Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Still sitting in the waiting room

Thanks for all the kind words and well wishes. We are all still holding vigils in the Cardiac ICU, and awaiting his surgery. He has not been strong enough or without infection long enough for the doctors to do his surgery - if he improves a bit, the surgery will take place within the week.



More waiting.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Christmas in ICU

In the land of eldercare, it is one step forward, and two steps back, apparently.



We thought that getting his blood sugar down to normal numbers was a triumph. And it was, but then, his kidneys started going south. Alakazaam, and some antibiotics seemed to fix that, and then the knee went crazy. Pain spasms every few minutes that broke through Vicodin and a morphine drip. No one could tell us why that was happening, but they were more concerned with a rattling in his chest.



He got an angiogram yesterday, and within minutes, the doctor came out and announced that he had to have bypass surgery ASAP. I have heard of quadruple bypass, but this would be a 6-way bypass, and an aortic valve replacement - that trumped everything else.



Heart surgery has to be done when there is no infection in the body, and his knee was filled with it, so he had surgery with a local anesthetic yesterday. The knee was drained and cleaned, but he will never walk a step until it is replaced. He has to get mobile after the heart surgery to avoid more blood clots.



To say it is a bad situation is an understatement. My brother had a priest come and give my father communion last night. If he makes it, he will have surgery on Christmas Day.



I know that there are Christmas miracles, and hopefully, there is one with his name on it. Otherwise, Christmas will forever be the day that I lost my dad.



Pray for us.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Oh, how the mighty have fallen . . .

I thought I would give a quick update while I had the comfort of a plate of my little sugar cookies and a glass of cold milk. Everyone has their vices . . .



Lulled into a false sense of security, my sister and I have both been attending to our own families for the past 2 days while my mom dutifully gave my dad pain medication and meals, waiting to see a specialist this coming Tuesday for the bad knee. My sister's husband had told her that she couldn't drop her entire life for my dad, and in a more subtle way, my husband had told me the same thing, so we both reluctantly stepped back and hoped for the best, sure that the doctor would see my dad on Tuesday and get the surgery ball rolling.



However, that was not to be. My dad's convalescence at home was short-lived.



I found myself at my parent's house Thursday night. She had called me in a panic - she wasn't able to move him, and his pain medication wasn't holding the pain anymore. Hubby and I raced there to find him weak and in incredible pain, slumped over on his portable potty chair. It was a pathetic sight. Thank God for Hubby, he stepped up to my dad, lifting him like a child and gently plopping him onto his makeshift couch/bed.



Noticing his wincing and grimacing, I stepped closer to him, straightening out his clothing and that is when I noticed just how bad he had gotten in 2 days. His sore leg was like a tree trunk - swollen now from the thigh down. His skin was shiny, it was pulled so tightly, and his leg was cold from the knee down. I panicked, and asked my mom how long the leg had been like this. She wasn't sure, she began to cry and say that she was giving him medications for his pain like the doctor instructed, and that Daddy hadn't really done much except sleep.



His mouth was dry. She said he wasn't eating much, and drinking less than that.



I'm no nurse, but I knew that his leg wasn't right. Even though the doctors had said that his condition wasn't urgent, that he would have to see a specialist next week, I knew he couldn't wait that long. No way.



So, once again, 911 was called, and he was taken to the emergency room. This time, the news was quite different. He had a blood clot behind the bad knee, his blood sugar was nearing 300, his kidneys were barely functioning, and infection was setting in.



Finally, the healthcare system swung into action. He was quickly admitted and teams of nurses began to infuse bags of liquid into several IVs. Radiologists with portable machines took chest xrays, and doctors came in and out, examining his leg and listening to his heart.



Not good.



I had heard of Heparin. I knew that it stopped blood from clotting. The doctor mentioned that my dad would begin receiving Heparin to help dissolve the blood clot. That sounded promising; I thought that if they could resolve the clot, that they would be able to fix his knee, and that he might have a chance of getting back on his feet and regain some mobility. The doctor dashed that hope when he announced that the clot would have to be resolved for better than 3 months before any surgery for the knee would be considered.



The Heparin didn't take long to start working. It was sort of a good news/bad news thing. Good news - some blood flow returned to the bad leg. Bad news - when the blood began to circulate, and the swelling began to go down, incredible pain hit like lightning every 5 minutes or so.



Modern medicine has an answer to everything. He has a pain pump now, and can hit a little button for a small dose of medication every 10 minutes. If he wasn't so high and delirious, that would be a great thing. My mom refuses to leave his bedside at this point, so I gave her the task of hitting the pain med button every 10 minutes for him. It's like talking to a little kid now with her - she is like a frightened rabbit.



I know the husbands meant well, but they both overestimated my dad's resiliency and my mom's clarity.



I think we all did.





Sunday, December 19, 2004

Best Sugar Cookies In The World

Gonna take a time out from General Hospital to pass on a fan-damn-tastic recipe for the holidays. Care of Alton Brown, the coolest food guy in the world. Catch him on Food Network, and if you have the time, you gotta make these Christmas cookies. I usually hate Christmas cookies, but these are hands down, the best holiday butter cookies I have ever tasted.



3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon milk

Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough



Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color. Add egg and milk and beat to combine. Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. Divide the dough in half, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.




Sprinkle surface where you will roll out dough with powdered sugar. Remove 1 wrapped pack of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Move the dough around and check underneath frequently to make sure it is not sticking. If dough has warmed during rolling, place cold cookie sheet on top for 10 minutes to chill. Cut into desired shape, place at least 1-inch apart on greased baking sheet, parchment, or silicone baking mat, and bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges, rotating cookie sheet halfway through baking time. Let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes after removal from oven and then move to complete cooling on wire rack. Serve as is or ice as desired. Store in airtight container for up to 1 week.



Extra notes: We use a Silpat cookie sheet liner - makes the cookies brown, but not burn. Also, we use a little egg white to wet the cookies before we add sprinkles and bake them.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Excuse me while I get all these ducks back in a row . . .

(whew)



It is nice to be back to some semblance of normalcy; well, as normal as things ever are around my neck of the woods. It has been a hellacious couple of weeks since I last sat here with a hot tea and a blissful few minutes of quiet to virtually chit chat with you kind readers. Lots has happened, with lots more to follow in the coming weeks, so let's just jump in . . . shall we?



So . . . my dad had an accident in Florida. First, let me say something nice about the Tallahassee police. Evidently, my dad was very disoriented after the accident, and kept insisting that the police "take him to a hotel, or something." Instead of fighting the old man, one very nice cop displayed endless patience and gently, but firmly insisted that my father go to the hospital to get the nasty cut on his face checked out. The cop took the time to stay with my dad in emergency until he was settled with doctors, and he even called us in Atlanta to let us know what had happened, and that he had secured the car and my dad's stuff. Nice, nice guy . . . he is now officially on my Christmas list.



My dad was in ICU for the first couple of days. To tell the truth, the details of his early stay are sketchy; I was so mad, I really didn't have the patience to sit and listen to much of it from my mom. In short, she was a mess. Nevermind that she was ready to leave him the day he took off for Florida.



Personally, there is more than a little part of me that thinks he did this on purpose.



Anyway, his accident threw us into the bowels of hell otherwise known as Kaiser Permanente Senior Advantage. IF your parents have this coverage, I beseech you, beg them to change back to regular ol' Medicare immediately! Here in Georgia, Kaiser Permanente offers a product called Senior Advantage. It is not simply just a Part B supplemental Medicare product; it actually takes over ALL medical care and hospital coverage for Medicare-aged patients (that would be Medicare Part A AND B). That doesn't sound significant, until you realize the ramifications of having ALL care dictated by Kaiser.



First of all, Kaiser has NO presence in Florida. I can't help but think that this is due to the diligence and foresight of the lobbyists that work hard for the large senior contingency that lives there.



When my dad first went in to the hospital, he was considered a Medicare patient with a supplemental policy, and he was given very thorough care, and lots of tests, and there was no bum's rush out the door. As soon as Kaiser was notified that he was hospitalized there, their Regional Case Manager (read: Scrooge) stepped in. Not only did they insist that my dad be discharged, they didn't want to give him a medical transport back home. Nevermind that he had been in ICU and on oxygen, and that his knees were so banged up and swollen that he couldn't walk. These bastards insisted that we (the family) come down and get him. Now, the Tallahassee doctors ordered a medical transport because they thought his injuries warranted it. Kaiser overrode the doctor's orders and denied the coverage. At nearly $3,000 out of pocket, we were at a loss and had no idea what to do.



We were lied to over and over. The Kaiser contact assured us that she had been in contact with the nurses and therapists in Tallahassee, and that my father was mobile, up on a walker, able to do basic things like get to the bathroom, etc. When Good Brother (we call him GB for short, remember?) and my mom got there to pick him up, he was completely immobile, weak as a kitten, and my brother and 2 nurses couldn't get him into the van. GB was furious, and went inside to demand that the doctors come out to see the shape my dad was in. They were apologetic, and agreed that he needed a medical transport, and offered to take on Kaiser again. My dad, even in that state, begged my brother to get him home, assuring him that he could stand the pain, just drive.



And drive, he did. He got back to Atlanta in about 5 hours - flat. His Good Son (GS) and I were at my parents waiting. I had been on the phone ALL DAY with those Kaiser bastards trying to get a hospital bed, chair, walker, etc. delivered to the house. I hadn't stretched my ass-chewing muscles in quite a while, but I must still have the knack, cause by 3:00 that shit was THERE.



