Thursday, July 31, 2008

Define "Better"

*** PLEASE READ MY RECENT COMMENTS IN THE FEEDBACK SECTION OF THE PREVIOUS POST. ***
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It was a sight that no person should ever have to see, much less a child. But there she was, cowering in the corner and crying. She stared through her tears at the image of her mother's lifeless body with a needle still stuck in her arm.

A lady officer grabbed the girl by the hand and led her into the hallway of the apartment building. "I'm so sorry, Sweetheart. I am officer Kelly. Some nice people will be here in a minute to take care of you. In the meantime, you can stay out here with me."

The girl said nothing. Her tears continued to pour out of her eyes, but there was no audible sobbing.

A police sergeant approached Kelly from behind and ushered her away from the girl a few feet. "What have we got here?"

"Suicide by stupidity; it looks like an accidental overdose," reported the officer.

"What's the story with the girl?"

"The woman's six-year-old daughter. DFC will be here in a minute to take her. As bad as foster care can be, she will be better off. The mother was a known prostitute and drug addict. That girl didn't have a chance with a mother like that. At least now she may have a chance."

As Kelly turned to gesture toward the little girl, she only saw an empty hallway. "Where did she go?" She turned and ran down the hall searching for the child.

Six-year-old Sarah couldn't stay there any longer. She set out on her new quest. It wasn't long until her ordeal took a toll on her. Because of her physical and emotional exhaustion, she stopped to rest behind a dumpster in an alley a few blocks away from what was her home. Intending to only rest a minute, she succumbed to sleep.

It wasn't long until the whole neighborhood knew what happened to Sarah's mother. Sadly, scarcely no one gave Sarah a thought.

The sunlight reflecting off a window on a building that lined the alley woke up Sarah the next morning. She continued her search. Not far away, she saw a woman walking down the street disheveled and smelled of stale wine. "Have you seen my mother?" Sarah asked her.
"I heard about your mother. You need to go and be with your daddy," answered the prostitute. "Your momma is gone."

Sarah never knew her father. The term "daddy" was a foreign concept to her. "I don't have a daddy. Can you bring my mother back to me?"

"No I can't bring her back. I gotta get me some sleep. Run along. Go be someone else's problem."

With tears welling up in her eyes again, Sarah continued her quest. She went inside a small hole-in-the-wall store where her mother often bought cigarettes and talked to some of her "special men friends" as she would call them. She looked up at the man behind the counter. "My mother is gone. Can you bring her back?"

The man responded sharply, "No! No one can bring her back. Where are you supposed to be? You need to go find where you need to be!"

Sarah ran out of the store and down the street towards the park. There, she saw an elderly woman sitting on a bench feeding the birds. Sarah had seen her several times there before when she accompanied her mother there where she had "business."

"Do you know my mother?" she asked the woman.

"I knew OF her," answered the woman softly. "Who's taking care of you?"

"My mother is, but I have to find her. I need someone to bring her back to me. I don't think she knows the way anymore."

"Oh baby, your mother is gone. You come back to the house with me and I will call a friend that will help you," the woman said comfortingly.

As they walked, Sarah asked, "Will your friend be able to bring my mother back?"

"No Sweetie, but you will be able to go someplace better."

"Better? Better than my mom?"

With sympathy in her voice, the woman responded, "I saw how your mother treated you, baby. I have seen your bruises and they all didn't come from falling in the park. I saw her lead you around by your hair."

The little girl broke away from the hand that was holding hers. "But she is MY mother!" Sarah was now crying full force. "I don't want better; I want my mother! And if no one will bring her back, I am going where she is!"

Sarah ran away without looking back. She ignored or perhaps refused to hear the calls from the park lady. She only had one thing on her mind and that was to go be with her mother. The only way she knew how to do that was to follow her mother's footsteps. So, that is what she set out to do.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Speaking of yodeling. . .

