Saturday, December 1, 2012

26 Years Ago

In a town on the edge of Lake Superior, college sorority sisters went out for a night, soaking in the warmth of the soon fading August summer.  The bar and saloon was known for its disco glamour ball and peanut shell covered floor (it WAS 1987!).  As the group of girls drank, laughed, and swayed to the heart-thumping music, this tall, handsome, well muscled young man approached them.

Talking to the group, he used his charms and then asked me to dance.  I laughed, asked if he played football for the university and when he smiled broadly and said, "Yes" I pushed him away.  He came back, asked again, and once again, I said no.

He finally smiled and asked why.  I said football players were not my thing - just big, dumb, jocks who traipse around after other girls (apparently, not much has changed in almost 30 years :))  He stabbed at his heart, laughing, and fell backwards onto the floor.  Got up, asked one more time, I said yes.

Man, we had some heart gusting belly laughs over the next seven years.  We had a son, I kicked him out when his pot smoking habits, cheating, and other crap would not stop; when he showed up drunk at my house, I told him the rules to engage my son.

My rules were not harsh or overly restrictive:

1)  can't be using drugs anymore - no pot, coke, 'shrooms, speed, etc.  And if he claimed he was clean, he had to show me lab proof (yes, I was adamant)

2)  could not have been drinking in the 12 hours before he got to our home and he could not drink while he had our son

3)  had to set a schedule - every two weeks, every week, once a month - I did not care how often as long as it was greater than once per month

He never made an effort.  He'd say he was clean, I'd ask for proof knowing better (blood shot eyes) and he'd wander away.  He'd call asking for a place to live because of "x-y=z" reasons, I said no.  Finally, when he married a woman who then thought to shoot paint balls through my son's bedroom, I got a restraining order on her, and because of the marriage, on him as well.

The child support never came very consistently.  At $250/month, despite that he was the owner of two Subway stores in the early days of that franchise; he'd been good at making sure his salary was hidden in areas the court system would not view as income.  That was fine, my job was paying very well, my son was living a good life; despite not having his father around.

His paternal family had been asked if they wanted involvement and had shunned him over the years; they never even so much as sent a birthday card or tried to write/call him.  At the age of 8, I petitioned the court to have my son's last name changed to mine.  It was granted without question.

Don soon divorced the wretch of a woman that convinced him to sell his Subway stores and spend the money on her.  That whole episode in his life was beyond sad.  For all that he did to me, I never saw him as evil, just not capable of making good decisions for himself, and obviously, for my son.

He always made sure any consent letters I needed were taken care of so that I could take my son anywhere in the world.  In 2006, I was taking my son to the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy and needed his consent once again.  Meeting me at a Wells Fargo bank to get the letter notarized, it was the last time I saw my son's father until November 23, 2012.

For all he did not do, for all that he did do to me - there is still a piece of me that will always love him for the good times we had, for the funny adventures (and more misadventures) we went on, and for giving me the greatest gift of all - my son.

See, early last week, I'd been sent an out-of-the-blue FB message that I had not seen.

Don had stage IV melanoma, tumors on the brain, in his lymph system, and on his spine, rendering him paralyzed from the waist down.  The brother who wrote me said he was not sure how long Don would live.  The brother implored me to come back to Minnesota and have Don see his only child.  Yes, the one that he had abandoned, the one he'd never come clean to see or spend time with.

It was an agonizing decision.  Do I take my son, now almost 21, to see this man before he passes?  Or let it go and possibly regret later when my son possibly asks why I never tried to get him up there.

We went, of course.  3500 miles over 80 hours, 45 minutes with a dying ex-boyfriend/fiance, and home.

While Don's family watched from the sidelines, Don talked about things we'd done together so that my son could have some understanding of why I stayed with this man so many years ago.  Don laughed at the fishing story of our lake adventure, and then said to me, "I'm so sorry.  You've done a great job with him."

Yes, Don, I know I did.  My son is a warm, compassionate, passionate young man.

Don's own mother said she was so glad that I'd cut the anchor that was her son, from my life because, as she said, "He'd just have taken you down with him."  And she is right... but that doesn't mean you don't still care about the person, or love them for all that they were choosing to let go of all that they weren't.  And for all that he did do, or did not do, I would never in a million years have wished this terrible ending on him.  He did not deserve it.  He was not evil, just a man who made some bad decisions in his life.

And one very good one.

Yesterday, Don passed away peacefully in a morphine induced coma.  And yesterday, a piece of me died with him.  The hope that Don would turn his life around was quashed; the hope that he would finally lower his pride and come to see his son on his own, now flat-lined.

3500 miles.  80 hours.  45 mins.  Very worth it.

R.I.P. Don
December 2, 1966 - November 30, 2012


Solitary Diner (Also Known as The Frugalish Physician) said...

What a beautiful post. I am so impressed by the amount of wisdom and forgiveness that you have for your son's father. Wishing you and your son peace through this time.

A Doc 2 Be said...

Thank you, SD. No regrets. We will find peace, in many ways, we already have it; as does he.

Mi said...

What a touching post! My prayers are with you and your son.

Anonymous said...

I'm so incredibly sorry for your loss. It must be heartbreaking, my thoughts & prayers go out to you & your family (esp. your son). You've spoken with such truth & clarity; it takes an amazingly good & insightful person with immense wisdom & maturity to come to terms with such an experience. You made the right decisions, stay strong & keep going. You can do it!

A Doc 2 Be said...

Thank you Mi & Gardenia.

The emotions are complicated at best.