When I laid my eyes on my dad, I was sure that they had picked up some decrepit, homeless, toothless man on the way home. There was NO WAY that was him. His voice was barely a whisper, he was bruised, his eyes were at half-mast, rolling back into his head, and he was as weak as a kitten. GB and I had to physically lift him from the van and into a wheelchair, and he slumped and nearly slid out onto the garage floor. Cursing, I told everyone that I was calling an ambulance, pronto. My dad begged me to just get him inside, and we struggled in with him in the chair, GB and I. Once we got inside, I started to roll him toward the bedroom when he whispered that he had to go to the bathroom.



I had already put a sturdy 4-legged chair over the toilet - looks sort of like a walker. I called my mom to come into the bathroom to help us. GB, bless his soul, had run for the hills. He is as good as gold, but bathroom duty was just too much for him, squeamish soul that he has always been. My mom was on one side of him, and I was on the other as he summoned whatever bit of strength he had to slide across. My mom just stood there, like a statue, when I barked at her, "Undo his pants!" She seemed to snap back to reality just as he began to whimper "Oh, Christ," and I knew what was happening. Yep. My dad was shitting himself, and there we were, trying to deal with him.



You have to understand, this is a man that I have never seen in anything less than a t-shirt and tennis shorts. I have never seen him in his underwear. Never. He has always been an extremely prideful and private person, and this was an injustice that devastated him. I was tired, and unnerved, and I shouldn't have been short with her, but I was put out with my mom at that moment. I told her to start stripping his soiled clothing while he sat on the toilet seat and I went to get a garbage bag. She looked at me with eyes as wide as saucers, as though I had asked her to stick her hand down the garbage disposal.



I was dead cold at that second, and all I could think of, I swear, was "We TOLD you to leave him years ago. You're the one that stayed for 49 years, and it's your duty now. You BOTH waited too long to find anyone else to stand by you, so you are stuck with each other, so DEAL with it."



Yeah, cold, I know, but I tend to get frosty when things are stressful.



So, that first and second nights were a horrible struggle. All of us kids lobbied for him to go back to the hospital, and finally my mom and dad relented, and an ambulance came the third evening he was home. After getting his knee drained, and getting on some good pain medication, the hospital decided to do an MRI. Get a load of this . . . the dumbass that did the MRI paid no attention to the fact that my dad was writhing in pain during the test - evidently, the MRI vibration was rubbing bones together, causing the "worst damn pain" my dad had ever experienced. When the guy FINALLY stopped the test, he went to transfer my dad from the tube back to the wheelchair and DROPPED him onto the floor! No shit.



Despite all of thiat, he is resting pretty comfortably back at home now and is getting stronger.



A few good things have come out of all of this. Tallahassee conducted every test known to man on him (before Kaiser got wind he was there) . The doctors put him on meds that he was supposed to be on anyway, and my mom is making him stick to the diabetic diet that he was put on years ago. He has regained his lucidity. He's going to need a knee replacement as soon as possible, and he is ahead of the game because he has many of the test behind him.



He is pretty humbled right now, thanking all of us over and over for helping him. I wonder if this newfound humility will stick around after he is back on his feet?



Oh, and my mother still says she is moving. I told her plainly that she could move wherever she wants, as long as she brings him along. For better or worse, they are still married, and he is too incapacitated at this point for her to just walk out the door without making life a living hell for us kids. The accident IS his fault, no doubt, but letting it all get to this point with his crazy ass is at LEAST half her fault. Know what I mean?





Thursday, December 2, 2004

I couldn't make this shit up . . .

I swear, if I sat for a month racking my brain to come up with a more convoluted, twisted pile of bullshit, I couldn't come close to the reality.



So . . . I spent the day helping my mom get her things together for her move. We filled out even MORE paperwork for the apartment complex, looked at all of the units that were vacant "just to make sure" that she had picked the one that she liked the best, and then we spent the better part of the afternoon shopping consignment furniture stores for a sofa (she found one, quite nice, recliners on each end, $180).



I rushed home, bundled the kids into the car and on to cheerleading practice, where Hubby met me to watch the kids for the rest of the practice so I could go on to my twice-monthly outing to Music Trivia. I had really been looking forward to getting out, shooting the breeze with friends, eating some wings, and just having a little fun. I was driving down Interstate 75 when the cell rang.



My mother.



She got the call about 7:00 pm from a police officer. My dad was in an accident - he rear-ended a car. No one else was hurt, but his face was busted up pretty good, and he had knocked out a few teeth. Bad cut on his face, and he was fighting with the officers about going to the hospital. They were asking my mom if he was on any medication or if he had any medical problems, because he didn't seem to be coherent. Not knowing any better, I am sure the officer thought he had been drinking. My dad is a tee-totaler, but he tends to load up on sugar, and when you have diabetes, that is just as bad as tipping the bottle and getting behind the wheel. According to some witnesses that pulled over after the accident, his driving was erratic before he crashed, so he could have been going into a "sugar coma", at least that is what we call it when he nods off without warning.



The officer and the doctor both want a family member to come down - they don't want to release him without a family member present. I guess my mom was so upset, the officer asked if he could have a phone number for one of their kids and guess who got picked? You got it. When I got the call, I asked the officer what had to be done to get him admitted for a 72 hour psychiatric observation. He said that under certain conditions, he could order that at his discretion without any signatures from family members. But because my dad seemed to be lucid enough to know where he was, and what had happened, and because he was so adamant about not wanting to be in the hospital, the officer's superior wouldn't authorize it. Instead, they just want us to get our ass down there and pick him up, pronto. The one ace in the hole is the emergency room doctor - he has ordered a boatload of tests, and if the tests show that he is medically fragile, the doctor can hold him for 3-5 days with family consent.



So, I am waiting for his call now, and operating on the assumption that the doctor will call to tell us to come on down. I think that my mom and I will take a one-way flight down, get him, and drive a rental car back to Atlanta. I have no idea how that will go . . . she is mad as hell that he went after she begged him not to. Hell, we all are, for that matter. Part of me wants to go down there and plant my foot up his ass, and the other part of me is scared to death, and thankful that he didn't have the accident on the freeway and kill himself and a whole slew of innocent people.



Yeah, so . . . I will be gone for a bit . . . I plan to make the 6 hour drive back to Atlanta count. I am telling my mom to hold strong, to go through with her move, and I am going to keep pushing for him to quit driving on his own before his license is revoked or he hurts someone.



Wish me luck.



Wednesday, December 1, 2004

We interrupt this stroll down memory lane . . .

. . . for more timely news. While nostalgia has driven this blog for quite some time now, I am going to fast-forward to present day. I feel the need to record events as they are happening, and boy, are they happening.



As soon as I get the fan turned off, and all the shit cleaned off the walls, it will be business as usual.



For those of you that hate spoilers, there may be a few in these present-day postings. I will try to minimize that.



So, prepare for the lightspeed transition from 1997 to 2004. Can't be helped, I guess. Thank you drive through.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



My husband is one of those people that firmly believes that holidays suck. According to him, most of his holidays were spent sitting quietly at his aunt's house, waiting for his turn to open a gift, pretending to quietly enjoy "healthy" holiday dinner fare, and mostly just counting the minutes until he could go back home. His aunt is a lovely woman - she and I share the same birthday - but I have to admit that her home is a bit, ahem, sterile for my tastes. Hard to square that with my recollections of the maniacal Christmas mornings I remember.



Despite all of my family's shortcomings, the holidays were our time to shine. We all developed some kind of tryptophan-induced amnesia that carried us from Thanksgiving right through to Christmas. Our celebrations were all-out extravaganzas, filled with giggling children, great food, music, gifts, and fun. The few truly happy memories I have from my childhood years are all recollections of holidays.



So, in between wanting to recreate what I had and avoid what my husband experienced during his holidays, I feel quite a bit of pressure to deliver the goods for my kids. This year is going to be particularly challenging.



My parents, it my surprise you to hear, are still both alive, still fairly healthy, and still married. They still reside in the home that he built himself way back in 1969. He is 75 and she is 72 now. Longtime readers may recall a few early postings that detailed my dad's eccentricities and volatile temper. That hasn't changed a bit.



My long-suffering mother has been married to my father for 49 years this month. For as long as I can remember, she has talked about divorcing him. For as long as I can remember, I encouraged her to. She never did, never came close. Until now.



Let's back up a few weeks, shall we? My sister and I have spent the past month helping my mother prepare to leave my father. It has been an agonizing process. We have discussed her options, reviewed her finances, toured apartments, discussed her situation ad nauseum with her, trying to convince her that leaving is the right thing to do. It is, believe me.



My sister mentioned to me that she had been having these conversations with my mother for 35 years. That sort of stunned me . . .that couldn't be right, could it? Well, my sister is nearly 50, and I think she was being generous. The conversations may have been going on for closer to 40 years.



Why didn't she leave years ago? Well, she is from another generation, she comes from a home riddled with alcoholism and abuse, she always hoped things would get better, she stayed for us, and after we left, she stayed for him, even though he acted then and acts now as though he could care less whether she was there or not. If there was any doubt at all, it evaporated when he told her to "get the hell out" this past week. This followed an ultimatum of sorts on her part, and although I wasn't surprised by his reaction, evidently she was.



