Doug’s Canadian mistress is coming back to my Southern town this weekend

The Book Groupie, aka Doug’s mistress, is coming back to my town this weekend.

Her travel is paid for as part of a grant she won, when he was still alive.

The first stage of the grant brought her here from 2700 miles away and I certainly could have lived without that stress!

The facility I now direct houses a historical archive of the publishing event person that was Doug’s friend. The mistress was a huge fan of publishing event subject, which is how she met Doug.

She and Doug planned to use our mutual friend’s home as a place to be together under the nose of his unsuspecting wife, but his condition worsened and he was lifeflighted to another larger city while she was forced to remain in classes at a nearby university to fulfill the requirements of the grant.

Our mutual friend lives near my office and the mistress stayed with Mutual Friend for a few days.

I prayed and fasted over that situation and begged God, “Lord, please, I absolutely can’t deal with this. Please protect me and make it so that I never have to see the mistress.”

At the time, I didn’t think that was even possible. I thought I was foolish for even asking God for that favor.

But she never came to my facility.

Yes, I had three days of hell and panic every time the door opened. But she never once darkened the door.

And now she’s coming back.

I feel different this time.

Doug repaired our friendship and did so many things to ensure that we reconciled before he died.

I was with him once twice a week in the two months before he died, and spent Wednesday evening with him and his wife Julie, before he died Friday morning.

I was the one who delivered Doug’s last message to her. I was the one who called her when he died.

And now?

Now I’m the one who is aching to see her face to face.

I can’t even explain it and I don’t understand stand it, but I want to see her.

I want to comfort her. And I want her to comfort me. I want to cry with her, about Doug.

She is the only person in this world who could ever understand my grief over Doug’s death.

She is also the only person in this world who can understand the depth of my guilt.

And I want to see her. I just don’t know how to ask.

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He still misses her

I know that he still misses her, because he called me by her name yesterday.

When he walked in, (for the first time since December,) he said, “Hi mom, uh, uh, I mean, ‘hey Miss Angel!'”

Tears instantly sprang to my eyes while at the same time I was exclaiming with overwhelming joy, “Josh, you’re back!”

(His school schedule keeps him very busy.)

Josh flushed red so I knew he realized he’d called me mom. I pretend not to notice and flew around my desk to gather him into my arms.

It was a funny sight, me needing to stand on top-toes, even in heels, just to hug his neck, and him burying his head on my shoulder for a moment.

He was already tall, and as teen boys are want to do, he’d just kept growing.

When Josh and I first met, in May of 2018, he called me mom frequently. It was most often just a slip of the tongue, like when you have several kids whose first names start with the same letter.

(His mother was killed in a car accident near the end of 2017 and he’d come to our town to live with his grandmother.)

Some days, he’d call me mom and be completely spaced out, reliving a moment from the past.

There was one really hard day he tried to call her over and over again. That was the day I learned the true meaning of “tears falling like rain.”

Both of us.

Josh became my summer volunteer in 2018. I was very new to the career and the small town and I made a lot of mistakes, some I’m still paying for.

Josh was not one of those mistakes.

From the vantage point of almost a year, I can see that the summer I spent mothering him was not wasted time. Not because I did anything great, I didn’t. Josh just needed a place to be for a while.

Josh spent the day with me Wednesday. He had lots of new drawings for me to copy into his portfolio and lots of life updates to share.

Later in the day the facility traffic picked up and the noise made him nervous. (He’s high-functioning autistic.)

“Let’s walk outside buddy, I need to stretch my legs.”

We circled the building while Josh talked. My heart was so full, hearing about everything in his life, seeing how he’s growing up and becoming more sure-footed, less afraid.

“I have to tell you something Miss Angel, and don’t tell Grandmother.”

I sighed.

“Josh, if it’s illegal or about suicide talk, don’t tell me, because you know I’ll have to tell her.”

He laughed.

“Miss Angel, I never ever think about that anymore! No, this is a good thing. My dad got a good job and him and his wife got custody of Patrick.”

Patrick is his twelve year old stepbrother.

“When school’s out I’m going to move back with Dad and Megan so I can help Patrick get used to being back in North Carolina.”

