April 1, 2017
I woke to the pungent odor of cigarette smoke wafting through the slightly open window behind my head, early, the stench combined with the brisk morning air through the window bringing me awake quickly. The room was foreign to me, a crowded reminder that I was no longer living in the home that I had occupied with my wife and family for nearly 22 years. Two days before, friends had helped me cram as many of my belongings as possible into that room, the rest of my belongings shoe horned into a small rental locker a few miles away. Late in the afternoon of March 31, I had bid good bye to the house that had been my home.. my family’s home. As the cigarette smoke cleared my head, I looked around the room from where I lay on two beds combined into one, boxes and furniture stacked to the ceiling. In order to go to bed the night before, I had to clear a narrow path from the bedroom door to my bed(s). My temporary roommate was outside on the balcony, just outside the window, chain smoking and playing games on her smart phone. She had vowed to quit smoking inside the condo that I was buying from her. In another month, she would move into the house she had bought. Over the course of the month we shared the space, we would reacquaint after nearly a 25 year absence from each other — when we had dated seriously. I became used to her chain smoking and habits — she sat outside smoking and drinking wine until nearly 9 each evening, went to bed, woke up at 5 AM to smoke before going to work.
Often, I relaxed outside on the deck with her, glad to have a friend who cared. We are similar personalities, a real benefit to us when we dated, probably one of the reasons we had become such good friends during the time we dated. We were also different people in certain respects, likely the reason why our dating relationship didn’t work out, something very obvious when we reconnected after a quarter century. Good friends usually stay that way, even after a long absence, and I was happy to realize that at one time in my life I had been able to give a woman the friendship she needed (and vice versa). On April 1, 2017 it was very important to have a friend who supported me like Marge supported me in the weeks that followed.
There was a lot to get used to, much to process, much more than I could imagine at the time. I felt relief to be away from the stress that had been such a constant part of my life for years. My journey had taken the turn in the direction it had been heading for years, I knew, what felt like the direction it needed to take, the uncertainty in my mind wondering what was ahead. This was uncharted territory, but I could see light through the darkness and I was stumbling towards it.
That part of my story is not about a love rekindled. I like to think of it as it was — a kind blessing and one of the blessings or mercies afforded to me during the time after the separation. My life took what felt like a sudden turn, even though it really wasn’t a sudden change, but in one moment, in one day, my life changed drastically.
I have chronicled some of the past year here. As I contemplate what has happened in one year, I am amazed. A lot has happened, a lot has changed. as have I. The smoke infested condo that I bought from my old friend is now my home. It took a lot of effort, but no longer are the walls yellowed or the strong odor of stale cigarettes evident. That place is slowly becoming my own.
Another good friend of mine really likes to decorate. A fun date for her is to decorate my place with the curtains and furniture and plates and pictures and candles and glasses and… yeah. Her mark is all over my home now. We are getting to know each other, slowly and not so slowly discovering the different things we need to know about each other if our relationship is going to continue. There are a few questions, but we are happy with each other, enjoying each other. She brings me contentment and peace, a reason to smile each Saturday evening, a companion via text and phone the other six days of the week.
I have not told my family about that friend, but they must know. If they read this blog, they know now. That revelation, when to share it, is one of the challenges that I have to face now. Dad’s dating has to be a hard pill to swallow.
In a year, I have learned to value even more the friendships in my life, both old and new. Survival through the challenges I have encountered since April 2017 has depended a lot on recognizing how God works through other people, his blessings and support brought through them. It’s a bit humbling. I recognize those blessings a lot easier now, that recognition bringing me back to the God that provides them. Skeptics will say that it is impossible to see God. I say they are very wrong, especially since I can see him so clearly now through what he has brought to me this past year.
My children, my ex wife, probably don’t agree with me, but the change that began seemingly so suddenly on April 1, 2017 was a change that needed to happen. I see now that the pain of divorce for me happened prior to that day. The healing, for me, began as soon as the opportunity to put the pain behind me presented itself.
My relationship with my son is evolving. He lives with his mom, goes to college at the community college across the street from their apartment. We are learning how to communicate with each other, and I am seeing where I have influenced him over the years. It’s encouraging that he is beginning to reach out to me, text and call, largely using those things we have in common as a means to reach out — sports, fixing his car, food, even church. When we lived in the same house, the conflict was continuous, fueled by a mother who thought that taking his side in each conflict was the correct way to deal with things, a frustration to me and one of the main contributors to the breakdown in our marriage. Now that the conflict is distant, the relationship with my son has a chance to be positive.. and I think we are both happy with what is happening. Yes, the divorce is part of the path my journey needed to take and the change in the relationship I have with my son is evidence of that.
My daughter is graduating from college next month. She came to see me last weekend, spent Sunday morning and afternoon with me — church, replacing windshield wipers on her car, going over her taxes. I cooked her lunch. We talked some about what it is going to be like when she moves to Turkey at the end of the summer. I sense that she is tense, needs to talk more about what happened in our family. Some day, I hope that we can. I am proud of her. She is someone who dreams and does something about it, evidenced in so many things she has done, especially her choice of job. Things that scare people she faces with courage, sees the reward in the challenge, knows that she is listening to a God who will use her immensely. Want to talk about God’s blessings some more? Just ask me to talk about my daughter.
I survived the tax season, my fears real when looking at the potential of debt. For the first time, I hired an accountant to do my taxes, one of the best moves ever if just for the complications of a new divorce. He winced when he saw the federal health insurance subsidy amount from last year. If I had to repay that this year, like I did last year, I would be in serious debt to our government. Instead, I am getting refunds. For the first time in a long, long time I am able to start saving money, my car decided to quit breaking down (still crossing my fingers) and I have control over debt (or the lack of debt). That too is a blessing.
My downstairs neighbor has not been home for over a month. Shortly after the condo meeting we both attended, she must have decided to live with her husband. He has a home elsewhere. Blessings are pouring down right now and the absence of her presence is a big one.
So much more to write. One year, so many changes…. I look over my shoulder and see where I have been. There is a lot of darkness over that shoulder, a lot of light as I look forward.