She had decided that the time had come for the two of them to sell their too-large house and find something smaller and closer to the children. Both of them are becoming less skilled at driving during the day, and neither should drive at night. My father has denied that he has diabetes for years, and the effects of that denial are surfacing - he uses a cane these days to get around, and he scoffed at the doctor's diagnosis of "diabetic neuropathy". He stopped sleeping in a regular bed last year, because he couldn't get himself out of it in the morning. He sleeps on a recliner, and when his legs hurt and he can't sleep, he watches The Gem Channel and buys all manner of trinkets and baubles . . . with her credit card.



He has always been a hoarder; their large basement is full to the rafters with "great buys" he has made at auctions. He feels sure that there is a fortune to be made on all of the lots that he buys, but he never can quite bring himself to part with any of it. That goes for cars, clothes, furniture . . . anything. He has an entire bedroom in the house that is also full of all manner of . . . God knows what. He keeps it locked, and no one is allowed in there. He is also quite paranoid of having things taken from him, even by members of his own family.



The house is in a state of disrepair, and even though he was a builder and an engineer, he hasn't really done anything to the house for years and years. The roof leaks, the appliances are old and on their last legs, the exterior has been untended, and for years now, he has just sat, working on his computer, watching stock channels, daytrading their savings away, and buying jewelry. Any time that my mother has attempted to hire workmen, he refuses to let them into the house, and screams obscenities at them, calling them all crooks. He begrudgingly lets my brother (the good one) make repairs, but he insists on working side by side with him, which is dangerous. He actually scaled a ladder and got on the roof a couple of months ago, and to everyone's horror, he began his descent, stumbling down the last couple of rungs and falling onto the deck.



He stopped working altogether at 55, pretty much unannounced and with no discussion. He basically burned his last bridge, getting into a heated screaming match with his manager, and he was let go. That had happened over and over, and pretty soon, he was unable to land contracts. The aerospace contract world is a small one, and word gets around. When the phone stopped ringing, he never attempted to do any other kind of work. He just gave up pretty much, even though they were in no way financially prepared for his early "retirement".



She worked full time until she finally retired 2 years ago at 70, so she and he weren't under each other's feet 24 hours a day until recently. While she was working, she was able to tolerate his angry tirades for a couple hours in the evenings; she usually just went back to her bedroom after dinner and read or watched tv, while he stayed in the den. A lonely existence in anyone's book. Once she was home day and night, things deteriorated quickly.



SO . . . back to the unceremonious kick-out: She wrote a letter to him and gave it to him last Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, 2 days after their 49th anniversary (neither of them acknowledged the date to the other). It was pretty lengthy, 5 pages or more. She was trying one last time to explain to him that she couldn't live with him under the current conditions, that they could no longer maintain the house physically or financially, that he desperately needed medical care and that she wasn't willing to tolerate his yelling and screaming anymore. She advised him that she had found a place to go, and that she was ready to go alone if he was unwilling to concede. He wasn't willing, not by a longshot.



As a matter of fact, upon learning that her plans to go were in place, he took off for hurricane-damaged Florida, hoping to strike gold by selling some of the tons of aging construction materials he has hoarded in the basement. He feels sure that the storm victims will be lining up to pay him top dollar for his stuff, even though we all told him that Orlando is closed to anyone except licensed contractors, FEMA workers, property owners, and police. He listened to that as much as he ever listens to anything, just a muttering of "Bullshit!" as he tottered about the house, packing a bag.



We have all known that he was crazy for quite a long time, but she could never bring herself to admit it. He was always "brilliant" or "eccentric" or "unique". Now well into his "golden years", he views his future through the same murky glass of unrealistic, self-centered lunacy that he views his cheap baubles and trinkets. Let me assure you that everything that glitters certainly ISN'T gold, and the way-too-bright glimmers from his fake reality shine back onto his face just like the cheap gold-plated crap he has become entranced by. The reflection isn't at all warm, glowing or comforting, it is stark and cold and brightly illuminates one truth for all of us looking on: He isn't eccentric, he is just plain ol' crazy.



Of course we all panicked . . . he had no business getting a rental car, or driving any long distance. We tried to stop him, and he told us all to leave him alone and mind our own business. We tried to convince him to fly down to Florida, but he wouldn't hear of it. We tried to call the state patrol, but with a clean driving record, he is within his rights to go. I was willing to have him committed, but no one else was, and it takes 2 signatures to make it stick.



In some ways, his leaving makes her move easier - we will be able to get all of her things next Saturday in one trip. The place where she is going is brand new, light and bright, convenient to her doctors, shopping, and 3 miles from my house, with lots of nice men and women close to her age, still healthy, still active, trying to enjoy their health and their lives, and everyone we talked to seems to love living there. Despite how great the place is, she is scared to death, and I can't believe how proud I am of her.



She tries to think positive. She is holding on to the hope that maybe he will come home to the empty house and have a change of heart. Maybe he will visit her at her new complex and see how nice it is and decide to allow the sale of the house. When she gets to this point, though, she adds that he would have to get his own apartment; she is still unwilling to live with him. Can't blame her there.



As for him, it's not surprising that he left - he spent most of their married life "on the road". I guess that's how the marriage lasted as long as it did. If they had lived together full-time, I feel sure that they would have split decades ago. Somehow, the marriage would hit the rocks, and he would leave for 2-3 years, coming home on weekends, and the marriage would survive. I don't think the marriage is going to survive this trip. And as much as I hate to say it, I have my doubts whether he will, either.



I know that the move and the finances are going to be rough for them both. I committed to helping them both a bit each month, even though both protested. I was able to see my way clear to do that, until yesterday. Out of nowhere, my contract was pulled. The contract has been solid as a rock, and up until Monday, there wasn't any hint that things were wrapping up. That's the life of a contractor, but what shitty timing! Thank God I Christmas shopped for the kids early this year.



So, while other people are out shopping for Christmas gifts, I am looking for an apartment-sized dinette for my mom. While others are looking forward to time off, I am panicking about where my next job will come from. Instead of being a port in the storm for my aging, battling parents, I am adrift at sea again.



Maybe hubby is right . . .









Wednesday, September 1, 2004

PART 42 - Say Goodbye

Say what you will about Madonna - her seemingly endless total transformations, her shocking antics, her religion, whatever. I like her, always have.

Take a Bow
Madonna

Take a bow, the night is over
This masquerade is getting older
Lights are low, the curtains down
There's no one here

Say your lines but do you feel them
Do you mean what you say when there's no one around
Watching you, watching me, one lonely star

I've always been in love with you
I guess you've always known it's true
You took my love for granted, why oh why
The show is over, say good-bye
Say goodbye

Make them laugh, it comes so easy
When you get to the part where you're breaking my heart
Hide behind your smile, all the world loves a clown

Wish you well, I cannot stay
You deserve an award for the role that you played
No more masquerade, you're one lonely star

All the world is a stage
And everyone has their part
But how was I to know which way the story'd go
How was I to know you'd break my heart

I've always been in love with you
Guess you've always known it too
You took my love for granted, why oh why
The show is over, say goodbye
Say goodbye . . .

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Like clockwork, I always met my friends at Rick's house on Wednesday nights. The Wednesday following my encounter with Rick, I was noticeably absent.

The next morning, I got a call from Lisa, Mike's wife (Mike is Rick's younger brother, remember.)

"Rita! What are you doing?" she said. She always said that when she called me.

"Heyyyy, Lisa - not too much, just working for the man," I answered as I saved a couple of documents I had been editing.

"Don't give me that shit - where WERE you last night? We didn't see you last weekend either; you missed Rick's birthday party at Nashville Sound. We miss you," she said. Did she know? I was thinking that maybe she DID know.

"Aww, thanks . . . sorry I missed all the fun. Just been crazy around here," I hedged, not willing to tip my hand - yet.

After a brief interlude of silence, Lisa spoke up again, "Sooooooo . . . ."

"Yes?" I answered, trying to read her voice. She knew. I could hear it.

"So, what happened with you and Rick last week?" she finally asked. I chuckled a little; she really sucked at playing innocent and unknowing.

"Whatcha mean?" I offered. I wanted to know what she had been told before I said a word. For some reason, it was important to me not to reveal anything that he hadn't revealed already. After all, she was a part of his FAMILY, she still talked with his ex, and he was the one that was so dedicated to fidelity. If she knew, then fine, we would talk, if not, then I wasn't saying a thing.

"Well, let's just say that Rick mentioned that you and he . . . did a little more than DANCE last week," she said carefully.

"Define 'a little more', Lisa," I urged her. She was going to break before me, I would see to it.

"Oh, come on! Did you fuck him or not?!" she blurted out, exasparated. I laughed out loud; Lisa was a VP in a pretty stuffy bank, and I had this vision of her sitting in her suit, prim and proper, talking this way. "What the hell's so funny?" she added.

"You. You are funny. Watch that mouth; you are on the clock, sister," I advised. Taking on a more somber note, I said, "OK, yeah, it's true."

"OH MY GOD!" she screeched.

"Lisa, I seriously hope your office door is shut. You are getting hysterical," I commented. "Besides, calm down. It was a HUGE mistake; it won't be repeated," I said with finality.

"What? What do you mean, huge mistake? What happened?" she asked, with a mix of concern and curiosity.

"Well, it wasn't something that either of us put much thought or consideration into beforehand. He had been drinking, we were alone, and I told him I cared about him. He reacted to that, and the upshot is that I regret what happened, I am sure he does, too, so that's that."

"Was he rough with you?" she asked me candidly. Damn, how much had he told her?

"What makes you ask that?" I really should have been a lawyer.

