. But that obviously didn’t fully register with me; women offer unsolicited advice to one another freely and often. For many of us, it is how we love…
But I wasn’t loving in those moments with Kes. I wished I had been different.
We became serious towards the end of his campaign. It didn’t look like he was going to win the election. Part of me wished I could save the campaign, but it wasn’t for me to save. What frustrated me is that he spoke so broadly; he spoke about macro level changes. “I think you need to be more specific about what you’re actually going to do in office,” I told him. But he was persistent in speaking broadly about change.
He also refused to form alliances with people who I thought he should. Instead I think he saw himself as a grass-roots Barack Obama of sorts, bringing about change for the people of Trenton. “Things shouldn’t be this way,” he’d say.
I just wanted him to win.
And somewhere along the way, while spouting off bits of unsolicited campaign advice, I missed countless opportunities to say I love you. I cried about that in the grass at Horseshoe Lake. How could I have been so negligent? So selfish? How could I have been so hung up on three simple words?
The night that the election results were announced was a quiet night. Kesner didn’t win, he placed fourth.
We said goodbye to our guests that evening, those who’d helped along the way. And then we went to bed. As I laid there next to my man in the peace of that night, I wondered how to love him through this defeat. I know it hurt him, but he didn’t let it show.
The next day I was so relieved when he told me that he wanted to go away for a few days. He was making it easy for me. We decided on the Poconos and it was an incredible trip - rest, laughter, love, and a two-hour canoe ride down the Delaware River: he paddled, I sang, we loved.
“You’re becoming my heart,” he told me. But I couldn’t say those three words yet, it was too soon.
I was afraid.
A week after our trip, I was recording a radio show with Andrea. Excited, I called to leave Kesner a voicemail before we went on the air. “I love you!”- I blurted out before I hung up the phone.
Ooops! I hadn’t meant to say that then, it just came out!
I spent the next 24-hours obsessing over the fact that I had “accidentally” said I love you. The next day I was at his house acting strangely. It had been 24 hours and he hadn’t mentioned that voice message I’d left on his phone. I finally had to explain my odd behavior:
“Didn’t you hear what I said on your voicemail last night??”
It turned out that the voicemail was muffled and he hadn’t even heard me say it. That was even more embarrassing, I rushed home. I ran away.
The next day he didn’t call me or text me, that was unlike him. After not hearing from him for what seemed like forever, I went to his house -only a little frantic- to make sure he was ok. He had diabetes after all, I just wanted to check on him. I found him on his deck smoking a pipe. We laughed about the fact that I’d overreacted, thinking some horrible thing had happened to him. I was being silly. It was just that..
I loved him.
That night I said it again, properly, and he told me he loved me also. I knew that already, though; he showed me in every way. He cherished me. Even when I disrespected him with my unsolicited advice,
he cherished me. I felt that.
That night Kesner also told me that he thought he would die young. I asked him to stop thinking that way, for our family’s sake. We were planning a life…
Three weeks later he died, young.
I wish I had said I love you to Kesner sooner, more often, every day. Every hour.
but I was afraid of being vulnerable and exposed and out of control, so even when I wanted to say it – I didn’t. I held it in…
and I missed my opportunities.
© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2012