This weekend was awesome. The weather was perfect with temperatures in the 80’s and plenty of sunshine. I’ve always enjoyed a hot sunny day when you spend the whole day outside until the sun goes down. Yesterday we sipped cream soda and watched the sunset. I felt content to be with my kids knowing I still had all Sunday to spend with them. There’s joy and sadness in that because I knew Sunday would come and go and I would miss them again. I miss them.
When told my marriage of 18 years was coming to a close my dad said, “When you come visit me this weekend I’d like to talk to you, I have some advice for you.” I’ve always gone to my dad for advice because I respect his opinion. In my eyes he’s always been a solid person with a voice of reason.
Over the years I think I can count on one hand, no make that two or three fingers, the number of times my father has offered me advice without my asking for it. One time was years ago concerning my family. He said something in the way of, “Don’t work too much and spend time with your wife and kids as much as possible.” Sorry I blew that one dad but I always wanted it to be that way it’s just that I guess I didn’t take your advice soon enough. Honestly I always did what I thought was the right thing for my family but..
The second time came more than 15 years later when I went to visit him. I was waiting in anticipation for his words of wisdom because unsolicited advice from him was so uncommon. I think there’s a lesson in that. In the days prior to the visit I thought about what he might say and how he could relate to my situation. My parents divorced when I was only one or two so I knew he could understand what it’s like to watch your wife walk away and to see your kids half the time, how much that sucks and how much you miss your family.
When I arrived we went for a ride in his work van to run an errand and the conversation started. The first thing he said was, “I’m really sorry things have gone this way for your family, are you sure there’s nothing that can be done?” I’ve never, as an adult, shed a tear in front of my dad but when he first spoke I had to pause before answering. It was dark so I was quick to wipe away the tear and then answer in a fake controlled voice. “I’m sure there’s nothing because the choice is not mine and I can’t make it not happen.” He then made a comment about wishing he could just talk to her and perhaps reason with her but I knew there was no point and it would not make a difference anyway. It’s not like a bomb had been dropped suddenly, more like a bomb was floating overhead for too long then finally dropped after more than enough warnings. Then came his fatherly advice to me.
With a smile my dad said, “Don’t worry too much about it. You will get over this, trust me, and besides I was just getting started at your age.” We both laughed.
There it was. The advice I had been waiting for. The words of unsolicited yet appreciated wisdom but certainly not what I expected to hear. The conversation quickly turned to talk about science fiction authors and corny jokes. I love you dad.
When I think about life now it’s easy to feel down but that’s only when I think about a certain part of my life, it’s just as easy for me to smile. I’ve got so much to be thankful for. The key for me is to focus on the things I am thankful for and devote less time to those things that are a drag, especially things I have no control over.
What is it about being in control of everything that I think will make me happy or complete? I think it’s good to not be in control of everything. Actually I think it’s better to allow yourself to know you are not in control of some things and to accept that fact. That might be a situation or person.
The song included always makes me smile. Seeing beauty in things and trying to remember that life is a gift. Having compassion for other’s always makes it easier for me to face my own trials and tribulations.
The move yesterday was quick. As the hours passed Otis (our dog) kept staring out the window. A car drives by or car door shuts and he raises his head in anticipation then lays his head back down facing the window.
Last night, in the early evening, she stopped back by to pick something up and Otis jumped up on the bed near where she was standing and sat there waiting to be acknowledged. I know he was happy. He’s content just to be near her.
Saying bye must have been so hard for her knowing how much he truly cares for her. I wonder if he could sense something was different this time and that she was saying bye in a different way? He just stared at her studying her face. She was visibly upset so I think he was wondering about that.
Late last night he sat on the steps for a long time just high enough so he could see out the window on the top of the door. The house was quiet and empty, something he’s not used to. I call his name but he won’t look back at me. He will wait for a long time I know because he loves her.
