Not what I expected

I remember it like it was yesterday. But it was 7 years ago. We had just had a terrible argument, in front of the kids of course, and I had stormed out of the house to go to work mad as I had done so many times. I could hear the coffee mug smash against the other side of the door a second after I had slammed it. It was going to be a great day for sure.

My first call was to my mother. She was always my go-to when this shit happened. I called her to talk, and while I was at it I asked her if I could stay in my Grandmother’s house for a while. She was maintaining a nice house one town over that was in probate. My Grandmother would never live there again. It made sense for me. She gladly agreed to let me stay there.

My next call was to my wife. I stepped outside after the morning meeting at work and told her, in no uncertain terms, that I was done. No more fighting in front of the family, it was too much for all of us. Her first reaction, to my absolute dismay, was to tell me that I was not to expect to “just waltz in any fucking time you want to see your kids because that’s not happening”. I always suspected that she was that type but there was my proof. I just told her that I would be by later to grab some of my stuff. She would be at work so it would be fairly easy. Except of course for the kids. They would by this time have already heard my wife’s version of our conversation.

When I got home that night, the wife was at work as expected. What I did not expect was my 4 kids sitting me down. Intervention style. My oldest daughter, then 16 led the charge.

“Dad, you can’t leave. It will be so much worse for us without you here.” I was very taken back. She went on to tell me that I’m the glue that keeps the family together. How I offset the toxic influence of their mother. That their lives would be much more difficult if I didn’t live there. That I needed to stay. For them. I knew what I had to do right then and I told them that I wasn’t going anywhere.

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One big takeaway was to wonder what my wife would have thought if she was to hear that! She would have been crushed and pissed off at the same time. What a cocktail of doom for all involved. I never betrayed my daughter for saying that.

Fast forward 7 years. My wife and I just had a conversation about finally getting a divorce. We have the papers and have agreed to terms. I am confused by my own reaction, I should be doing cartwheels but I’m sad about it. I was especially worried about the reaction of the kids. Especially my youngest. She is now 15 and she has always been very hopeful that she would see her parents be happy together.

Yesterday I texted my wife and asked her when we should talk to the kids about the divorce. We were going to be together for Thanksgiving and I wanted to gauge how awkward it was going to be. She replied that she already told all of them. Last week. I was floored. So many things pissed me off and I couldn’t finger what bothered me the most. That she told them without me?  That she didn’t tell me that she told them? Or that none of my kids, who have known for a week, said a single word to me about it? What are my expectations here?

I suppose it is possible that they can be uncomfortable and not surprised at the same time. They’re not going to give me a cookie for my staying in a horrible marriage for those extra years. It was the right thing to do and I’m glad I did it.

It’s funny that after all of the years of wanting this moment to come, I wasn’t ready when it did.

Quality of life

“February?” I asked incredulously.

“Yup, that’s what they told my wife. They didn’t think I could handle it. She told me though”. He ripped open another box of frozen turkeys and moved them closer to the tailgate of his truck.”They was wrong. I can handle it.”

“I don’t suppose I should point out that it’s late November huh?”. Pete looked at me and shook his head. ‘Nuff said. This guy had stage 4 lung cancer, had less than three months to live and here he was; out in the cold at the local food bank handing out frozen turkeys with me to the less fortunate in our community.

After spending 10 minutes with Pete I felt that I was destined to have met him. He is the walking example of how I want to be when I have less than 3 months to live. He is aware, he is doing what he wants to do, he is following his doctor’s orders and keeping his house in order. He has focused on quality of life.

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With the exception of a few low points, I am not the feel sorry for myself type. I don’t believe in it. I continue to believe that if I take care of myself and do what the Dr’s tell me I may live long enough for a cure. And if one doesn’t come around, I will have inevitably added years to my life by not thinking negatively. I only have one caveat, I insist on having a quality of life. Until the day that I am not strapped to a dialysis machine 7 days a week, I will strive to have a quality of life.

I spent the entire 4 hours of the food drive with Pete. He told me his story in bits and pieces as we opened boxes and carried food to people’s cars. He never smoked, he was exposed to asbestos while in the military. He is a life-long member of the community. He is an avid game hunter and fisherman. He told stories of hunting in his backyard when he was 14  before all of the houses were built. He went hunting as recently as last week with his grandson. He still works in his yard. He hopes to take his motorcycle out for one last ride but it’s too cold. He’s taking a ton of medications that make sleep difficult but he doesn’t mind because he can “sleep all he wants when he is dead”.

I am so glad that I met him. He reminded me never to get sucked into the bottomless pit of self-pity. He won’t let his illness define him. He is doing what makes him happy for as long as he can. He is exactly how I want to be when I get to that stage.

It’s not the years in your life, it’s the life in your years.