Sit Down With Me For A While

Please.  Make yourself comfortable.  Pull your phone out of your pocket or your purse or wherever you keep it.  Relax.

It’s a big table but we have a little bit of time.  Maybe more will join us.  I want to know more about you, will tell you as much as I can about myself.

I call this blog Middle Aged Numbskull, a title I know that I have earned.  As a mid-fifties male, I have reached a state of confusion that comes with enough life experience, enough that should qualify as wisdom.  Instead of answers, life has thrown enough snags at me to keep me constantly grasping for clarity, wondering why I am in the state that I am in and hoping to find enough of that clarity to get me to the end. Every day finds me searching for life’s unwritten instruction books — marriage, parenthood, friendship, faith — books that one day I hope to be able to write.

Relationships are my gauge.  If you were a business associate, I would value you more for how well I can relate to you than how well you do your job.  People worth knowing are the ones who share themselves with me.  TMI is rarely a phrase that I use.   A person does not need to believe the same things that I do in order to be my friend, they only have to accept me as I am.  I may judge you a little bit, but I will never condemn you and expect the same in return.

I am at a real point of struggle in my life right now.  My fifties have been that way, perhaps my reaction to the obvious changes in me that come with age, not really a mid life crisis per se but just a desire to change or eliminate the toxicity that seems to want to envelope me.  Marriage has become one of those toxic existences.  I want to start over in a lot of ways, a desire to make something satisfying out of a life that at many times is less than.  I reached a point a few years ago where it became clear that I had to take my own satisfaction into my own hands.  My own father told me that if my wife was not going to try to help me be happy, then it was up to me to do what makes me happy.

So I do just that whenever I can.  I love bicycles and baseball, so over the course of this blog’s life, however long that will be, there will be lots of pictures of my favorite things.  I bike more now than ever, enjoy baseball games on my own, play when I can.  Instead of worrying whether or not I am pleasing my wife, I do what pleases me.

Sad, but true.  I wish it wasn’t that way.  Some day, a day I am afraid will never come, that will change.

Until then, let’s talk.  Pull up a chair, enjoy a brew together.


If you have read beyond this intro page, you know that indeed that day of change has come and gone.  I started writing here as a way to cope with a failing marriage, to talk about the struggles, my desire to process my thoughts and struggles almost more than I could handle.  Divorce is a speck in my rear view mirror and disappearing more rapidly than I expected.  I am exploring the world standing straight up, the burdens that kept me bent and shaken no longer weighing me down.

Dry Bones

Lunch today was a flavorful celebration, a treat, every bite savored. Cold rotisserie chicken covered with diced tomatoes. Prior to today, I am not sure cold chicken could be so good. I swear I tasted more nuances than ever before, a usually bland meal a blessing to my palate. When I was in my teens, I worked as a cook for Brown’s Chicken, brought home cold chicken to give to my mother, who used to scavenge that chicken into as many meals as she could muster from it. Back then, I didn’t really appreciate it, looked at the chicken as a tasteless afterthought. Today it felt as if a gourmet chef had graced my kitchen.

I am at the end of the first week of a two week cleanse, a diet that isn’t intended to be a lifestyle change, just a way to get the crap (literally) out of my system. It’s a jump start that will get me into the beginning of cycling season at a better weight, allow me to be faster sooner. By the end of the two weeks, I will be closer to the riding weight I like to be at. Since Monday, I have lost ten pounds, will lose 20 or more by the end of the two weeks. I needed to after enjoying the extra time to cook and try new beer over the winter! This cleanse is pretty typical, with little or no salt or sweeteners or herbs allowed. My day starts with two hard boiled eggs and some grapefruit, washed down with black coffee. Most meals include tomatoes, celery, cucumber, celery. Three dinners include steak, one a hamburger pattie. Two lunches are fresh fruit salad. One dinner is cottage cheese with fresh spinach added. The meat I love, the cottage cheese is a favorite, the grapefruit tolerable. Raw tomato, cucumber are both something I hate.

For the past week, I have not really experienced intense flavors for my meals. After seven days of bland, it’s not surprise that simple cold chicken is a gourmet treat. I had to go without in order to appreciate the flavor of what once was an uninteresting, boring meal.

My thoughts go back to the years before my marriage ended, how it felt to go without, to be restricted of the terrific flavors that a real healthy relationship brings. I didn’t realize how much I was being deprived of, how much I hungered for a taste of something good, until my marriage finally ended. Besides craving honest affection, I needed a taste of simple recognition and appreciation for the good man that I am. Rather than throwing salt on the emotional wounds that continually happened with my wife, my soul longed to taste the flavor of affection.