(The stepmother lost custody of Patrick when he was about 8 because of a drug conviction.)

“Miss Angel, I want to give my dad another chance. And I just love that little fella, Patrick. He’s in my heart. I know he needs me.”

At that moment, God gave me a glimpse of the young man that Josh was growing into. I was as proud of him as I would have been my own child.

“And Miss Angel, I miss being in a family.”

I took of my sunglasses as we headed back in the building.

“She’s going to be proud of you buddy.”

His grandmother Katherine was waiting in my office, her face beaming.

“Josh, your dad called. He says y’all talked about it and you’re moving back back home. I’m so proud of you both!”

I quietly closed my office door and left the two of them in a tearful embrace.

Happy tears, but I could see the memory of pain on both their faces.

Because Josh still misses her.

He always will.

Will the circle be unbroken?

Adam called me tonight and his voice seemed heavier, older.

As if now he is the father and I am the child.

He has grown up so much this past year, and indeed he’s taken this role more often than not.

(When he takes a role at all that is.)

Angel, It seems as if the circle is closing.

Which circle? You and I?

Yes.”

Closing as in ending?

Yes.”

Don’t say that.

“I know you are crying. Don’t have those tears in your eyes.”

I don’t.

You do, I know you do.”

Yes. Ok, I do.

It’s just that I feel like a different person from a year ago. I don’t even recognize me, as her.

That’s because you are different, you’re not her anymore.”

Thank you for helping me, for all that you did. But I don’t want our friendship to be over.

Stop crying. I meant that the circle of the year, and the events that caused our paths to cross, that circle is closing.”

He says this I realize, because I messaged him that Doug called and asked me to come see him this afternoon.

I told him that Doug can no longer stand. He just wanted me to sit by his bed and tell him funny work stories.

I took food, cake, fudge, just treats I knew they’d love, including Starbucks.

Dinner, so Doug’s wife could have a break.

She asked me to help with Doug’s birthday party. Of course I will. I’m good at being a background utility player.

Adam, I say, I’m so thankful to God that nothing happened between Doug and I. That I can walk in his house without shame. That I can sincerely love his wife.

Adam, I’ll call you back in a few minutes, I need to pay for this can-opener.

That’s fine.

Except I don’t call him right back. I go into another store to buy him some Band-Aids to drop in the mail. Adam cut his finger on a can and I’m worried that he doesn’t have bandages.

I gather myself and stop crying as well.

I made it to the car and reached for my phone. I stare at the number. But I can’t make myself call him.

In the past eleven months, I’ve never called Adam.

I’ve always thought that I should be there for him if he needs me, (and I am), but I should never call him.

So I never have.

I closed the phone option and message instead.

Adam, call me if you want. I’m finished at the store.

Angel, I want to take a little break. We might need to push it to tomorrow.

Okay buddy, no problem. TTYL.

The circle indeed closes.

Angel

So I close my eyes softly,
’till I become that part of the wind
That we all long for sometime.

And to those that I love, like a ghost through a fog
Like a charmed hour and a haunted song
And the angel, angel of my dreams

Angel of my dreams

I still look up
I try hard not to look up, yeah
That girl was me, yeah

No great pretender…

I met a lady who is going to Steve Jobs herself

“I have pancreatic cancer. But I’m not letting them cut me open. I’m fighting this naturally.”

When she said that I teared up and reached for her yellowed hand.

Not because she has cancer, although that’s sad.

But because I know she’ll be dead soon.

She has insurance, and money, but she doesn’t want a colostomy.

I wanted to say, “But Steve Jobs…”

I didn’t though. Because sometimes you just have to think things, instead of saying them.

She asked me to pray for her and I will.

“Mrs. Douglas, stop back by when you see my car out there by itself, so we can spend sometime together and pray.”

She promised she would.

In anticipation of that day, I went ahead and put Steve Jobs biography and my office Bible on the small table between the two leather chairs.

