Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Tuesday's Child

I drove over to see my ex-mother in law again today. I haven’t seen her for a couple of weeks because I’ve been ill, as you are aware, and I didn’t think it would be a good idea to make her sick, too. She’s got enough to deal with right now.

As I park in the lot, I see a motorcycle. Now, I realize that there’s going to come a time when I run into my ex-husband now and then, now that his mother is staying in a nursing home relatively close to where I live and work. I walked around the motorcycle to see if I could figure out if indeed it WAS his motorcycle. Nothing obvious, so I hop back into my car and eat my McDonald’s dinner. Not even five minutes later, he and his third wife (I was his first) walk out. She’s clearly looking at me in the car, while I calmly munch on my sandwich. However, he won’t even look my way, and I KNOW that he knows it’s me sitting there. I can’t hear them talking, but I can imagine, and it’s not nice.

Together they ride off, and once they’re gone, and my sandwich is safely tucked away into my gastric container, I hop back out of my car, happy as all get out that I’d managed to keep from actually RUNNING into them.

I walk into the lunchroom, and there’s my friend Judy. She looks tired. She’s waiting for dinner.

“Randy just left!” she said. “Did you see him?”

“Really? No, I didn’t (small white lie). You mean he was here?”

“Yeah! They came on the motorcycle!” she responds.

“No kidding? What color is it?” She said it was black. I told her that I’d seen a red colored motorcycle pull out of the lot and down the street, but couldn’t quite make out who it was, and didn’t pay that much attention. She didn’t correct herself and tell me it was red, so either she knew I’d seen him, or she didn’t…or maybe thought that I’d seen someone else. Neither of us will ever know, and frankly, I didn’t much care one way or the other.

Now it astounds me that my ex would buy the EXACT same color motorcycle as he had when he was married to me. Not only that, but all the accessories are pretty much the same as the accessories that were on our bike, and if I hadn’t known better, I would have said it WAS the same bike. There’s some sort of pathology going on there.

We chatted amiably during dinner, and one of the ladies with congestive heart failure, and loaded with fluid so much so that her calves were at least twice the size of mine. I would bet that I couldn’t get my two hands around one of them. Yet, she is asking, begging for more fluids, and when the staff told her no, she started to cry.

Now I realize that the staff have these folks best interests at heart, and she’s clearly retaining water, having trouble breathing, much less getting around, and she’s crying, because she wants more fluids…water, juice, coffee, milk anything. I heard that she takes fluids to her room and loads up. This lady has congestive heart failure. Fluid in too great a quantity will KILL her. I wondered if she knew it, or if she did, if she cared.

After dinner, Judy and I went back to her room, and I had intended to leave her alone, because she looked tired from her visit with Randy and his wife, but she asked me to stay and chat, so I did. Later, I found out that Randy and his wife had only stayed a few minutes, and then had left for my friend’s house, where there was some unpleasantness, and they left there within a few minutes as well.

We talked about her husband. She really misses him. He died four years ago. He was a big fellow, rotund, a full head of grey hair that he combed back in a pompadour, with a gnome-ish face that looked like it should be sporting a beard and mustache much like St. Nick, but he always kept his face clean shaven. His name was Charles, but everyone called him Chuck. He was a relatively happy man, and he loved Judy totally. Randy used to tell me that he beat him and his brothers. I just couldn’t see it. He and his step son Jim used to tell me dirty jokes, and I’d LMSAO. I couldn’t get enough of Chuck, but when Randy left, I didn’t see him again for years until the day he was in a nursing home in Lansing. I visited him in the hospital, longed to talk about Randy, but didn’t, and offered to bring him pickled beets though his daughter-in-law.

When I heard he was in the hospital this last time, I headed straight there. One of the family had been instructed to contact me if there was ever trouble, and apparently, my phone number changed, and I’d not told them about it. They got me via email on Friday morning, and I headed to the hospital. Chuck was fading fast, but I got flowers for his room anyway. I said goodbye and silently forgave him, and I think he said goodbye too, perhaps he heard my silent “forgive you,” and I left.

The next morning, I contact my sister (you know, the one who betrayed me), and told her that Randy’s dad was in the hospital, and did she want to go with me to see him today. I had contacted the hospital just a few minutes before, but they had been suspiciously discreet, and wouldn’t tell me anything. My sister said “perhaps it depends on how close you are to the family”, a statement that at the time didn’t sound so suspicious, but I know now that she’d known that he’d died in the night. She didn’t tell me.

On Monday morning, I found out that he had died. August 9th, and the family member told me that they had tried to call me all day on Saturday to let me know, but it was a wrong number. STUPID MOI! I gave her the correct number. She told me when the viewing was (Tuesday), and I said that I would be there. Later, she told me that my ex had had a fit over it.

