Tuesday, 2 May 2017

To My "Practice Husband"

Hi. It's been a long time. Twelve or 16 years, depending on whether you're counting from the last time we saw each other in the courtroom, or the last conversation we had. So you're probably wondering what's prompted this letter: it was a song.

I was listening to country music radio (yes, still a country fan) when I heard the singer's words: "I just miss you, and I just wish you were a better man." My heart stopped, and my breath caught in my throat. I couldn't believe your face had flashed before my eyes. But it's true.

I held onto bitterness for a very long time. The bad outweighed the good, but there were good times. I had to dig pretty deep to find them, but it helps to remember them now. It helps to speak them out loud to our children, who were too young to remember much of those days. They don't remember us dancing or playing Ping-Pong or serving at the soup kitchen together. But I tell them, because I want them to know those days happened. I'm OK with saying I miss those days, when your laughter was contagious. And I'm OK, too, with saying I wish you were a better man. Because just when I had begun to find a place of forgiveness in my heart, you stabbed it with a new knife.

Back in the day, I chose you. I chose you to be my first husband. I chose you to be the father of my children. I chose you as my eternal partner. I chose you to grow old with me. And now, I'm sorry.

I found out later you married me on a $5 bet. I'm sorry that $5 bet cost so many people so much.

I chose to marry you when the options before me were to marry you or never see you again.  I'm sorry I wasn't level-headed enough to see the value of taking more time to truly know each other.

I chose to stay through flaring tempers and swinging fists, because I believed our children deserved to know their father.  I'm sorry I made you a father, and kept you in that role too long; it is abundantly clear to me now that you either did not want, or were not ready for, children.

May I pause for a moment to brag here? Our children are beautiful. They are my treasures. In a world of hurt and anger and things we got wrong, I got it mostly right with them. Sure, there were teen moments ... but we got through them. And those kids are two of the world's most amazing adults to date. They are hard workers with kind souls, freckles and deep blue eyes. They are astonishingly protective of each other, and of their friends and chosen family.

I asked them if they wanted you at their high school graduations. I have kept tabs on you through the years via a "creeper account" on social media. I always knew the day would come that I would have to answer questions, and I wanted to be ready. Confession: I had years to prepare, and still wasn't ready. There is no way to prepare for the emotions associated with a moment like this.

Although they were not ready to have you attend their high school graduations, they are ready now. A daughter has questions. A son seeks a conversation with a man he doesn't remember. And your response? Classy as ever. You refused to acknowledge him on social media. You accepted her friend request, but refuse to send a single message. Not even "hello." Clearly, you were done with them the day you pulled their photos from your wallet, threw them on the windowsill and walked out. You're a special kind of demon.

Am I angry again? Yes. Will I let it weigh me down again? No. You were my practice husband. You taught me how to identify a real man. You taught me how to choose a real father. You taught me how to raise strong, intelligent human beings. You taught me more than you took from me. I will not let you win now.

I am grateful for all I have learned. I am sorry for all you have thrown away, without knowing the beauty it held. I am saddened for the tears in my children's eyes. I am blessed to see those tears absorbed by the shoulders of a man who carries a weight that was never his by rights ... but it's his by choice. For all the choices I have made, the greatest choice of all is the choice made by a man to step into a broken home and love it whole again. Thank you for being my practice husband; you allowed me to get it right with the man who matters most. My second-and-forever husband. The real father of my children.

I wish you no harm. I wish you no luck. I simply wish you were a better man.


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