Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Motherless Child

He was a big man. His arms were just a tad too long to fit his body. He had dark eyes and hair. His face verged on the side of homely, but he carried an air of dignity that softened his features. His face was etched with the confusion and loneliness that I had often seen in newly divorced men.

I was a greeter for our church group. I was the first smile to welcome him. When I offered to introduce him to some of the people that were milling about he grabbed my hand in gratitude. It was obvious being single was a new and uncertain state for him.

When the group leader called the meeting to order he asked if he could sit with me. I told him that I would enjoy having him sit beside me and a relieved smile spread across his worried face.

I had no idea that accepting his request to sit with me was the beginning of a journey that would bring me love, happiness, and unbearable pain. A journey that I would have preferred to never have taken, but one that would enrich me, teach me, and change my life.

He, his wife, and their four sons had moved here from the East. He was a high school teacher, a coach. She was a homemaker. They moved here to build a better life for their family. But, everything that they had worked for came to a crashing halt when his wife decided that she wanted to go to work.

He was unable to find a coaching position in the local schools so he had had to take a position as a teacher that met with the students in a room, not outside in the fresh air. He disliked it intensely, but he thought he could see it through until he could find a coaching position. In the meantime his wife found a position with a large corporation and met a man.

He had followed her one evening and saw her enter a motel room with the man. His life came crashing down. Everything that he had held sacred was in ruins. His wife left the marriage and the sons. He was left with four boys that were confused and heartbroken. He was just broken.

That is the story that he shared with me as we slowly became acquainted.

He introduced me to the four boys and I introduced him to my son. We became a group. His boys often spent more time at my home then they did at their own.

He was a bad candidate for a romance. I knew that going in. He was confused about his sexual ability, angry with women in general, overwhelmed with the sole responsibility for four sons, and extremely unhappy in his chosen profession. But I let myself fall madly in love ... with his sons!

He would spend hours at my house, after the boys were in bed, talking out his confusion. I became the place that he could come to find peace.

I knew I wasn’t IN love with him, but I couldn’t give up the connection to the boys. The boys needed the warmth of an accepting and understanding mother figure, and I loved the house full of noisy children. Each boy needed his own special kind of love. One boy was on the verge of wild, one boy had gotten quiet, one boy had become shy, and one boy was just plain confused where he belonged in the group.

I loved being with them. They filled that desire I had in me to have children around me. I had been born with that desire. The polio had thwarted that desire. Now a confused man had brought me the means to fulfill that yearning inside me. I knew all of that when I was thinking logically. I knew I should walk out of the relationship while I was still whole, but the emotional part of my being couldn’t do it.

We were in each other’s lives for almost two years. He and I didn’t have a sexual relationship. He was too confused about that part of his ability as a man. But I was willing to let him work that out his own way, as long as I could spend time with the boys.

And then one day he called me and said that he was taking the boys and moving back home again. He said that I was every thing that he wanted in a woman, but he wasn’t certain he was thinking sane enough to make a lifetime commitment. He needed time to think. “You’re the best woman I have ever met and I will probably be sorry that I’ve made this decision, but I have to take my son’s and go home.” His words became tattooed in my heart and brain.

I stopped socializing. I stopped eating. I stopped laughing. I stopped everything that made my life full and happy. I went to work, I came home, and I made dinner for my son. I locked the front door so no one could come in and I cried for hours. I felt as if my heart had been ripped in pieces. I had let myself love those boys as if they were my own and he had taken them away. I didn’t think I could live with the pain.

An engineer that I barely knew, Vince, came walking down the hall toward my office one afternoon. We had never said more then hello to one another, but he grew alarmed at the change in me. He asked around the office about what had happened to make me so fragile. When he gathered the information he needed he called my parents and talked with them. He asked their permission to contact his psychologist. They had been so worried about me they grabbed at his suggestion.

The next evening I got a telephone call from a woman that said, “Sandra, I have talked to a man you work with and to your parents. They both tell me the same story. You are going through a crisis. I want you at my office tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. I have the ability to call the police and have you physically taken to a hospital. I’ll do that if you aren’t at my office in the morning.”

I wasn’t certain that she really could do that to me, but I didn’t want to take the chance so I went. That evening Vince called and said that he had a gift for me. When I argued he said that the psychologist had agreed that what he wanted to do would be good for me. He picked me up and took me to an airport. He owned a small plane and my gift was going to be a nighttime flight over the bay area cities. I had never been in a small plane before. It was beautiful with all the city lights glowing in the darkness beneath us, the stars shining in the sky above us. It was on that lovely flight that I came to realize that my pain was small compared to what I was seeing. I was filled with a calm assurance that I was going to be able to find a way to fill the emptiness of the loss of the children. I got out of his plane and knew that I was going to be whole again.

I saw the psychologist once a week ... growing stronger with each visit. Then one afternoon, almost two months to the day I had gotten her first phone call, she said that I didn’t need to see her any more. She was setting me loose to go out and live my life.

I talked to her once again many years later when I had a bad reaction to medication I was taking for an asthma episode. It was fun chatting with her on an equal level. We spent most of the time catching up on one another’s lives.

Vince and I became friends. He had shown love for someone he barely knew. I believe that he was sent to me and I will be eternally grateful for that.

And the man and his four sons?

In 1995 I received a letter from a private investigator. He said that he had a client that had been trying to locate me.

It was him. When I decided that there was no reason for us not to talk I called the number that the investigator had given me and when the familiar voice said "Hello", Ifound myself pleased to be talking to him. He said that he had spent years trying to find me. He wanted to tell me that I was the most wonderful thing that had ever come into his life and now that he was thinking straight he wanted me to know that. He said that all of the boys had moved back to California. He talked and he talked and he talked. He said that he had gotten involved in the church and that had brought him some peace. He talked about his sexual nature and confusion. He told me that he and his wife had been virgins when they married and their inexperience had caused many of the problems. He said that sex had never met much to him and he was now impotent so there was no more confusion in that area. He told me that he had filled his time dancing in competitions, that his partner had died, that everyone had thought they were sweethearts, but they weren’t, that he had built a very prosperous computer business, that the boys were doing fine, and one of them owned a house close to the area where we had first met. He said that his ex-wife had stayed married all these years to the man that had caused the marriage to disintegrate, his sons had eventually forgiven their mother, several of them had tried to help him find me.....and he sounded as lonely as the man that I remembered from our younger years. I eventually asked him if that was what he was feeling and he said, “Yes”. He said that every time he closed his eyes he saw me and felt the warmth that I had given him and his sons and he hoped that when he visited California again that I would be open to seeing him.

I listened as he talked. I thought about the money he had spent to try and find the woman that had been his ‘place of peace’ once upon a time. And as I listened, I thought about what my life would like be now if I had married a man that I didn’t love because I wanted to be a mother to his children,

I would probably have ended up as lonely as he now sounded.

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