Besides sex, one of the things my ex withheld from me was companionship. It was impossible to get her to do anything with me, much less plan something to do together. As a guy who loves the joy of worship in a church setting, it was a real blessing to be able to share going to church with her. It was at a worship service that I really felt complete with her, our souls reaching out together, drawing on the blessings and energy that comes with uninterrupted praise. She pulled away slowly, started by refusing to sit with me in church, then eventually refusing to go with me. I felt detached, more lonely in church than I felt any where else. ‘Taste and see the the Lord is good’ took on a whole new meaning to me. Everything seemed bland, especially in a worship context. The pure desolation I felt brought me to tears so many times during a church service during the last few years of my marriage. It was there I experienced what losing a part of me does to me. I felt hollow, alone… and what tasted so good before had no taste at all.

My first relationship after my divorce met one lingering need — affection. She provided that to me in heaping helpings, and my appetite for affection was huge. Flavor began to return to my life. I will always be grateful to her for giving that to me. It was nice to have someone next to me again, who wanted to please me. However, I didn’t look for someone who shared the same faith as I do. D is catholic, I am independent Christian (think Baptist without the rigidity). Although we tried, we never really clicked in a spiritual sense. It was too difficult for either of us to understand the other’s approach to God. In the end, that was one of the factors that caused me to end our relationship.

In the beginning, it was the reason my already strong attraction to Lisa became irresistable. When I found out that she shared the same type of faith I have, I knew I had to find out more. I flat out asked her one day ‘What do you believe about God?’. It was a strange question, but two weeks later we found ourselves having coffee together, then a date the next week. Not long afterwards, I visited her church with her. Her faith is real and something she lives, obvious. Genuine. A few months later, I decided to start going to church with her every week, instead of attending my own church. That was a big decision. I had been attending the same church for over thirty years, a church that is huge, and I was one of the people that helped start that church 30 years ago.

With her beside me at church, I feel alive again. This morning, as the prelude song played, Shane and Shane’s heavenly version of Psalm 23, Lisa leaned over and whispered to me as she kissed my cheek You love this song. I was already softly singing the song to myself and to her, swaying a little to the rhythm that filled my soul. I was ready to worship, my worship so much better with her holding my hand. Ironically, the first worship song the band lead us in was another beauty from Shane and Shane’s Psalms album, from Psalm 34 — which includes taste and see that the Lord is good.

The flavor is returning, so much better after so much time without it.

Month of Love

Is February the month of love? Valentine’s day makes it that, I suppose, a romantic interlude smack in the middle of the month casts that glow. Some adore the day, some loathe it. It’s a matter of perspective, depending on whether one is experiencing love or watching it happen. I have had lonely Valentine’s days, ironically most of those solitary times were while I was married. For the most part, I didn’t despise the celebration others displayed. On the contrary, the hope of witnessing love buoyed my hope to experience true love again.

Around here, in northern Illinois, the sheer harshness of the frigid temperatures, the snow, makes it seem a bit ironic to call February a month of love. Once again, that depends on perspective. Cold evenings make cuddling in front of a blazing fire, wine in hand, very pleasurable. February for me means that my son is away at college, so there are plenty of nights spent alone with my sweetie, valuable privacy that isn’t as possible when he is living with me. We enjoy the large brick fireplace in my living room, snuggled on the couch, binge watching The Sinner on Netflix. February has been good to us, to our relationship. More time together means more opportunity to bond, to feel the closeness that we need from each other. We don’t get the chance to detach, which happens when we don’t see each other as much.

Valentine’s day happened on a Sunday this year. I ordered a dozen roses and chocolates to be delivered to her on the 13th. To my dismay, they weren’t delivered and I didn’t find out they would not be delivered until about an hour before she was supposed to come over to my place on the 14th. I received an email that said the delivery would not happen until the 15th. The excuse I was given was the weather, as it was a snowy weekend, but that felt like an excuse. Really, the company I ordered from (a large online retailer) over booked. They refunded the extra money I had paid for the Saturday delivery, but refused to do anything else for me. I was given the option to cancel the order, get a $10 credit for my next order.

I didn’t want to do cancel the order. Why? I like to think that every man likes to see the thrill it gives her to get those flowers. I wanted her to experience that, knew she would understand the late delivery. To prepare for the day, I had a nice card with a heartfelt letter stuffed inside. Candles were lit in my living room, the fireplace ready. The corner Walgreens had bouquets of flowers for sale, so I bought a bouquet. Need I say that the evening was spectacular. Even more spectacular was that she stayed home from work the next day, received the delivery that morning. Valentine’s was a two day event this year.

