I traveled up to Durand Thursday afternoon--about 40 miles north of here--for lunch at the Old School Gal Pals. It was real nice. My BFF's daughter came with her daughter and two grand babies. My BFF's daughter is moving over to the west side of our State, from a home she has lived in 50 years. She wants to be closer to her daughter and grandkids. I can't blame her, but it just might be the last time I ever see her. It was an emotional good-bye, as she does love to lunch with us on occasion and listen to us reminisce on how we were in High School and what her Mother was like at a younger age.
Plus, I've known my BFF's daughter since she was 6 hours old, so.........almost like one of my kids leaving me.
After we left, I sat in my car for a few minutes. My sister wasn't home, so no trip out to the farm for me. It was a beautiful, sunny day in the low 70's I felt adventurous, which is not me. I am not spontaneous, but I decided, "Nobody will know," and off I drove to see if I could find where the Old Coot lives.
I've been thinking and praying about this for a couple of months. I kept getting the feeling that I probably shouldn't do it, but.....I have been depressed, bored and kind of ticked off at my life lately, so---I headed north and west--knowing that area, and knowing his address, I figured I could find his house.
I took me about 45 minutes and I went passed it and had to turn around and go back. He was just pulling into his driveway.
You should have seen the look on his face!!! My initial reaction was, Oh My Gosh! He is really old looking! Super skinny. Sort of stooped over. Of course, it has been 26 years since I've seen him and I suppose at 87, he has aged a bit more quickly than I have in those years.
He's always been a super neat freak--when I stepped up into his kitchen--there was not an inch of counter or table space that wasn't covered. The living room was a bit better, but crowded with a lot of furniture.
I was very relaxed, which showed me that I truly had healed and forgiven him. It was like talking to friend John or someone like that. No attachment. I was determined not to bring up anything from the past--what good would it do, but rather started my conversation by asking how he was.
Buried in paperwork. Had to have a new well put in--an unexpected cost. Then he went on to tell me of his wife's long illness, and how care giving had worn him right down. She had Hospice at home and then, woke him in the middle of the night to say, "You better call the ambulance."
He said the Hospice nurse came with the ambulance to take her to the Hospice home and the nurse said, "Pat, we've talked about this. It's time."
He said, "It was like the Grim Reaper showed up, made his declaration and off they went!" Then he broke down and sobbed and sobbed.
I didn't move to console him. I felt it was better for me to remain seated and wait for him to gain control in his own way.
Then we talked about his Mother and siblings--all gone now. I worried about him being all alone and he mentioned a friend he had by the name of Craig Lawson, that call him every other day and stops in to visit.
"You don't mean Deputy Lawson of the sheriff's road patrol do you?"
"Yes. You don't know him do you?"
"Well, let me tell you a little story--and went on to tell him how I had met Deputy Lawson when he stopped me for idling through a stop sign....'way out in the country over by Byron".
That gave us a good laugh and then he got real serious, tears in his eyes again. I have never seen this man cry in the 4 years I knew him.
"Judy....I've thought----over the last...how many years did you say?"
"I should have shared more with you before we married. I was a broken man. Hurt....angry....filled with rage. Left over from my marriage. We had five children. I was building a house for us up north."
"And she was cheating on you back at home. You told me all that."
"Yes...but I never told you. I loved her and those kids so much. She nearly destroyed me when she left. I never felt that she ever loved me. I tried so hard, but.........it was never enough."
"Ah. I felt that way with you."
" I was so hurt and angry and filled with such rage."
Then I just blurted it out--"Is that why you tried to choke me to death when I mistakenly hung the bathroom hand towel up crooked?"
"Oh...God....did I do that?"
"Yes. Or the time you gave me a black eye because the sheets were the not the same amount of overhang on each side of the bed?"
"Oh....I remember that."
"Or the time you said I could plant anything I wanted in the garden and after I did, you roto-tilled it all up because you said my rows were crooked?"
"Or the time you slapped me around and threw your coffee mug at me because I had spilled a little sugar on the table?"
"What? Oh no!"
Then I was quiet as I realized that he didn't remember a lot of those times and it was just stupid to bring it all up. He is a broken man.
"Judy...I was mentally ill. I was sick. It wasn't you! My anger was so out of control, that any minor thing set me off and I struck out at the person nearest me."
"Well--I don't know about that. Maybe I was a bit too independent for you. I've met two of your ex wives and they said you never abused them. Why me?"
"I guess because.....you were there at the wrong time in my life? I was mentally sick, Judy. Can you ever forgive me? Please! I will get down on my knees and beg your forgiveness!"
"That's not necessary. Yes, I was traumatized for a long time after you kicked me out, but.....Oh, Donnie, I forgave you years and years ago."
He started crying again. "I don't know how you ever could."
"Hey--do you remember that beautiful entertainment center you made for us?"
"You don't? You worked weeks on it and it was a beautiful piece of furniture. Remember the little sewing room you made for me when we lived in the Town House? Remember---one day we were sitting in the living room, when we lived in Mother's mobile home and I said, "I wish we had a screen door on that back door. We could get a nice, cool cross breeze from the front door through to the back. I went off to work and when I got home, you had built a beautiful screen door, it was all painted and hung. Remember that."
"I remember that door. It's still on that unit."
"Donnie--you could repair, fix and build anything!! You are a master carpenter....you do such beautiful work!"
He said, "Do you remember those Backgammon games we had every night? We'd bet a nickle. You won more nickles than I did."
"Remember the first time I beat you?"
"Yes...you ran over to Mom and Marcia's trailer, whooping and hollering that you had finally beat me."
We were quite for a moment and then I said, "Remember one Valentine's Day, we had no extra money...."
"We never had any extra money."
"I walked in from work and you had made me a pan of home made chocolate fudge--you had made it in my heart-shaped cake pan. Remember?"
The rest of our conversation was nice. We laughed, we joked. I stayed for about 90 minutes and decided I'd better start home. I asked if I could use the bathroom--he said, "Wait a minute, I'll put up a clean hand towel for you."
When I went in, I noticed the towel--so old and threadbare---and hung precisely, with all edges even. So after I washed my hands, I put that towel back on the rod....as crooked as I could make it.
We hugged. He thanked me profusely for visiting. I thanked him.
As I drove away, I was smiling. I was laughing out loud! I felt better than I've felt in months. Although, it is true, I have forgiven him years ago and haven't even thought about him in a very long time...I guess I needed his apology and asking for my forgiveness.
His explanation of his mental illness made those years all make sense to me now--nothing made sense back then---when I was living through it.
Closure. That word that society bandies about nowadays.
I know what that means now. Such peace. The last couple of days, when I've thought about Don, I remember all the fun and good times we did have.
When it was good, it was very, very good. When it was bad, it was terrifying--so angry his eyes would get red, and I didn't recognize him. Fearing for my very life.
It's all good now. Besides that, if he ever came at me with his hand raised now...I could take him down into a heap of old bones in a second. He is a frail old man.
P.S. I am so wondering what he thought the next time he went into the bathroom and saw that hand towel, hanging all crooked on the rod. HAH!