God opens a door, I stick a Steve Jobs biography in it faster than a Jehovah’s Witness can hand you a Watch Tower magazine!

~~~~

Just so I will remember

“In death, he becomes the essence of love.”

I guess I could put this in my drafts along with the almost 800 other ones.

But nah.

Doug messaged me tonight.

Which meant I had to download Messenger and reinstall it, which isn’t hard, but it did take a minute since everyone is on the Internet screaming “Roll Tide.”

Plus I always forget my password, being an early adopter of Facebook not withstanding.

So, I’m slow.

Finally I message him back and he says, “Are you mad at me?”

What?

“No of course not! Why would you think that?”

“Because it took you about thirty minutes to reply.”

Oh Doug.

He goes on to tell me what’s going on with him.

He’s on hospice now and has almost overdosed on pain meds twice so far.

Of course I’m shattered to hear this but he says, “It’s ok, I’m ok. But the pain is so hard to deal with Angel.”

We talk about pain and how much we owe, in the sense that we came unscathed through the tempest.

(He’s says that. He was unscathed. I was not.)

But I know what he means. He means he’s glad now that I said no.

He means he’s glad we can talk to each other without shame.

He means he’s glad to have me back in his life as the rock-solid friend I always was.

~~~~

He ties up a few loose ends about the publishing event we were involved with and asks my advice about a final interview with a national reporter.

“I’m not sure if I should do it. I’m afraid of leaving too much on the table.”

I know that he wants me to interview him. I’ll be much softer on him than the national guy would.

I volunteer (again) and he says he’ll think about it.

“Not for publication, but would you write the questions and come interview me for a DVD for my family? I know I could use my IPad and tape myself, but I don’t know what to say.”

“Of course I will buddy. Let’s plan on Saturday.”

“Ok Angel, I’ll call you.”

But I know he won’t call, not about that.

I can tell he’s getting tired so I make up an excuse to log off.

“Wait, don’t go Angel.”

“What is it Doug?”

“You know a few months ago, and a few weeks ago, and all the other times you offered to bring food?”

“Yes, and the offer still stands.”

“Would you make me some fresh banana bread, from the recipe my mom gave you in October?”

“Yes buddy, I will. I’ll bring it tomorrow.”

I was sipping on a Whiskey when I got the call
Yeah my friend Lex was lying in the hospital
She’d been pretty sick for about half a year
But it seems liked this time the end was drawing near

So dropped my plans and jumped the next London train
I found her laid up and in a lot of pain
Her eyes met mine and then I understood
That her weather forecast wasn’t looking too good

So I sat and spun her stories for a little while
Tried to raise her mood and tried to raise a smile
But she silenced all my rambling with a shake of her head

Drew me close and listen this is what she said

You’ll live to dance another day,
It’s just now you’ll have to dance,
For the two of us, so stop looking so damn depressed
And sing with all your heart that the Queen is dead”

Frank Turner – Long Live the Queen

Thanks for the memories, it means more than you will ever know

He once tried to seduce me, but as a friend, he had no equal when it came to celebrating my birthday.

Sitting in my car in the Publix parking lot on a rainy Friday night, the last before Christmas.

It’s around my birthday and I’m overwhelmed with memories.

Doug always celebrated my birthday and insisted that I did.

I don’t though, and haven’t in years.

Since my parents died no one in my family knows or remembers except one sister sometimes.

But Doug did.

I don’t know why it meant so much that he went out of his way to celebrate me, but it always blew me away.

My father was the same way, maybe that’s why?

~~~~

Doug would fuss at me almost all of December, trying to make me remind my children and husband of the date.

I never would, and it always made him angry.

“You think less of yourself than anyone I’ve ever met.”

What could I say to that? He was right.

~~~~~~

He started sending birthday cards with gift cards inside, addressed to the entire family on the outside, as if were a Christmas card.

His sweet ploy never worked. No one else ever opened the cards.

~~~~

This year’s birthday card from Doug was addressed to “Angel.” No first name, no last name, just my nickname.

As if I exist only in that form.

~~~~

I know it’s the last card I’ll ever receive from him.

He’s dying.