This February was the month of love for another reason. I received an impromptu video call from my daughter around 1 PM on the 9th. She was glowing as she held out her hand to reveal the engagement ring that her boyfriend had just given to her. I knew the proposal was coming, but it was still magical to witness her excitement. He did it right — put together a special meal inside a gazebo decorated with flowers and scattered with rose petals. The walk leading to the gazebo was lit with luminaries. One of her friends took pictures of the whole proposal. It was nice to share that moment with her. Even though my daughter is far away, in Turkey, she does a wonderful job including me in her life. So, it was definitely a month of love for her!

Now she is planning a wedding. She has her budget prepared, the date and venue selected. Yesterday, I saw the guest list they put together, a challenge since the venue limits guest to a maximum of 100 due to the pandemic. They also have the challenge of planning a wedding in a short time. The date is July 26, a Monday wedding as that saves nearly $2000 on the cost of the venue. My girl is up to the task, a born planner, and she is doing well with the arrangements despite putting together a Chicago area wedding from her home in Ankara!

One of my assigned tasks is to be the taste tester for the possible caterers. BBQ is what she wants. I am up to that task. Also, she asked my to select an Earth Wind and Fire song for the daddy/daughter dance. She knows I am a ham, as she watched me perform sketch comedy when she was growing up, so the idea is to do one of those choreographed performances for our dance. I am definitely up to it, as is she. It’s going to be a blast. Earth Wind and Fire is important to her, their music something we loved to share together during the many trips in my car to/from the basketball games she played.

Her fiance promised to ride some singletrack with me when they get here in June. I told him it’s a must, especially since I know the trails and woods so well. There are plenty of places to bury a body (chuckle chuckle).

Sooooooo, I vote to make this the YEAR of love. It has been so far.

Contemplating a Flock of Robins

My view outside my kitchen glass door this morning. Robins!

Robins in the snow. A flock. Their reddish orange breasts caught my attention out of the corner of my eye as I sipped my morning coffee in the brightness of a sunny, fresh, very cold Saturday winter day. They and their Cardinal friends nearby stood out amidst the white snow background. I was drawn to them, fascinated by the thought of how many exist and survive in the harsh winter. It is impossible not to marvel at the blessing of beauty, the wonder and ability to recognize that beauty something I am thankful to my creator for putting in me.

It was fun to remember the little poem of robin red breast as I viewed the morning’s visitors. True or not, the sight of a robin reminds me that warm weather is not too far away, a season that brings its own blessings. I think all seasons have blessings of their own, unique and fantastic no matter where in the world you are.

Our creator knows we need to be reminded.

The words of the poet recorded in Ecclesiastes 3, words that inspired the Pete Seeger (and Byrds, appropriately) song ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’, are even more beautiful as I comtemplate the snow Robins, as I think about what the changing of seasons brings —

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,

A time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

The poet continues a few verses later, and this is really where my contemplation leads:

I also thought, “As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from the dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”…For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?

In my life, I have gone through several seasons of trial, seasons that brought challenge and grief. I have gone through seasons of great joy. I have gone through seasons of pain, as well as seasons of healing. The season I am in now is a healing season, a season I saw coming during a terribly cold time of my life. Who knows what will happen from here on?

As I contemplate the Robins of this morning, I am in wonder of the contrast. They appeared on the coldest of days, surviving together, with the hope of the warmth and bounty to come.

Isn’t life wonderful?

What a man needs

It has been a good year already, if only because I was able to take a nice trip with Lisa. She is a club member at Disney, has a timeshare, so she visits there several times a year. Excited to share the experience with me, she planned a trip there for the end of January, just the two of us.

It really is the magic kingdom, especially when that magic is shared with another.

She loves the place. She really does. And part of her happiness was the thought that she could show it to me. Lisa is a planner. That means I really didn’t have to do much besides show up. Oh, I was a part of the itinerary planning, but this trip was her baby. Prior to the trip, we already had restaurant reservations. Lisa had a plan for what parks we would visit each day. It was going to be a real experience.

It was a real experience. The resort (Beach Club) was great. The parks were fun. The weather was perfect. I really enjoyed wearing shorts and a tee shirt for four days while my friends in Chicagoland were struggling through a snow storm!

Perhaps the best take away from the trip is that she appreciates me even more for sharing it with her. Since our return, I can see her gratitude. She is expressing it even more, something I need, something I never experienced in 25 years of marriage. I am that knight in shining armor.

I cooked dinner for Lisa Saturday night. I went with her to search for a new washing machine after hers broke down, then did her and her son’s wash at my place. Saturday evening, I cleared a spot for her son’s car during another big snow storm.

Thanks for all your help! You are an amazing man and I love you more each day.