I guess the airing of the marriage/divorce thing wasn't such a good idea. That is why they are gone now. Things take time to get over and I already knew that at some point I was going to have to "man up" about it. I guess hearing it from someone else was something I wasn't ready to deal with. It doesn't make the comments wrong, it is just a timing thing, I guess. I need time to work through things. However, that's okay and it is on me. If I don't' want specific feedback about something I write, I should not post it or at least disable the comment component of the post. So, I just decided to remove it. This shouldn't be interpreted as a hostile act or that I have hard feelings for anyone that has commented. That just isn't the case. I take full responsibility and all are welcome to read and comment on whatever I write about.

That being stated, it is a little difficult to write about much else right now. In life, we have ups and downs. The more sensitive types like me have a hard time thinking about other things when the power of the situation is still too new, or unresolved. So, I think about it. I write about it. Just not here, not now. Those of you that have been around here for a while may remember that I used to take time off from blogging when I was going through rough spots. That was an instinct I probably should have listened to this time.

How 'bout those presidential campaigns, eh?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Open Letter to God

Dear God,

As I am going through the trials of the ending of my marriage, I find it necessary to talk to you. I have told everyone that I am not mad at You. I have an understanding that You see the big picture. You know what is best and I must trust You.

However, I figured it out the other day that I AM angry with You. Sure, I know better, but there are just too many things I can't reconcile.

God, I dedicated my marriage to You. I gave 110% to that cause - all in Your name. I put my wife ahead of myself at every turn. I was never unfaithful. I never laid a hand on her. I don't even recall raising my voice to her. I made her concerns my concerns and my concerns unimportant. I did this for her, for the institution of marriage, and for YOU, God.

I know life has its disappointments and tragedies. I know that You promise that You will never leave nor forsake me through it all. But, why did this have to happen?

I know that my wife has free will and that is a big issue for You. I also know that we are in a fallen world. However, I trusted you. It isn't even MY will that is affected, Lord, it is YOURS. You hate divorce! You speak of forever and death do us part. Well, I did my part! You let some little girl ruin YOUR will and my faithfulness. Why? You are God, for cryin' out loud!

Jonah had free will. You wanted him to go to Ninevah and preach to the people there. Jonah ran in the other direction with his own free will. However, you sent a great fish to fetch him and deliver him to Ninevah. You can't influence one little girl? You can't send down an angel for counsel? Is my wife's will too tough for God? I just can't see it.

Yeah, I know. You know what suffering is all about. You sent your Son to die so people like me can be with you everlasting. He had You; He WAS You. All human and all God. He had the vision. He knew the plan - the necessity of it all and He felt the touch and love of the divine.

Now it is my turn to suffer. I am not You. I don't feel that love and comfort - not in the same magnitude. I can't see the plan. And I can't understand how You can tell me how much You hate divorce but watch me get taken down that path even as I am faithful.

No, God, I don't get it. I don't get it at all. Yet, I will continue to trust You. I will continue to obey the best I can. What choice do I have?

With painful devotion,

Jeff

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Worse than Death

The other night one of my sisters, Donna, took me out to dinner. She wanted to check on me and show her support which was nice. I am sure that this support stuff is easier on women than men. It is easy for a man to feel pathetic. No man wants anyone to ever think about him, "He better man up!" Men, generally, aren't allowed to hurt. But, I digress. Donna and I had a nice talk.

Donna hasn't had the easiest life. One marriage she had ended in her spouse cheating on her and subsequent divorce. When she finally found someone that treated her like she deserved, that husband died of cancer after only a few years of marriage. She has found another "good one" now. Amazingly, she has always been able to be joyous throughout all her ordeals. Oh sure she cried, but it never beat her. I have always admired that about her.

My sister is one of the few people in my life that knows how I feel. I was compelled to ask her, "What hurt the worse: the infidelity and divorce or the death of your husband?"

She didn't hesitate, "The divorce was MUCH worse. When a marriage ends in death, one has the comfort of knowing that the love and marriage was alive till the end. There is no control there. No one CHOSE to leave, it was just death. When someone goes through a divorce such as this, there is failure and someone CHOSE to betray and leave. It is MUCH tougher and makes the victim feel worthless."