"Just based on what I know about him, and what his ex said to me a few times." Ahh, ok, so this wasn't just me, it was just his way. Good to know.

"Yeah, he was, but I didn't get the feeling that he intended to hurt me. Besides, I'm fine," I said, trying to sound cheery and light.

"You sure?" she questioned me, doubt in her voice.

"Yeah, I'm sure, but I don't think I will be around for awhile. Im not sure how I would feel about being around him, especially after I told him how I feel and after what happened, so I think I will lay low for awhile," I advised her.

"Noooooooo! You can't dump all of us just because of Rick's dumb ass! Screw him, we'll go out without him, its no fun if you don't go," she whined.

She was right, I couldn't hide forever. Long after the bruising was gone, I was still feeling the sting of that night, though. Everything felt unfinished, scattered, and wrong, and I was devastated that I had brought this upon myself. Maybe the whole "open and honest" thing was a big ol' mistake; if I had kept my mouth shut, I could have given him his gift, a warm birthday hug, still had my feelings, and walked out with both of our dignities intact. As it was, mine was torn to ribbons, raw-edged. I wondered if his was, too. Summoning up what courage I had left, I agreed to go out with the group a few weeks later, with the intention of debriefing with Rick.

I walked into the club like I had so many times, and it was nice to be back there, but something felt amiss. The old excitement that I felt was gone, the spark to be there was gone. Before, the excitement kicked in for me even while I was getting ready at home; this evening had been quite different. I wasn't particularly concerned about what I wore, and I wasn't in a big hurry to get there. In short, the enchantment had been stolen away, the magic that had kept me coming back had more to do with seeing Rick than going out and being with my friends.

He was sitting at the table with the rest of the group, as he always did. Impecabbly dressed, looking as handsome as ever. He was sitting in the same chair he always sat in, and there was an empty chair beside him for me. Everyone greeted me warmly, and tried their best to convey how much they had missed me. I sat down beside Rick, somewhat cautiously, but I was struggling to look like everything was fine. Rick smiled and was cordial, and when he stood up and walked away from the table a few minutes later, I was thankful for the small break in the tension that his going to the bathroom or getting a drink provided.

Except he didn't come back.

After half an hour, Mike went out to look for him. It wasn't long before he came back in, saying that Rick was getting some fresh air out in the parking lot.

That was my cue to go. "I'm sorry, everybody. I shouldn't have come. I've made everyone uncomfortable, and I think I will go on home," I announced to the table. Even though they protested and cajoled, I couldn't be persuaded, and I headed for the door. When I swung open the door to step out into the night air, I took a deep, cleansing breath and resigned myself to the fact that I would probably never return to this place. Something felt irretrievably broken. It was the end of an era, of sorts.

The parking lot was silent; there wasn't a sound as I walked toward my car except the crunching of the gravel under my boots. As I put my key into the lock of my driver's side door, I heard behind me,

"Nice night, ain't it?"

It was Rick.

I must had jumped, because he said "I didn't mean to scare you," as he walked toward me. When he got a little closer, I could see that his eyes were bloodshot. Was he drunk? Crying? Both?

"Was my performance acceptable?" he asked me, with a flourish of his hat, taking a deep bow. Yep, he was drunk. Maybe he was crying, but FOR SURE he was drunk.

"Everything is fine, Rick. I'm sorry if I have made you uncomfortable tonight. I think its best if I leave now," I said, hoping to cut this short.

Hearing that, Rick sat down on the curb, his head hung low, defeated. Running his fingers through his hair, exasperated, he looked up at me with a pained, confused expression. "Why did you DO that?! Why? It messes up EVERYTHING! Now, we can't be friends, and I can't pretend I don't know how you feel," he complained miserably.

Forlornly, I turned back toward my car, "Just forget it, Rick," I said over my shoulder. Rising from his seat on the curb, he walked toward me, lightly touching my arm, turning me toward him. He was close, closer than I was comfortable with.

"Can YOU forget it?" he said, looking me in the eye. With a shrug of my shoulders, I said simply, "Yeah, I can. I have to."

Stepping back from me, a huge grin on his face, he pointed both index fingers at me, cowboy gun-style. Laughing uproariously, he declared, "I KNEW it! You don't love me! You NEVER loved me! You USED me!" He was still laughing, shaking his head as he strutted his way back toward the club door.

Goodbye, Rick. Thank you for everything. I'm sorry it had to end this way. I truly am.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

PART 41 - Love Hurts

Hard to know how many readers remember Nazareth, but I am hereby resurrecting their tune in honor of today's post:

Love Hurts
Nazareth

Love hurts
Love scars
Love wounds and mars
Any heart not tough or strong enough
To take a lot of pain
Love is like a cloud, it holds a lot of rain
Love hurts

I'm young, I know
But even so
I know a thing or two - I learned from you
I really learned a lot
Love is like a flame
It burns you when it's hot
Love hurts

Some fools think of happiness, blissfulness, togetherness
Some fools fool themselves, I guess
They're not foolin' me
I know it isn't true
Love is just a lie made to make you blue . . .

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The next morning, I swatted at the alarm clock and dozed back to sleep, when suddenly the previous evening entered my head. Like a bolt of electricity, my eyes popped open, I threw back the covers, and hopped gingerly out of bed. I say gingerly because I was aware of a constant ache just below my abdomen, like I had been punched. From the inside.

With some trepidation, I stepped into the bathroom to survey the marks. Even without my contacts in, I could see the garish black splotches in the mirror. Upon closer inspection I discovered, if it was even possible, that they were worse than the night before.

I panicked. There was NO WAY I could miss work that day. I was finalizing a huge proposal and had 2 meetings scheduled with different company executives. I popped some Tylenol and washed them down with a handful of water out of the bathroom sink as I considered my options. Did I have a garment, ANY garment, with a neck high enough to disguise most of the carnage? I poured through my wardrobe in my mind as I quickly showered. I remembered one top that might work.

Dressing a bit later, I slipped on the top and was pleased to see that it hid MOST of the bruising, but there were still 2-3 inches of dark splotches just under my jawline that were easily spotted, especially if I did something like, say, turn my head.

No way. There was no way that I was going into meetings looking like this. It was Friday, and I knew that by Monday, I would be in the clear. Besides, I NEVER called in sick. I began to rationalize the absence. Fuck them - if they couldn't get along without me for a day, I wasn't making enough money. That thought made me smile, and I began to relax once the exit strategy was in place.

Now just a quick call to the boss . . . this early, I was bound to get his voicemail, I thought.

No such luck - he answered on the third ring.

"Hi, David. This is Rita. Listen, I'm not feeling well, and I can't come into the office today."

Silence.

"Don't we have meetings today?" he asked.

"We sure do, David, and I'm not going to be able to be there," I said, curtly, and said nothing more. I was determined not to grovel or apologize or feel guilty.

"Hmmm . . . well, do you think you will feel better later today? Maybe you could come in at lunchtime?" he asked, half whining.

Time to pull out the big guns. "Well, here's the thing, David . . . I am having some feminine complications . . . and, well, uh . . ." I began to trail off.

In a bit of a panicky voice, David quickly responded, "OH! Oh . . . ok . . . sure . . . I understand. No problem." He kept on talking just to make sure I didn't continue down that path of conversation. "Well, you just . . . . feel better and . . ." At that point, he wasn't sure what to say, either. After I offered to put in some time over the weekend, he let me off the phone.

I gratefully crawled back into the bed, waiting for sleep to overtake me. I reassured myself for awhile that not going to work was the best course of action. After all, I WAS having some feminine complications - I was sure that I was just as bruised on the inside as I was on the outside.

What the hell had gotten into Rick, anyway?

I had some time to analyze it, laying there. Maybe he was angry that I had led him to break his vow of fidelity to his ex. Hell, maybe that was WHY she was his ex. I didn't really have any clear indication of what his motive was, but part of me thought that he might be one of those men that saw 2 kinds of women: those you respect, and those you fuck. Maybe I had slipped from Column A into Column B when I had divulged my crush, and he was doling out his own punishment for my lack of restraint. Who knows? Maybe that was the same kind of aggression that had driven him to enlist in the service when he knew he would be sent to Vietnam, and be a cop, despite the danger.

Thinking more along those lines, I made the connection that maybe that kind of aggression had driven my ex in the same way.

And in a final illuminated thought, I began to wonder if that kind of aggression wasn't exactly what had drawn me to Rick in the first place.

THAT was a scary thought.

Scary, but plausible. Both of them were very masculine, very decisive, and both of them were very driven. Both of them saw the world in black and white. Both of them could overprotect you and hurt you at the same time. And most importantly . . .

Both of them were like my dad.

Holy shit.

It was an "Aha!" moment for me. What was probably crystal clear to the rest of the world had escaped my vision until this very moment. But why, why would I be attracted to men like my dad? My dad was a bastard. He was mean. He was cold, he never had a loving word for me. He had beaten his own children, sparing me from the pain but not the sight and the sound. He had instilled debilitating fear in me, for him and the outside world. He had left me . . .

He had left me.

Suddenly, A flash of memory popped into my head. I was in the Winn Dixie with my mother, it had to have been early 70s. My mother ALWAYS shopped at the Winn Dixie, and more times than not, I was with her.

The vision was so clear - I was wearing a red dress with three pockets across the front. It was my favorite. There was a man with a little girl walking past us as we waited in line to check out. He was holding his little daughter's hand. I walked right up to that little girl and shoved her away, insisting "That's not YOUR daddy. That's MY daddy. YOUR daddy is gone away on an airplane!"

