Doug is fading fast, so I reached out to his mistress

Oh. You thought I was Doug’s mistress?

I’m the one who said no. I did care about him though.

Part of that care found me leaving his house Wednesday and stopping at the Walgreens on the corner to try and contact the other woman.

Yes he is married. I’m not defending what they did. I didn’t like her one bit and she was truly (mostly) bad for him.

But he asked me to “tell her.”

I knew what he meant.

I also knew (but hated to admit) that she brought him joy in those weeks between his cancer treatments.

He buried his reality and traveled through several states and into Canada with her. They stopped at every river they crossed and took selfies, lighting up their individual Instagrams like the 4th of July.

She was young and alive with love for him. He was staring down both barrels of death.

It was probably easy to rationalize their affair by believing that what the wife didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her.

I’m not excusing what they did. But a part of me understands it.

~~~

I was also motivated to contact the mistress in order to protect Julie, Doug’s wife.

Monday was the last day Doug was able to use his phone and I’d noticed that Julie had it charging next to her chair Wednesday.

I didn’t think she deserved to inadvertently receive any frantic messages from women she has no idea Doug even knew.

~~~

It was still hard though. I sat a few minutes biting my lip and taking deep breaths.

Then I hear Asa’s voice, like a little Jewish conscience in my heart.

And from somewhere in me came compassion for the mistress.

She has no way of knowing what’s going on, if Doug is alive or dead.

Whatever I thought about the situation, (I hated it) and whatever I thought about her personally, (jealousy mixed with disgust), I knew I had to reach out to her for all of the above reasons.

So I contacted the mistress.

Since she had followed me on Twitter several months ago I followed her back and sent a DM.

“Nancy, it’s Angel. I just left Doug’s house. My number is 867-5309 if you want to call.”

My phone rang before I could even put my car in reverse.

“Is he dead?” she blurted out. Then she burst into tears.

To be continued…

[I’m not a hero here…I was tempted to do what she did. I just didn’t do it.]

Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack
I went out for a ride and I never went back

Like a river that don’t know where it’s flowing
I took a wrong turn and I just kept going

Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody’s got a hungry heart

I met her in a Kingstown bar
We fell in love I knew it had to end
We took what we had and we ripped it apart
Now here I am down in Kingstown again

Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody’s got a hungry heart

Everybody needs a place to rest
Everybody wants to have a home
Don’t make no difference what nobody says
Ain’t nobody like to be alone

Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody’s got a hungry heart

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“Goodbye sweetheart”

When I left Doug’s house Wednesday, I wondered if this would be the last time I’d see him.

It surprised me to realize I carried peace either way.

~~~

He was asleep most of the visit, but I asked his wife Julie if I could wake him up to say goodbye.

“Please do. He might wake up and know you, he might not,” she warned me.

I stopped at his hospital bed that was delivered a few days ago from hospice and touched his shoulder.

“Doug, buddy, it’s me…”

His eyes flew open and he grabbed my hand.

“Angel, Angel.”

I was so elated. I turned around to look at Julie and said, “He knows me!”

He started talking right away, rushing through the words.

“Albert’s grave. Teach Justin.”

Albert is his friend that the major publishing event revolved around. Doug always took care of his grave but his stepchildren are not interested in continuing this.

Justin is my 12 year old son.

“I will Doug, I promise. We’ve already been twice this year.”

Doug’s nose was bleeding, I’m assuming from the cancer? I grabbed a tissue and cleaned his face.

He started crying and said, “I’m afraid Angel.”

“You’re doing good buddy, you’re strong, you’re hands are strong!”

But he was afraid, and very sorrowful. I could see this in his eyes and it broke my heart.

“Doug, let’s pray.”

I put my other hand on his chest and bowed my head. (Details omitted because, well, it’s too private.)

When I finished he didn’t let go of my hands, so I was still bent over somewhat.

“Tell her, please tell her,” he whispered. “Tell them all.”

I knew that he meant his mistress in Vermont and all of the friends he’s made in the town I work for.

“I will Doug, I’ll tell everyone. We all love you and we’re praying for you.”

He kept holding my hands but stopped talking. I thought maybe he was falling back asleep so I gently tried to pull away.

“No, don’t go.”

So I stood there, just looking at his face, so sweet to me now, and again, after so much anger, bitterness, and anguish between us.

I realized then that our reconciliation was possible and accomplished because of him. Because he reached out to me, and came to my work to ask me to forgive him.

Gratitude filled my heart. God was so good to me to allow this peace at our end.

~~~

I could tell Doug was going in and out from the Fentanyl but he stirred and opened his eyes again.

He brought my right hand to his lips and kissed it.

