Did you hear the story about boy marries girl then girl tries to kill boy then boy runs away from girl and divorces her and swears off girls (well not wholly) and then another girl asks out same boy and the new girl marries the boy and they all lived happily ever after? If you have not heard that story then Valentines Day is a great day to hear it.
In 1992 I met the girl of my dreams. She was pretty, nice and was the type of girl many boys would have fallen in love with. I was working my dream job as a cop and now I was marrying the girl I assumed I would be with my entire life. After only a few months the problems began. There would be several events that would lead to me leaving the job. My first wife was a diagnosed manic-depressive with very violent tendencies and a huge appetite for alcohol. Over the seven years of marriage she pulled my service weapon on me several times, many times waking me up to the barrel of a Smith and Wesson. She pulled a radio out of the wall swinging it by the cord striking me numerous times in the head. I had abrasions all over my hands from covering up my head. When the police showed up to the police officers house to arrest her one of my supervisors saw the cuts on my hand and told me he was going to have my ass once he could prove I was beating her. I left the job because she wanted to move home and quite frankly I knew I would lose the job if I did not get away from her. I believe when you fall in love and marry you don’t leave unless your options are exhausted. We moved to Ohio and things got worse. After several months and a very violent final episode I left Ohio. Thanks to some friends I made in the Birthplace of Flight and my parents I escaped and started over. New life, new job and that concludes the prologue to my story.
I took a job at a grocery chain and for nearly a year I kept my head down and worked. I saved money and had no plans on dating. Near the end of the first year I got a girls phone number and gave her mine. The first time we talked on the phone it was three in the morning and she was asking me to come over to her home b because she was drunk and wanted me. We had never even been on a date and only spoke a few times. My experienced crazy meter went off and I never talked to her again. Strike one. Like a moth to a flame I started to talk to another girl a couple months later and in no time she became obsessive and frighteningly clingy. Strike two. I was promoted quickly twice at my job and transferred stores. I worked long hours and was truly thinking that I would never date again because I only attracted crazy. Maybe I needed to bat for my own team? There was a girl that worked in the pharmacy at the store I was a manager in. She was cute, had pretty eyes, and wore glasses. I never gave it too much thought. I thought she was cuter than most but I darn sure was gun shy. I noticed her but left it at that. I noticed many pretty girls that walked in the store and even briefly spoke to some just to make conversation or maybe there was a part of me that did not want to forget how to talk to a woman. But the girl in the pharmacy was the one I often thought about. There were a couple girls who worked in the store that showed great interest in me but one was crazy and the other was married which by default made her crazy because I was not her husband. Strike three and four!!! I was done.
I was building a display in the back of the store when a girl from the pharmacy approached me. She was not THE girl and I figured she had a business question. She asked me if I was single and I said yes. She said that if I was interested the Pharmacist was off for the next four days and wouldn’t mind going on a date with you. THE girl was the pharmacist. I did not know this fact because she was so young I assumed she was a tech or cashier. I took the number and sat on it for four days. I waited until her last night off to call her because I did not really want to go on a date and I figured if I called sooner I might have to go on one. Did I mention I was gun shy? We talked for hours and the first date was planned.
The first date was a humdinger. I took her to a coffee shop and made the mistake of giving her coffee and rock candy. Her mouth was in overdrive and I drank it in like a fine wine. The next few dates were the same. We dated for several months and crazy never ever showed up. One day I was talking to her mother and she made the comment that if I did not marry her then they would find someone that would. She said this as a joke but I took it to heart and asked her to marry me. My only regret was not asking her father first but it was never an issue. We were married in West Virginia and still crazy never showed but it would.
After we were married a series of events occurred over the years that were just life moments. The funny thing about life moments is that the way you deal with them as a couple defines the strength of your marriage. I had a surgery that was not expected but it was not life threatening either. I can still remember her telling the doctor he gave me medications I was having a reaction to and he better switch up what I was getting. It was a lion protecting her pride. Even in a drugged stupor I recognized how dedicated she was to me.
A hurricane was approaching Virginia Beach and most hurricanes missed us but this one was on target. The night before the storm my wife was involved in a horrendous car accident. She would require a combination of stiches and staples that when counted were well into three digits. She lost a great deal of her memory and it completely changed her from that day forward. I did not sleep for two days watching over her after I got her home. The hurricane pounded our home and thankfully we were one of the few that never lost power. The storm passed and she was unresponsive. I threw her in the car and sped top the hospital. The roads were a mosaic of fallen trees and signs. The hospital took care of her and finally that night I rested.
We wanted a child and quickly found that we had infertility issues. We fought through miscarriages and several years of fertility treatments and gave up. One day she told me and I was not given an option that we were trying one more time through IVF. I begged no because I could not see her hurt anymore. Good thing she doesn’t listen to me because now our daughter is five.