I could see the little girl, scared and crying, shouting back at me, "No he isn't! He's MY daddy!" and bursting into tears. I watched her dad pick her up, putting her on his shoulder, tenderly shushing her and patting her back, petting her hair.

I remember feeling confused, and scared, staring at the floor, studying the speckled linoleum tiles, counting the patterns and trying to ignore my mother apologizing profusely to the man while she explained that my father was away on business. I remember watching our food travel down the belt and into the bags.

God, I can still see the aqua green polyester uniform top that the bored, overweight checkout lady was wearing. I remember watching her fat, stubbly fingers grabbing cans of Astor vegetables and pushing in the register buttons in a rhythm . . . snick snick, jingledy snick. 29 cents took three movements . . . the round 20 button, then 9, then the big rectangle grocery button. Snick, snick, jingledy snick. Over and over. He had been gone for more than 3 months by then. An eternity for a 4 year old.

He had left me.

I laid in my bed, letting hard painful sobs shake my body. The tears were more painful that the bruises. I sobbed for the little me at the Winn Dixie, for the countless times I had needed my dad, for the pain of still loving him and hating him at the same time, for feeling weak enough to still need him, or someone like him, for what my life was amounting to, for all of it.

That day passed with me drifting in and out of sleep, waking long enough to grow teary again, and then fading back into quiet, serene rest.

When Saturday shone bright in the window, I dragged myself from the bed and started a hot bath. Slipping into the depths of that hot soapy water was curative; hot baths had always helped. Always.

Feeling drained, but surprisingly serene, I dressed for the day, donning dark sunglasses and wearing the top I had picked the day before for maximum coverage. I had a few errands to do that morning, and since I had some actual work to do, I decided that day to finally go buy myself a computer. I knew just the one I wanted, too - a Mac Quadra.

Later that afternoon, I was unpacking the brand new machine. I had set up a little desk area in my large bedroom, and the giddiness of the purchase seemed to sweep away the hurt that had overtaken me earlier. I quickly made all of the connections and soon started up my precious Mac for the first time. Wondrous.

I, of course, had been a Mac user for several years by that time, so I knew what to expect out of the machine. What was particularly cool about this one was that it had QuickTime loaded, and a demo CD that came with the machine displayed the glory that was the latest in digital video technology. It also came preloaded with an application that I had heard a bit about, but had never really used before: America Online.

After a few failed attempts, I was able to actually connect to this amazing . . . . world, for lack of a better term. I had never seen anything remotely like it. It was all breathtaking and compelling, and there was so much to see and do! I clicked on everything - the shopping, the entertainment sections, and into an area called chat.

I jumped in my chair when I heard a series of chimes through my speakers and saw a little box pop up on my screen. What was this? A message in the box said

"Hi! Care to chat?"

What was I supposed to do? I studied the box for a moment and decided to click near the bottom of the box. Could I answer? I began to type "Hi there" and then I clicked the Send button, and lo and behold, my response appeared right below the original one.

Damn, this was cool! Immediately a response came back, along with that pleasing chime. As I exchanged tentative messages with this person, another box popped up, and then another.

I had worked with computers for years by that time. I had even used a BBS in college and an online file exchange system at work for sending files to commercial printers, but I had never, ever seen anything like AOL.

In the span of that weekend, even though I didn't leave the house and barely ate or slept, I had alleviated my lonliness and despair and had a ball chatting with people from every corner of the USA. I learned my way around AOL, and I had created a fledgling friends list.

I didn't get a damn bit of work done, but I had just been introduced to a whole new world. AOL took my mind off all of my troubles, and gave me a whole new place to play.

Monday morning at work, the calls started pouring in from friends and family. "Where WERE you? I called you ALL WEEKEND and your phone was busy?!?!" I must have heard that at least 10 times.

I just smiled and said, "I needed some 'me' time," and left it at that, all the while waiting for 5:00 to arrive to get back to my new, secret little universe.

Monday, August 30, 2004

PART 40 - I Wanna Make It With You

PART 40?!?!?!

I never thought this little tale would stretch out this long! 25, tops, but 40?!?! When I was back at PART 1, 40 sounded so faraway. I never thought I would see 40 so soon, but here it is, and now that I am at 40, 60 seems like an eternity away.

And so, without further ado, I will introduce today's post with the quintessential 70's double entendre:

I'd Like To Make It With You
Bread

Hey have you ever tried
Really reaching out for the other side?
I may be climbing on rainbows
But baby, here goes...

Dreams are for those who sleep
Life is for us to keep
And if you're wondering what this song is leading to
I'd like to make it with you
I really think that we could make it, girl

Though you don't know me well
With every little thing only time will tell
If you believe the things that I do
Then we'll see it through
Life can be short or long
Love can be right or wrong
And if I chose the one I'd like to help me through
I'd like to make it with . . .


Now, on with the show

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Once I had Rick's full attention, I realized that this was my moment to tell him what I had been thinking for months. I had a strange, eerie sense of calm; no panic attack, no embarassment, no freezing. I found myself clearing my throat and preparing to calmly tell him all that I had been thinking, all that I had been wondering, and most importantly, how important he had become to me.

He sat calmly across from me, relaxed in his recliner, elbows on his armrests, fingers laced together and resting just below his chest. He seemed completely open to me, in no hurry whatsoever, and there wasn't a sound in the house except his grandfather clock on his mantle, which was actually soothing, somehow.

OK, here was my chance. Without knowing exactly how it would come out, I just started.

"Rick, I . . ."

But the words failed me.

I stopped myself, and with a little nod of positive encouragement for myself, I steeled myself and took a deep breath to begin again.

"Are you ok? Are you going to tell me something bad?" Rick asked, looking a bit worried, but more curious than anything.

I smiled, and assured him, "No, nothing bad. Nothing bad at all. Just bad at telling, that's all."

He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. "Well, only one way to tell it - spit it out," he declared. "If you're telling the truth, you don't have to worry about HOW it comes out." I smiled inwardly. Spoken like a true cop. I wondered momentarily how many people he had ever interrogated. Was he the good cop, or the bad cop? I wondered all of this as he sat there, expectantly looking at me. With a little shake of my head, I cleared all of the distractions and got back to the matter at hand.

Of course he was right. I was struggling with what to say because I was busy sanitizing and spinning it, struggling to present it in a pleasing, palatable way. It dawned on me that I did that alot, too. It was also dawning on me that I was beginning to look like a freak, sitting there silently, having these thoughts, having already requested his attention for a conversation.

Enough. ENOUGH. Out with it. And so, I just started talking, raw words, fresh thoughts, unsanitized, unscripted.

"Thank you. I have never felt the way you make me feel. You have been kind to me, you have opened your home to me. Thank you for being my dance partner. I can't tell you how happy being with you has made me. I have enjoyed everything about you." I finally managed to get out.

"Are you leaving?" he asked, not quite sure where the conversation was heading. When I smiled and nodded no, he smiled and continued, "OK, that sounded like a goodbye, so I wasn't sure."

"Yeah, neither am I." I continued. "But it has been eating at me for a few months, now. I wanted you to know how much I care about you, and I hope that me telling you that doesn't make you feel any differently about our friendship. The last thing I would ever want is for you to be uncomfortable around me. Your friendship has meant the world to me, and I just wanted you to know . . ." I floundered. To fill the agonizing silence, I kept talking, rambling, really. "Please don't think that I expect you to feel the same. I don't. I just wanted you to know that I felt this way." I was doing a miserable job, and I was beating around the bush.

"So, are you saying that you are in LOVE with me?" Rick asked me, straight shot. So much for embarassment. I hung my head, my cheeks burning hot, wanting to drop through the floor into the center of the earth. Why had I started this? This was absolute misery. Rising up from my seat, I swallowed hard and said, "Yeah, I guess I am. I'm sorry." I was determined to get out of there as fast as possible. What had I done?

He sat there, looking dumbstruck. It was obvious that I had completely blindsided him. "All these months, you felt like this, and you never let on, you never said a word." I ruefully nodded that yes, that was exactly what I had done. He continued, "Well, first of all, I couldn't be MORE flattered . . ." Oh, shit. Kiss of death. My cue to leave.

"Well, I am glad that you feel that way. Hope you had a nice birthday," I said, as sort of a parting statement as I made my way toward his door. He stood, finally, and walked with me through the den towards the door.

"Now wait a second. You just dumped all of this, and now you want to bolt out the door. Why are you leaving? Have I upset you?" he asked, and rightly so. What had he ever done to me to deserve this drama and bullshit, except be his kind and handsome self? "You know that I am still hoping to reconcile with my wife, I've been pretty vocal about that. So I haven't allowed myself to think about being with anyone else. The truth is, I couldn't have more respect for you. I enjoy your company, too. I mean, who knows? Maybe things are supposed to happen this way, it might be wonderful."

No, no, no, no. I didn't want this. He was talking himself into the possibility. He embraced me in a warm hug, and murmured "Thank you for my present," into my ear, kissing my cheek. I felt a lump in my throat as I whispered, "You're welcome," and kissed his jaw softly, hugging him close to me. Feeling my lips on his skin, he instinctively turned his face toward me and our lips met in a soft, warm, slow, lingering kiss. I was still battling my shellshock and nerves; I was there, but I wasn't. I was numb from the acute embarassment I had felt earlier, and as our lips parted, I was a bit relieved. Now I could go.