“Goodbye sweetheart.”

I leaned over and hugged him.

“Goodbye buddy.”

Boulder to Birmingham

Well you really got me this time
And the hardest part is knowing I’ll survive

I’ve come to listen for the sound
Of the trucks as they move down
Out on 95
And pretend that it’s the ocean


Coming down to wash me clean, to wash me clean
Baby, do you know what I mean?

I would rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham
I would hold my life in his saving grace
I would walk all the way from Boulder to Birmingham
If I thought I could see, I could see your face
If I thought I could see, I could see your face

Boulder to Birmingham is a track from the 1975 album Pieces of the Sky by Emmylou Harris. The song was written by Harris and Bill Danoff. It has served as something of a signature tune for the artist and recounts her feelings of grief in the years following the death of country rock star and mentor Gram Parsons.

Wiki

It crashes over me. Then he says, “Forgive yourself”

From the archives. Wow. So much change.

All the pain of the past year crashed over me today and tonight. I realized that Doug didn’t really want to be friends again, no matter what he said. He was just manipulating me to insure I delivered on the professional services I’ve provided the past two weeks.

Around 1:00 pm I just couldn’t deal with knowing that any longer, so I went to bed and stayed there until after 7:00 pm. Any work I had to do, I did from my phone. (Thank you Steve Jobs.) Lights off, curtains drawn. Pretending to be asleep.

I felt so sorry for myself. I cried off an on all day. Boo hoo. I hate myself for doing that.

IF I WOULD LEARN TO KEEP THE WALLS UP WHERE DOUG IS CONCERNED HE WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO HURT ME OVER AND OVER AGAIN. But yeah, I’m a slow learner.

What a pity party. And I don’t like self-pity. Why am I living there then?

Then a post popped into my inbox that pricked my heart so deeply: Continue reading “It crashes over me. Then he says, “Forgive yourself””

“Have you written about me having a girlfriend now?”

Asa called tonight. Of course I’m happy about that.

I’ve never yet had a conversation with him that didn’t bless me in some way, or drive me to think. (Usually both.)

I also love talking to him in general because he has this lyrical way of describing people and events in his life.

He observes deeply, then paints a vivid picture with words. I close my eyes while he speaks and I’m where he is, if only for a moment.

We talk on his drive home across a frozen Chicago, so I’m still on the phone when he checks his mail.

I’d sent him a can-opener and the package arrived today.

I didn’t have time to write a note but instead printed a post from the blog that was about him.

He opened the package and started to read the blog post to me, as if it were a letter.

‘Oh, you don’t have to do that, it’s just a blog post.’

He teases me.

“Beloved Asa.”

‘I don’t say that! I’ve never said that!’

“Asa Darling.”

‘I give. I do say that.’

He laughs and continues to make up endearing salutations.

“Angel, have you written about me having a girlfriend yet?”

I stumble in answering.

‘I think I’ve mentioned it, but I might have put the post in draft form when I unpublished every thing.’

Asa has a girlfriend now, which seems so beautiful, yet somehow very private and I’m not sure how to write about it.

I quickly try and excuse myself by reminding him of my policy of not prying.

‘You know I never question you and only wait for you to tell me things. Since the trip to see her, you’ve only mentioned her a few times.’

I don’t mention the heated phone conversation when I agreed with his mom and my tone of voice makes it sound like I deserve an award for not prying.

But I don’t.

Because I have written about Asa having a girlfriend. I’ve just not published those posts.

I do not tell him this. Because the posts are mostly about me.

How I’m adjusting to him not needing me anymore.

How sometimes it hurts when I miss him.

How long the days seem when several pass without hearing from him.

How I worry about him driving on the ice and how would I know if something happened to him?

But also…

How I’m reminding myself that I’ve always prayed for someone to love him.

And how much he blessed my life by being kind to me, and extending the hand of friendship. Over and over again.

How he looked past the situation I was in and saw who I could be.

And how he walked with me, out of the darkness, into the light.

But most of all, how I’m so thankful that God crossed our paths, for such a time as this, for however long it shall be.

It is well, with my soul.

Oh Lord, you’re beautiful,
Your face is all I see,
For when your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me

I want to take your word and shine it all around
But first help me to just, live it Lord

And when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown
For my reward is giving glory to you

Oh Lord, please light the fire
That once burned bright and clean
Replace the lamp of my first love
That burns with holy fear

Oh Lord, you’re beautiful
Your face is all I see
For when your eyes are on this child

Your grace is all I see

Will the circle be unbroken?

Asa 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.

Asa, 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.

Asa, 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. Asa 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 Asa.

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.

Asa, 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…

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