Never let go…

Dad let go of her hand but she never let go of dad's hand.

Dad let go of her hand but she never let go of dad’s hand.

 

Humans of New York (http://www.humansofnewyork.com) posted this photo with the caption “Dad let go of her hand, but she never let go of Dad’s hand.”

My earliest and perhaps most innocently poignant memory is of having to let go of my dad’s hand. I guess myself at around three. My mother and father were viciously arguing. My sister and I were hiding on the stairway. My heart was racing; scared of the fighting and petrified I’d get caught for sitting on those steps listening to all the loud yelling I didn’t understand and be punished for my curiosity. Two policemen showed up. They appeared larger than life and what frightened me most was the billy club each had dangling from their belt. Menacing, baseball bat looking clubs as big as my leg, which I knew were there to be used. In my confusion for sitting on the stairway…or maybe it was the automatic assumption I’d carry with me for the rest of my life that as usual, I’D done something wrong …whatever it was, somehow I knew instantly that billy club was to beat me with. The minute I saw it, I ran as fast as my legs could fumble themselves up those stairs in my panic, too scared now to even worry about being quiet!

I ran straight to the top of the stairs and turned into the first door on the left, my parent’s bedroom. My bedroom was straight ahead and the same distance to run, but somehow I felt sure that billyclub would come looking for me in MY room. So, I thought I was quite clever to hide in my parent’s room where they at least wouldn’t come first looking for me, maybe buying myself a few precious seconds before the beating.

The yelling downstairs had ceased. I could still hear talking; the policemen and my parents’ voices, but no more yelling. I wanted so much to hear what they were saying…to know what I had done this time…and get a clue as to how bad the billyclub beating might be….ohhhhh, how I wanted to know! Sheer terror kept me hiding behind the leather rocking chair in the corner of my parents’ bedroom, though. I didn’t DARE peek out and be nosy with the billyclub man there, no matter how overwhelming my curiosity was!

My sister had gone under their bed. I stayed behind the chair for what felt like my last eternal moments before my inevitable death, making myself as small as I could to hide completely and occasionally putting my head sideways against the floor to peek under it and see my sister under the bed.

That lasted forever and I must be missing some time in there because the next thing I recall is my mother standing in front of my dad by the big wooden front door downstairs. My mother facing my dad directly, his face looked sad and hurt, not angry and mean like my mother’s and I knew something was horribly awfully wrong. My dad smiled and laughed perpetually. I’d never seen this look on his face ever.   Not once on my entire three years! My mother held mine and my sister’s hands on either side of her, facing him and saying to us, who do you want to go with? This was a hard question. I didn’t want to hurt either of my parents’ feelings and I didn’t know what the right answer was. I love my mommy so much and I love my daddy too! And forever without one of them seemed an impossible choice. At that moment, I really believed this was the most final and permanent decision I’d ever have to make in my lifetime. My sister immediately piped up with, I’m going with you, Mommy.  She either knew the right answer because she was an older, wiser five years old or it simply wasn’t the dilemma for her that it was for me? I didn’t know. I was looking at my dad’s face right that moment, still that sad look that was hauntingly unknown to me and I knew I couldn’t leave my daddy alone no matter what. My sister had already picked mother. I couldn’t leave my daddy alone with that expression on his face and I could feel the hot anger seething off my mother, while my dad felt quietly just hurt and defeated maybe…somehow seeming much safer than the alternative. I stepped over to my obviously wounded gigantic daddy and said, I’ll stay with you, Daddy.

It was decided. My sister left with our raging, seething mother and I stayed with our wounded, broken hearted Daddy, just knowing I could love on him enough with hugs and kisses to chase that sad look away and bring back his usual jolly smile. Strange that the few seconds it took me to make that choice feeling afraid because I believed it would be forever and I’d answer wrong, was immediately replaced with as much confidence as any three-year-old could have after answering such a question. I knew I belonged with my daddy. I loved and adored my mommy like crazy as any child does, but I knew the minute I took those few steps over to stand by my daddy’s side, that that was exactly where I belonged in this world, even if it DID mean I’d never see my beloved mother’s face again. I felt sad, but I was no longer afraid that I’d answered the question wrong. Yes, I belonged with Daddy; my happy, laughing, loving daddy with the smile that lifted my heart high in the air full of joy every day.