Nothing makes Otis happier than the idea of being next to her. I understand how he’s feeling but he doesn’t know what I know. She won’t be coming home anymore. When the garage door is activated he will jump to his feet barking, tail wagging and hoping she walks in but she won’t. In his eyes there’s no one who can take her place.
There is a question I’ve asked myself countless times, over and over but never with an answer. There are things I can think of but nothing I can pin down as the exact cause. Why am I getting divorced? I thought about it in 2007 when I first thought it would be over then again in late 2008. Forward to 2014 and I’m to the point of no return, it’s done. Still the question is being asked in my mind several times a day.
As a man, and this may be true for other men as I suspect it is, when I am confronted with a problem my reaction is to find the answer and apply it accordingly. The key is being able to find the answer because without it you can’t solve the problem. When there is no obvious answer I begin to look inward and pick myself apart focusing on my own faults, things I’ve done and improvements I need to make. Self reflection is good. Self improvement is good. Thinking that by doing those things you will improve your standing with someone is not so good.
Back in 2007 I lost around 20 pounds the first time I thought I might divorce. The second time, a year later, I lost around the same and this time perhaps 10-15 pounds. It’s old hat, the impact is not the same but it still shakes me. The worry and stress of my family breaking apart has been really hard. Again this time I’ve gone the path of searching for the answer by looking at myself and blaming myself for this however I’ve been unable to solve this problem because I could never find the answer as to why.
Today I was talking to someone about this and I asked why. Their answer was,“Do you plan on spending the rest of your life wondering why? You should try to make friends with the unknown and your pain because you can’t be in a relationship with someone who wants out. Accept your reality. Prepare yourself physically, emotionally and financially for life without her. Stop asking why. Start asking what do you want now.” And “Accept you will never know why. This has been about her – not you.”
In truth I have not been the perfect husband but I’ve worked really hard to be a better husband. I’ve put in the work, gotten the help. I’ve tried to reach out and connect but nothing I did would matter, I never felt like my efforts were appreciated and in the end they didn’t make a difference to her. Actually they made a huge difference. The difference is I am a better person as a result of self-reflection and my willingness to work at being better.
From this day forward I vow to never again ask myself why I am getting divorced. The point is moot. It’s time to move on and instead of asking why I will ask myself, what do you want now?
Growing up I was lucky. My parents divorced when I was one, that’s not the lucky part, but my dad was always in the picture. As a kid I was exposed to good men and bad men. I always considered my dad to be one of the good ones, hardworking, kind, made time for me and most of all an even guy. By an even guy I mean he was always calm in any situation, never over reacting and someone I never felt I could not trust. He wasn’t a disciplinarian but he was respected because of the things I listed.
I wasn’t afraid of not doing what dad said because I thought there would be a punishment, I was afraid of not doing what he said because I respected him too much to do otherwise. That’s not to say I was a very well-behaved kid, far from it, but dad was the kind of guy you didn’t want to disappoint because you loved him so much.
Lately I’ve been thinking about my relationship with my own kids, how it’s been over the years and what it’s like now. There are things I wish I could go back and change, yelling out of anger (dad never did that) or overreacting when they acted like kids. There’s no set in stone rule book for raising kids, I’ve tried different things with mixed results, but I do know there are things all kids need and that’s love, kindness and a role model. Someone needs to provide those last three things, mom and dad, mom or dad..or whatever. I’ve made spending time with my kids a priority and each day I’m so thankful that my career allows me to do that often. I’ve also worked hard at trying to be the things my dad was to me.
Right now I’m lucky. I’m getting divorced, that’s not the lucky part, but the mother of my kids is an awesome role model who’s there for our kids. She’s a hard worker, even-tempered, and they trust her. Despite what’s happening to my marriage I know the kids are and will always be our priority. I’m thankful for that.
So just like that you put it out there. One of my favorite bloggers puts it out there and I’m glad he does because his journey has been inspirational and has helped me. Thank you for sharing it. For the first time I will kind of put it out there like that.
