The Husbands

They are an unexpected bonus.

Their wives, on the other hand, were a given.

I knew the minute we met, a thousand years ago as college freshman, that our friendship was forever. I don’t believe, at the time, I thought about how the men they would marry would participate in our story as well.

And now, fresh off a fortieth birthday celebration weekend in Florida with these ladies, I find myself reflecting on the unexpected gifts of our friendship- those men who love them.

I looked back through my library to find their photos. Not at all surprisingly there weren’t many pictures. Not because they aren’t present at our gatherings; but rather, because they are often the ones behind the camera, off wrangling toddlers or fixing worms to hooks on fishing poles.

These men are a constant presence.

The girls refer to them as their uncles.

Among the first to hold them upon their births;

participants in birthday parties, thanksgiving dinners, spring break adventures and the yearly Labor Day weekend reunion.

They’ve rough housed, fixed bike tires and encouraged silly behavior that their Momma would have never allowed.

The gifts extend beyond their influence on my girls.

I’ve sought their counsel on topics ranging from financial planning to the purchasing of new computers.

They’ve served as my cheerleaders, my running partners and my changer of light bulbs.

Most importantly they’ve encouraged and nurtured the friendship I share with their wives, never questioning my place in the lexicon of their family.

Thanks boys for loving your wives the way you do,

for being the incredible dads you are and

for being my friend.

I’m glad I’m on this journey with you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Declaration

“This,” said Reepicheep “is where I go on alone.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The envelope arrived thirty-six months after the civil courts had declared our marriage over.

The contents when read told me of another type of ending.

Fingers hover over the keypad now as I hesitate to type the words.

So much of this life I share, yet certain pieces find comfort, alone, in the quiet confines of the heart.

The journey that brought me the letter from the Catholic Diocese, didn’t go unsupported.

A small team of prayer warriors leant their words to the examination of how my love story began. They relived times long since forgotten.

I am forever grateful for their contributions. Their adjectives painted a picture of a young women I needed to recall.

Gratitude extends as well to the man whose life I shared, as he willingly participated, one more time, in our ending.

Declaration of Nullity.

It doesn’t mean the union never existed.

It doesn’t mean those girls weren’t born of love.

What was missing there can now be found in his time, not mine.

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Twenty years removed from the start of the story, a final gift,  forgiveness.

And in this we find our joy.

http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/annulment/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tradition

It was that time.

Our yearly trek to the Christmas tree farm.

Determined this year to find the biggest one that these 4 sets of hands could cut down and haul back to the barn unassisted.

We hadn’t quite found a way to make it out earlier in the month when the weather was hovering in the low 50’s.

Instead, we managed to pick a 21 degree morning to put on our boots, pick up our saw and head out in search of holiday perfection.

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There was a pep talk first, which when looking at the picture makes one believe it was much more of the “stern warning” variety then the uplifting kind.

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Consensus was reached 20 minutes into our adventure;

after of course they all made their case for a tree they had “discovered”.

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Ultimately we did the happy dance when we found this guy.

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Then my phone died and with it the chance to document Momma on her side chopping down nine and a half feet of white pine goodness.

We warmed up with some pizza from our favorite pizza shop that’s right around the corner from the tree farm, then headed home to put her up.

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This year all 5’8 of Sid proved to be particularly helpful.

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She was the untangler of lights and Ellery Jane’s own personal ladder.

Audrey our comedic relief when Momma got frustrated with setback.

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Sometime around 4pm we stepped back to marvel at our doing.

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We’d done it again, together, our tradition.

Making memories, my team, my family.

 

 

 

This Joy

I heard his words.

This day, in this wooden pew, in this church in Cincinnati, Ohio, I listened.

As the priest told us how joy is not a state of mind but a condition we choose to live in;

a grace given by the father, all to often left unopened,

I nodded my head in agreement.

Looking to my right and left at the faces of those I cherished most in this world, I understood.

We do hard things.

We wrestle challenge.

But, each day, we make a choice to live in the grace he has provided.

The pain and the joy partners on this path.

“Momma are you crying”, she whispered in my ear.

“No tears today”, I whispered back;

just JOY.

from The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis:

 

Special

You’re not married because of us Momma.

The night was drawing in when she spoke the words with a chuckle.

Some days she’s my twelve year old and others she still the 6 year old wanting me to kiss the boo-boo on her finger.

You’re not married because three girls is a lot Momma.

Why can’t this cocoon I have wrapped us in shelter my children from the language of the world?

The pause was long while I waited for the words to come.

I told her of how our hearts were broken after the divorce;

of how important it was to heal and protect them until the time was right for someone to enter in.