That was the text I received from her as I was drifting off to sleep last Saturday night. Would you believe that in 25 years of marriage, I never received anything close to as much recognition as that little text message? Never. I wasn’t perfect, but I worked my butt off to be the best husband and father I could be. Not once did my ex say anything close to that simple little message I received last Saturday night. All I heard from my ex was how wrong I was. All it would have taken was to recognize the good, just a little bit. But the good was expected, the wrong remembered.

A guy needs that recognition.

This year is starting off well.

Food and Festivities

This time of year is a time of feasting, comforting and/or rich treats that fill one up, fattens to a plump satisfaction that eventually leads to the regret that comes with the new year. Since my divorce, I have reveled in the opportunity to cook what I want, have more opportunities than ever to share what I think is a culinary gift with my friends and family. Christmas came with the required ham, a fatty juiciness that I simply love. I stuck a nice sized ham shank in the oven on Christmas morn, prepped a batch of green bean casserole to go with it. The leftovers have been heavenly, perhaps even better than Thanksgiving leftovers, with ham sandwiches all weekend. Yesterday was ribs and pulled pork BBQ with beans, coleslaw, and cornbread, shared at my family’s gathering.

Yes, we braved the pandemic warnings and gathered despite the risk. One of my brothers decided to decline, but the rest of my family gathered at my other brother’s house for the feast. My son braved a 2 hour drive south with my girlfriend and I, a first for us. He was warm and friendly with her, such a good thing for her to experience. Prior to yesterday, my boy was a bit intimidating to her, a bit reluctant to engage with her. It was a good trip, and by the time we arrived at my brother’s house, we were ready to enjoy the rest of my family. My family has really accepted Lisa, have included her in family correspondence, something she really likes. Her parents both died quite a while ago and her family really doesn’t interact or spend holidays together. My father loves her to the point of communicating with her without my being around, calls and texts her, so Lisa was really looking forward to seeing him. She spent a lot of time creating a beaded picture based on a picture of him with his dog, her Christmas present to him, so she was excited about giving it to him. He loved it, fussed and made a big deal over the gift. It really was heartfelt. I can’t really express how good it makes me feel.

Dad also brought his new girlfriend with him for the first time. She fit it, was very anxious to meet my brothers and I. When we got there, she chatted with us over a bottle of wine she had brought, while we all munched on port wine cheese spread over veggie crackers. Lisa bonded with her, the two new girls sharing. They laughed and told stories. Dad’s girlfriend laughed at my jokes, something that endeared her to me a bit. She won the game of Apples to Apples we all played, Lisa conceding the game to her, as they both tied.

It’s fun to see my 80 year old dad with someone else. His girlfriend knew my mother quite well, a challenge to her as it’s difficult to live up to the reputation my mother had. Mom was an extremely talented musician, intelligent and loved for her kindness. Those are big shoes to fill. I think Lisa encouraged her to concentrate on being herself. I can tell it was appreciated. As they were leaving, she approached me and whispered you are very lucky to have this one. I could tell she meant it. Dad echoed the same sentiment in an email to Lisa later on in the evening.

Lisa, my son and I made a detour after the family gathering. Instead of driving straight home, we drove to my son’s college apartment to pick up some of the things he forgot to bring home for his holiday break. His college is only 30 minutes from my brother’s house. I hadn’t seen the apartment he is living in this year, so I wanted to see it. It’s his senior year and he is sharing a four bedroom college apartment with three other guys. The place looks just like you would expect. I couldn’t resist the urge to help him clean things up, something he seemed glad to accept. I don’t think his bathroom had been cleaned since he moved in last August!

I liked that my son talked with Lisa, without my needing to be involved, during the drive home. Let’s just say it was a very good day.

Christmas day, my son went over to Lisa’s with me to open presents. He was engaged. It was such a good thing.

This was the first holiday in the three years since the divorce that didn’t feel dysfunctional. I have learned a lot and my son’s gradual acceptance did a lot to help that feeling. Don’t get me wrong, there is a long ways to go before it’s going to be a real acceptance, but we have had a good start this holiday season. I think a lot of it has been his starting to mature, but it’s also because he has been living with me during his breaks for a year now. We are getting along, our own relationship experiencing a lot of healing. Maybe that is the most important part of the whole thing. I have said it plenty of times before – my relationship with him really needed healing, the outlook three years ago so bleak that it didn’t seem possible for us to ever live under the same roof again. I think he likes living with me now!

Lisa spoiled me for Christmas. It’s so nice, so unexpected simply because I was so used to being disrespected, to being an afterthought. She bought a new TV for me, the first new TV that I have ever had, believe it or not. Also, she bought several things for Nate, wrapped them and put them in his Christmas stocking. That he accepted the gifts from her is another huge step.

I like having someone special to share the holidays with.

