Song lyric Sunday

I have chosen to share with you this Sunday a song, a well-known song that you may have heard a thousand times. Pearl Jam’s Black.I share it as an homage to a love that I never had. One that I desperately crave.  One in which I am so happy, so awe-struck, enamored and smitten that in the throes of loss, I could write a song as powerful as this.
I dedicate the last paragraph, the one that disembowels me emotionally every time I hear it to my ex-wife. Some of my anger has subsided. I have knelt at the altar of painful accountability and have found myself looking at my marriage in a different light.
I don’t like failure. My divorce is just that. I committed to put in the work, to love for better or for worse. While I can point to several formidable moments that caused me to have contempt for her, I failed to recognize that I had a few myself. I wasn’t always a saint. I made several risky career choices with good intentions and poor outcomes. There were times I could have been kinder, more nurturing. A little more present. When we began to really fight I began to come home later, often a little drunk to offset the contempt and animosity in my own home.
It’s not all her fault and while I most certainly do not want her back, too much has happened and she doesn’t love me anymore, I wish more than anything that she will someday have the life she dreamed of as a wide-eyed young woman, yet to be spoiled by the realities of wasted potential and poor decisions.
I don’t know if I failed her, if she lost faith in me, if I failed to provide her the life she deserved or if it was meant to be that we would part ways after so many years together. After seeing the 100 or so pictures she posted online the other day of the old days with our friends and family I saw an awful lot of pictures of she and I looking happy. Real happy. If I didn’t know better I would call it love. But in the wake of our tumultuous demise I had forgotten those times, when the world was bright and our futures held hope and promise.
I dedicate this to her because, despite our ruined state I still wish the best for her. I wish that things had turned out different for us. May she find balance in her life, may she overcome her demons and ultimately meet someone who makes her happy. To find the type of love that inspires a song like this. In particular I dedicate the last stanza, which I have highlighted below.
Hey, oh
Sheets of empty canvas
Untouched sheets of clay
Were laid spread out before me
As her body once did
All five horizons
Revolved around her soul
As the earth to the sun
Now the air I tasted and breathed
Has taken a turn
Oh and all I taught her was everything
Oh I know she gave me all that she wore
And now my bitter hands
Chafe beneath the clouds
Of what was everything
Oh the pictures have
All been washed in black
Tattooed everything
I take a walk outside
I’m surrounded by
Some kids at play
I can feel their laughter
So why do I sear
Oh, and twisted thoughts that spin
Round my head
I’m spinning
Oh, I’m spinning
How quick the sun can, drop away
And now my bitter hands
Cradle broken glass
Of what was everything
All the pictures had
All been washed in black
Tattooed everything
All the love gone bad
Turned my world to black
Tattooed all I see
All that I am
All I’ll be
Yeah
I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life
I know you’ll be a star
In somebody else’s sky
But why
Why
Why can’t it be
Why can’t it be mine

the erroneous comment I wish I never heard about

“I overheard her say that she doesn’t love you anymore at the dinner table”

“Wait…what?”

“Yeah, I don’t know who she was saying it to, I caught it at the last second but she said it.”

I felt like I had just tripped over a wasp’s nest but I kept my composure as the words set in.

I was having a glass of wine with my mom’s boyfriend. He was telling me about the dinner he had the previous day with my mom, my ex-wife and my oldest daughter on Mother’s Day. They had all gotten together at the restaurant my son works. It was an impromptu get together. My mom and Dave went down to MA to decorate the family stones with flowers and my ex-wife had called her to wish her a happy Mother’s Day. When they realized they were in the same state for once they made dinner plans. I didn’t even know about it until they got home that night. Mom told me all about it. The next night, that would be the time of this writing, it was just Dave and I for a while. I had just asked him of his account of the dinner, particularly because it was the first time he had met my ex-wife and oldest daughter. He had all good things to say and I was feeling good about it. Until he said that line about my ex-wife’s comment. Two questions came to mind; why did she say this and why do I care?

He continued talking as we watched the Red Sox play the A’s. I became noticeably quiet. Eventually, he asked me if he had crossed a line by telling me. I assured him that it was fine, I was just taken aback. While I was unsure why he mentioned it, it wasn’t done out of harm or malice. In fact, he probably mentioned it because it resonated with him after being in a terrible marriage himself. The pressing question remained. Why is this bothering me?

I truly don’t understand why I am having such trouble with this. I was married to this woman for 22 years and for the last 12 I would have chewed my arm off to escape her. There were times when I actually felt that I hated her. Towards the end, we de-escalated into a tolerant phase where we put up with each other but there was no love. Eventually, there was clearly no desire to even try to recapture what drew us together in the first place. When we separated I was relieved. When she asked for a divorce I was ready. When the divorce was finalized I felt liberated. So why am I surprised to hear, second-hand mind you, that she doesn’t love me anymore? It could easily have been said in the vein of “We still care about each other but aren’t in love anymore” as she explained to my mother, or my daughter, or the fucking waiter…again why does this bother me? Do I still even love her?