But he remembered my birthday.

~~~~

I always want to remember the good Doug.

I hope he remembers the good me.

She’s a rounder I can tell you that
She can sing ’em all night, too
She’ll raise hell
about the sleep she lost
But even cowgirls get the blues

Especially cowgirls, they’re the gypsy kind
And need their laid on ’em loose
She’s lived to see the world turned upside down
Hitchin’ rides out of the blues

But even cowgirls get the blues sometimes
Bound to don’t know what to do sometimes
Get this feelin’ like she’s too far gone

The only way she’s ever been

My Favorite Boy

He’s still little, Aidan is. Six years old and only started kindergarten in September.

We bonded over the summer when I introduced butcher paper and bright markers into his world.

He drew towns and cities and worlds for hours on end. Cars, ships and houses.

“Draw your house here Midth Angel.”

He didn’t talk much then, and still has a hard time with words. But he can draw, and tells complex stories with his drawings.

Dith is me and MidulAngelo. He prodects me at home. We met on de Ditantic and daved people.

[Met on the Titanic.]

Aidan loves me. I know that he does and I don’t know why. I love him right back.

When his family of five arrives at my facility he he’s always the first in the door. I see him before he sees me and I don’t deserve the look on his face as he scans the room to find me.

He runs to me like a whirling dervish, yelling “Hey, Hey!”

Heads turn at the noise of him, but I don’t shush him. Not this golden child.

Hands out for a happy high-five, I say, “hey buddy, how are you?”

As is with most kids, the niceties are lost on him and he launches right into what he wants to talk about.

Something something, we saw it! Indiscernible and dis is Baby Groot.”

Brushing dark hair out of his big brown eyes, he looks up at me with complete trust. Plastic Baby Groot is offered with outstretched hands.

“Tee him!”

Oh sweet little one. Did you know that I can’t always understand what you say? Is that why you started bringing the Target ads, to show me your favorite super heroes?

Dis is de Iwon Man Wego but Twny Start is not weally in dere-a-uh.

(In Aidan’s vocabulary, some words at the end of a sentence have two and often three sing-song syllables.)

You funny little fella. You roll your eyes at me when I tell you I’ve never seen the movies you bring and place in my lap.

The Avengers. Guardians of the Galaxy. Captain America. Thor.

“My sons have seen them though,” I say.

“Ou can’t have doose boys. I’m woure boy,” he proclaims, pointing at his chest.

Wake the deal-uh,” Aidan insists, holding out his hand to shake on it.

“Ok buddy, you can be my boy while you’re here today.”

Then for the briefest of moments I allow myself to remember another boy who was mine for a day. The newborn son who lies in a cold grave near his grandparents, his birth and death dates the same.

It seems forever ago, but it wasn’t. It’s just that the girl I used to be was also buried that day.

“Would my son have been like Aidan? Overjoyed with the smallest of attentions? Elated with a big empty piece of paper onto which he could draw his own universe?”

“Is he mad at me that he died? Does he think it was my fault? Does he love me?”

“Does he know that I was so young and afraid? That I thought the doctors knew best when they sent me home that night?”

“Who would he be now?”

I still ask those things, the questions without answers. This side of Heaven, I’ll never know.

I do know this though, grief paralyzed me after he died. Then shame strangled me.

“Her baby died. I’m not sure what happened. But she’s not even taking care of her two-year old. Her younger sister comes every day and stays there most nights.”

The gossip was right. I didn’t take care of anyone then, not even myself.

All I did was lay in bed and relive over and over not fighting back when the doctor said, “Oh you aren’t in labor. It’s too early. Go home and rest.”

I relived giving birth with just my husband in the room, him screaming for help when I told him what was happening.

Relived how peaceful it felt when the baby moved against my legs and I thought for a few seconds that he might not die.

The flashbacks of holding him never stopped. He struggled to breathe, before they took him to “see if there was anything that could be done for him.”

“He’s little though. Don’t expect a miracle.”

But the worst thing was constantly reliving my sister entering the room 45 minutes later, holding the baby.

“I found him next to the sink, on the counter. They said he died and nothing could be done. They were waiting for the doctor to finish stitching you up before they brought him back. But he’s moving. He’s not dead.”

I relived reaching out for the baby. His chest slowly rising and falling. Then faster frantic breaths, his tiny fingers jerkily grasping, his head moving from side to side as he fought for air.