"Stay with me." Rick said, looking intently into my eyes.

Oh shit. Again.

He was doing nothing to hide his intentions, and in that second I realized that he was not a man to be toyed with. He had made his position clear to me from Day 1, and I had chosen to pursue him anyway, and had practically thrown myself at him. He hadn't come to MY house; I had asked to come to his. I had upped the ante, and he had called. What would he think of me if I divulged this deep longing for him, and then shut him down? Would he think that it was all a lie, some kind of cruel trick on my part? Time to show my hand. I nodded yes, I would stay with him, and wordlessly, he turned from me, holding my hand and leading me back toward his bedroom.

Once there, he turned on a very small bedside lamp, undressed down to his boxers, and slid into bed. "Do you need to freshen up? The bathroom is right there," he indicated, pointing to a door right beside the bed. Freshen up? What did he mean? Not knowing what to say, and welcoming the chance for a timeout, I went into the bathroom and shut the door behind me. I turned on the water faucet and looked at myself in the mirror. His bathroom was fully tiled in aqua blue, and the flourescent bulb mixed with the tile's reflection gave me a sickly greenish pallor. Or maybe the situation was giving me a sickly greenish pallor. I squeezed a dab of his toothpaste onto my finger, and quickly swabbed my teeth and tongue, rinsing with a handful of water. No going back now, I told myself. I had made this bed, now I had to lie in it.

When I exited the bathroom, I saw him laying on his stomach there on the bed. I slipped off my jeans, but otherwise stayed dressed and sat beside him on the bed. I ran one hand lightly over his back, and he let out a little moan of approval. Feeling a bit pleased about that, I began to methodically massage his back. "Oh, it has been FOREVER since I have had my back rubbed," he confessed, as he groaned with pleasure. I had become pretty adept at backrubs when I was married - between his work at the fire department and Fed Ex, he stayed pretty sore, and he requested backrubs several times a week.

I was recalling all of that in my mind, absentmindedly continuing the massage, when suddenly, Rick rose up from the bed and turned over on his side facing me. "Come lay beside me," he said, and I laid down with him, cuddling my back up against his chest, spooning, feeling his kisses on the back of my neck. Feeling him all around me was heavenly, and I would have been content with this, just this. But I had struck a bargain for more, and I was being gently reminded of that fact with every urgent rub of his growing desire against the back of my thigh. "Take those clothes off," he said hoarsely, after he had grown weary of battling the buttons and hooks of my blouse and undergarments. Sitting up in the bed there beside him, I slipped off my blouse and bra, shyly looking his way as he propped himself up on one elbow, expectantly. He seemed not to be terribly impressed with the importance of the "moment of unveiling"; he quickly pulled me toward him and rolled on top of me, kissing me hard, crushing my lips with his.

With little ceremony or foreplay, he entered me, pretty roughly. This felt familiar, I thought, as I lay beneath him, enduring his too-deep, too-fast and too-rough penetration. I felt him kissing my neck, sucking and licking my skin and giving me little lovebites, but my mind was more focused on positioning my hips to minimize the pain of his incessant pounding. He held me tightly, his hips continuing to thrust away as he continued to bury his face in the hollow of my throat. "Is THIS what you wanted, hmm?" he asked me, again and again. It sounded angry to me. This was not remotely what I expected. There was no real way for me to participate; I was pinned to the bed. Without a sound or an indication that he had indeed finished, he rolled off of me and fell in a gasping heap there beside me. I lay there quietly beside him, listening to his breathing return to normal. Actually, it went from gasping to snoring. He was asleep. Dead to the world.

As quietly as I could, I extricated myself from him and dressed in the light of the tiny lamp. I looked down at him as he slept, his handsome face relaxed and enhanced by the shadows of the nightlight. I felt a mix of emotions for him, and after giving him a little kiss on the cheek, I left his house and drove home. It was one of those drives that you complete without even realizing that you WERE driving - when I got home, I had absolutely no idea how I had gotten there. My mind was completely full of recollections of the evening; snapshots of him, snippets of conversation that played over and over again in my head.

Dropping my keys and purse on the table, I wearily headed upstairs to bed. I began undressing as soon as I hit my bedroom door, and headed straight for the bathroom. Flipping on the light, I reached for my makeup remover and toothbrush, when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and let out a scream.

There, in the mirror, was a ring of black and blue hickies across my throat and down my breasts. Big, angry ones. They were shockingly dark in comparison to my pale skin - I had always had a very fair complexion, and it looked for all the world like I had been attacked by a pack of vampires. I stood there, not able to break the gaze. I leaned in close to the mirror, inspecting each one, cautiously touching them, not quite believing they were there.

How in the hell would I cover these? They were nearly up to my ears on both sides. How had I not felt this? I immediately deducted that this was my comeuppance for pushing things with Rick. I shouldn't have, I knew better, and I did it anyway. I led him to believe that we were only friends, and in a moment of weakness for him, when he was alone on his birthday, enjoying a beer or two, I invited myself over and laid myself at his feet.

I crawled into bed that night, ruefully aware that I was indeed laying in the bed I had made for myself.

Friday, August 27, 2004

PART 39 - Crash into Me

This is the most recent piece of music I have referenced in this blog, but after reading about The Dave Matthews Band's legal woes over a certain expelling of liquids on a Chicago ferry boat, I had to include one of their pieces. It is perfect timing, really, considering I am at a similar point in my story. Read on.

Crash Into Me
Dave Matthews

You've got your ball,you've got your chain
Tied to me tight, tie me up again
Who's got their claws in you my friend?
Into your heart I'll beat again
Sweet like candy to my soul
Sweet you rock, and sweet you roll
Lost for you, I'm so lost for you
Oh, and you come
Crash
Into me
And I come into you . . .

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Don's dramatic exit didn't mark the last chapter with him. He continued to call, and come by, and leave me notes and letters on my car at work. My regret and sorrow from our breakup soon melted away into aggravation - I didn't like him showing up unannounced. I tried to be as kind as I could to him, but my patience was wearing thin. It felt like I was wading through alot of bullshit, and I was growing tired of that.

Speaking of wading through shit, I was doing JUST that. One early morning just after the New Year, I was groggily driving the few miles to work, trying to stay awake, when I saw a very large dumptruck in front of me hit its brakes. I did the same, and as the seconds ticked by while we waited for the redlight to change, I absentmindedly sipped some coffee, and searched for a station that didn't jangle my nerves. I glanced up just in time to see the truck lurch forward - the light had finally changed. The truck must have been overloaded, it seemed to strain to move forward, and there was water draining out of the back. Just as I began to wonder what the truck was hauling, the back tailgate gave way and a tidal wave of brown liquid shit water doused my entire car. My hand to God.

I was stunned, not realizing what had just happened. Disgustingly enough, I turned on the windshield wipers to sling away the slimy layer of waste so that I could see to drive. The truck continued on its way, it never stopped, but I saw a placard that indicated that it was a County Water Department truck. The smell was . . . horrible. Just horrible.

An hour later, after the car had been towed, I was at work, lighting a fire under the county water department manager about what had just happened. He was flippant at first, and then when I told him I worked for an environmental engineering company with close ties to the EPA and would be glad to make a call about how the county was hauling human waste in open flatbed dumptrucks, he became very very friendly and accomodating.

The car was sent to a detail shop for a full workover. They steam cleaned the engine, handwashed and waxed the exterior, scrubbed and dressed the tires and rims, steam cleaned the seats and carpeting, and replaced the A/C lines. They gave me $2 grand to boot. The insurance company made them do a few more things. The car never looked better, but I couldn't get over the idea of what had happened to it.

I had loved that car. I had hand picked it and taken good care of it. I had paid it off, it had transported me away from my hellacious marriage, and it had been the carriage of choice for many of my outings with my friends over the past couple of years. It had been a great car, and now, I couldn't wait to dump it (no pun intended). It was a beautiful, loaded Taurus SHO, with every option imagiable, including heated leather seats, moonroof, keyless entry, digital dash, you name it . . . but the love affair was over.



My Taurus - except mine had a cool spoiler package and moonroof

All of my friends called it the "Shitmobile". The idea of driving it anymore pretty much repulsed me. That shit-soaked car came to represent everything that had once been good but then had gone wrong, and it was time to move on.

So, I did what any self-respecting southern, white, newly-single girl would do.

Yep. I bought a Camaro.



My Camaro

I had never had a sports car, and I figured I was due. I had always secretly wanted a Camaro, and I found one that was about a year old, and it was in perfect condition. The previous owner had babied it, and gotten into a little financial bind, so I was the lucky recipient.

If you have never driven a high performance, redneck sports car, I can't recommend it highly enough. Something incredibly sexy and fulfilling about hearing that big-ass engine rev when you hit the gas, and surveying the road over the long, sloped nose makes you feel like a road God. Well, it did me.

I tricked it out a little further by getting a cellphone installed (that was cool back then) and a set of teal neons that ran the length of the undercarriage, making the car appear to be some kind of Nascar hovercraft when I cruised in the evening (that was also cool, in a Panama City sort of way.)

In that car, I felt like I owned the world, and that anything was possible. I loved driving it, loved washing it, loved parking it way back in the work parking lot so that no one would scratch it, I just loved everything about it. Looking at it carried no baggage, no memories, nothing but promises of fun and escape.