Her words gave me comfort - even if for just a short while. SHE KNOWS! It is strange. When a spouse dies, everyone comes and comforts and is "there" for you. However, in a divorce one suffers and grieves alone - a hurt WORSE than losing the spouse to death. It just doesn't make sense.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Beyond the Point of No Return

She still looked beautiful there in bed. If it weren't for the straps holding her limbs, I would say things looked almost normal. That isn't the case, though. The straps are glaring along with sunkeness of her eyes and of course the wound on her neck. I dropped the object in my hand on the floor next to her bed and just stared at her - trying to find some kind meaning to it all. Looking to find a solution other than the one an emotionless mind would have determined some time ago.

It was just a short few days ago when I held her and tried to will her demons to stay away. "It is going to be alright," I would console. "I will not let it take you. I will not let it change us."

How empty those words feel today, yet I meant them with everything I had. I watched daily how her sweet way melted into something horrifying.

It was gradual at first. She would tell me she loved me and have me hold her. Then she would sink into her illness. The fever, and the red pupils would come and go. I tried to time the rhythm of it in order to maximize the time I had left with the "wife" that was slowly being strangled by the pure evil that is surely engulfing her.

It wasn't long till there was only glimpses of the angel that she used to be. Her voice would sink octaves and utter the most horrifying things. Still, she was my wife and I loved her. Should I stay, go, vanquish her, end my own misery or just set her free and let her take me. What is left to live for, anyway?

The struggle continued until there was nothing left of my wife there. The only sign that she ever lived there is when her exhausted body gave up consciousness. I can still see the shell that she lived in, but she is long gone.

I know now that those straps will not be able to contain her much longer. I needed to deal with this fact before all of it is completely out of my hands.

As I walked slowly toward her, her eyes opened and she gently mustered, "Free my arms so I can hold you one last time." I reached with my left hand across her body towards the strap restraining her left hand. With my right hand, I gripped the wooden shaft that I dropped on the floor beside her bed a little earlier. A week ago, it was a support in the garden. Today, it set two souls free.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Can't Get Too Far Away

It's been a few days since I posted. My mind has been entirely occupied with things that I don't want it to be occupied with. As I sit here today, looking at this blank blog page, I have decided to list a few things that pop into my mind.

* I don't know what to do with the blog for now. I don't want to blog about what I am consumed with. I hate a pity party. I loathe self-pity. Still, there it is.

* Feeling betrayed is the worst thing I have ever felt.

* I am trying to make sense of being punished for merely being on the receiving end of the betrayal. My wife is cold to me and shows no sign of regret.

* I found in the trash can a book of poems I made for my wife. It was a time consuming process where I hand bound it. It contained all original poems that I had written - many were just for her. I remember the look on her face when I gave it to her. She couldn't put it down. She had no trouble putting it down into the trash, though.

* This post isn't working out so great. Yep, I still feel sorry for myself and it is quite apparent to anyone who is reading this. That isn't what I want. Maybe I will try again in a few days.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Birthday Blues

Guess who's birthday it is today? Think I feel much like celebrating? My life feels like it is a bad serial in the comic book pages. You know, the ones where you have to read little tidbits everyday to find out what drama happens in the lives of two-dimensional, black-and-white characters. That is how I feel today especially - flat, colorless, and quickly yesterday's news. Yes, I hate feeling sorry for myself and if I had one more ounce of strength, I would have realized this more fully and not have written anything at all. But I don't and apathy has set in as far as what anyone thinks of me today - well almost.

Summer, particularly around my birthday, hasn't had the best track record for me. For one thing, my father died on my birthday when I was 18. I had just graduated high school and was preparing to go away to college when he succumbed to cancer. He died at 12:06 a.m. on July 19. My birthday is the 18th.