I didn’t understand this was only for the night…or a few days…or whatever it ended up being. I can’t recall. The last thing I remember is feeling that odd confidence that I’d made the right choice and knowing I would be safe forever right next to my daddy, holding tight to his great big warm hand.

But it wasn’t forever. Not too long after this painful choice…a night…two or three days…my mother returned and took me with her and my sister. And, my daddy had to let go of my hand. I never let go of his though. Over the next 14 years, I held onto my daddy’s hand once in a while in person when I was allowed to see him, but every day and night I held onto his hand in my prayers, in my dreams, in my thoughts when I was scared, and in my heart when I felt unloved and unwanted or confused and beaten. And I continued to hold it the 27 years following that as I trudged my way through life, love, rape, abuse, and many scary choices.

Forty-one years later from the day I made that first great big life choice to hold my dad’s hand, I’m still holding that big warm hand in my mind and my heart. My daddy is gone. He let go of my hand again to go to heaven but I haven’t let go of Daddy’s hand.

Velvet Validity

It felt like his innocence was gone. I saw that in him in glimpses before of his cruel apathy, but this time was different. And not just an age thing either, it was a sexual thing… I think any time you go back to someone you had before, it’s never the same. And it’s certainly never exactly the way you have formed the memories in your mind over the absent time. For me, it’s always a bit of a disappointment; it’s somehow just less than it was before…or maybe than it had been in your rose colored hindsight.

And yet, not exactly; not with him. No, my every moment with him, comical, serious, sexual, friendly is all blanketed with the velvet validity of everything I remember. All my time with him is though. He is my exception. My exception to every rule. I said to him, “I do want to be friends…and I get sad when I think we can’t be. I mean, I love you…I love you either way, you know?” He responded, “I know you do.” Yes, he does know.

I’m playing Rose Colored Glasses – the song that in my mind always defined my dad’s unconditional and enduring love for my mother. How strange that even as a child with no comprehension of my parents’ marriage or romantic love at all really, I always felt that song was my daddy’s song for my mother. Maybe it’s the conversation we had one day while riding in his red Bonneville with the pin striped velour seats I thought were so soft and pretty. I was maybe 10 or 11 and this song came on the radio and he turned it up and said in his deep joyously loud voice, “Oh baby, your daddy sure burned this one up!” I didn’t know what that meant, so I asked him what he meant by that and he laughed and said, “I used to play that one on the jukebox over and over and over again until people would tell me to knock it off!” Wise beyond my years even then about lost or unrequited love, Daddy didn’t even have to actually say the words, I knew he meant this happened during the worst of his heartbreak era after my mother left him.

I am undoubtedly my father’s daughter. My mother never suffered from silly nostalgic memories or wasted time wallowing in a broken heart from lost love. My sister surely doesn’t suffer that affliction either. Neither of them would ever be such ridiculously silly romantics. Just me. Just me…and my daddy. So maybe it’s my family legacy that I uphold with this unconditional and enduring love I have for D? Maybe this kind of everlasting depth of devotion just runs in my veins?

Perhaps the only love that could have forever kept me from accepting my love for D again is my daughter’s… Her beautiful heart was the only thing which gave me the strength to at least minimize the depth of emotion I have for this man and place it on that tiny back burner. …And as life’s cruel steel-fisted irony would have it, I now no longer have hers.

For the love of Pete, will my life ever cease to fully represent the sappiest of country songs? Having been born into a situation of unrequited maternal love, chronic loss, regular betrayal, a thick aura of unrequited love surrounds me as I live my silly old Lifetime Movie life. And I don’t fool myself anymore into believing my happy ending might come. I think this is just what my life was meant to be for some reason: a cautionary tale about love and loss – the kind where you cry at the end because your heart aches, not tears of joy that it all turned around and the heroine overcame at the end. Hell, maybe I’m not even the heroine? Maybe I’m just the sideline story going on in the background, as the good guy gets the girl and rides into the sunset hand in hand with the love of his life? Maybe my daddy was the star of the show and it ended bittersweet…or maybe it’s one of my daughters’ show? And the happy ending will come for her life?