Nothing surpassed the feeling that I got driving that car to the new dance club that had just opened the month before: The Crystal Chandelier. This club was TWICE the size of Nashville Sound, and had a valet staff, 8 bars, a house band, concerts every weekend, and a weekly Ladies Night with a $2,000 balloon drop. It became our new hangout, and more times than not, the valets would rush to get my keys to take it for a spin around the lot.

That club had a MUCH larger pool of partners to choose from, and Rick and I seemed to have escalated to a duel, of sorts. We still met there as friends with the rest of the group, and we would generally dance once or twice together, but then he would choose other partners while I sat at the table chatting with our friends. It was silly, but it hurt every time he did it. Of course, it was innocent, just dancing, and he likely had no idea that I was upset by it, but I was so overwhelmed with my feelings for him, everything he did had a major impact on me. I was frustrated with how juvenile and silly my feelings were, and I redoubled my efforts to hide any trace of them. Meanwhile, I filled my dancecard with other partners, and even though it was fun, I still found myself watching him. Sometimes, I caught him watching me, too.

Occasionally he would approach me and a partner and ask to cut in, without any explanation, and we would dance together, with nothing more than a smile passed between us. I began to panic and stammer every time I saw him - it felt just like I had felt over Jack so many, many years ago - silent, unable to speak, and dying inside. Damn it! Why couldn't I just TALK to him about this? Why all this posturing? What did it all mean? Did he feel ANYTHING for me? My inability to express my feelings was becoming intolerable. I dreamed about confessing to him, and each dream had some kind of humiliating result. It was driving me crazy, and finally, in a moment of clarity (or maybe it was fatigue), I had an epiphany.

It was there, laying in my bed alone one night. I had been thinking about Rick, and Don, and my ex, and even further back . . . how often I had not been able to voice what I was feeling, how many times I had silenced myself, and how often it had been disastrous for me. What was I scared of? Then it dawned on me: I wasn't scared of anything anymore. What I felt, I felt, and no one could command my feelings but me. I couldn't control anyone else, either. Maybe Rick had feelings for me, maybe he didn't, but suddenly, it didn't seem to matter all that much anymore. I cared about him, and I was entitled to feel it. If I wanted to, I could say it, and he wouldn't be obligated to do anything, but I would be able to say what I was feeling out loud. It was so simple, but it was so alien to me. Saying what I feel, out loud, not worrying about the reactions of others, not holding secrets. I immediately felt better.

Rick's birthday fell on a weeknight, and most of our group was busy with other things, so we all decided to celebrate it the following Saturday. The week before his birthday, I had thought and thought about what to get him; it was a chance to convey to him what I felt and what he meant to me. Like a bolt of lightning, it hit me. Rummaging through my jewelry box, I found the packet of diamonds that I had had removed from my wedding set - I had used three of them in a new set, and had just held on to the remaining ones. Rick's ear was pierced, and he wore a small while gold stud. I decided to have one of my small diamonds set for him, and I picked it up from the jeweler the day of his birthday.

Calling him from the car, I caught him alone at home and asked him if I could come by and bring a little gift. He sounded a little down at first, but he seemed to cheer up when he told me to come on over.

When I arrived at his house, it was mostly dark. He was sitting in his den, alone, watching a movie. He hugged me hello with one arm, and held a beer with his other hand. It had definitely not been his first that evening, but he wasn't staggering, he was just comfortably buzzed.

"Happy Birthday, Rick," I said as I sat across from him on the couch.

"Well, thank you darlin'. Glad you are here to spend it with me," he said as he raised his beer into the air in a mock toast. Wordlessly, I handed him the small box and the card I had written for him. Placing the little box on his leg, he balanced it there precariously while he set his beer on the side table and carefully opened the card. He read it aloud. "To Rick: a diamond among the rubble. Happy Birthday - Rita." With a curious look on his face, he began to open the little package. When he opened the lid on the little jewelry box, he looked pleased and surprised at the same time. "Thank you! I have wanted to get one of these for awhile now." As he put it in his ear, he glanced at his reflection in a mirror on the opposite wall "It glimmers like a real one!" he said with delight.

I smiled warmly and said, "That's because it IS a real one," and I enjoyed the shocked look on his face. I also secretly enjoyed the fantasy of the temper tantrum my ex would throw if he ever knew that one of the diamonds that he had bought for me was now proudly perched in this cowboy's ear.

"I don't know what to say," he said, a look of shock and surprise still on his face.

"Don't say anything, just enjoy it. I'm pleased you like it," I began. "But there are a couple of things that I would like to tell you. I'm glad we have a quiet minute together."

He looked at me thoughtfully, clicked off the muted television, and said, "Shoot, sweetie . . . I'm all ears."

Thursday, August 26, 2004

PART 38 - Love, Look What You've Done To Me

I'm not ashamed, I can say it with my head held high: I loved the movie Urban Cowboy. It affected me. Debra Winger was a rough but sweet girl, John Travolta was hot as hell . . . it was just a damn good movie and I happened to see it when I was quite impressionable, I guess. Anyway, I still love Boz Scaggs, and whenever I hear this song, I stop what I am doing, and enjoy the memories.

Look What You've Done To Me

Boz Scaggs: Urban Cowboy Soundtrack

Hope they never end this song
This could take us all night long
I looked at the moon and I felt blue
Then I looked again and I saw you
Eyes like fire in the night
Bridges buring with their light
Now I'll have to spend the whole night through
And honey, yes, I'll have to spend it all on you

Love, look what you've done to me
Never thought I'd fall again so easily
Oh, love, you wouldn't lie to me
Leading me to feel this way........

They might fade and turn to stone
Let's get crazy all alone
Hold me closer than you'd ever dare
Close your eyes and I'll be there

After all is said and done
After all you are the one
Take me up your stairs and through the door
Take me where we don't care anymore . . .

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It was hard to believe that my year's lease on my apartment was close to its end. Had it REALLY been a year since I divorced? Indeed, it had been. It had been a productive year; I had managed to put a little money aside and I was set on finding myself a little house. It seemed like the next step to re-establishing myself. The apartment was nice, but it felt very temporary for me, and I wanted something that felt like home.

I started spending my weekends combing the Homefinder section of the Sunday paper and driving through neighborhoods that looked affordable. I saw a small ad in the Homefinder for an agent that specialized in HUD and VA foreclosure properties, and I gave him a call. He said he had a few properties in my area, and if I would get prequalified, he would be glad to show them to me. One thing I did walk away from my marriage with was excellent credit, so after a quick check and approval, I was out looking at properties.

Several of them were just dumps, or "handyman specials." I wasn't handy enough to take any of them on, and was just about to give up on the whole idea when I found a pretty townhouse foreclosure about 5 miles away from my work. The townhouse was only 2 years old, and the previous owners had left it in pristine condition. A few weeks later, I was moving into my pretty little place.

The townhouse was a steal, if I do say so myself. Nestled in a swanky suburban neighborhood, it was a jewel. I had paid $47,900 for it, and at the closing table, the appraisal had come back at $71,000. Close to work, pretty, cheap, AND nearly new. I was giddy.

It was arranged with 2 master bedrooms upstairs. Both had full baths and large walk-in closets. It was a perfect roommate situation, and I had asked Angie to move in with me. She had been so supportive of me, and I knew that she needed to get out of that damn small town that she was trapped in. A change of scenery would do her a world of good, I reasoned. After an initial protest, she did relent and move in. She was scared to death; she had never lived out on her own, and she wasn't used to being around women that had the means to support themselves. Despite her fear, she was just as proud of the new house as I was. We had a ball setting up the little house together and having friends over.

I was so incredibly proud of that little place. Not only was I proud of having found it and bought it without any help from my family or friends, but I was equally pleased that the purchase seemed to signal to my family that my new life wasn't just a phase - I was out for good, no going back. They were glad for me and sad, all at the same time, and Don seemed to be a lightning rod for their disappointment. They felt that he had completely captivated me (which he had), therefore spoiling ANY chance of reconciliation. I grew very distant with them - it hurt to hear them say bad things about Don when he was so kind to me. It also hurt that they weren't more protective over me, that they would willingly have me reconcile with my ex and go back into hell. As my world got smaller, Don became an ever increasing part of my reality.

By that time, Don and I had grown so used to sleeping and waking next to each other that neither of us ever wanted to be apart. Initially, he came over on alternate weekends, and occcasionally during the week, but gradually, he began to stay over more and more often. Pretty soon, he was living there, too, to Angie's dismay. She bit her tongue most of the time; she hadn't changed her opinion of Don much. She was sure that Don was sponging off of me, and she said so in not so many words. She resented seeing him laying on the couch when she left for work, and still there when she returned. He often seemed sleepy when I got home in the afternoons, and I wondered if all the painkillers he took for his back weren't becoming a problem.

I had to admit, Don didn't seem very motivated to find a job. He exhausted his unemployment early that fall of 1992, and the phone started ringing. His mother called him pretty regularly to push him about work, and money for the kids. He seemed bothered by it, and somewhat depressed, but he didn't seem terribly motivated to get moving. He always had dinner cooked and waiting for me, and he kept the laundry done and the house picked up. To tell the truth, it was a nice situation, domestically, I mean. It was nice to have someone there to share the chores with and to do things with, to watch tv with, to cuddle up with.

The weekends he traveled back home to visit with his kids at his mother's, I missed him, but I lived my own life. On those weekends that he was away, I generally drifted back to Nashville Sound to see all my friends and dance and have a little fun. There were always plenty of friends and dance partners, and I never grew tired of meeting new people OR learning new dances.

