Monday, February 06, 2017

This THING that happened

This morning, my husband and I had an appointment with the school counselor at my son’s school. During the meeting, we were asked how long we had been married. I was trying to remember the exact length of time it’s been since he and I got back together, and during that time, my husband answered, “Fifteen years.”

I sat there thinking, Wow, has it really been that long? I haven’t lived in Oregon THAT long. Our daughter is fifteen and she was not born here.

But after some thinking more on this later – and checking the calendar – I realized that it’s actually been almost 10 years (it will be 10 years this summer). But did he know that? Or was he doing what some other people I know do, and that is acting like certain things NEVER HAPPENED. Not too long ago, when he and I celebrated our anniversary, the whole mention of the divorce that he and I went through got a whole “we do not speak of this” kinda treatment from some relatives. Like they wanted to pretend the divorce never happened.

Here’s my question: Why? It DID happen. I know it happened. I WAS THERE!

So, yes, the man I am married to now used to be a man I temporarily WAS NOT married to! Once upon a time, he and I were divorced. My daughter may not remember it (she told me later that she blocked it out) and maybe it’s not exactly a favorite topic of discussion with my husband’s family, but, yes, we WERE divorced once!

Why is mentioning it a bad thing? It’s not like mentioning it is gonna make it happen again!

But, maybe mentioning it only brings up bad memories or feelings of disappointment or whatever. Whatever!

But I’m not going to act like it never happened. It DID happen.

I’m just not the kind of person who likes to pretend bad things never happened. Uh, no. Bad things happen in life. THAT’S LIFE! That’s just the way it is. I’m not going to pretend I all of a sudden have amnesia and can’t remember any of them.

Especially this thing. I don’t want to forget this part of my past. I don't want to go back to being the person that I was then or even sometime before then. I want to stay the person THAT experience made me become. Sure, that experience meant struggling to feed my child when it was just her and me living by ourselves in a city where we didn’t know anyone. Those were some very trying, difficult and scary times. I was divorced for seven months, and it was HARD. It was damn hard. But you know what? I am glad I went through it, because it made me stronger. I hated it that I had to work two jobs and even THEN for lousy pay, but I was able to see just how much of myself I could count on to provide for me and my own when we didn’t have anyone else there for us. I was able to see that I WILL step up and do what I need to do to make sure my kid is fed and has what she needs.

I learned some really good lessons during that time of my life. I got to see who was there for us (and I mean you, Jimmy and Melissa!), and just how hard it is to be a single parent struggling to pay for everything, do everything and be everything for a child. I knew what it was like to deal with a child being hungry and only having a box of crackers in the cabinet and I knew what it was like to be afraid, DEAF, and the only person to keep myself and my child safe when there was some crazy person trying to break into the house or some bum at the window demanding we let him in. And because I was on food stamps, I know what that is like, too, and just how much a family RELIES on food stamps to feed themselves with. You know, I’m glad for it, because I have “been there, done that.” I have never since looked down at people who receive food stamps or felt they were just freeloaders looking for handouts, because I know the struggle they go through in trying to provide. And I’ve been more sympathetic to families on the street begging for money or food.

Oh, and, of course, I had SO MUCH FUN learning how to ride a city bus! (Or not, should I say. Ugh!)

So, you know, that is a part of my past that I kinda want to hold onto. I know it was a bad thing to happen and I know that some people got hurt, but that doesn’t mean that I want to erase it from my past. I don’t want to pretend that it never happened. And I certainly will not “erase from existence” the people who came into my life during that particular chapter (shout out to Jimmy, the Grynch guys, Heather, Kathleen, Nicole, Kim and all the folks at the Willamette Christian Center for helping us!). I can’t believe it has been almost 11 years since I walked into that courthouse that one summer and filed those papers. And it’s been nearly 10 years since that decision was overturned. I don’t regret going back to my husband, because my daughter is happier that her dad is in her life, I have a son now who is almost 10 because of it, and my husband now treats me A LOT better than before. Sure, it was hard at first, but we made it. You know? I think on some level, he realized that he shouldn’t take the marriage for granted.

Me? I don’t take ANYTHING or ANYONE for granted. I appreciate every single thing that has happened in my life – both the good things AND the bad things. I learned so many lessons from all the bad things that there’s no way I would ever pretend they never happened. They all taught me some VERY important lessons in life. And, they have made me stronger.

I still see some places from that part of the past – that little house that Jen and I lived in on West 11th when it was just me and her (and the Grynch guys living next door! And where that lady who often appeared on our lawn with her lawnmower just blissfully mowing away!); the house of the guy, Mark, who lived across the street who we often chatted with; the laundromat Jen and I walked to to wash our clothes; the church we went to; the White Bird clinic to get medical assistance; the bus station; the courthouse. And when I see those places, I remember those particular times from that part of my past.

Some of the people from my past are still in my life (like Jimmy and Tobby), and some of them are not. Some of them walked away, and some of them just disappeared.

I remember ALL of them. Every. Single. One.

I won’t erase them from my past, either. I am not going to pretend I never knew them or they never existed. They did exist, and some of them still exist in my life right now. They are all a part of that chapter in my past. Maybe some of them are still left there, in my past, but they’re not gone completely. They’re in my memories. They’re in my story. And this story is not going to get a rewrite.

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