I do love her. I’m just not in love with her. I love her because we raised four wonderful children together. I love her because I spent most of my adult life with her and there were some good times. I can’t deny them.

I have dreams, vivid dreams of her. I dream of conversations in which she reveals past infidelities. I have dreamt of being with her, in the present, still married and talking about how we “almost split up.” Sadly, I even dreamt that I had died and she wasn’t at my funeral. These dreams are so lucid, so vivid that Freud and Jung could come back from the grave and revive their careers. When I wake from them I find myself wishing she was in my life. Then I shake it off and remind myself that I really don’t want what we had any longer. Still, I am wrought with these conflicting emotions.

I am burdened by memories, racked with guilt, saddled with regrets. A mere matter of months ago I was bitter, angry and resentful of her. Lately, I look back at photos in which we were all smiles. I find myself asking where it went wrong. I find myself asking if I could have done better by her. I remember how much she once loved me and I ask myself if I drove her away, caused her to morph into the cold, detached person that she was in the end. Did I, in the course of exorcising my demons and finding my real self, push her away?

I asked my mother last night if she had heard the comment at dinner. She said she had. It was said to one of my son’s friends who works at the same restaurant. He had come over to the table and asked my wife where I was. She had told him that we were divorced and he was surprised. So, she explained it. She cares about me, but she doesn’t love me anymore.

There you go, I have my explanation. For the comment at least. I still don’t know for the life of me why the explanation stings so badly.

Dating in the modern world…

I’m an old-fashioned guy. In short, I look to a previous time for guidance in how I conduct myself. I have an eclectic approach, I’m not stuck in the past, but I do believe that previous generations possessed a code of conduct that worked and is lost on younger generations. I keep it alive because I’ve seen it in action, I believe in it and I do believe it is ingrained in me.

I suspect that I’m much older than most of my readers and I may be talking about an unfamiliar topic. For the sake of this writing, the old-fashioned values I cherish are as follows:

  • respect for elders
  • honoring your word
  • a firm handshake and direct eye contact
  • be tolerant and accepting of other’s viewpoints
  • holding the door for a lady

Did you double-take on the last one? Yes, I am a guy who holds a door for a lady. Not for a chick, a broad, a ho, bae, some strange or a side-bitch. A lady. And I will not apologize for this. I am fully aware that a woman can open her own door and I make no assumptions of dominance nor intend a lack of respect when I do it. It’s a nice gesture and I do it. I believe there are women, and a lot of them, that long for an old-fashioned guy. If they’ve never met one it’s about time they did.

Last night my mother opened a video sent her by one of her dating site connections. It was titled “Does this turn you on?” She opened it, it was a 74-year-old man jerking off for the camera. Facepalm…I thought an older man would be better than that. Mom does too.

download (43)

Dating has always been a game. Even though I’ve been in an exclusive, faithful relationship for 25 years I know that the game has changed. Dating is very casual. The conventional “relationship” has changed on both sides. Monogamy is considered an almost outdated construct. Sex is much easily obtained with a lot less effort and commitment. The way I knew it was a lot of work and few guaranteed results. Now, a man has to put in a bare-bones effort and is almost guaranteed to score. Women like hounds apparently.

I get it, it’s a by-product of the times. We live in a time where we are entitled to everything, hard work is not valued and instant gratification is awesome. We talk to each other through screens; we use text messaging to avoid conversation; we compromise our own integrity in the interest of cheap pleasure. There has to be something between my Grandfather’s day when a man “went a’ courting” his best gal and today’s man texting “‘sup bitch, wanna hook up?”

I don’t just want a woman that I can respect, I want a woman that respects herself. Sex is not a true victory, it’s just her letting a man into her pants. A true victory is when she respects you for how you treat her and she then lets you into her heart. Sex is great, but what are you going to talk about after?

I’ll continue to hold the door for a woman. I’m pretty sure when she’s done being offended she’ll find herself just a little turned on.

Weight loss

Today I found a miraculous weight loss program that can be accomplished in 2 hours. All you have to do is walk into an arbitrators office at the City Courthouse, answer a bunch of questions, agree to everything and sign on the dotted line. Boom! Divorced. I’m down 135 pounds. At least that’s how much I think she weighs, I haven’t touched her in so long I really don’t know.

That’s what I get for introducing her to a magic food that made her sex drive disappear 22 years ago…Wedding Cake.
images (44)

#what if? installment 1

This is my first installment of what I hope is a series of blogs on the what-ifs of life. Having addressed the topic of “If” in a previous post; “as if”, “if when”, “if only” etc., I realized that there were so many directions I could go.