I called my sister, and asked her if she’d like to go to the viewing with me. She said she didn’t have time and that she was working. Imagine my surprise when she walked through the door that evening at the viewing. This is where it finally occurs to me that her betrayal has been complete for some time.

“I thought you couldn’t make it?”

“I just got out of work.”

“Yes, I know, but you told ME, that you didn’t have time.” At that moment, she knew that I was aware of her lies. She ducked out of the way, and didn’t talk to me the rest of the night, and I avoided her to keep from making a scene. I walked over to Chuck, and immediately, my ex turns up by my side. Talking amiably about this and that and the other thing as if we were the best of friends! I tried hard to be pleasant, (be aware, it took a LOT of prayer!) and I’m sure that I made a cutting remark here or there, but in general, let him carry on his unending tirade of all his latest accomplishments and how great a catch I’d lost. Finally, I tired of his self-aggrandizement, and said

“Randy, can I please have a moment or two alone with your dad?”

Now this likely came off like I would rather spend time with a dead guy than with him (laugh) and it was just so true—but I had some things to say to his dad that I wanted to say to him alone.

“Dad,” I began, “I guess now you know the truth, and that it was never meant to be this way. Godspeed.” And I left his side. I sat with Judy for a while. Oh, my gosh! She had fallen, and her entire face was black and blue. I told her she had to quit chasing those younger guys, and she laughed. I really enjoyed being able to make her smile during such a sad time. I know only too well, how fleeting those small moments of inescapable joy can be.

They buried Dad the next day, and I went to the funeral (a fairly dull affair), the interment, where I cried as hard as Judy did. Of course, Randy fired a shot at me as if I had no right to feel any grief at all. At the luncheon afterward, talking with the family again felt like a blessing. There is something about sharing your grief that simply helps. Of course, Randy made it a point to make sure I continued to hear about all his accomplishments and the accomplishments of his step-children. How his father had asked if it was okay for these children to call him grandpa. I was there, when his father asked ME if Bill (my son) could call him grandpa. Then Grandpa betrayed both of us by taking Randy back into his house when Randy left us so many years ago. I left the luncheon not long after that, and talked about the episode in therapy. The scars are still there. They will never go away. Forgiveness comes hard. Forgetting is harder.

One day, Judy won’t be there so I can tell her what her son did to me. She’ll know, of course, when she dies. There’s not much point in trying to obliterate her opinion of her baby boy. In any case, it wouldn’t buy me any relief. Going back and rehashing it only makes me feel sorry for myself, and I enjoy Judy’s company too much to open up that can of worms, which might cause a lot of resentment. Somehow, I feel that when she’s gone, and she finally knows the truth, perhaps she will understand what I suffered over these many years since Randy left me. That alone will bless me more than I can relate in words.

And all of this, underneath the love that I have for the man I married nearly 15 years after Randy left me. He loves me. He tells me that he feels like there is something “amiss”. He has seen the depth of my grief, but misunderstood it. On some level, he does understand, but he knows that there is simply a place where he cannot reach me. Most days, I am able to leave those things in the past. They dredge up on occasions such as today, when I very nearly ran right into Randy and his new wife. Such encounters are best left alone. Wisdom says to leave it buried, under mounds of dirt and grass, very like the dirt and grass that covers his father in the cemetery. Every so often, I am forced back into the graveyard, to grieve anew over a terrible loss and betrayal. Forgiveness comes hard. Forgetting is another thing entirely.

So instead we talked about Chuck, and how much we miss him. She told me how he had kissed her goodbye before he died. Such a touching life she spent with him right through to the end. How Chuck would NEVER have put up with how his stepson was treating her now. How much he loved pickled beets and how good he looked at their 50th wedding anniversary. We shared pictures of the party, since I’d not been invited, but yet, my sister had been. Shaking my head…what happened? All this lost because of Randy, and all his lies, and my own failure to stand up for myself and raise a huge fuss that the family would never forget, wishing instead that everything would just pass into the dust…and hope for the chance to try to make up for time lost another day.

Randy doesn’t understand why I suddenly have the intention of making his life miserable. He finds out that I see his mom, and asks her “what does she want?” and “Why even talk to her?” Well, he doesn’t want her to find out, does he? He doesn’t want her to find out that her son is less than perfection. As long as he’s on unstable ground, he may watch his p’s and q’s, and stay married to this one—but I believe that he will leave her, just as he left me and his second wife. My reason is simply to obliterate the lies he told to the family. To prove to them that I was not, am not, and will never be as he portrayed me. Forgiveness comes hard. Forgetting will never be.

One day, I will be able to say that Tuesday’s child is alive and kicking.

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