Oh well, I just love him. And just as I feel some sense of resentment at that blasted stubborn truth I can’t seem to change no matter what I do(ugh!), I hear another song which perfectly identifies my daddy as well, Here For a Good Time.
Daddy enjoyed life to its fullest all the way to his very last second. He may have felt the acute sting of lost love just like I do, but he never let it stop him from laughing, loving, and living to the fullest for very long. He had hiccups from it and he kept right on going. Unlike him, I have full-on break downs.

So, in his honor, I’m not going to beat myself up today for loving this man the way I do. I’m just not. It isn’t going to change anything, so I may as well just embrace it. After all, the unconditional love of my daddy is gone now and my daughters don’t care either way anymore. And even brief moments with D give me the bittersweet glimpses of joy my daddy miraculously maintained with his rose-colored love for my mother till the very end of his life. Bittersweet was good enough for my daddy till his dying day, so it’s surely good enough for me to appreciate and not resent or fight.

After all, it really just is exactly what it is.

Confession…

I was unfaithful.  I cheated myself, my children, my heart, my faith, my hope, my spirit, my character.  Not only that, but I cheated Dave and worse yet, I cheated all of these things from him as well.  I cheated every one of everything that was right and good in our lives.

As with anything and everything, there is certainly more to the story and sometimes in fleeting moments of denial, I can comfort myself with those factual, but sad and pathetic extenuating circumstances, but for the most part, I cannot.

Is it wrong to have thoughts at times which say, “Surely there was something he did wrong before the infidelity…”  I would actually attempt to distort something (anything) he once did or maybe once said even just one single time that was slightly unkind or perhaps alluded to some kind of future abuse or psychosis….

Nothing.

And many have said to me there must have been something?  There had to have been.  You couldn’t have been truly happy or it wouldn’t (couldn’t!) have happened. 

Nope.  Clear as a miserable bell, I know I was very happy.  I knew it then (can’t blame this on hindsight either).  I know it now.

Too happy?  So happy it didn’t seem possible to realistically maintain?   Yeah…frighteningly happy?  Like when you go to a horror movie and the happy music is playing and there’s sunshine, laughter, security abounding and you wait on the edge of your seat, heart beating, pulse racing, and your logic silently screaming, “It’s coming!”   You know any second something horribly tragic is going to explode on the screen.  It must.  You don’t want it to come but something in you knows you really do want it because that’s what you’ve ultimately come to the cinema to see, right?  After all, you’ve specifically asked for this tragedy with the price of your ticket. 

That  kind of happiness.  Scary happy.  Waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop-happy.

Only it never did.  And it surely had to… Right?

So, it seems I forced it to drop.  Was the anticipation too much?  Did the happy part go on and on so long that my heart couldn’t take the wait anymore?  Was logic screaming so loudly at me that I couldn’t relax in that kind of happy?  Had life taught me too well already that this was only possible in fairy tales? My life certainly had never been anything near fairy tale quality.  I was no long-lost beloved princess finally saved from all the evils of the world by my fair prince who had been looking for me all his life.  There was no way this existed on any plane of reality possible for me…

There were no signs of impending doom.  There was no cruel undertone in something he even once casually said in a quiet or controlling voice. There were no sarcastic words; no subtle insults to my character, my appearance, or my intelligence, phrased as a “joke” so as to make it acceptable to keep me in my place or put me down sub-consciously.  …except in my logic.  In my brain and my experiential wisdom there was always this little nudge.  Nudge, nudge – another day full of kindness has passed… another day of sincerely spoken compliments, loving gestures, and sweet-nothings has passed… the music of my logic is getting scarier and scarier… Da-da-da-dum, da-da-da-dum…playing faster and faster.  The bad guy is coming.  The moment of tragedy is hanging in limbo directly over your head.  It’s just hanging there waiting around till you feel so safe and comfortable that it’s definitely not coming…for full, tragic effect, you know…

