Friday, July 11, 2008

Unanswered Prayers Part 2

(Part 1 can be read here)

A few minutes later I was sitting alone on a pew in our church's sanctuary. I hadn't thought of Cathy in years. Why all of the sudden the day before Easter nearly seven years after our divorce did her name come out of my mouth? Long ago I had moved on with my life embracing the bachelorhood I missed out on by marrying at such a young age.

Several days later I talked with Mother Anne about what happened. In my mind it was quite obvious who I was supposed to be dealing with and it wasn't my ex-wife. She laughed at that remark. "God knows more about what you need to heal your heart than you do - otherwise you wouldn't have needed His help." So I asked her what do I do now? Anne replied, "I think you'll know when it's time."

I hung up the phone and looked at the crumbled sticky note. Cathy had given me the number at which she could be reached just in case I thought of a contractor. After jotting it down I almost threw it in the trash. Instead the memory of Holy Saturday began to burn brighter somewhere from the back of the storeroom in my brain. I picked the phone back up and nervously dialed the numbers. "Cathy...umm...what are you doing tonight?"

A few hours later I was pacing the floors of the home where she once had lived. I was probably more nervous that night than our first date in the summer of 1979. And since I hadn't laid eyes on her in over seven years I was just hoping that by some chance she'd look a little older or uglier or world worn...so unattractive that I'd be on my knees after she left thanking the good Lord He'd spared me from her hideousness.

The doorbell rung. I opened the door. Out of my mouth came the greeting while my arms extended a welcoming hug. In my mind the thought was, "shit - just thank you, God - she looks even better than I had remembered."

We grabbed a couple of beers and I showed her around the house. There had been some changes and she liked them for the most part. At least she said so. Our chit chat during the first hour brought us to the present. Family, friends, jobs, and relationships filled the first part of our conversation. She was living in Chicago by way of Dallas. Her big news was that she had recently discovered her birth mother, a search she had just begun about the time we split. And she was still involved with Mr. Marriage Breaker (you can tell I was really over things, can't you).

I told her about spending a couple of years in Jackyl and she even got a chance to laugh at my hair in the band photo. I told her how I sort of did exactly what my father wanted me to do after college which was fall in line and work in the family business. She told me how amazing my paintings were and how talented I was. I think I believed her.

Finally we reached one of those awkward silent moments when you're catching your breath knowing the conversation is about to shift. I remember the next moment like it happened an hour ago. We were both sitting face to face on the floor of our...my bonus room. This would be the moment the countdown began...five...four...three...

"Cathy, I have something I need to tell you. Honestly I didn't think I'd ever have this opportunity but here you are. I don't want this to sound condescending because this is for me - not you. It's just something that came out of counseling a while back. Cathy...I forgive you."

We have ignition.

She smiled and replied, "I forgive you too." Now that was not something I was prepared to hear.

Blastoff!

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

You can imagine the passion and emotion that erupted for the next hour. Her forgiving me? As Larry the Cable Guy would say, "Now that pissed me off right there, I don't care who you are." In my mind she should've still been wearing a big old scarlet "A" across her chest no matter how good her rack looked.

We weren't yelling or screaming but we weren't negotiating at the G8 Summit meeting either. After awhile the emotions finally wore us down. For the first time in probably...ever, we were actually listening to each other.

When we split I knew Cathy was unhappy (duh) but I didn't know how much I was making her unhappy. I had a direction in life. I had found an avenue in painting to make me excited about my future. And my selective memory didn't allow me to remember how many times I neglected our marriage in building my relationships within the art department at Furman.

It wasn't jealousy or envy either. Joan will tell you to this day that I am high maintenance. And I mean HIGH. The personality quirk that goes along with that is I'm a terrible listener. It's is something I have to work on everyday in every relationship I've ever had. My personality was overbearing for someone like me, just a kid wanting to find out who he or she was.

That's not to say she didn't recognize her part either. I mean she did have the affair. But I have to admit that her still being involved with the guy told me something.

By the time we were all smiles again it was time for her to leave. I walked her to the door. Just before walking to her car she turned around and said, "I wish we'd met later on in life - maybe a few years after school - like maybe now."

Before I could even think I replied, "I don't know, Cathy. If I met you for the first time right now I don't think I would like you very much." That was the first time I saw tears that night.

Way to go, Bennie. You still hadn't changed that much. Let's just twist that dagger again - one more for the road so to speak.

