My husband, Spousal Unit 2.0, is one hell of an upgrade. Richard is a quietly driven person with some strong values and an outstanding work ethic. He is also very nearly painfully modest and is going to blush seven shades of magenta knowing he’s my writing subject today.
Get over it babe.
I was a few years out of The Great and Terrible Marriage. Every couple has their problems. You iron them out when you can. But when the wrinkle in question is discovering your spouse has very successfully hidden a serious mental illness from the public for a very long time- and when you make this discovery in the middle of a psychotic break where YOU are the Enemy and must be destroyed by any means possible, there isn’t much you can do. I tried. I grew up Catholic and the guilt instilled from a very young age is a powerful force; you made a vow, you keep it, no matter what. Even when your partner doesn’t want help. Even when he stops taking his medications. Even when he has repetitive crises and does some extremely frightening things. And so many people tell you, “Leave. Just go” but how can they possibly understand? You have a child together. You made a commitment for better or worse. You should make this better.
You can’t. And when The Big Snap comes and you almost lose your life during it, as scary as striking out on your own and accepting the stigma from friends and family who tell you its your duty to stay can be, it has to be done.
I spent a considerable amount of time moving frequently to avoid him. Jumping at bumps in the night. It took me a lot of effort to realize I deserved to be safe. And happy. Don’t ask me to explain why that’s a difficult concept to understand. I’m still not sure I get the hows and whys myself.
Fast forward to making myself available again. One of the hardest things about getting “back out there” was allowing anyone to get close, emotionally or physically. I would get scared. I’d bolt. I fell back on that lame excuse “it’s not you it’s me….” It was easier than saying I couldn’t handle someone leaning in to kiss me without being scared to death of suffocating.
Richard was different right from the start. I felt a level of comfort around him I hadn’t in more years than I wanted to count. First dates were public events. Out in the open, where I felt safer. And though most guys are pushing for intimacy sooner than I knew I’d be ready, he took 45 minutes to even kiss me goodnight. For once, it wasn’t scary.
When I finally let him come to my home for dinner (we had plans to go out but decided to stay in) he fell asleep against me watching a movie. I didn’t have the heart to wake him. I laid there all night, just watching him breathe with an arm wrapped around me. I had to eventually get him up so he could travel the hour plus home and get ready for work. He was a little embarrassed and texted me later in the day to apologize. Like I said- different from minute one.
We continued seeing one another, and the relationship blossomed at a rate that sometimes I wasn’t sure I could handle. It was time to introduce him to my daughter. When you’re a parent, the dating issue is much larger than just you. Richard took everything in stride. As he said once in a discussion on the dating scene, “I only date single moms- the married ones are too complicated”. Yeah, ten thousand comedians outta work and I get this one 🙂 …..
Bri wasn’t sure what to think at first. An expected reaction. Richard brought Keisha, his senior mixed breed dog (we called her a Sibaskan Huskamute if anyone asked). That helped break the ice between them; Bri loves all animals. He talked to her like a real person. He was patient with some of the challenges a child like her presented. Eventually it was clear to us both that this was going to be permanent and Bri accepted this- but until the day we married, she wouldn’t call him Dad. Since then, she’s never called him anything else.
He didn’t have to take on the title. And yet he did, with all the accompanying duties and responsibilities that followed. He put her up in front of him on the bike to show her what it was like. He carefully chose which magnets to use on the fridge to display her art. He held a funeral- complete with grave digging services and a eulogy – for a stuffed animal. You read that right. Bri is very rule bound and set in schedules, order and routines. Every stuffed animal she had not only had a name, but a backstory. And one day, shortly after the not unexpected but still heavily mourned loss of Keisha, she walked into the room, quietly crying, and announced a terrible thing had happened- Gloria was dead. Gloria, a stuffed hippopotamus, apparently contracted a fast acting and fatal disease and was lost before Mom could perform any stuffie saving first aid.
Richard didn’t crack a smile. He didn’t wave her off. He didn’t say this was stupid. He hugged her and when she expressed a desire to bury her friend, he retrieved a shovel and got to work. Complete with a solemn prayer for her journey to wherever she was going.
After that he continued to do the day to day things that the job required. He helped with homework. He kissed skinned knees. He taught her to ride a bike and took her for trips around the neighborhood. They carved pumpkins at Halloween and made salt dough ornaments at Christmas and conspired together on my birthday to get me a gift in secret. They sneak out for fast food when I’m not around and make sure to get rid of the cardboard ice cream containers before I get home to hide the evidence. Now that she is a teenager and she and I have our inevitable head butting sessions with one another, he’s the referee and translates mom-speak to teen brain. I’m fairly certain it requires the use of a Rosetta Stone.
Any guy can be a friend. A lover. Even a husband. But it takes an incredible man to pick up the mantle of “Daddy” and all it entails. This is not a position for the weak of spirit or faint of heart, and woe betide the first youngster to show up on our doorstep to ask her out. That’s HIS little girl. Their bond wasn’t forged in blood but in something deeper. They chose one another.
He didn’t need to take the job but I am thankful and blessed, every day, that he did and that his qualifications were beyond compare.