This past year I lost my job due to downsizing. It was stressful. I had a job lined up but it was the same job I was losing for less pay still serving the same company that downsized me. My job was farmed out to another company. The company I had worked for fifteen years was not keeping some of its promises. I would go from happy to angry at the flip of a switch. Some of the people I worked with misunderstood my emotions and that only made things worse. The first few months of the new job were frustrating. The job ended out being a blessing and things began to smooth out. I love my new company and am no longer angry with my old company. My wife never wavered in her support. She never made me feel that I was not loved, special. Even when I was at my worst she was there. She has always been my rock. No matter what life has thrown at us in over a decade she is there. I do not take her for granted but I never doubt that she will understand me and when the time is right play my devils advocate. Love is one of those things that you know when you see it. You cannot define love because it is different things to different people but love is truly what gets me through the good and the bad. My wife, Shannon, taught me to take chances, trust myself, and not be afraid to fail. I learned to let go. I hope you all have this kind of love or find this type of love. I love you Shannon. Happy Valentines Day!!!
The title is a bit lofty because I am only a part of what has made my greatest accomplishment so great. My little girl makes me strive to be the best I can be. She reminds me to be kind. She reminds me to forgive and as hard as I struggle with it sometimes she reminds me not to hold grudges. She is a ride that you seem to wait forever to enjoy but once it begins it moves so very fast. My little Monster makes my life brighter than any one man deserves. Another Christmas is coming and will soon be gone. The magic is still clear and new to her. Santa is coming but I am aware it will not be long before she knows the truth about old St Nick. I am drinking in this season and hammering it into my memory banks praying that nothing ever removes them. The magic will never leave the season as long as I keep it alive. Although Santa will one day be a caricature of the holiday our memories, traditions, and photographs will help us to remember why this truly is the most wonderful time of the year. I hope one day she will reminisce of our time with her child and maybe extend them on long after I have lived this life. I hope she creates her own traditions and loves this season forever with a childlike heart. I love you little Monster, little Stink. You and your Mommy make life a dream and I hope the dream lives a long, long, long time.
From time to time I will take a moment to evaluate myself. I take inventory of where I am as a father, husband, friend, or man. I look at what I am surrounded by and I ask myself how did I get here and is here where I wanted to be. I don’t always like my answers but that is just how life is. It is not beyond me to evaluate others too. It is human nature. Most all of us have looked at another person and passed opinion on someone. It is human nature. I will admit that most of the time it is a negative opinion from me but that is one of those personal inventory items I need to work on.
I have a friend who is turning 50. Not that you care but I want to share my perspective on this man. Let me start by saying that I am blessed to have many friends but most are more like acquaintances. They are people you like and maybe even love but if you were separated tomorrow by uncontrollable forces you would miss them but over time the separation would not leave a gap in your life. That’s not meant to sound cruel but life moves on. Every now and again though you cross that person in your life’s path that imprints themself into your soul. In most cases you never see them coming and it takes a while before you realize their true impression on your life.
The first time I met this guy we were both at a professional crossroads. I had been recently started in the grocery business and I truly did not believe it was my calling. I felt my earlier career had more impact and meaning and I was desperately searching to find a job that could fill that hole. I was temporarily assigned to the same job my friend was. His work scenario was different. He was going in a direction that was not really where he wanted to go and to no fault of his own. I remember one of our first conversations was in the back of a trailer we were unloading. He was telling me his work story and never was there a true complaint. What had happened to him had cost him money and truly was out of his control but he did not flinch. He was determined to find a way to build back up professionally. He told me that what we were doing at that time was something he always enjoyed doing when he was a manager. We worked together at our assignment for several months. I was pulled away for the summer months but sent back to work with him in the winter. We had many conversations during that time. Eventually I moved on to another part of the company but from time to time we still talked. After a couple of years I found myself as a buyer with our company so our professional paths had crossed again. He had built himself back up and replaced his old boss after he retired. He had gained a good bit of respect from the very man who pushed him back a few years earlier. It was during this time that my wife and I were nearing the end of a four-year journey where we were battling infertility and trying to have a baby. It had not gone well and this IVF cycle was our last stand. This friend called me constantly wanting updates. He had a similar issue in the past trying to have a child with his wife that was far more tragic than the tragic enough battles my wife and I endured. He seemed to always call at the right time. He talked in “Man Language”. It was not a conversation of coddling as much as it was simply “it will be okay brother”. Casual conversation that stuck. When we thought we were misscarrying our daughter he was the first person I talked to after getting the news and the first person I called after we found out our (now) daughter was okay. He was a rock during the nine months leading to my little girls birth. He too is a father to a beautifully brilliant college girl.
Shortly after my daughter was born our company was again going through changes and as fate would have it my job title changed and I was working for my friend. There is a part of me that wished that had never happened because we are both hard-headed and I was scared where that would go. I don’t mind making a work mistake but I do mind making one that affects someone I first call a friend. It was during this time I really began to understand him and learn from him. He would tell me stories about his daughter. His love for his daughter is the very model of how a father should love their child. She is his bright shining star. Most people would say that a daughter idolizes their father but I think in this case the father also idolizes the daughter. He speaks of her with pride but also as someone he thinks people should strive to be. He sometimes sounded surprised when he spoke of her accomplishments on missions oversea. I don’t think he was surprised she could do what she did but more that anything so amazing could be part him. He would tell me how his daughter kept a strong core of friends at church and that she had in fact been the reason he attended church. He said she asked why he did not go to church and he said any answer other than “I don’t have a good reason” would have been a lie. For that moment in life she was his Shepard to church. His Faith is strong and it guides him. He told me you can only guide your child in the best direction and hope that how you raised them gets them to a good place. He loves his daughter and her sings her praises. That is how it should be.