My family said that somehow he knew and was holding on and did not want to die on my
birthday so he held out as long as he could. I guess he made it. After the calendar struck 19, he slipped away. I remember getting the call. I wasn't at the hospital, I had just left for the evening. I didn't have to hear the news, all I needed to hear was the sobbing from my sister. I knew. I expected it, yet I didn't. I hadn't gone to bed, hadn't slept, so it still felt like it was my birthday. However, there is some comfort in believing that he held out for me - whether it is actually true or not. God surely had His hand in it, though.

Another birthday disaster was one of my best friends told me that she wanted no more to do with me. That has been too many years to mention, but it still haunts me. There really wasn't much of reason for it, it was just something that someone told her to do. It was on my birthday and I had a few people in the office where I worked in there at the time I read her note. My co-workers were there with cake and punch while my heart was breaking. I had to work 13 hours that birthday. Yet, I kept on a smile through the whole thing - secretly wanting them to leave me alone.

Still another bad birthday was when I was having a bad time generally, like this year. I felt insignificant and turned to my girlfriend at the time for comfort. Her family had just left the area because her dad got a new job in another state. Well, to deal with my neurosis, she told me how significant I was to her. She said that I was the only reason she was still there. Otherwise, she would have left with her family. That kind of snapped me out of it.

Why is that a bad memory you ask? It was only a short time later that she left me for some guy she met on the internet. Now the memory of her life-infusing speech on my birthday just mocks me as I try to get past yet another one.

Some of you were here when I wrote about the birthday I spent standing in a hospital room wondering if my mother was going to make it. You can read about that one here.

However, of all the bad birthdays, this one takes the (birthday) cake. It starts out with my wife going out of town, spending the weekend with another man, and ends with me contemplating the unrealized goals that make my birthday even harder to bear as I get
farther away from my actual date of birth and longer in the teeth.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Endings . . .

Rest In Peace: John Davis and Caroline Faye

Today I said goodbye to my son and daughter.

John Davis, our first born, was named after my wife's father. To avoid the confusion, we called him "Jack". Secretly, we just liked how it sounded. Th
e connection with her father was just another sign that we picked the right name. Jack was a little mischievous, but he was precocious and very inquisitive. He loved animals, sports, and his daddy. You would always find a baseball cap on his head, but it was never on straight.

In the evening, after I returned home from work Jack and I liked to sit outside and watch the birds eating from our smorgasbord of feeders. "That's a cardinal, Daddy," he would say. The little guy was great at memorizing bird n
ames, although he did have trouble distinguishing the difference between a sparrow and a wren - but who doesn't?

Jack's big brown eyes signaled to the world that he was his daddy's son. His little hands always gripped a ball or a book. We always found him occupied with something. He was good kid. I hate the years starting now that are robbing me of his ascent into manhood. I miss you, Jack.


Caroline had her mother's curls. She loved ribbons and her big brother. She liked to help her mother cook, but loved to hear her daddy tell her a story - usually about a little girl named "Caroline". She was very sentimental and had a beautiful heart to match her face. When a spider would show up in the house uninvited, she would insist on me catching it and setting it free outside as opposed to me just killing it. I asked her if she liked spiders, but she said, "No! They are yucky! But they don't deserve to die just because I don't like them."

Caroline had beautiful blue eyes that melted everyone when she looked their way. She never realized what those eyes could do to me, but I knew what they would do to the boys that would line up for a date years down the road. Too bad I never had the opportunity to keep them away.

One of her favorite places to be was buried into my side on the recliner as I read stories to her and her brother. When I would move my arm to turn a page or take a drink, she pouted in her little way until she could move my arm back around her.

My baby girl couldn't go to sleep until I tucked her in and sang the chorus of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" to her. She would close her eyes pretending to fall asleep quickly, but her smile gave her away. I would play along and tip-toe towards the door, but she always whispered softly, "I love you, Daddy," as if she was saying it in her sleep.

My kids are gone now. They never had a chance. We never had a chance to welcome them into our family. Their mother left for the weekend and came back someone else. She officially left the marriage today. She took with her both of our children although the first one was probably still a year or so away. Still, as you can see, they were very real to me.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

It's Reggie Time!

