Saturday, March 2, 2019

Long Time No See

I know. It’s been months since my last blog post, and shame on me. If it helps, a lot has been going on, and there’s been a lot of changes in my already complicated family.

I took a break from the blog over the summer to work on a book, kind of a memoir of a lot of the things I put in this blog, and a lot of more personal things that I don’t. Because I took a teaching position at a new school, my dream school, really, I had the entire summer off for the first time in almost two decades, and I decided to focus on a writing project as well as some volunteering and time with the kids. After some strict scheduling and solid effort, I got over 65,000 words into the project by the end of the summer, and continued making time for it throughout a rather busy year at a new school. The major problem I’m having with the book though is figuring out an ending.

For a memoir, that sounds like a really stupid thing to say. At the very least, I can say for sure that there’s one way I don’t want it to end, and that’s with the protagonist’s death. I’m trying really hard to keep it from becoming a high tragedy. Or a low tragedy or any tragedy, for that matter. But that’s the thing. As I’m writing about my life, life keeps coming at me. Fast. And if I’m honest with myself, the reason I stopped blogging is because I had to get my head wrapped around some of these changes before I could write about them.

Last year, towards the end of 2017, my seventeen year old daughter got a part time job, which happened to be on her mom’s side of town. She started asking to spend more time over there, which made some sense. It was close to school and close to work, so she could get from one to the other quickly, instead of wasting time that could be used for school work or sleep. Also, she had her own car, put her own gas in it (mostly), and was showing some independence. I agreed, even though it bothered me that I would be seeing her less and less. At least I saw her in school during the day, since she attended the private school where I taught.

Then in February of 2018, her mom called, which was a rare occurrence in itself, and asked if she could bring my daughter by the house. She had something to tell us. That something was that she had been keeping a boyfriend secret from me for almost a year, and that she was pregnant.

How much her mom knew about it and when were just two of the questions in the front of my mind, and I’ve dealt with them since, but in those first couple of weeks, it was mostly just shock and anger. I moved my daughter back in with my wife and I, put some stricter rules around her, and arranged a meeting with her boyfriend. Then I had a difficult talk with my principal at the private Christian school about what would happen to my daughter, and to me. Thank God, they showed such love and compassion, letting her finish out the year with nothing but support and healthy, loving rebuke. They made it clear that I was a valued teacher and welcome to stay on, that this development didn’t affect my standing there. One setback and one blessing.

This development was especially hard on my wife. We had been trying to have another child for the past two years, without success. We got pregnant twice, but then miscarried twice in the same year. Ultimately, I had to tell my wife that I just didn’t want to do this anymore, that I thought that we were pushing our luck in terms of our age, that we were just setting ourselves up for continued heartbreak. I’m still not sure she agreed with me, but she acquiesced. We went back to using contraception about as haphazardly as we always had, and when we didn’t get pregnant again, we threw away that away too and just settled into the idea that it wasn’t going to happen, and this was our life now. While that was still settling in and the loss was still healing over, now my wife has to watch her too-young and foolish stepdaughter go through the pregnancy that she had been wishing and praying for. Even to me, it felt like a cruel joke from God. I can only imagine what my wife didn’t tell me about how she felt about it during that time. Still, through all of her struggle with it, she showed my daughter love and kindness and forgiveness, helping her through her pregnancy every step of the way.

In the middle of all that chaos and tension, my son, my oldest, had a real falling out with my wife, his stepmom, and moved out. He was twenty years old, and we knew he would strike out one day, or move in with his mom, as it turned out, but we never thought it would happen on such ugly terms. It was a lot for me to take, having been so close with my kids for so long, when it was just us. I don’t think I communicated just how difficult it was to my wife at the time.

Soon after that, I decided to take time off the blog and concentrate on writing the memoir. At first it was difficult, digging up a lot of painful memories that I tell very few people about. But soon, it was more cathartic than painful. There was something about tracing the events that had led me this this year and all of this chaos that put a frame around it all, helped me to see it in a different way. Remembering all of the things that my kids had gone through while I was suffering through a failed marriage and betrayal actually gave me a lot more patience, and ultimately forgiveness. It took away all of the sting of believing that these decisions and sins had just surprised me out of nowhere, because they didn’t. It helped me to refocus on the fact that I would have to put more effort into rehabbing this family, just as much as I would have to hit the gym harder in order to rehab a broken leg.

And then things changed.

In April, a new school offered me a position, one that I had been trying to get into for years. It felt bittersweet to get my dream job, and not to be able to take my older daughter with me to finish her education there. But I decided that, while I forgave her and loved her, I just wouldn’t connect my career to her decisions again.

In early September, my granddaughter was born, and she’s beautiful. In a lot of ways, she’s made my daughter more responsible and brought her closer to Christ and the church. Jesus told us that whoever is forgiven much, loves much, and I’m watching that happen in my daughter’s life. She’s a beautiful five-month-old baby now, and she loves her Papa. We prayed and prayed for a baby to love, and God gave us one. Maybe it wasn’t the vision we had, but how mad can we be when God answers a prayer, in His own way?

Then in October, my wife starts feeling very convicted about reaching out to my son. He and I had made sure to spend time together with his sisters, but he hadn’t showed any interest in reconciling with his stepmom, so this was a real risk for her. She put in a ton of effort, going over it with a family counselor who had been helping her with some of her grief and anger, drafting and redrafting a letter until it was exactly the message and tone that she wanted to send, and then emailing him, with the invitation to respond when he was ready.

Pretty quickly, he responded with so much positivity and love that it was hard to believe that it was the same young man who had basically moved out in the middle of the night in a huff. He recognized that most of the problem was on his side, that he had been overwhelmed and stressed out and possibly a little depressed at the time, but that he had worked through those things and wanted to be a part of the whole family again. He said that he was sorry for the lost time and for forgetting all of the kindnesses that his stepmom had showed him over the years. He didn’t want to move back in, but just to make an effort to reconcile.

By Thanksgiving, the baby we thought would be the end of our daughter’s life turned out to be a blessing and so loved, the daughter that we thought was lost is more interested in the church than ever, and understanding her need for spiritual community, the son that we thought had closed himself off has returned to the fold again, with a whole new attitude and a much more mature and manly way of going about it, and I’ve got a new job in a ministry that’s both supporting me and challenging me to get closer to Christ than ever before.

And then in November, the biggest bombshell of all drops. After about a year of listening to my wife complain about symptoms of menopause, she’s got a surprise. We’re pregnant again. As I’m writing this, we’re over five months, going on ten, with nothing but positive checkups, and set to deliver in June.

So I’m still trying to find a place to end the story, at least for now. When I was twenty-five, the story was about getting married young, having my kids young, kicking them out of the house by the time I turn forty-five and enjoying my life.

Now I’m forty-five. Too young to be a grandfather, but here we are. Too old to be a new father, but here we are. And I’m enjoying my life. When I’m sixty-three, my youngest (for sure this time) daughter will be walking across a platform for graduation, God willing, with my granddaughter right after her, her brother and sister in attendance, both in their thirties. And God will have something else for me then, too. How He knows what to give and what to take away is beyond my understanding, and sometimes it makes me angry when He takes away, but this year has taught that if I wait long enough, and watch closely enough, it starts to come into focus.

1 comment:

  1. What a testimony! ... Thanks for sharing ��
    . Congratulations to you both!