I often call myself a Pacifist Marine. I joined the Marine Corp to avoid the draft because I knew I couldn’t kill another human and didn’t want to be on the front lines. It worked. After a short time in active duty, I was still collecting benefits without causing any real harm. I think the government liked having me because I had a hell of a temper — I almost killed someone who lived in my community during my teen years — but more on that topic later.
The best part is I had made up my mind who I would marry during my teens. Today, at age seventy-something, after a divorce and a lot of fuss about nothing, she is mine again.
As I mentioned earlier, I am seventy-something now, so I have had a few years to figure out who I am. It’s all clear to me, and I like it. I’ve also been called an agnostic Christian, with emphasis on the agnostic part. I believe there is a God, but I never had a religious experience that gave me a strong connection to the Almighty. One day, I’m guessing, many years ago, I decided that if God wanted my attention, He or She was more than able to send me a sign. I found my purpose when I became a father.
I’ve never thought of my life as miraculous — perhaps a little loony, but whose life isn’t? Based on the lack of direction and parenting my father gave me, I turned out fine. No regrets. My father was the son of a World War One father. Like me, my father wanted a good father figure but never got one.
However, I didn’t want to blame my father for my failures, so I got busy making my own way. I am the product of my choices, and I am proud of those choices. My children and I turned out well.
The two people who are closest to me are my ex-wife, Janet, and my daughter, Amy. Janet’s nickname is Gypsy. This name fits her well because she has always been a free-spirited girl who wanted nothing more than to flee the bad circumstances of her childhood and experience independence and love.
We met at about age five. She was my neighbor, the girl next door.
I had my first official date with her when I was thirteen, the Sadie Hawkins Dance. We were already in love when she asked me to the dance. I knew we would get married, but we had to endure a little hardship first.
One of my first memories of hardship happened around age fifteen. Janet’s father was giving her a hard time across the street. I could hear them yelling at each other, out in front of their home. This made me angry. I loved that girl and knew she hadn’t done anything wrong. Instead, her father was drunk and acting stupid. Knowing I would one day marry her, I got involved. Yeah, it got bad, but the police arrived before I had a chance to kill him or at least hurt him really badly. Ironically, her father, the man who became my father-in-law, respects me today in part because of that incident. I guess my father-in-law figured that if I was willing to put myself at risk to protect his daughter then I must be a pretty standup guy. Threatening to kick his ass and kill him, or whatever words I used during that crazy evening, had made a good impression on this man! He died years ago, but I think back on those years often and feel sorry for him. Like so many men of that era, he had lost his way.
After that event, it was a waiting game until Janet and I were ready to leave the prisons we called our homes. Although there were other tense moments along the way, when I turned nineteen, I popped the question that Janet had been waiting for. We got our wedding certificate, and said goodbye to our parents. Our upbringing taught us to take nothing for granted, so we worked hard, many hours, saved every spare penny, and began planning for our first child.
Although we were now living under the same roof, it still didn’t feel like a family yet. I didn’t mind being home, but I loved working, so I worked a lot of hours. I’m not sure when it dawned on me that we got married to get away from our crazy fathers. Also, we are both the same age, so I wasn’t robbin’ the cradle.
The family planning seemed easy enough, before the children started coming. Our initial plan was for five boys, but when our first born was a daughter, Amy, the all-boy scenario kind of died, thankfully. From the day of Amy’s birth, a part of me changed. I happily gave up the dream of being a rough and tough father to five boys and embraced the joy of being a nurturer to the most beautiful creature that I had ever seen.
Like it was yesterday, I can remember the feeling of becoming a family. The most magical part was I fell deeply in love with both my daughter and my wife on the same day. Although there are probably a few reasons why this event was special, the one that sticks out in my mind is Janet became the mother of my first born. For the first time since I had been born, I understood what it meant to be part of family. And I cherished the role of being my daughter’s protector and provider. I knew she would be the love of my life, no matter what.
You probably noticed earlier that I called Janet my ex-wife. That wasn’t a typo. Although we married at an early age, we had twenty-six great years before we divorced. After the divorce, we have remained best friends. To this day, I feel closest to my daughter Amy, but Janet is my best friend and first love — strange but true. No matter what, even after our divorce, I knew I could never hate Janet. From the earliest days, she was the one who offered me companionship.
I had made a couple of vows to myself during my teens years and when I started my family. The first one was I would not let drugs or alcohol destroy my family the way my father and Janet’s father had allowed them to. Second, I wanted to be a good dad. Amy made that easy.
Three years later, our second child, Danny, was born, and then another three years passed and Brian was born. With plenty of money in the bank, a big beautiful house, three lovely children, Janet and I sailed through the next fifteen years or so.
We had been married for more than twenty years when the gypsy part of Janet went on the hunt. The same happened with her three sisters. Our family life was good, but Janet wanted to experience a few things beyond the dream life we were now living. She had met a man who was saying the right things and giving her special attention.
At the same time that she started to see another man, Richard, I had a freak industrial accident. It left me in the hospital for four months. I had broken my pelvis, back, neck, legs, arms, and elbow. I made a promise to myself at that time: Either I was going to fully recover or die trying.
I did fully recover from my injuries.
After our divorce, Janet got married again, years later. But both of us remained emotionally and geographically close to our children. This meant we did see each other regularly. I never stopped loving Janet, nor did I regret having children with her. I understood why she did what she did, the divorce and all. She even admitted to me what a big mistake cheating on me had been. She told me with about one year into her second marriage.
Now that many years have passed, I realize how my life is coming full circle. Janet just finalized her second divorce, and we are dating again. I probably had something to do with this because we had started seeing each other again. Old habits are hard to break! While I was on a date with her, I felt a tinge of guilt because we were spending the afternoon together, going for a walk in our small town, our hometown, when we saw her almost ex-husband drive by us. He didn’t see us, but we saw him. For a fleeting moment, I felt bad — it passed quickly. Instead of feeling guilty, I reminded myself of a simple truth: I am allowed to love who I want, when I want, as long as they consent, and I don’t hurt others. My wife and daughter taught me this lesson in the beginning, and it has made my life wonderful.
I know Janet’s almost second ex-husband very well. He’s a good guy. Divorced or not, we all gather for holidays with all our children every year. The kids have two dads and one mom. We all see this as normal. I think it’s wonderful. Forgiveness runs in our family as a deep tradition. There must be a God or Creator, so I am thankful to Him or Her for the people in my life.
Janet always has been and always will be a good mother to our children and my best friend. And although she made the mistake of leaving me after twenty + years of marriage, I am gladly taking her back. I don’t know if we will get another marriage certificate, but paper or no paper, she is my best friend, and I have every intention of enjoying having her in my life for as many years as we have left.
Our children Amy, Danny, and Brian all feel the same.