(If you're seeing this post first, go back and read Part I before continuing on.)
A few days later, on my birthday, he texted me late in the day: “Happy birthday. Hope you had a great day!”
Was he serious? Sarcastic? I mean, I had an awful day. Well-meaning co-workers kept asking me about my special plans with my boyfriend! I went for dinner and drinks with my mom and didn’t see the message until late. I didn’t respond until the following morning and all I said was “Thank you.” I’m not a jerk but I wasn’t taking the bait either.
He also announced on Facebook a day later (he was still set as a “priority” notification which I didn’t realize since he rarely uses Facebook) that his endocrinologist said he was eligible for an insulin pump. I’m sure he wanted me to see that, too.
A few days later, his sister-in-law texted me that she was sorry to hear about it and if it was any consolation she and his brother had broken up a few times (they’ve known each other since high school and have been married for several years) and so had their (now-married-a-year) cousins. So if I needed to talk she was available.
After initially just thanking her, I wound up taking her up on her offer a few weeks later. I hadn’t heard from him and the whole thing just bothered me. I didn’t know how long a “pause” needed to be or what one does in the meantime. My counselor had been encouraging me to set a length of time for the “pause” and let him know but I just kept starting to write an email and then scrapping it, repeatedly. I met his SIL for coffee on a Sunday afternoon. It basically confirmed my fears.
He was still camped out on his parents’ sofa (she even witnessed a “ridiculous” fight over the remote between her BIL and her FIL!). He goes to work, goes to outpatient therapy, and goes back to their sofa.
He had a frightening episode in the ER where he went in for stomach pains and wound up in respiratory distress during prep for testing. (That had me up in the middle of the night and in tears once that fully hit me.)
He was pretty much right where I left him. No change.
About two weeks later, I finally worked out what I wanted to say and emailed him the Friday before Thanksgiving. I told him that I was praying for him, I cared about him, and I wanted him to have a good recovery. And I reminded him of everything he told me he needed in order to have a good recovery. I reminded him he said how much he longed to be married, and a father. If that’s still true and he still wants a relationship with the person he said he was going to marry, he would have to show me he’s interested and willing. I was his biggest supporter and saw the amazing progress he made in treatment and I knew he can do it if he wants. In the interest of fairness to both of us, if after three months apart there’s no indication of change or interest, then we go our separate ways.
I never received a response. I don’t even know if he read it, even after I also mailed a (small, nice) Thanksgiving card with a note saying I wrote an email and hoped he’d read it. I endured a nightmare of a Thanksgiving compounded by Younger Sister’s ending up in the ER after dinner and hospitalized another day and a half (she’s fine; it was just cautionary because she’s due with her first baby in March).
Well-intentioned relatives who didn’t know the news kept asking where Chef was. I actually had started the week feeling more at peace than I’d ever been, and after all the questions I thought I might lose it and have to leave the dinner table.
Friday morning, my maiden aunt (in case you don’t know about her here’s a typical exchange) called for an update on my sister which then became a half-hour lecture welcoming to the Spinster Club.
I’m not there yet. In fact, I resent her enthusiasm. (My mom joked that I should’ve pretended the kitchen was on fire and I needed to hang up--I’m just not good at those things. Mom is far more clever in dealing with her baby sister.)
But, I thought he was the love of my life. And it hurt to find out from his SIL (we had coffee at the beginning of January) that in November, probably even before I sent the email, he told his SIL, “When I was in rehab, they said if you’re in a relationship and you go through it, your feelings might change. So yeah, I guess my feelings changed.” It would’ve been nice for him to inform me of that. Maybe it would also be good of him to follow any of the other advice the counselors gave him, because he really hasn’t done anything they advised for him to have a good recovery.
I have moments where I’m angry, because he went from “I love you so much and I can’t wait to marry you” to nothing. Because I gave so much and he just took. Which was not like him during the majority of our time together. And because our relationship was his “normalcy,” and he threw it away.
He hurt me deeply.
I also have moments where I think about how he and his family are still very sick. His parents attended the same required counselor-led session I did before we could visit Chef. In fact, his parents had more counseling phone calls and meetings in addition to that.
And yet, when Chef got out of inpatient treatment, they all went right back to the exact way of living they’d been doing before he went in. Heck, before he admitted he’d relapsed. It’s the addicted lifestyle, only without the substances involved. That’s not really sober living. And I can’t be around it.
