Holding Out for a Hero, Part 1


Such is the theme of my life and I never even knew it, but it kind of started dawning on me yesterday while I was processing through all my wayward emotions.

My dad was my first hero, of course. I remember very vividly thinking everything would always be okay as long as he was around. I recall this one instance where a tornado warning was issued because a rare tornado was spotted just right outside of town. He sat me down right on the couch in the living room and told me everything was going to be okay, and I trusted him completely.

Of course now I know better and think he was crazy for being so blase about it. But at the time I thought my daddy could fend off even the errant will of mother nature if he so chose to.

After he died, I didn’t have a hero anymore. It should have been my mom because of all the things she did to keep us afloat, and I know now as an adult that was not an easy task. Of course, I didn’t make it any easier. Our relationship was strained at best, and I always felt that I came in second to my sister. She was 11 years older than me and virtually cursed the day I was born. It mustn’t have been easy for my mom to try and juggle her relationships with her kids who were basically at odds, and for the most part it felt like I was on the losing side of the equation.

Still do, but that’s another blog entirely.

So I became this emotional pinball machine that would knock around from place to place trying to find a hero to call my own.

After many misguided attempts with a lot of people who did not have my best interest at heart (in fact, society would call them pedophiles and predators), I finally found my first husband Dan. I was 17 when we met on September 25, 1987. I remember the day well because it is my anniversary with my best friend Jeff. I had gone to my mother’s store on the other side of town where Jeff lived so that he could pick me up and we could spend the day together.

This was a hard time for me because I had just given up my first son Scott for adoption in July of that year, and the soul scorching loneliness left me emotionally paralyzed. There are two times when I felt this bitter soulless emptiness – one when I left that hospital without Scott in my arms and two, when I left the cemetery without my last son Brandon.

Losing relationships is one thing. Losing children crushes your spirit in a way I can’t even articulate. It’s a hell I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

So there I am at the store when I hear my mom say, “Well there he is!”

When I turned around I didn’t expect much. She’d been talking about her favorite customer but I figured he’d be a boring guy who would fit my religious mother’s ideal and not mine.

When I turned around I saw this beautiful man with long blond hair, an earring and a beret. Yes. A beret.

I was thunderstruck. Think of a cross between U2’s Bono circa the Joshua Tree era and Patrick Swayze from point break and you’d have Dan.

It didn’t take long for me to set my sites on this unusual man. The feelings were not immediately reciprocated. In fact, the sentence, “I don’t even think about sex when we’re together; I think of you like a sister” was uttered at one point.

But I was in love and I would not be swayed.

Even when things got rocky and I sensed that something was not quite right I remained steadfast. This was a man who had been abandoned and betrayed by almost everyone he ever knew. He was a wounded spirit and I resolved I would heal him.

My love would be enough.

My persistence paid off and by 1991 we were married and had our first son together, Timothy. Unfortunately those unresolved issues I saw hints of in our early relationship came to a head as his undiagnosed bipolar disorder reared its ugly head more than once. Pretty soon I would need another hero as I watched the man I loved devolve into a bitter antagonist.

By 1994 I found that person in a man I’ll call JP. He was actually a man interested in someone in my family, a close friend of mine we’ll call Daisy. As he romanced her I began to understand what it meant to be wanted by a man; the calls, the notes, the attention that was so willingly given not because she had worn him down but because he wanted to do it. Out of the loneliness and abandonment I felt in my own marriage, especially after Dan had started to flirt with other women while deriding my increasing weight, I decided it was something I wanted.

God help the world when I decide I want something.

I didn’t think about Dan or Daisy as I began to actively pursue something more with this man who didn’t treat me like a leper because of my weight. He was interested in what I had to say, he’d laugh at my jokes (and keep me laughing – this is a huge thing for me), and he wasn’t disgusted by me. Which is even huger.

Over time I had fallen hook, line and sinker. Is it possible to be in love with two people at once?

Oh yes. It completely is.

Finally after several months when we had all moved in together I wrote him a note that said point blank what I felt and what I wanted. In it I said, “You’re probably running far away from me right now.” After he read it, he looked up at me and said, “I’m not running.” And for the first time since we met I realized that look in his eyes was for me. He thought I was beautiful when the world, and my own husband, didn’t.

He and Dan were fast friends, which made it strange. They’d hang out together and had many of the same interests. At one point they had gone out and a woman had tried to pick up Dan, but he didn’t find her attractive. Jokingly, and self depreciatingly, I said, “I bet I look better than she did.” Dan just laughed and said, “You are an angel compared to her.”

Very lowly where only I could hear, JP said, “She’s an angel anyway.”

Needless to say it wasn’t long until I wanted him all to myself. There were two problems with this: Dan, who sensed something was going wrong, suddenly both loved me and hated me more than any other time in our relationship. I ended up pregnant with our third son Brandon and I’m sure he wasn’t even completely convinced he was his. (He was). The other problem was JP was still in love with Daisy, in a way that he couldn’t be with me. And I didn’t get it. And of course I made everyone pay for it until the choice was an easy one for him to make.

And it was about that time when my life fell apart.

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