In honor of the Fourth of July Weekend, I yield my blog today to Reg Henry. He is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Disapatch. He has an interesting take on 2nd Amendment (right to bear arms) and fireworks for Independence Day. He is a humorous guy that I have featured on my blog before. Enjoy!

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Why Fireworks are a Constitutional Right

By Reg Henry

With patriotism at high ebb around the Fourth of July, and the Second Amendment with perfect timing having been confirmed as an individual right to own guns, I believe it is the hour when we the people must assert our ancient right to keep and bear fireworks.

It makes no sense to me that Americans can have all sorts of guns, which they can use to shoot unsuspecting deer and suspecting burglars, yet many of them cannot let off an honest Roman candle or eardrum-assaulting firecracker as a sign of their American exuberance.

As if connected to their history by a long burning fuse, the American people have always loved to blow things up (just ask anyone in Iraq). The history of this continent can be considered as a series of detonations.

What is the first tune a child hears? Yes, "The Star-Spangled Banner," with the words that thrill the American soul: "The rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air."

Some may quibble that this refers to artillery but that misses the point. Clearly, Francis Scott Key was much impressed with the pyrotechnic aspects of the spectacle and would have surely asked his British captors to play the 1812 Overture as an accompaniment if only Tchaikovsky had been born. As it was, some historians believe he called for a folding chair and a few beers.

Yet what have we come to in the land of the free and the home of the brave? Thanks to a web of restrictive state and municipal laws, some of us can only salute our freedom with a sparkler in our hand. Did Patrick Henry (no relation) say: "Give me liberty or give me a sparkler"? He did not, which is why I believe now is the time to shoot a rocket up the rear quarters of the frowning establishment who would protect us from our own considerable folly.

Oh, yes, firecrackers are dangerous all right. Any idiot can blow his fingers off -- and many idiots do. But many idiots also shoot themselves or others, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not, because they are idiots. Thanks to the Supreme Court, their idiocy is of a superior nature now because it is rooted in the exercising of an individual constitutional right. If only fireworks lovers could reach the constitutional skies with their bottle rockets!

Those who would keep and bear fireworks are being discriminated against. It is dreadfully unfair that young people should have to put a whiff of eau de gunpowder behind their ears to make themselves attractive in the hopes of marrying into the famous Zambelli fireworks family just so they can have the thrill of singeing their eyebrows.

It is absurd that laws in some places restrict fireworks sales for in-state residents but not visitors. People in Pennsylvania, for example, should not have to pretend to be from Ohio -- donning Cleveland Browns jerseys and assuming the familiar hang-dog look -- just to buy something combustible.

But this being America, a remedy is at hand. We can sue. Hurrah for us! Other benighted peoples do not have access to so many attorneys.

Better still, the Supreme Court stands ready to find a new individual right with some nifty reasoning that explains away any pesky words to the contrary, such as "well-regulated" and "militia," as it did in the historic Second Amendment case from Washington, D.C., last month.

Those particular words don't mean a darn thing now, because Justice Antonin Scalia said so in his majority opinion -- and never mind what the people of the District of Columbia wanted. (Kiddies, can you say: "Activist judge"?)

Why, James Madison, the amendment's author, would have been better off deleting them in the first place. He should have written something about fireworks while the ink was still on his quill.

Not to worry. If Justice Scalia and his fun-loving colleagues on the bench can discard as irrelevant some words in an amendment, they can certainly find new meanings in words already at hand elsewhere in the Bill of Rights.

I refer your attention to the Ninth Amendment, henceforth to be known as the Firecracker Amendment: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

Given the rolling thunderclaps of firecrackers since colonial times, this right of the people to blow up themselves and various mailboxes cannot be denied.

A firework in a tube is not so functionally different than what the founders called a musket. If the court recognizes this, I believe we can add another verse to our national anthem: "Boom, boom, out goes the light (of common sense)."