When we first met, we were part of our circus family. It was a very large, very extended family - it's volume in numbers matched only by the volume of love generated by it's members.
I remember flirting with you across the dinner table at one of our big family get togethers, as eccentric aunts and overprotective uncles raised their watchful eyes at us. The sense of love and security I felt then was something I carried with me as we began our life - and our family - together.
We always talked about having a large family, and how it wouldn't be determined by genes. We talked about being a drop in place for our extended family of circus freaks and when we were deciding where we would build our home, you found land far enough away to be in the bush, and at the same time, close enough to a main town and highway to be easily accessible.
We talked about fostering, and we talked about being a safe place for the local kids to be after school and on weekends.
When you died, it felt like a lot of our dreams died with you. My dreams of family life, the way we'd imagined it, they died when I became a single parent. Not that there is anything wrong with single parent families - it's just not what we had planned.
Recently, Mr R and TJ have joined our family. Even more recently, the arrangement changed from something short term, to something medium, or even long term.
Tonight, 8 people sat at our dinner table, laughing and joking and teasing and talking. I know you would have loved it, and I would have loved to share it with you (more than you being there in spirit, anyway).
Then someone on an online forum said, "You are living my dream, Al."
And I had the spectacular, joyful, freeing kind of moment that blew the grief haze away and filled my body with energy and light.
It doesn't matter that I can't see you, or touch you, or hear you tell me you love me.
It doesn't matter that I can't share this life with you in the way that I want to.
Because I am living our dream.
The more I miss you - and the more you miss us - the more I will just have to live it for both of us.
I love you, M.