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Tim and I spent eight days with his family in Arizona over Christmas.  I must admit I was more than a little worried about going as his family hadn’t exactly accepted or welcomed me last year when we met in Princeton for Christmas.  Actually, I was FREAKING out but, as usual, things weren’t as bad as I feared they would be.

Tim was really keen to show me around all the places Laef used to hang out at Arizona State University but somehow I had developed a sensitivity around family when I got there and didn’t really want to go and visit all of Laef’s memories.  Staying with Tim’s family at Christmas, I was all too aware of the disintegration of my own family after Laef’s death.  The bitter divorce and acrimonious situation that still hasn’t been resolved, five years later.  I found myself feeling sentimental for the first time since Laef died about the times we used to be a complete family.  So much so that I weakened and called the family home back in Perth where I knew I was almost certain to get my Dad.  Not having spoken to him in nearly five years, we had a nice conversation.

So I didn’t voice my reluctance to go to ASU and Tim and I met for dinner with Laef’s ex-girlfriend Melissa in downtown Tempe at Montis La Casa Vieja.  Mel took me through campus, showing me all the places she and Laef hung out and telling the story of their brief romance.  She took me to the fountain near the Pat Tilman memorial where she held a candlelight service for Laef’s friends not long after he died.  It was nice seeing where all that stuff happened but I was glad to leave the scene and pretend my past didn’t exist.

The next day Tim and I started getting into our routine of going to Wholefoods Raintree for a fresh squeezed juice every morning – he got The Great Went and I got a Lotus – and then going to 24Hr Fitness Thunderbird for a gym and sauna (all things recommended by my doctor for recovery from chronic fatigue).

Sunday morning Tim’s sister invited me to service at the local Presbyterian church: http://www.mtviewpres.org/  A lovely service filled with nice people dressed well.  A little awkward running into Tim’s high school girlfriend while I was with his Mum and sister but not too bad.  We all went back for service on Christmas Eve and sang carols outside in the cold by candle light.  It was lovely.

We had some dinners with neighbours and friends of the family – all in all pleasant but at times it felt like I was being grilled and judged!  To be expected though, first time meeting a community.  One of Tim’s neighbours’ son had committed suicide when he was 18 so we had that in common.  She was a wonderful lady.

Tim and I also visited Melissa at her family home and it was joyous to finally meet her family after so many years.  After Laef returned from ASU, Mel came to stay with us in Australia for a couple of years in 2005 so it was wonderful to see her family.  And all her beauty pageant trophies!

On Christmas night, we went to the local Indian reservation to the Talking Stick Resort Casino.  We had some cocktails and the boys played blackjack.  Good times catching up with Tim’s best friend Ryne who will be deploying to Afghanistan again soon.

So I not only survived the week but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  It was great to be away from all the poverty and diversity of Texas, Tim’s family were so very kind and welcoming (his Mum even bought organic vegetables for me) and we spent time with cherished friends.  I was sad to come home but I’ve returned with a new vigour and appreciation for my life.  After all, pretty much everything in it these days was made possible by Laef.

This song always reminds me of Laef: Arizona by Kings of Leon

Whoever would’ve thought, all those years ago, when I was playing this song over and over on my iPhone, looking out at the Perth night sky and pining for Laef that I would end up in Arizona for Christmas, with the man I love and his wonderful family.

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