Occasionally, I would have people approach me at the club and ask me to teach them to dance. Sometimes men, sometimes women. There was one group in particular that stopped me to chat most every week. All five of them sat together, and all five of them would watch me dance. After a couple of friendly conversations, I joined them for 2:00 am coffee at IHOP, and got to know them all a bit better. Mike and Lisa were a cute married couple, and Bob and Kathy were their lifelong friends, also married. Rick was Mike's older brother, and because he was always alone, I figured he was probably divorced. It shocked me that he never seemed to have a date; he was one of those men that everyone looked at when he walked into a room.

They were all just learning how to dance, and they asked if I would please come over to Rick's house some weeknight evening to show them step-by-step how to do certain dances that were running through all the clubs at that time. More often than not, they all hung out at Rick's house on Tuesday nights.

Rick's ex-wife (yep, I was right - he was divorced) had taken all the dining room furniture, so the large bare dining room with hardwood floor provided a perfect place to dance. Come to find out, Rick was still deeply in love with his ex-wife, who had taken residence just up the street in a house the two of them had owned. She had recently remarried, and she and her new husband and the kids all lived in that house, while Rick lived at the end of the block in what had been their marital house. It was great for their kids - they could run back and forth. Rick's parents, who had basically owned all the land the neighborhood sat on at one point, lived in a small home beside him, and Mike and Lisa lived one street over.

The first night I went over to his house, I was a nervous wreck. I had been looking forward to it since I had first been invited, and as I slowly drove through his neighborhood looking for his street, I though my heart was going to pop, it was beating so fast. What the hell, why was I feeling this way? When I finally found his house, I parked on the street, killed the engine, took a last look in the rearview mirror, and gave myself a little pep talk. When I walked into the house, I was greeted by the entire group, plus a few extras. They were so happy to see me that I forgot all about being nervous.

This crew wasn't playing around; they were serious about learning how to dance. They had set up a CD player and picked a mix of songs to practice to. They handed me the remote so that I could start and stop the tracks as we went through the steps. I was a little unsure at first about showing them steps, but it turned out that they were good dancers, and they picked up everything fast. Initially, I had everyone lined up, men on one side, women on the other, so that I could demonstrate the lead steps and the women's steps (they are always opposite, by the way). When it was time to pair up, Rick walked straight up to me, slipped his hand around my waist and held my other hand, looking down at me with a bright smile and those pretty eyes (sigh).

By the end of that first night, we were all having a great time dancing the West Coast swing. Rick had been my partner for the rest of the night, except for the few times I had danced with Mike and Bob to show them how to guide their partner through the transitions. Everytime I finished that instruction, Rick would take my hand with a boyish grin on my face and say, "Come on, gal . . . let's dance!" which thrilled me to no end.

Over the next several weeks, I felt this incredible chemistry with Rick, but because of his situation, I was super careful to appear friendly, but not overly friendly. When I met up with the group on weekends, I always made sure to drive my own car, meet them wherever we went, and visit and chat with all five of them the same. The only time my cover was blown was when Rick would step over to my chair, extend his hand, and lead me onto the dance floor. It was all I could do to keep a goofy, blushing grin off my face as we danced effortlessly together. He made me feel like a princess, and he made me feel pretty, and I was so taken with him, I didn't know what to do or say most of the time.

Just as I had always done, I completely camoflauged the heartwrenching crush I had for Rick. I not only thought he was drop dead gorgeous, I thought he was just a fine man, period. Honorable and kind and gentlemanly, but still sexy as hell. I couldn't help having fantasies of what it would be like to kiss him, to make love with him. Physically, he was stunning: He was over 6 feet tall, broad shouldered, with a beautiful head full of salt and pepper hair. He had icy blue eyes, and it was rare to see him not wearing boots and well-weathered jeans. He drove a truck. He loved to hunt and fish. He enjoyed a beer or three on the weekends, but he was always in church on Sunday.

He was incredibly charismatic, and even though week after week, he held me in his arms as we danced, he was never anything but gentlemanly to me, and I never so much as batted an eyelash at him. He often voiced the hope that his wife would return to him, and for whatever reason, it was important to him to be able to tell her that he had been faithful to her. I rationalized that partnering with me on the dancefloor was just a way for him to have some fun and be assured of a "safe" dance partner that he was in no danger of becoming involved with.

Comparatively, Rick and Don were two ends of the spectrum. Rick was ex-military, he had actually been shipped to Vietnam when he was 18. When he came back, he became a cop and served on the force for many years. He went to work for the post office when his wife grew too fearful of his cop work. I remember mentioning all of this to my mother, and with a horrified look, she said, "You mean he is a Vietnam vet, an ex-cop, AND a postal worker?" My God, that sounds like a recipe for a serial killer!" I still laugh about that.

So, anyway, in early 1993, I was custom fitting my life to circumstances. During the week, I was enjoying Don's company one weekend, and dancing the next weekend away, secretly eating my heart out over Rick.

Just before Memorial Day that year, Don received a summons to appear in court for non-payment of child support. I wondered what it was going to take to get him motivated. This was it. The next day, he applied for a job at a nursing home. It was familiar work for him; after his divorce, he had gone to work in the nursing home where his grandfather lived, and he found that he had a knack for dealing with the patients. His calm ways were comforting to the patients, just as they were for me. He divulged that the work was a strain on him; it was hard to watch so many people suffer and die, and that was one of the reasons he hadn't wanted to go back to work. He had come to the point where he wasn't able to detach himself from that, and he had become depressed.

Relieved that he was working again, and hoping that he would stay the course, I resigned myself to seeing quite a bit less of him. He worked all evening and night shifts, so the only time we really had together were alternate weekend afternoons. It wasn't long before he began to resent the work, resent the time away from me, and question the amount of time I was spending with my new friends, especially Rick. Without much provocation, he quit the job late that summer and came back to my house. He seemed a bit frantic, and even though it was nice to have him back, it kind of wasn't.

Sure enough, within the month, he received yet another summons to appear for nonpayment. This time, he didn't get away with a slap; in August, he was sentenced to 30 days in jail. Angie divulged to me that this was the kind of pattern that she had always seen with him: depression, job jumping, and pill popping, altough with me, she added, he seemed to be doing quite a bit better than she expected he would.

When he reported to serve his 30 days, I was devastated. During the month he sat in county jail, I began to go over our time together, and more to the point, I started to go over my finances in his absence. Despite all of the joy and comfort I got out of his company, I was nearly broke.

I confided all of this to Lisa one night over drinks, who in turn divulged to me that everyone hoped that I could be the one to break the spell that Rick's ex had over him. She encouraged me to end things with Don and asked me if I had feelings for Rick. It was hard, even with the alcohol in my system, but I admitted to her that I did. It scared me to death to say it out loud, and I regretted saying it immediately.

Each in their turn, Mike and Bob and Kathy had their own talk with me about Don and about Rick. Their motives were pretty evident, but they did help me look at my relationship with Don objectively. I finally came to the realization that I was giving him the out, that he was able to escape to my house and evade his responsibilities. That was the beginning of the end for Don and I. I began to see him less and less. His phone calls to me went unanswered, plans with him were cancelled more times than not in order to go out with the group, and more to the point, to see Rick.

In desperation, Don showed up at my house one evening close to Christmastime with roses and wine. I was pleasantly surprised, and as we were talking, out of the blue, he pulled a small box out of his pocket, got down on one knee, and proposed to me. He opened the box to reveal a pretty little diamond engagement ring. "I should have asked you a year ago. Will you marry me?" he asked, his face a mixture of hopefulness and fear. I was stunned. I didn't say a word.

Slipping the ring on my finger, he said "Don't answer me now. I want you to think about it. I know I have alot to prove to you, but you are the only woman that I have ever cared this much for. I want to make a life with you." The words hurt. I knew at that moment that it could never be. My mind quickly jumped to the obvious. "Don, where did you get the money for this ring?" I asked him gently.

Sensing that I wasn't going to allow him to lead me off into fantasyland anymore, he looked dejected. "I sold a few things I had, and my mother loaned me the rest. Are you happy now?" It was the first time I had ever seen him angry. It cut me like a knife to see the pain and disappointment on his face.

"I can't accept this ring," I said. "Your kids need this money, Don. Knowing that they might be doing without, I could never accept this," I said as I handed him the ring back.

"I want you and I to take care of the kids together. We could get married and have them with us," he dreamed. Oh, God. Marry him, foot all the bills, AND have his kids living with me? There was ABSOLUTELY no way I was signing up for that.

"I don't think that can happen," I said to him sorrowfully. Slowly rising up from his positing on one knee, he dusted his pants and said softly, "well . . . I picked this for you. I owe you this and more. I'm sorry I have been a burden. You won't have to worry about me anymore."

He turned to leave, placing the ring box on my kitchen table. I didn't say a word to stop him, even though I know he expected me to.

After I heard his car drive away, I felt sad, but I also felt that I had just dodged a bullet. Had he been using me? Did he REALLY love me? Did I REALLY love him, or was I just so starved for kindness that I fell hard for the first man that showed me an ounce of tenderness?

The pendulum had swung both ways at that point. I had ended a life with a man that was driven to succeed, but that was cold as a stone. I had also just ended a life with a man that was kinder and gentler and more caring than any I had ever known, but that couldn't maintain his commitments to care for his own children. And I was crazy about a man that I couldn't have.

As I sat there pondering my 1994 New Year's resolutions, I wondered if I would ever get it right.
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