My husband screaming again at the call button speaker.

Then, the baby just didn’t take another breath. I relived the deathly silence. Over and over again.

For months afterward I stayed in my dark bedroom clutching the blanket he was wrapped in, my wet tears mingling with tiny drops of dried blood. (My blood, not his. He was perfect.)

One day my two-year old son came in and patted me on the cheek. Silently, he touched my face. Sweet little fingers tried to gently pry open my eyes.

“Mommy get up. Mommy come back. Mommy come play.”

So I did.

The empty shell of me tried to live a semblance of a life. I mostly failed. But I was up walking around and to everyone in my life, that seemed to be a huge improvement.

I prayed for months after my son died, that God would give me a dream of the baby.

I so desperately needed to see him somewhere besides that tiny casket. Somewhere besides being lowered into the hard red dirt.

Over a year later God answered that prayer.

I dreamed I was in church when a laughing toddler with wavy dark hair and big brown eyes peaked over the pew in front of me. His chubby little arms stretched towards me, smiles wreathing his face.

I reached for him but before I could hold him, the dream ended. I awoke with full knowledge and memory of my baby as I saw him, his soul alive.

I started the long journey of healing at that moment in time. Bitterness of soul lingered, but my wavering faith was completely replaced with sure knowledge that I will hold my son again one day.

I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”
~2 Samuel 12:23

As I settle in to draw with Aidan and his brother Cody, the journey of healing continues.

One tear slides down my cheek onto the three feet of butcher paper.

I’m surprised by this. I don’t often cry for my baby anymore.

Aidan notices. “Don’t cry Midth Angel. Whass wong-uh?

“I think it’s just dust in my eye. I’m ok. Tell me what you want our zoo to look like. Where shall we put the tigers?”

Aidan roars at me, curling his fingers like claws. “Draw them here, in front of me,” he says with a pretend tiger-ish growl.”

So I do.

In the end I decide, “maybe I’m just crying for all the boys.”

The ones taken, and the ones given.

“The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Dear son, we’ve been waiting for you
Thrilled beside ourselves that you’ve arrived
White coats came in, heads held low
Talked for a bit, shuffled outside

We closed the curtains
And held each other
And cried
We said hello
At the same time
That we said goodbye

And smallest and wingless
Leaving as soon as you’d arrived
But sadness is just love wasted
With no little heart to place it inside

We closed the curtains
And held each other
And cried
We said hello
At the same time
That we said goodbye

“I lay down next to your boots and I prayed for your anger to end…”

I know he thinks of me at times, my ex-friend Doug. Or he has in the past few weeks anyway.

He started messaging me the day his Book Groupie went back to Vermont.

(God Himself must have intervened in that situation for not only did the Book Groupie never show up at my facility, her ability to get to Doug was severely limited by his emergency hospitalizations. I’m sorry he’s not feeling better, but I am so glad she stayed away from me. That is an answered prayer and one I am so very grateful for.)


When I saw the first new message from Doug, there was this narrow sense of surprise and a feeling of, “that’s nice of him.”

But as quick as it bubbles up, it swirls away. And I fight with myself after every single message from him, over what I really want to say.

Not sure which part of me wins, but I have yet to say what I’m thinking.


I wonder, at this point, what purpose would my speaking up serve though? All I originally wanted to do is defend myself. I wanted him to stop acting crazy and go back to Good Doug.

I’m definitely not trying to make him feel better about anything he did to hurt me. But now, it’s all so far in the rear-view mirror. Besides his messages and calls, there isn’t even any evidence in my life that I ever even knew Doug, except for my friendship with Asa. And that friendship has evolved so very far from it’s beginning that I bear no resemblance to the person I was.

Doug sent me several photos, but I’ve not seen him since December. I don’t suppose I will see him again, except in his casket.

I suspect that it doesn’t really matter now. I think I’ve slowly come to terms with the fact that nothing will ever be resolved. And maybe “not resolved” is how it is resolved. At one point I desperately wanted to say goodbye, but now?

I knew this about him, how mean he could be, how he never ever apologizes for anything.