Once I decided to explore this further, I mulled a bit over where to start. Given my heavy heart today, I will start with

“what if” we never got married?

I saw you yesterday. You look sad. That smile that once lit up a room is nowhere to be seen. Your best friend told me she is worried about you, that you may do something drastic. That’s not your style.

You are stuck on a rough patch. You are largely supporting yourself and our 2 youngest children. Money is tight. I’m not much help. You live with your best friend, the one that you picked over me as your number one many years ago. Despite her generosity in letting you live in her home, and despite your love for her, you have begun to fight with her and you are extremely unhappy. Without the scent of sour grapes on my breath, I ask you; shouldn’t she be the one to talk you off of the ledge? Yet she is calling me to tell me you are not doing well.

This may surprise you, but I never wanted this for you. I hate that you are struggling and I would do anything within my means to make this better for you.

It is bittersweet to think that I actually gave you an out before we began dating. Surely you remember the night we sat in my Mustang, staring at the lights dancing across the pond, just talking. We were about to start dating, openly talking about all of the complexities. I told you that I had personal demons, health issues, and limited earning potential. You didn’t care. You cared so deeply for me, there was so much pressure on me not to hurt you. It was a big step. Simply put, I told you, for your own sake, that I wasn’t good for you. I gave you an out. Do you ever wonder what it would be like if you took it?

Sometimes, when angry at you, I asked myself if anyone else would have married you. That is not to say that it is any great treat to be with me, or that you are not great in many ways. But you are difficult. You have admitted that you are bipolar, yet refuse to seek treatment for it. You are quick to anger, unreasonable and stubborn when you want something, and completely inflexible on some things. It’s fair to wonder how well another man would handle it.

As for me, I was no prize either and not sure I would have ever married. I was broken when we met. Reeling from a breakup, recovering from an accident, on “hiatus” from college and a functional alcoholic. I was stuck in a nowhere job, my vision extended no further than my next day off. Other than the occasional fling with a waitress, I wasn’t dating at all and didn’t want to. If I hadn’t met you for all I know I would still be there. You pushed me to finish school, supported me as I worked full time and carried a full class load. You saw potential in me. You thought I was smart and you believed in me.

Despite your youth, you were a little broken for your age. You had a contemptuous relationship with your mother. She was toxic in her lack of support for you. Despite claiming to have your best interest at heart she criticized all of your choices and no one in your life was ever good enough for you, and let’s face it, for her as well. I swear you married a pizza cook just to get back at her. You still have the same relationship with her today. It has always been a hard thing for me to watch.

Had you married someone else would you have a bigger house? A nicer car? Non-material things like fidelity, passion, honesty, fun, and laughs? We had all of those things once. Having had and lost is surely better than never having at all.

Had I married someone else would I have gone as far in my career? I pushed myself to the top of the heap out of financial necessity. but I still made it much further than I would have ever expected of myself. Or would I still work in the kitchen, stuck in a nowhere job that I didn’t know was nowhere until you pointed it out to me.

I don’t know if you would have had a better life had you not married me. I promised you that I would do the best that I could, but I was never able to assure you that it would be enough. It is of small comfort that I tried.

“What if’s” aside I do know that without our union, the world would be less 4 great children who are destined to do great things. 4 caring, smart, compassionate kids that, like me, are worried about you and want you to pull out of this. Even in divorce, I will never abandon you. Even though you have asked me for nothing in divorce except a promise to help if needed, I will always be there to give you whatever I have to see that you are provided for. “What if’s” aside, we did get married, I did promise to take care of you, and I will always want the best for you.

Sarcasm and Dad Jokes

I’m not a conventional person. In fact, I go significantly far out of my way not to be. I always joke that I don’t think before I speak, I prefer to be as shocked as everyone else by what I will say. When someone says “I think I know you” it’s not uncommon for me to reply:

“Oh, do you watch porn?” or “Ever see Cops?”

Most people can handle it, I’m big enough to avoid problems if they can’t. Sarcasm is a wonderful thing but it can be lost on the weak-minded. More than one person has walked away from me shaking their head in confusion or disbelief. It’s harmless fun for me, I amuse myself while exposing the lack of sense of humor in others.

Today I volunteered at the local food pantry. I committed to the director when I moved here that I would do it every week for at least the winter and as often as I could the rest of the year. I am one of the only volunteers that work every week, the other volunteers have schedules like the 2nd and 4th week etc. Long story short, I meet new volunteers every week. Nice people, all townsfolk, all of them knew my father. Today I was with 4 complete strangers, and I was the only male. One of the nice ladies said, “you look familiar”. Without hesitation, I replied,

“you probably saw me on America’s Most Wanted.” She wanted to laugh, but couldn’t. Until another woman, who apparently knew who I was said to her

“This is ____ ___________’s son.” The startled woman said “Oh, I see. Well, that explains it. Your Dad was a smartass as well. Nice man though.” She was smiling so it was ok.