The Cross Roads

Having the benefit of hindsight I can truly say that summer evening almost 16 years ago was an important step for me. I didn't realize just how much I had been spinning my wheels since our marriage breakup. Within a few weeks I would have my first date with Joan. The eerie part is that on our second date I pretty much told Joan I knew we were going to get married. Maybe that's what Cathy saw in Matt - the guy she had the affair with and her future husband - a soul mate.

I have thought about Cathy occasionally over the past 16 years but had avoided trying to contact her. Through the grapevine I knew she had married and had a few kids. Beyond that I really didn't know...until a few days ago.

As I've said previously the internet is a great tool for getting in touch with old friends and neighbors. Even ex-spouses. She and I have been exchanging e-mails, catching up with each other's lives. What is amazing is learning how that summer meeting in 1992 must've been a turning point for her as well.

She and Matt married about a month before Joan and I. They have three handsome boys who were born in various parts of the world. I'm assuming because of Matt's job they have lived and traveled all over the globe. She has scuba-dived at The Great Barrier Reef, searched for The Northern Lights in Sweden, and visited King Tut's tomb. Essentially Cathy has the heart of an adventurer, something I never ever saw when we were married. And at the time I don't think Cathy knew it either.

Peace

I said something extremely rotten to Cathy the last time I saw her. Maybe it was true, maybe not. All I can say is that these days I like what I'm finding out about her, her family, and her path in life. It's just another example of how sometimes things seem out of our control and truly they are.

Those times hurt. They are extremely painful. And in the end we each have a choice. Will we let those hard times destroy us or will we rise above it and wait for the ultimate blessing? The second is the choice our family made when Ben was born. We have received blessing after blessing since.

In 1985 a marriage between two kids ended. From it, two fascinating journeys began. Eventually two amazing families were born. And that my friends is how true Love grows.

8 comments:

Gretchen said...

Awww, I'm SO glad you had that chance to meet and share forgiveness. Clearing the air, so to speak, is such a weight off. Again, thank you for sharing this story. I hope we all get a chance to reconcile with someone we need to.

Anonymous said...

As I have painted on many of those plaaques.....life is what happens while we make plans. Many choose to live there life based on what didn't happen or base their life on the bad that has happened to them......it is the special folks who live their life for what is happening now. You have got to see the colors and happiness in the day because many times they don't appear that same way again. As I watched you and Joan with Ben...you all do that- it is what makes both of you so wonderful!

Kyla said...

I'm so glad you guys have been able to reconcile and move passed the past. I think it helps everyone involved to collectively put the past to rest.

And just so you know, I was all of two when your first marriage ended. I am a baby. LOL.

bennie said...

Did you read that Cathy? Kyla said we were old.

BTW K, that makes yuo about the same age as Nurse Vicki. She picks on us all the time. If I mention something like Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album she asks if that's something MJ does to little boys? What's an album?

Carmi said...

There's something immensely comforting about obtaining closure. As I read these two entries, I found myself hanging on your every word, trying to relate each of them in some way to my own life's journey. We encounter so many people on this great adventure, and very rarely do these encounters and the relationships that they spawn go according to plan.

I know this must have been difficult to share. I'm glad you did, as you've opened my eyes today.

One more thing re. your visit to my blog earlier...

"I'm a little late for this week, Carmi but I'll be sure to return Wednesday and play along next time."

You can play anytime you wish. I need to check the wording of my instructions, because I think I'm giving the impression that there's a time limit on posting links. There isn't: whenever's good for you is good for me!

"Evidently we have a similar eclectic taste in photography."

Absolutely! Let the march of the contrarians continue :)

kimmyk said...

great post bennie!

it's good you got to see each other again and have closure. it would be nice if every relationship that ended sour could be reconciled years later with a happy ending.

i am just curious as to how joan feels about your re-newed friendship with your ex. i'm sure that was a hard pill to swallow.

bennie said...

Nope. Joan even suggested I e-mail Cathy to make sure she knew it wasn't going to be a bash-the-ex opportunity and that Part 2 was coming.

Joan actually exchanged some e-mails with her ex last year as well although I wouldn't exactly call that one a reconciliation. There is a huge difference between our exes. Mine had an affair with her soulmate. Joan's had an affair...one right after the other.

bennie said...

In fact now that I think about it the guy had affairs like the Energizer bunny...he just kept going and going and going...