But it’s still extremely weird to have walked through being one of the people he was mean to. I was like his child, his pet, his project. I saw him erupt at others but we just had this very solid friendship for so long. So that all still feels so strange.

Almost like it was in a parallel universe.


So, the first message from him, in quite a while:

He asked me if I was in the loop with our Mutual Friend about his health.

Which no. HTTN.

I told him, “Doug, first of all, I’m never going to ask Mutual Friend about you out of respect for your privacy and second, I’m never going to put either one of us in the bizarre position of explaining why in the world I would need a health update on you, from her.” Because that is the absolute truth.

I’m never in a million years going to ask her anything about him. She might mention something in passing, very rarely, but as long as all three of us still live, he’ll never hear her say, “I saw Angel yesterday, she asked about you.”


So he proceeds with a horrible horrible health update. Things are about in the end of the second stage of “worst,” if “worst” was divided into three categories.

The update made me cry, but I didn’t tell him. I just said, “I’m going to need a moment to absorb all this.”

He instantly and snarkishly replied, “I wish I had the leisure of time that you have, for absorbing this, that must be nice.”

Which, what?

YOU HAD PLENTY OF TIME TO ABSORB THIS. You choose the experimental treatment instead of having the tumor removed so you could get away from your wife and go spend three months with the Book Groupie.

And he did have three months to absorb all of this. He gave me about 30 seconds! At the time he informed me, I was driving down the interstate and sorry, but I just couldn’t reply how he obviously wanted me to.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.


I also wondered if he’d now say keeping that tumor and watching it grow for three months was the wisest course of action. ( I tried to get him to have it removed within a few days of  finding it. I could barely feel it through his shirt, it was so small. Like a hard pea.) But he kept the tumor in, so he could get into a three month drug trial near the Book Groupie. Within just a month or two of the decision to let it grow until the trial opened, it had gotten about 10 times bigger.

That ran through my mind, but I didn’t say it.


When I arrived at my destination I wrote, “Sorry I couldn’t drive down the interstate doing 80 and properly respond to your message.” And I proceeded to write this really long and what I thought was sweet and sympathetic message. When really, I had no idea at all what to say to him.

Part of me is thinking, “Doug, you hurt me, you hated me, you manipulated me. WHY are you reaching out to me, of all people?”

He treated my unfairly, cruelly and beyond harsh. He manipulated me into providing him with $3000 worth of professional services. He tried to frighten me by coming by my house dropping location pings. That’s the short list.

I mean, I could go on and on about the hateful things he did, including saying I was insane, (when I asked him why he was mad at me,) and his backhanded slams at me when I asked his advice on going for the new job.

Why is he looking to me now? Why does he want to talk to me? Why is he messaging me so often? Now, after everything? I’m not equal to the task, even if we didn’t have the history we have.

Yes, we were friends. I do actually miss him as a friend. I just do not know how to walk back down the path of him.

I do, in some respects, I do want to be his friend, and be there for him, if he needs me. I pray for him. I know he’s suffering. I wish I could do something to help.

But why does he think treating me like hell for more than a few months means he can drop bad news on me at any time and expect something meaningful in return, in 30 seconds? He is mad that I can’t instantly comfort him?

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.


Since that first longer conversation, he’ll tell me updates every few days. He’s called a few times, but I’ve missed his calls.

I don’t know why I don’t call him back.

So he messages me: His hair is finally falling out. He’s out of the hospital. He might have 6 months if the chemo works. He’s sick from it most of the time. His right arm is twice as big as the left due to lymph nodes being damaged.

I  reply that I’m praying for him, because I am.

Then he’s sent an ongoing series of notices of events or articles he thinks I might be interested in.

Just like anything you’d drop a note to a friend about. Not even anything that requires an answer or follow up from me.

So I plant one of those big thumbs-up thingies on it and go about my life. I don’t know what else to do.

Maybe someday
When I look back I’ll be able to say
You didn’t mean to be cruel
Somebody hurt you too”

Post Script: He came to my workplace in September 2018 and apologized, and asked me to forgive him.