He loves his wife. He makes sure the world knows it too. He is not afraid to be openly in love. He probably does not see it that way but it is how a husband should be. A husband should hold his wife on the highest shelf. He may crack the wife joke from time to time like all us husbands do but when something is not right you can feel his concern. He knows that she is the lighthouse that gets him through the storm. When I first met her I was scared of her. She had a sharp tongue when the times called for it and those times called for it. He is proud of her strength. His love for her is unflinching. He is loyal to her and his friends. He still pals around with people he knew from High School.
I could go on forever about this person. Sometimes conversations we had did not have meaning to me until months later. I do not have the strongest faith in God. I believe He exists but I have never truly found Him in my life. I see evidence of His hand but what I truly believe is that God gives you what you need. Don’t get this story twisted because I am not saying my friend is a gift from God. What I am saying is that if you pay enough attention in life you will see that God surrounds you with what and who you need. If you can accept this then you will find ways to get through the tough times. If you do not accept this you may live a miserable life. I appreciate my life and my wife and my daughter and the ones I call true friends. When I inventory this friend I find things that can guide me to be a better man without even trying. He does not speak much and I am certain he does not understand his impact on people but it is great and wonderful.
Happy Fiftieth brother, love you mean it.
Life is like a good song if you listen close enough it will speak to you. I don’t mean a good song like a Black Eyed Peas dance tune but a song like “Cat’s In the Cradle”, or “Fix You”, or “Disco Duck”. Okay scratch “Disco Duck” while it was a great song it does not speak to us. Back to my original point about listening to your life. This past Wednesday I was in my upstairs bath room trying to collect dirty clothes for the wash. Dirty clothes never seem to cease. I think they grow in our home. Dirty clothes are like the last scene an actor has in a slasher flick just before they meet their gory doom. They see the bad guy wearing some ridiculous mask fall to his death and they walk back to their car. Just when they start the car back up to leave the scene of the massacre the bad guy pops up out of the back of the car and skewers our unsuspecting actor, that’s dirty clothes. You fold the last load and as soon as you round the couch there lies more dirty clothes. Like I said I was collecting dirty clothes from the upstairs bath room when I found my cat Junior laying on a stack of dirty clothes. Junior is nearly twelve and is shaped like a feline bowling ball, 19.6 pounds. Junior does not move when he does not want to no matter how you persuade him. I asked him twice to move as I pulled the clothes out from under him. Junior can be frustrating so I gently pushed him off the stack of clothes. When he moved I noticed he could barely walk. Life was about to speak to me.
Junior is very ill. When I took him to the vet we were told her has diabetes, stenosis of the spine, blood and protein in his urine, an enlarged kidney, and arthritis in his hips. Wow!!! he seemed fine two days earlier. Before you dismiss this blog as a story of a pet owner humanizing a pet just wait because it is far more.
Pets do sometimes become children to their owners. As a parent I now understand how you can get tired of hearing childless persons talk incessantly about what Fido did over the weekend. I can also understand why the childless, petless person does not want to hear about Fido or you carpet monkey of a child. They cannot relate so they can easily become bored with your tales.
Junior does not seem to have a bright future but he has lessons to give. I take him for granted. Junior has always loved me without condition. He has never once let me down or been crossed with me. Junior could be annoying because he always wants to lay against you. He is a claustrophobics worst nightmare. He constantly leans on you and you feel like you cannot move. I cannot tell you how many times I would get irritated and shove him from me. His sin? Loving me. Junior will not always be here. Maybe sooner than later but I have some hope. Junior is the only animal I ever adopted. Every other animal I have ever had (enough to stock a zoo) was inherited in one form or another or they were adopted with someone else ( a wife or room-mate). Junior has always been sweet and gentle. As he got older he could get grumpy but don’t we all. Junior was in my house everyday I came home. If my day was crappy he would be there and if my day was fantastic he was there. I would come home on most days and forget this. Now in what may be his last days I ask myself how much richer would my life be if I stopped to pet him more often. What did I miss out on when I was glued to the TV watching some show that did absolutely nothing to better my life. TV is a drug. Facebook is a drug. Blogging is a drug. What do we miss out on when dawdling in these habits? I am guilty on all counts.
What Juniors story tells me is that a flower is beautiful whether you stop to enjoy its beauty and aroma or not. Love in any form is a gift. Love and loyalty can not be measured or replicated. Don’t throw away life’s treasures and don’t throw away your own life. You should not have to say goodbye to people because this sometimes implies unfinished business, unfinished thoughts, and unexplained emotion. Leave nothing unsaid and sometimes the laundry will wait. I love you all I really do. I say this often but I mean it. If you take a second out of your day to read my thoughts it means volumes and that I do not take lightly.