This was quite a busy last couple of days...and a few days ago, I had a long drive by myself to reflect on all of it. I like reflecting, ruminating, taking time for deep thought. With no distractions and the steady sound of the radio, I had time to think deeply, to begin to plot a story.
I believe great things spring from boredom. It is only when our base needs are met that our brain allows us to be truly creative-
On Wednesday night, I began my drive down to Galena, Missouri to pick up my ex boyfriend's daughter so she could attend my son's aunt's wedding. Does this sound odd? I know it does. Have you all figured out the family tree yet?
Let me go back.
I dated Bryan for three years and he is the father of my oldest son, Cory. In the time we were dating, I was a teen, we were together from age 15- 18, he is three years older than me. We officially and permanently broke up when I was 18 and Cory was a couple months old. In the time we were dating, I became very close with his mother, and his sister, Sara was a little kid, nine when I met her- but even then it was easy to see she would become an extraordinary individual.
Over the years, I stayed close to his family, and it was more than just me taking Cory to visit his grandma and aunt. There has always been a real bond anyway. She's the mother in law I always wanted. When I was pregnant, she begged me not to marry her son because she knew he would really destroy me-
Anyway, the fact that Bryan and I never married did not stop us from being family- we just were. When Sara grew up and went to college for a while there, she and I were attending Webster at the same time. We took a Latin class together and had lunch a couple times a week. I cherish those times because we got to spend some really great time together- and I got to know this amazing person who really is very much like a little sister to me. When she asked me to be a bridesmaid, I was deeply honored.
At the engagement party, they were lamenting how to get Sara's niece, Chelsey up to St. Louis to be a part of the wedding and spontaneously I said, "I'll go pick her up."
Now, understand, this child is my son's half sister, and my ex boyfriend's child. I had never actally met her before but I had corresponded a little with her on my space (that is another story about how I found Bryan again after he was estranged from the family for eight years.)
So, I know this is weird- that all of us would be okay with this arrangement but I don't like living by other people's list of appropriate behaviors. Chelsey needed a ride- they wanted her there. I have a car. I took my twelve year old daughter with me so Chelsey (age 17) would have some company-
Galena, Missouri is a little over four hours away- I drove down on Wednesday night, dropped off my toddler in Cuba, MO with the babysitter and Marissa and I stayed at a Days Inn in Ozark, Missouri. I didn't really feel like trying to take the trip all in one day, I mean, sure it was possible but I had bridesmaid duties and shopping to do and I didn't want to exhaust myself with an all day trip on Thursday.
I picked up Chelsey around noon on Thursday and that girl just got right in the car and seemed immediately comfortable. It was a strange and wonderful bonding experience. By the time I dropped her off six hours later (we stopped for a late lunch and at the Vacuum Cleaner museum- other story)we were like old friends and I was ready to adopt her.
At one point, on the drive back, she said "If you had stayed with my dad, I could have been your fourth child." which just pulled at my heart strings. She's having huge issues and is estranged from her mother and that just brings out the maternal. I have a soft spot for girls who are a little lost without a mom.
I have to say, my ex hit the cool kid jackpot. He's such a pain in the ass, I have no idea how he pulled that one off.
In fact, the child I had with him who he subsequently abandoned- and while I love him dearly- was a huge challenge.
Drugs, rebellion, nasty temper, capable of violence. Just like his dad. Irony.
Bryan gets the straight A student who is endearing and charming and sweet?
The Universe is amused by its irony. Me- not so much. But Bryan has two boys to raise yet, I am sure he will have his own set of challenges.
So, okay, I'm over it and have for the most part forgiven Bryan for his trangressions against me. I have my moments of bitterness- being abandoned in the delivery room so he could continue to get drunk at the bar wasn't fun. Surviving being beaten up while pregnant with his child, not fun. But it made me strong. In fact, I wouldn't change the fact that he left me alone in the delivery room and ran away, I'm absurdly grateful that he was a coward.
I did not know my own strength and fortitude to go through that alone. For the first time, I knew my own strength, could feel it coursing through me. I was a survivor.
So- the day after the wedding, I drove back to Galena with Chelsey and I didn't take Marissa. I dropped off Chelsey with him- the first time I have seen him since Cory was a baby- I went and checked into my hotel and he dropped the kids off with Grandma and we met up at Ruby Tuesday for a drink. I had hot tea. He had a beer. Some things never change.
I invited him to that meeting. I felt some sort of need to bookend things. I need to forgive him and he needed something. I think the whole time he was thinking he was holding himself back from something romantic. It's not there. I feel no attraction for this man. I know a good deal of the things he says to me are bullshit exaggerations.
For him, I'm the one who got away. For me, he is a reminder of the life I escaped to fulfill my potential. He is a reflection of the way I survived my own foolish choices. I look at the way he is living and know absolutely that I would not live like that. I have no doubt I made the right decisions in the long run.
When he first pulled up in that white car with the two little boys in the back, and they got out of the car, he tenderly asked them if they wanted a treat from inside the gas station, and gave them each a dollar and sent them inside to pick out what they wanted- my heart hurt. I had never seen him be a father, and while my son waited and hoped and cried at night because he didn't know his dad, grew up without one and felt nothing but abandoned, no matter how I comforted him, I questioned my decision right then and there. I looked at Bryan and I felt like a knife slid into my stomach. I had no idea he was capable of being a parent. I could not breathe.
In a moment, I was back there when Cory was a year old, screaming when Bryan tried to come near him because he was a stranger to him. He hadn't bothered to see him in six months and Cory had no idea who he was and didn't want to come near him and didn't want him to touch him.
I called Bryan a few days after Cory's birthday and told him. "You have a decision to make. Your choice is this- quit drinking, quit drugging and be a father- show up twice a week minimum to be in his life. Clean up. Get a steady job, pay child support and spend time with him. Or go away, and stay away until I call you when he's ready. I'll give you a couple days to think about it."
But I knew he would choose drugs before I ever gave him the choice. I just gave Bryan a way out and I believed Cory would be better off without him, because with him promised a lot of pain and disappointment. When Bryan called me up a couple days later and blew up in my face and told me he was going away, I wasn't surprised. This was the first time I had ever questioned that decision was when I saw him with those boys- and I thought, did I deny my son a father?
Later on at Ruby Tuesday, Bryan started to tell me about the meth years, and the years when he was a drug dealer, his brief time in the porn industry. The times he went to jail- oh it went on and on. Just this year, he and his kids have moved four times and changed schools just as many times. This is what his kids had lived through with him in the home.
This is not a life I would have tolerated. This is not a life I would have let my son live. He went through some rough teen years but he came out whole on the other side because he had a better way to live modeled for him- in part- the other part, I just got lucky.
I took a huge sigh and knew it was okay. I knew I did the right thing. No regrets.