There are beans soaking in a pot right now, hopefully ready tomorrow. I will be making ham and beans from the Christmas ham shank. To accompany the soup, there will be Famous Dave’s cornbread (from mix) with whipped honey butter (such an easy, sweet pleasure). My son is continuing to enjoy my cooking and even mentioned that he wants me to put together a cookbook of my recipes. He wants my crockpot mac and cheese recipe, something I made for him last week (great with leftover ham in it). Tonight, however, he did NOT eat the cauliflower and gnocchi with cheese garlic sauce that I made for dinner. I guess not everything is going to be a hit! Considering that three years ago he would not eat anything I cooked, it’s an accomplishment to have him eating my creations now.

It’s more obvious now than ever that my son is watching me and learning from what I do. This Christmas, he is respecting the order and cleanliness of my home a whole lot more than in previous visits. When I visited his place yesterday, he went out of his way to get things straight when we came into his apartment. He knows what I expect and is starting to get it. He is working hard, paying his own way… another big change.

I am cautiously optimistic, but from this writing it’s pretty clear how optimistic I am!

Life continues to improve. The holidays are always a test, and this year gets a very good grade.

Forehead Slap

My son just shamed me for listening to the Carpenters. Really, I can’t blame him. They are the Carpenters, after all, a bit nerdy in an elevator music sort of way. Truth be told, I loves me some Karen. She was so smooth and Richard laid down some awesome tracks. Tonight I just wanted some soft music that won’t put me to sleep. When the boy leaves in a few minutes, I am going to sing along. Call me pathetic if you want. I think I am cool.

For those curious, the album is Gold, their greatest hits.

My mom loved the Carpenters. Mom was a very talented piano player. I think she had a bit of a crush on Richard Carpenter.

I am putting off writing what I sat down intending to chronicle. Today was.. different. I haven’t decided if it was good or bad. It was my first day back after a four day weekend, my boss very glad I was back and sent me a message while I was logging in this morning. Monday and Tuesday had been boogers, my presence missed. He told me that I have a calming influence on my fellow team members, motivate them, which in a way is part of my job description as the senior. I take the tough stuff, am tasked to provide encouragement and support to my team, be the guy my boss can lean on and confide in. He called me when there were enough team members logged on to cover the phones, talked a half hour. It makes me feel good to be so appreciated, my value recognized. For 25 years, I suffered through a job that had the opposite affect. Yes, that job was very similar to my marriage.

Ugh. I need to stop that. Positive thoughts, eh? With the Carpenters happily chirping nearby, there shouldn’t be any cause for negative.

The quarterly customer service newsletter was also distributed at the beginning of this week. My picture and a short bio were in it, along with some very kind words. I was selected employee of the month. So my day also began with a lot of pats on the back. In the 15 months I have been with the company, I have received a lot of recognition, encouragement, and support. There was a lot of light hearted ribbing as well — the picture in the newsletter was taken the day I was selected as one of the winners of the company Halloween costume contest. When I finish this blog, I will have to go retrieve that picture and post it here.

Yesterday morning began in a different way. I don’t often sleep in and I didn’t yesterday. Instead, I was up before 6:30 AM. After all, my 7 AM online meet and greet with my daughter and her new beau was about to happen. The coffeemaker had already produced a fresh pot of coffee for me. I settled down at my kitchen table for some breakfast and quiet time (hot oatmeal with a little honey and sliced banana, for those curious) to prepare myself for the meeting. At 7 AM sharp, my daughter messaged me, asked me if I was ready. I dialed her up and was greeted by my beaming redheaded daughter, an equally beaming young man attached to her side on her couch. We exchanged the necessary pleasantries and introductions, then the questions began. He wanted to know a little more about me, so I told him where I was raised, where I went to school, what I like to do, even a little bit about what I believe. I let him know that I have already stalked his Facebook profile, but I wanted to know more about him as well. The kid gladly shared — went to the U of Arkansas on a full ride and graduated with an engineering degree, spent some time in college as a youth ministry intern at a church (I did the same two summers while in college), has a rock climbing hobby. His parents are both employed at the school he teaches physics and chemistry at. It’s the same school my daughter teaches at in Turkey. He has a shaved head, so I assume he’s balding, but I didn’t ask.

My daughter started talking a little about what it was like to be my daughter, told a few stories. One story was about the time I biked to one of her middle school track meets to watch her throw the discus. I was wearing white spandex, something that still traumatizes her. There was the time her freshman year of high school, at the annual Christmas concert, when I asked into the microphone where that boy who has been smooching on my daughter was at. I encouraged her new boyfriend to join me as a partner in crime, to enlist me if he needs help embarrassing her. He seems eager for me to help.

They seem to fit together very well. I already know that my daughter is head over heels for the guy. Seeing them together, even observing them through my phone. It brought back a few memories of my own, when her mother and I were fresh in love.

