Archive for January, 2010

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Walls…

January 28, 2010

He grew up with an alcoholic father who delighted in tormenting him. He was once forced to sit all day staring at the switch with which his father intended to beat him with when he arrived home from work. His mother couldn’t save herself, much less her son. He grew up believing himself worthless. He began building his walls as a child.

He stood before the judge with a woman who promised him the one thing he wanted more than anything in this world. A child of his own and the love of family. His marriage turned more quickly than mine, until all that was left was the evidence that she had used him as the means to an end. The family he so desperately wanted had slipped away from him, until he was left broke and broken, with walls reinforced and shorn up.

We met by chance, I only glanced back from my barstool but it was enough to catch his eye. For a night, we used each other to chase away the loneliness. In the light of day, we started talking.  That talk led to others, until I began to see the heart of this man. A heart that had survived pain and torment, I will never fully understand. A heart I catch a glimpse of during our late night talks, when we lie satiated in each other’s arms. When carefully worded questions sidestep the guard he keeps held high, until he is answering questions no one but me ever cares enough to ask.

For the last year, timing and circumstance have kept us apart but not able to walk away. Until fate, snow and Christmas stepped in to give us the time we needed. For a week we loved and laughed as if we had been together for years, neither of us talking about what happened when the bubble burst.

The bell toll of the New Year came and went and the silence nearly broke my heart. He pushed, each time expecting the next time he called I wouldn’t answer. Each time, after the anger faded I could see clearly, the fear and the walls that he used to guard his heart. Until slowly, he began to let me in.

Then last week, he finally said the words out loud. His fear finally put into words.

“If we stay together, are you going to change?”

His heart, that’s guarded by those walls. Behind the brick and morter, behind the thorns and brush. It’s beautiful. And one day I hope to call it mine.

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Homewrecker to stepmother

January 16, 2010

My ex was a cheater. There were numerous women. Some I knew about, many I didn’t. But this isn’t about the plethora of women, it’s about one woman. The last one.

I found out about her in August 2005. I heard a phone message she had left for him. When I dialed the number she answered “Hey baby.” My shocked response, “This isn’t baby, this is baby’s wife.” She hung up. Giving her the benefit of the doubt I called back and left her a voicemail, letting her know that despite what he was telling her, he was married, living with me, we shared children and she was not the first.

And then I threw him out.

He begged me to go to counseling. He begged me to take him back. He begged my forgiveness. He promised me the world. But he never stuck to it. I found out he was still seeing her. I called her again, this time the message was hard, dark. I named her behavior, a woman who chose to sleep with a married man. I called it what it was. I got down in the mud and slung it. What I found was there was no satisfaction there, and I determined that no matter what happened I would no longer lower myself to their level.

Still for two years we lived in limbo, not together but not divorced. Until one day a piece of paper arrived in the mail. There in black and white was the evidence that could no longer be denied. My marriage was over.

It took several more months for the paperwork to be complete but our divorce was final in November 2007.

They were married in December 2007. The homewrecker became my children’s stepmother. It was devastating. I was crushed. I was barely surviving, barely getting out of bed. Until it began to get easier.

Six months later I sat on the shores of Lake Champlain and took stock of my life. For the first time in a long time, I was happy, I was enjoying life. I woke up in the morning and got out of bed, not because I had to but because I wanted to.

Earlier this week I was reflecting on how far I’ve come. The ups and downs. Happiness and disappointment. And I wouldn’t have missed a moment of it for anything.

Gratitude washed over me. Others may call her a homewrecker, she was, that is the truth she has to live with. But I see her as my kids step mother, a woman who takes good care of them when they are not with me. I see her as the woman who gave me my life back. The good and the bad. The joys and the pains. I can smile. I can dance. I’m alive again. I am healthy again. I am grateful.