Sarcasm, tough love, finding humor in inappropriate situations, it’s a long family legacy that I embrace. I come from a long line of smartasses and it’s a proud tradition. We’re also a rugged bunch. We don’t grieve for long. We adapt to whatever happens. We can take a hit, get up and wipe the blood from our chins and move on to the next fight. My wife, on the other hand, is not at all like this, nor is her family. When we had children I knew that our parenting styles would be a constant source of disagreement. Fortunately, we found balance.

My sarcasm and inappropriate sense of humor would prove to be a dominant family trait. Despite my wife’s best efforts to suppress it, my children have warped senses of humor and are hopeless wiseasses. It really infuriates my wife. When my oldest daughter was in third grade her teacher said to her “Oh, I see you speak sarcasm young lady.” My daughter replied

“It’s my second language.”

Her teacher was not amused, based on the hot stare she gave us at the parent-teacher conference. My wife gave me the hairy eyeball.

My oldest son had a parent-teacher conference soon after. The teacher remarked that when she would tell a joke that was of a more adult nature in class, only my son would be snickering in the back row. She wanted to know what kind of household we were providing for our children. I immediately shot back, asking her what kind of jokes she was telling in class. Once again my wife gave me the hairy eyeball.

It wasn’t as if our children were raised at an Eddie Murphy concert. It was just our way of preparing them for the world. I believed in taking away the stigma of things by talking about them instead of sheltering them from it. I would make concessions to my wife and make sure to emphasize caution and be ready for the worst in people but at the end of the day, they knew what the world was even if it was through bad jokes.

One incident comes to mind, because I will never live it down, was when my youngest daughter (# 4) was 7 years old. We lived in a massive apartment complex and my wife and I was outside talking to a new resident. A very reserved woman with an obnoxious little dog. We were being neighborly, making small talk when my youngest ran up and said “Dad, can I go to the playground and meet Cassie?” The playground was well beyond our sight but she was a trustworthy kid so I said’

“Ok, but tell me what you do if a man pulls up in a white van.”

“Hold out for the big Snickers” she replied.

“Right. Have fun.”

I looked over and my wife was livid. Our new friend’s jaw was on the ground. I said, “Say what you want, she gets it.”

images (6)

There are so many more examples but I won’t bore you. The point is that my kids have grown to be self-sufficient and strong people. And they are good citizens with solid values. They had the misfortune of seeing their parents struggle with money, go through a foreclosure and a bankruptcy, and their father seriously ill. But they learned from it and they make me so proud. I will help them with anything, but they don’t need it.

The other night a friend of mine asked me how my oldest was doing. I told him how well things were going for her. Graduated top of her class, new job, boyfriend and a new puppy… He cut me off. “Boyfriend?” What’s that like for him? I can’t imagine how scared he is of you.”

“You would think”, I replied, “but if he fucks up he should be more scared of her.” She is strong and tough and doesn’t need me unless her car breaks down. That’s how I want her to be. That’s how she was raised.

Last night she called while walking her dog. She had been fighting with her boyfriend lately so I asked her how they are getting along. She explained that it was fine, she wasn’t happy with how he’s acting but she’s being grown up about it. She told me if need be she’d take her puppy and move back in with her Grandmother. I told her that I was proud of her, that she didn’t turn out like the Disney Princesses she grew up with, helpless damsels waiting for a man on a horse to rescue her. Her reply was priceless.

“Nope, I’d tell him to get the hell off of my new horse.”

God, I love her. Even if she is just like me.

big boy pants

jjj-2018

Today’s topic for Just Jot in January is pants. Considering I just got back from the wake for my often-discussed recently deceased friend Tony, I can think of no better topic.

The wake was as crowded as I had expected. Tony was a well-known and well-liked guy. The crowd consisted mostly of older people, not surprising given his age. Other than his family was an endless line of people who had worked with Tony at the restaurant over his 40-year tenure.

I had the good fortune to sit with some guys who I had only heard the legends of, from Tony of course, but never met until tonight. All they could do was talk about how miserable of a place it was to work. And I thought of all of the times that Tony, after a couple of Courvoisier’s would show his soft white underbelly and state, not complain, state his unhappiness at the hours of his life spent in that one small room while his kids grew up. He lamented the missed weddings and nights out with friends that occurred while he worked. But he immediately came down to earth, shook it off and convinced me, and himself perhaps a little, that it had to be done.

You see, in 1969, in a bad economy, with a pregnant wife and bills to pay you did what you had to do. Even though they didn’t have this expression then, he “put on his big boy pants” and didn’t look back.

Just one of the many reasons I will miss him.