Those memories are a bit of the reason I am concerned for my daughter. We were excited and in love almost instantly, so much so that I asked her to marry me just a few months after our first date. Our first date was in October. I asked her to marry me the following February. This blog is proof of how that marriage eventually turned out.

That leads me to the dilemma of deciding about today. My daughter messaged me at lunch today.

What did you think of my boyfriend?

I approve.

Excellent. That’s what I wanted to hear 🙂

Ha. I like the potential of him being my partner in crime.

Wellllll… would you like that to potentially be as soon as this summer (more emojiis)

He needs a place to live?

Hahahah… remember that we have known each other for a while. You know what I mean.

(I need to interject that I already had an idea of what she was hinting at, but was avoiding asking the question)

We have talked about potentially this summer (laughing emoji) soooooo just a warninggggg

Wait… Marriage?

Yeahhhhh… Remember that we’ve known each other for a while

I know, but, well, ummmmmm

So it may seem super quick, which I’m not saying it’s not quick, but it’s not as quick as it seems

I would encourage you to take some more time. There is good reason and the reason is probably obvious. Give yourselves time to let your minds catch up with your hearts. If you are truly in love, that is not going to change.

Of course, and good advice, of course.

The advice comes from experience. Anyway, I am happy for you. I should hold off on the advice and let you enjoy your moment.

————

There was a little more conversation, but the above is what I want to write down. This is one I want to come back to and remember.

Maybe she will come back down. Hopefully they both will. Even though they have been getting to know each other for two years, they have only been officially dating for a little over a month! It’s too quick. Sometimes that is OK, but my guess is that most times things rushed don’t work out so well. I do know, so my worry starts. There is very little I can do about it, especially since they are thousands of miles away. I know my daughter. She is a risk taker, a bit like me in that respect, and confident that her life is going to turn out well. Her decision to take the job in Turkey was a bit of a sudden decision. She consulted me about that decision, told me in no uncertain terms that she was going to Turkey no matter what I said. Even though she listened to me, she wasn’t going to change her mind. Turkey has turned out well for her, a unique experience that has set her apart. I am praying the decision to marry this guy will turn out the same way.

Thus, my day.

Woodsy Christmas Cheer

Woods elves or gnomes? (and boy, is that bike a BEAST)

Deep in the woods this afternoon, riding the narrow singletrack at my favorite park, I began to see little gold and silver ornaments hanging from the tree branches along the trail. I knew what I was about to discover, since last year the woods elves had been busy as well. As I slowed to a stop and leaned my bike to observe their handiwork, I think I heard little voices singing carols. Frankly, I didn’t know whether I should be afraid or encouraged by the Christmas cheer shared by my little woodsy friends. Alone in the deep woods, I suspected it could be a trap. That beast of a bike is a treasure even to elves, I gather.

I’m burning vacation days, so I have today off from work. Vacation days, to me, are for riding. The weather was a bit cold, 31 degrees F, but the sun was out, there was very little wind, and I knew the dirt would still be frozen (thus, not muddy). What a treat! Not only did I get to enjoy the elvish decorations, but I had the trails to myself. Mountain biking is a fast paced, somewhat difficult, sport but riding in the woods brings an indescribable peace. There is nothing like it. I pushed the technical sections, but I found myself simply spinning the easy stuff while I soaked in the splendor of the trees around me. Part of the trail parallels a river, with views of a river cabin on the opposite bank. It’s truly the kind of therapy most appropriate to me.

Before I left for the trailhead, I spent a few minutes messaging my daughter. She is in love, finally able to date one of her fellow teachers, free to date him after the staff dating rule was lifted. I am excited for her, glad that she has matured to the point of wanting to confide in me. We have been talking about him for a while. During today’s conversation, she asked me if I was available early tomorrow morning. I am. So, at 7 AM, I am going to be meeting the young man via video messaging. Since they live in another country, that is the only way I can meet him right now. It really is a sign of how far my relationship with my daughter has come. Not all that long ago, she wasn’t comfortable introducing me to her boyfriends, a distinction I definitely earned. I am one of those parents who enjoys embarrassing his children.

It’s also an indication of the healing that time has brought. When I separated from my wife and divorced, I was afraid that I was the bad guy in the eyes of my children. I feared my relationship with my children was forever damaged, that I had possibly forfeited or jeopardized any possibility of a positive relationship with them. It has been strained, although my daughter has always reached out to me, but I am beginning to feel like I have climbed out of that hole. Friends encouraged me that I am their father, that kids are resilient, that I had nothing to worry about. They were right.