I told her of my belief that our God would pick just the right partner, friend and mentor to join our family when he felt the time was right.

I looked into those blue eyes and spoke of how special she was and whether I married or remained single it had nothing to do with her and everything to do with God’s plan.

I reminded her of our community, knitted together of friends and family. A community of people who live around the block and half way around the country and choose to participate in our lives simply because they want to be near her radiant light.

And then as I always do before bed, I kissed her forehead five times. Snuggled in tight, with the smell of her freshly washed hair on my pillow, I promised myself I would begin each day with a whisper in her ear, you are special.

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Waking up

Three years gone.

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I mark these anniversaries not out of sadness or out of celebration.

I mark them because it shouldn’t be forgotten.

I should remember where I was.

The young woman I left behind,

her fears and her failings.

I wasn’t escaping her, just growing into her next version.

If it hadn’t happened,

if the thread hadn’t been pulled on fourteen years of marriage,

I wouldn’t be here now.

I wouldn’t be the mom, the friend, the woman, I am today.

So today is marked, looking back with respect for the process that brought me here.

I thank God for the gifts of this journey.

I thank God for the gift of this life.

Happiness

Somewhere along the way I found it easier to write about the pain then to document the joy.

Pen to paper, words poured out in sadness.

An instant relief in the acknowledgement of the agony.

But, what am I to do when days of joy fall swiftly one after the other?

I’m not chasing the stages of grief. If I say it out loud will I jinx it?

You should know I am happy.

I make plans for my girls.

I dream about the man I love.

And, I am in awe of the life I’m living.

The words now typed I will trust.

Regardless of what happens next, today’s joy will always be mine.

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My Tribe

We can do almost all of it.

Dinners, homework, carpools, trips across the country or to the grocery, the four of us have got it down.

We are a team. It often makes me feel unstoppable.

That is, until I find us one night on the side of the highway, only corn fields to be seen for miles, a tire blown by debris in the road and me as the leader of this pack unable to do anything. Chicago bound, I am now trapped with an immovable car and a setting sun, on the outskirts of middle America.

As I direct children to exit the vehicle and realize that the roadside assistance I pay for each year is not going to get the job done, I begin to feel very alone.

And in that moment of panic I glance at my 11-year-old texting.

I spit out the question, what does she think she is doing right now, can’t she see we are in quite the bind?

The response stops me in my tracks, immediately ends my downward spiral.

“Momma, I am asking my friends to pray for us”.

As teammates often do they lift one another in their moments of weakness.

I am still the momma, the one responsible for bringing us out of this mess, but my beautiful, thoughtful, spiritual daughter is really the one who will change the course of that evening.

Good Samaritans arrive by the carload and then the highway patrol.

Within an hour they have us back on the road with instructions to drive two exits down stay overnight at the Marriott and then hit the Wal-Mart Supercenter when it opens at 7 am for a new tire as that spare donut will not get us to Chicago.

Ellery laughs at the baby tire.

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We find our way to Van Wert and find the hotel pool which wipes away the remaining concerns.

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Audrey decides that before bed we must pray for those who lifted us from the side of the road and instructs me that I am to find a way to pay it forward to others.

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The next morning we awake and find two tires, marked down just the day before, and a grandfatherly gentleman able to put them on for us. In what feels like seconds we are back on the highway heading west and the incident is just a minor pothole on the way to perfect weekend.

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I am once again reminded that I am not alone. My tribe and I are in this together.

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Forward

The beauty in parenthood is how it forces you to keep marching forward.

As much as a heartbroken women would love to curl up in bed, watch sappy movies and eat an entire dish of brownies, as a Momma there isn’t time.

No opportunity to wallow in grief. A good cry in the closet and off we go as there is mattress sledding on the stairs,

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popcorn parties in bed,

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and birthday’s to celebrate.

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The opportunity given, a chance for a front row seat; watching their Momma dust herself off, move forward and live life fully.

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Steak

I’m not a big meat eater. Best guess is at least three years since a steak last grazed my lips.

Sometime around Mother’s Day this year I got a hankering for one on the grill.

I’ve never grilled.

I don’t own a grill.

So when my Momma asked me what I wanted to do for my 39th birthday and I replied, I just want someone to grill me a steak, I expected she would make that happen.

I should know by now that’s not how she works.

A few days after my desires were made known she walked into my house clutching this-

grill

She found it for me.

She wanted me to read up.

She was very excited for me to learn how to grill my own birthday steak.

And that, right there, is why my Momma is so special.

The whispers in my ear as a little girl now transformed into gentle nudging’s; reminders from her that if I want something, I have to go after it.

Make it happen for yourself Heather.

Life’s too short.