Part of me wonders if his mother prefers him this way so she can control him. Or at least think she’s being a great mother for doing so much for him that she believes will keep him from using. I realized how much she had done to keep me around—he was incapacitated and she was covering for him, frequently cooking dinner on our “date nights” because he was too “tired” (drinking) and “trying to save money” (I thought for a ring; now I know it all went to his substance abuse). After she turned down my repeated offers to go to meetings with me, I gave up. I left a final message asked her if she was tired from having to do so much for him—wondering if she hadn’t done so much for our relationship, where we’d be right now. Maybe that was wrong to say and for all I know she told him what I said, but I don’t care. It’s the truth. Whether they choose to believe it is up to them.
And that makes me sorry for him, and angry with her.
But still, they’re all adults and have the power to make choices. But maybe they’re blind to the choices they’re making right now. Maybe it would take a miracle for them to see that what they’re doing, isn’t working. Maybe it would take a miracle for him to realize he made a huge mistake, throwing away the one thing in his life that made sense.
Still, that realization would not be enough for me to take him back. I want to be fair to myself. I still long to be in a happy marriage, and be a mom. I thought he wanted to be married and a dad. He can’t take any steps in that direction, because he is buried deep under a load of mental illness--still hasn't gotten that insulin pump probably, because he's terrified to use it even though it would improve his life/health--and we need to go our separate ways. I cared about him, and I hope he gets better someday. Maybe I just needed to be there to be the catalyst to start him on that path--where unfortunately he seems to be standing still--but I’ll be O.K. with that.
And while I’m scared that I wasted yet another two years of possible childbearing (and for all I know these are my last years), I know that there was a reason for all this and I’m trusting that God’s plan is beyond my understanding—but also beyond anything I can design for myself. I’m not going to tell Him the way things should be. Sure, I’ve complained that I don’t deserve this. But I’ve also gone to His Mother and reminded her (nicely) of that novena I prayed in July and that she needs to finish what she’s started. And that I’ve placed Chef in her hands. I can’t do any more for him now. I am grateful we had some good times. That he was there for me when my grandfather and The Cat passed away, and that I had someone to dance with at my sister’s wedding.
Now, I’ve closed the door and walked away.
In the meantime, I started sleeping through the night again. (And if I can’t sleep, there’s a rosary nearby for me to pick up and pray myself back to sleep, asking Mary to handle my anxieties for me.) I finally bought a (new-ish) car to replace my ailing 14yo one, I’m still teaching close to 600 children every week, and at the beginning of December I even went on a Christmas tour of Philadelphia with some co-workers. (All of whom asked about Chef, of course. It hurt at first, but in the end it created some closeness with them that I’ve been longing to have since I started my third year working there.) I’m cleaning out my apartment, trying new recipes, and hosted a kick-ass baby shower for Younger Sister. As much as it is painful to feel left behind again—because I’d hoped I’d at least be planning my wedding before she had her first baby, and my photo at my parents’ house wouldn’t be on a separate table in the living room because the photos of my siblings are from their respective weddings (I’m trying to not to take it personally, because I’m sure it was purely subconscious and unintentional on Mom’s part)—I’m looking forward to having a new niece or nephew in a few weeks.
I’m also giving serious thought to adopting a cat after over a year without my dear Cat.
Not that I’m giving in to the “unmarried Cat Lady” thing. However, it is difficult to come home to a lifeless apartment. I’m continuing to connect with other people. I joined my friend’s trivia team and we won a tournament last month with plans to play in another one this month. I’m having drinks after school tomorrow with one of the Kindergarten teachers. And I’m trying to give back—at least attempting to—joined the board of a local symphony with Library Elf; ran for a seat on the board of directors with the state school librarians’ association. (The latter one is iffy. While I was flattered to be asked, when the election email came out I saw three other people running for the two open spots. . . and I was the only one who didn’t use his/her official school photo and instead had a friendlier, more relaxed one in front of my library’s shelves. I feel like a foil. And a bit of a fool. But I guess I’ll find out in about a week if it worked in my favor.)
I also have hope that God didn’t plant this deep longing in my heart to have a family of my own, only to leave it unsatisfied. I have re-read Meeting Your Half-Orange. I have revised my “Big Love List” (actually a poster that hangs over my bed. Under the crucifix). I’ve put my health on the front burner because some lingering problems from diverticulitis need to go away. I’m working on getting back to the good place in my life that I felt I’d been in at the time Chef walked over to my restaurant table and said hello. Possibly even a better place.
And from time to time, I take a moment and imagine how I want to feel in a great, honest, giving relationship with a very good man who wants the same things I do--what we’ll say to each other, what we’ll do together, what we’ll plan and hope for together. And I pray I’ll be able to identify that man when he arrives. For real.