My son tromped through my front door unannounced at 1 AM today. I was expecting him home from college tomorrow. Awoken from a deep sleep, dreaming of some brown eyed girl who doesn’t exist, I heard heavy footsteps in the front hall, then the thump of a duffle bag hitting the living room floor. ‘Welcome home’ I declared out of my sleepy haze. I heard a grunt of acknowledgement as I rolled out of bed and shuffled into the living room. He told me he was wide awake, so he decided to make the two hour trip home last night. My guess is that his roommates have already gone home early for Christmas break. Also, my boy is becoming comfortable at my place, now calls it home. I think he likes living with me.

In the three years since the separation and divorce, my son has progressed from a confused and angry boy to a content man/boy. When I say I think he likes living with me, it’s a declaration of victory for me. If you asked me three years ago if I would ever have a good relationship with my son again, I frowned and said no way. My guess was that he would never live with me again, never speak to me with kindness again, refuse to respect his father for ever more. Friends encouraged me to remember that he will always look at me as his father, needs me, and that time will change and heal. The hard work I have put in as a father will pay off. It has, much faster than I anticipated.

He plopped down on the couch next to me this morning, MacBook in one hand and Yeti filled with strong black coffee in the other. As I watched, he showed me some of the emails he has received in response to the internships he is looking into. Even though he has been accepted as an intern at the company I work for, he is still looking into other opportunities. The kid is motivated and working hard. I am proud of him, happy to see the changes in him. My son was a never engaged in high school, but college has been exactly the opposite. I see confidence. The kid is definitely going to make it.

I like living on my own. Letting him into my space is tough for me, but it’s so much better when it’s positive. My routines are interrupted, my space is invaded, the order and neatness of my home is at peril, but it’s worth it.

Come to think of it, I have come a long way in three years! I like this ride now, like the surprises that are greeting me along the way.

Do you hear the little guys singing too?

I Knew This Man

I barely had met him before the day when, with trepidation, I sat next to his giddy daughter on the couch in the little apartment living room he and his wife lived in, asked him for permission to marry his daughter. At that point, giddy is probably not the best word to describe my soon to be wife, as she was beyond excited, could not keep her hands off of me. I could see the amusement in his eyes as he observed her practically sitting on my lap. Her mother sat across from us in the easy chair that she always occupied, a big smile on her face. As I found out soon enough, her mother lived and breathed a bit too much for her seven daughters, and the one I was marrying was the youngest of seven, the last to venture out of the nest. His questions had very little to do with how I would treat his daughter, were more directed toward what I and my parents/family believed about God. In his family, faith was central and the core, as my soon to be wife had been born and raised in Portugal as a Baptist missionary’s daughter. She had not spent a whole lot of time in the States before she moved back to the States for good when she was 25. I think he was pleased with my answers. After all, I had been raised by parents very serious about their faith, had spent a few years as a minister to youth, was very involved with the church I attended. I had met his daughter at that church.

When he had given his blessing, he leaned in to me, gave me an admonition that was specific without being specific. “This one is special. You are going to have a challenge.” I found out early on what he was referring to, as her mother obviously was not ready to let her last baby go. It was a real test for our marriage, a bitter pill that I refused to accept. I tried to. I was in love, wanted to respect what was important to her, but I also am stubborn. There were times when I told my new wife that the hours of daily phone calls needed to stop, a request that she did not appreciate or accept. If anything, her own stubborn nature just dug in and the calls increased. I spent many a night in our first year of marriage going to sleep in an empty bed, the sound of my wife talking to her mother or a sister on the phone the last sound I would hear before dozing off. As the father of seven daughters and no sons, the only male in the house, I think that was part of his warning to me — it’s going to be tough to deal with the girls club.

He was good to me during the nearly 25 years I was married to his daughter. Despite my not being a Baptist, meaning my faith is not quite as black and white, he respected what I believe. My wife wasn’t quite so kind. When she told me that she couldn’t respect me because I was wrong, the miniscule differences in how we approach what we believe a large part of what made me wrong in her eyes. I fought that with her the majority of our marriage, but my father in law rarely treated me as anything but equal in respect to our faith. He told me several times how much he appreciated the way I was raising my family. We had a good relationship, shared the same type of sense of humor. I knew him better than most of his son in laws because he had retired from the mission field by the time I married his daughter, lived close by. We saw each other a lot.

When I fell into a hard time with finances, a time when I was three months behind on my mortgage with no hope to truly catch up, he made the payments and sent me money monthly until we had caught up. He never treated me like I was a failure, supported me the entire time. Not too long after that, when the family car blew an engine, he called me and offered to buy a replacement for us. He gave us his own car, then insisted I use it as a trade in for a new vehicle. When I brought a new van to show him, he wrote out a check for the vehicle right then.