I might even be able to convince myself that this is only the hind-sight story of a romantic hopeful, the rose-colored version of falling in love where nostalgia and regret fade the facts and amplify the colors of happiness to such a vibrant shade that the bad stuff disappears into oblivion.  Except, I was so overly aware of this unrealistic happiness that I spoke regularly of it to my dad, whom I knew would understand that this wasn’t logically possible.  Whom I expected to point out the tiny ugly realities I HAD to be missing throughout this experience.  And even he couldn’t.  My wise and all-too logical father could only continually remind and reassure me that I deserved this happiness and offer advice to me to accept it or else by looking so hard for the ugly, I would eventually make something ugly happen. 

What?  Make it happen??  That’s not possible!  I’m gloriously happy.  No person desperate for happiness, like me, would ever create the very unhappiness they fear and dread from a gift so pure and beautiful it must be directly from God.  That’s just some psychological mumbo-jumbo!  No one in their right mind, finally experiencing happy without a single sign of impending doom on the horizon would sabotage such beauty, such intoxicating joy of life, such a sense of security and love.  NO….don‘t be silly!

Hindsight does, though, strongly indicate to me that there was another sneaky element going on through this.  One I could never have anticipated or braced myself to handle.  The sneakiest of subtle sabotage tactics, so very tricky that it just hung out in the corner recesses of my mind, innocently playing all alone and not mingling ever with the other thoughts and fears which were obvious enough for me to ask advice from those wiser than I. Quietly gaining power and strength…

I am not worthy…

This sneaky element of sub-conscious sabotage actually came out in the light only once.

Right around maybe the sixth month marker, we had gone for a few drinks away from the crowd of friends, romantically alone, and were laughing and enjoying ourselves.  Having a nice traditional date in out-of-the-way places where we could adore each other uninterrupted by the “Ahh you two lovebirds make the rest of us sick!” And I was loving every minute of this until it dawned upon me.  Maybe this was even the first moment I ever had seen my happiness so very clearly and felt it to the core of my being, minus the what-if’s and can’t-be’s.  And I said to him, “What is this?  I’ve never known anything like this.  It can’t be real, can it?  And if it is, there’s no way I deserve this much.  Here is why….” And I commenced to tell him why I didn’t deserve this…deserve him, deserve genuine love…

And then he said one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard anyone say in my life that wasn’t written in a song, a book, or a movie…

…He said, “Every single horrible thing that has happened to you or me, every single bad choice or mistake we might have made in our pasts, every single thing right wrong, good or bad, has brought us right here right now.  And we have to just be grateful for it ALL and know that this was why it ALL happened exactly as it did.  If not for that exactly, whatever it may have been, we would not be here with each other right now in this exact moment, having this.”

I choked up. A huge lump in my throat developed, my eyes stung and threatened to cry as every horror-movie moment of my past flashed across my mind and I saw every path of it leading me, sometimes even forcing me to this moment with him.  He was so wise and so right.  He could see more broadly than I.  My devotion, my respect, my gratitude, my understanding quadrupled in that moment, with those stunning words of amazingly insightful wisdom.  And suddenly everything made sense.  Everything.  Every pain and every struggle from my earliest memory I could instantly and directly connect to the events (forced or otherwise) which led me to RIGHT HERE, directly to HIM. A million individually ugly tiny puzzle pieces of time dropped at once, snapped into place, and created a gorgeous sunrise shimmering with love and happiness.  And I could think of each one and actually FEEL each and every one of them as reasons to be grateful for it all.

I loved his simplicity…adored it even, amidst my confounding and irritating contradictions.  And it was in this moment that I realized his “simplicity” wasn’t so simple after all.  I saw him in an entirely new light of love and blessings. And it was also then that I began to fully realize that this might indeed be real…that perhaps the other shoe was not ever going to kick me in the face after all.  A most beautiful moment…  Or the beginning of the end?

Less than a year later and ironically while singing his praises, my blessings, and this very theory of deserved, “everything happens for a reason” happiness, I cheated. 

Yes………. I cheated.