But it feels strange to say the last part. Not because I’m embarrassed by who might see it or ashamed that I could not keep my family together, rather I don’t want that last part to define me. It’s true I’m getting divorced but it’s not who I will be. I won’t be the divorced guy with kids. Alright so for a while as I pick myself up I will be just that. You don’t spend 20 years with someone, lose them, then not be that for a while at least.
This morning I was looking at pictures stored on an external hard drive and I came across one from the summer of 2004. It was on a trip north and the first time we all went to Ludington as a family. My kids were ages 6, 5, 4 and 2. When I type that out I think “wow how do you do that?” Well the answer is obvious but still I can’t imagine being pregnant for that long..like back to back.
Looking at the photos from that vacation I can’t believe how much my kids have grown. They went from not even being in school to having two in high school and two in middle school, I want to hit the brakes. My mother always told me I was growing up too fast but as a kid that’s all I wanted to do. Now I get it. With kids, ten years brings so many changes. You do see them grow up so quickly.
Over the years I’ve documented life in journals and photographs. I go back to them periodically. Sometimes I dwell on the past but mostly I go there to remember. So many of those memories are awesome I know I’ve really been fortunate over the years to have this family and create the memories. Things of course were not always great or even good but I always believed they could and should be better. There was never a time when I gave up that hope, always willing to work at it.
-When our first child was born I thought the right thing to do was to work opposite shifts. That way one parent could be home with him at all times. Kids need their parents right? Over the years we become passing strangers handing off the children then heading out the door. That was a bad plan. Couples need to spend time together. I regret that.
-When I was introduced to the church she knew growing up, I was fascinated by what I heard there. Here was something that seemed to be solid. An element that was missing from my life. A foundation that I could build my life on and ensure my family would be happy and in harmony. In truth it burned me out, I just got so tired. I became angry and frustrated then controlling. It’s never fair to set expectations for a person that you can’t even attain yourself. Expectations can be a dangerous thing that should be used with caution. I didn’t realize that and I regret it now. I’m sorry for expecting her to be a certain way and not listening to what was happening.
-The distance caused by those years. The sadness I felt was not expressed appropriately. As a child I used anger to escape my surroundings. All the things I faced then were, in my mind, made bearable by being angry. If I was angry nothing could touch me. With anger you don’t need other feelings, a security blanket even if a poor one. I used that blanket as an adult. It wasn’t an anger that made me say hateful things or hurt people but it was there. My anger prevented me from opening up and saying I was hurting inside. By the time I got it under control, with help, it was too late. The defensive wall had been built up years before and I would never be able to reach her.
-For most of my marriage I made less money. I’m not at all saying that’s wrong or that somehow a man is less of a man because his wife makes more bread. I never felt less of a man and she never made me feel that way because of that fact. But I watched how she worked her way up the ladder, always moving forward and always excelling at each task. It has been quite inspirational. She opened my eyes to something different. The desire to excel and reach. Without that I would not be where I am now in business. I’m grateful for that.
-As a kid I always hoped to one day find a wife. She would be someone who had a good childhood and we would get along really well in our house. The house would have good food in it and a no fighting rule. We would hang out at the park and spend time together being happy. She would smile at me and I would hug her then we’d eat sandwiches. That’s what I thought as a kid. Lucky me I got that. Even when things turned she tried. I remember it well.
-There are things that happen in life that change you. They change you and open your eyes in ways you never imagined. When she gave birth to our fist child it opened up my heart. He was on the table and looked up at me. My heart melted and instantly there was a love I never experienced. That was an amazing feeling. I got to experience that four times. I’m so grateful for my kids.
I’m only 43 years old and if I live as long as my grandparents I have not even lived half of my life yet. My choice is to continue to be a hard worker and to make myself better, spend time outdoors and be a father of four. I will not always be the guy who got divorced.