I trusted him enough to go to him when I was trying to figure out what was going wrong in my marriage to his daughter. I called him and asked if I could come over to speak to him, without his daughter, told him his daughter and I were going through rough times. If he could tell me a bit about what his relationship was like with her mother, maybe I could understand a little more about what we were going through. He didn’t hesitate to say yes. The few hours I spent with him that evening were given to me with gentle kindness, frank honesty, and acceptance. I found out a lot that evening, stories that helped me understand what I was going through with my wife a little better. Unfortunately, I also left him with assurance that my intentions were not to divorce his daughter. In my heart, I knew otherwise. I was already contemplating that. But he put a hand on my shoulder, prayed for me, hugged me (something he never did), thanked me for having the courage to approach him.

I sometimes regret never going to him again, after I asked her for a divorce. We didn’t separate then, decided to see if we could work things out. A little more than a year later, she told me she wanted a divorce. We stayed together six months after that before we sold our house, a house he had helped us buy, and separated. She asked me not to tell her family, so I spent that Thanksgiving with her family, seated next to my father in law, a day where he asked me to pray over the meal — a big honor. It was the last day I spent with him. Since then, he didn’t approach me nor did I approach him. I didn’t know what to say. Two of my wife’s sisters have divorced. I sat in my own living room as my father in law heatedly expressed what he thought of their ex husbands. He wrote letters to them, called them, expressed his anger towards them, even told them to repent.

I wonder why he didn’t do that to me?

He died yesterday morning at 99 years old, a bout with the coronavirus too much for him. Likely he would have lived past 100 years, says my son (who is living with me during Thanksgiving break). I anticipated this day, wondered what I will do about trying to honor his passing. Only two of my wife’s sisters have talked to me since the divorce. The others probably will not want me around for the funeral. My best friends are encouraging me to attend the funeral, especially since it is going to be a virtual funeral. My ex has reached out to me several times in the past few days, seems to want my comfort.. which honestly makes me a bit uncomfortable. We shall see. We shall truly see. I want to give him my best as he moves on from this world, thank him, say good bye. I hope I can.

Fading

Tonight was a quiet dinner, the tarnish of the day replaced by the gentle hum of a relaxing meal. In case you are curious, it was leftovers, one of those chicken crack recipes plus the remains of the overly sweet baked beans from Saturday. I like my beans and women sweet. In mid bite, I realized something — yesterday was the three year anniversary of my divorce.

Three freaking years.

Not once did the thought of my divorce cross my mind yesterday. That’s got to mean something. I want to say it means I have moved on, but I am not sure that’s an accurate statement. There is still a lot I need to (and will) get over. I’m trying to remember what it was like three years ago. The memories are already fading.

Funny, I should have remembered it yesterday. When I did my weekly budget (yes, weekly) and paid the bills for the week, I paid the monthly maintenance payment. I am tired of paying her, the thought of how much more comfortable my life would be financially always at the forefront of my mind whenever I hit send from the banking app. It’s making me more bitter towards my ex, the reality that I will probably be paying her until the day I die fueling that bitterness. My life is so much better now, the financial sacrifice worth the cost. I try to focus on that.

My thoughts do go back to how angry I was then. I really was. A failing job, a failing marriage, both traps that weighed on me. When my daughter confronted me this past July about what it was like to live with my anger during that time, it stung. She didn’t understand what I was going through, still isn’t ready to hear or accept that her experience of that anger was never first hand. Most of the time, my anger was expressed after being poked and prodded and provoked by my wife, my son. Try as I might to be patient, it wasn’t always possible. There were times I had to fight back — neither my wife or my son played fair. Three years gone, that anger has faded into frustrated memory, for that is truly what it was — frustration. Anger is no longer a part of my life. I hope it never will be again.

Time for celebration is coming. One of my best friends bought a beautiful townhome in a comfortable, elegant south suburb, the new place a two minute walk from downtown. His now fiance moves in with him in a few weeks. They are planning a wedding after the first of the year. Both have hinted that it would be fun for me to perform the ceremony, something I am considering but may turn down. I think I want to watch them get married and want them to be married by someone more talented than I. I have a friend from college who pastors a mega church very close to where they live. He’s a crazy and gifted speaker, would make the ceremony so fun for them.

Lisa and I spent Saturday evening playing dominoes and foosball with another one of my best friends and his girlfriend. We had such a good time that my friend texted me yesterday morning to say what a blast he and his girlfriend had with us. It’s truly nice to be with someone I can enjoy friends with. My ex wouldn’t spend time with my friends, said they “were not CHRISTIAN enough”. What the heck does that mean?

Oops, bitterness. I don’t like remembering that frustration. That part of our relationship was just one of the things that made it sad.

Three years. Who knows what is coming next?