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The Side Door

January 12, 2010

I’ve always known it’s there, I’ve glanced in the windows but never gone in.  I pulled around the back and began walking toward the neon lights. Opening the door, I slipped quietly inside. It only took a moment to take in the small room where the bar was the center of the world. Those closest to the door turned to stare and quickly I moved down the line until I stood by his side.

He turned, surprise on his face. Then he leaned and pressed his lips to mine, “woman, you look good tonight.” A stranger standing close by slipped his arm around my shoulders, leaned his face toward mine and mumbled what I can only assume was an off color compliment. The alcohol on his breath was overpowering, I turned away and slipped out of his hold.

While the bartender poured my drink I looked around. Beside us sat people hardened by life, known to each other only by first name, learned as they sat together day after day at a bar forgotten by those who had homes to go to. The bartender looked up for only a moment when I insisted he pull a better quality rum from the shelf behind him, not a regular his look seemed to say, a silent moment of understanding passed between us.

When I looked back he looked older to me, set in this scenery. I have never met his father but I fear the picture I saw that night, is one he may recognise from his childhood.

For months now work has been slow and he had finished by noon. What started as lunch with his apprentice had turned into a drinking binge and by the time I arrived at his side he could no longer remember how many bottles there had been. I asked the bartender for his tab and signed my name to his receipt.

The stranger returned to ask me my name. “I don’t really have one,” weary of the look of recognition in his eyes. “Don’t be like that. This is Elisabeth. Just who you think she is – Daddy’s little girl.” With those words I began moving, easily leading him in the direction of the door. 

I glanced back for just a moment, catching the eye of the stranger. On his face was a look I couldn’t quite read – jealousy, dejection, hopelessness. Or maybe a little of each. This is a world I have never seen up close, a world I have seen only in TV or movies,  a world I assumed existed but my sheltered life never led me to experience.

Yet it’s a world very familiar to him. A world he was thrust into at an early age by circumstances over which he had no control.

I was angry. I was angry he was there. I was angry the state he was in. I was angry I had to confront the darkness with him.

But the next day. When he called. When we talked, understanding dawned. He needed me to see the darkness. He needed me to know, that just under the surface lies a past, a life I have never come close to experiencing. He needed to know that I wouldn’t run back to my sheltered life, shutting the door to him when he began to revel what lies beneath.

It scares me. But it doesn’t make run. Not yet.

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A love like Johnny and June

January 8, 2010

I caught sight of a twinkle in his eye. I followed his line of sight to my grandmother, where she sat opening a gift. Under the wrapping and tissue paper all I could see was fire engine red lace. It was my 16th Christmas and I had just I discovered my grandfather’s long held tradition of giving my grandmother sexy underwear. As the years passed I kept watch on my grandmothers gifts and every year there would be one she would unwrap and quickly tuck off to the side.

My grandfather was to me the greatest example of love. He loved me unconditionally and believe me there were times that I tested it. And he loved my grandmother. They went through their share of trials, as all marriages do but in the end they were together.

My grandfather married my grandmother against his parents wishes. My great-grandmother wore black to the wedding – which in those days was hugely symbolic. My grandmother was raised by a single mother, her parents had divorced in an age when the act was still scandelous. She was the girl from the wrong side of the tracks. My grandfather was the dutiful son from one of the best families in town. He had grown up in boarding schools and under the care of a nanny. After marrying my grandmother, he finished law school and took over the family law firm. I will forever be grateful for his act of rebellion, marrying not because of her last name but for love.

My grandmother has grown frail, she now lives on the main floor of her house. The upstairs bedroom she once shared with my grandfather now sits empty. This Thanksgiving I opened a drawer in her old dresser. There, alone, was a box. A set in pale blue sat nested in tissue paper.

Until the day he died my grandfather loved my grandmother. She knew it and I knew. Because there it was, the last set my grandfather would ever buy my grandmother. He loved her, until the end. And his love lives on, tucked away in a drawer and tucked away in my heart.

A love that weathers the storms and rejoices in the sun. A love that has a firm foundation and builds from there. That kind of love exists, I know because I have been lucky enough to see it.