Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Ex-Significant Other (Part 2) or How I Met the Boy and Lost My Mind

My previous post was primarily about my personal faux pas and the occasional problem of not taking care to filter my thought processes before moving the mouth. It was funny to me because I am not a comedian; the comedy in our family is usually left to my brother.

My ex-husband is not the "let's live close to each other so I can take the kids more often" or the "pay the child support payment on time every time" or "get down on the floor and play with the kids" type of guy. The divorce wasn't pretty or smooth or satisfying and when over I did not feel relieved, just sad and empty and with one of the worst self-esteems I've known. I only tolerate him because I have to. I don't love him and I don't like him and I don't want to be friends or talk or even see him if I don't have to.

But, that said, at one time I did love him. I could kick myself now for loving him, but I did. I sometimes think I loved his mind more than his person. This is hard to explain. To understand you have to know something about the two of us. I was from Pennsylvania in school in Oklahoma and he was from Texas. Both of us could say where we were from was only "at that moment" because we were both preachers kids. In fact, our fathers were in the same seminary class and we were at their graduation in 1955 as three and two year olds. He was a geek. A full fledged physic and math, ham radio operating, CLEP out of 30 hours, long haired, green plaid shirted, couldn't talk to girls geek. I was less of a geek, but really still a geek in my own right. I was a biology and chemistry, CLEP out of 30 hours, admitted to Yale, my nose in a book at all times type of geek. In those days I was comfortable with my geekness and was able to relate to other people, even boys. But the guys then. I have never found a satisfactory word for the male counterpart of a female "airhead", but many were just that. Maybe "mental midget" would do, yes, I think I like that.

It usually went this way. There is a campus function and a guy asks you out, you go. The next day he would suddenly start showing up at your class and want to carry your books to the next class even if you were only going from the biology floor to the chemistry floor of the science building and he(being a religion or history major) had to run across campus, carry the books and run back across campus to his own class. This is stupid. And the lines I heard: "God told me he wanted us to go steady." Excuse me, I am a freshman, 1200 miles away from home and carrying 18 hour science class load, this is the first week of school, I don't know you from Adam and I don't know what god you are talking to but I have heard no such utterance from my God so GO AWAY!

I wanted to go out with someone who would not pass out when I talked about dissecting a fetal pig or Ascaris lumbricoides and who's knowledge of chemistry was greater than was evidenced by one guy who coming into the lab said, "Oh, look at the pretty colored water in the bottle." I needed someone with a greater command of the English language than 'wow', 'far out', and 'these little flies sure have big eyes'.

I met GPP when my parents moved from Pennsylvania to Delaware the Christmas of my freshman year. A ham radio operator in their church in Delaware talked regularly to GPP, a student at Bethany where I went. So, armed with his name, I searched him out to use the radio to contact my folks. Thus it began. You should know that women, especially the smart ones not stuck on standing in front of the mirror all day, are capable of very intricate planning and investigation and will use everything and everyone at their disposal to find out information they want to know.

I thought he was cute. He had moderately long hair, to the collar, not bad for the early 70's though. He had a protruding chin, sometimes with the hair covering his head and sideburns and such, the chin was the only means of recognition at a distance. Yes, and then there were the green plaid shirts. Some looked to be cotton blend and others flannel. He had every variation of green plaid shirt known to mankind. Green on green plaid, green on brown plaid, blue and yellow on green plaid, yellow on green plaid, small green plaids, large green plaids, gold on green plaids, and even a mint green on forest green with a subtle yellow line plaid shirt. Never any purple or pink mixed in, not even a hint. I seem to remember that he had, to my knowledge, only one solid color shirt and this was a dark maroon red.

I figured out his classes, his work schedule, and his ham radio schedule. He was the lab instructor in physics and I was lab instructor in zoology and chemistry. We had keys to the science building. I stayed on the second and third floors and he was on the first floor and the basement. The fourth floor had not been finished in and held only the Botany lab and the gerbil habitat at the time. It also led to the roof astronomy observatory dome and his ham radio antenna. I studied him from afar. He really was a tough cookie to crack. He didn't date, he didn't even seem to notice any girls, not even me. People we mutually knew dropped hints but to no avail.

He finally asked me out once my Sophomore year and after that nothing. I started dating someone else seriously at the end of that year but David graduated and went on to medical school. I still had in the back of my mind that I really liked GPP. He dated a close friend of mine a few times.

When I was a junior I had to take Physics for pre-med requirements even though I was only considering this in the back of my mind. He was my lab instructor. Now this was my third time at Physics with two years in high school. It was the first time we actually had to talk to each other. It did not go well. He had a contempt for pre-med students and I was one. He laughed at us and I will have to admit that there were several in the class for whom Physics was going to be the downfall. I aced the class and knew what was going on in the lab and that irritated him. We got into each other's faces one to many times in lab and I finally decided that he wasn't worth wasting any more time on. So, I took a small piece of white cloth, a straw and a little block of wood and made a flag. As I walked out of lab one day, I put it on the desk in front of him and just said, "You win, goodbye!"

I went to Dallas to see David that weekend with my roommate. It was a good weekend, not much sleep but David was steady. I could love him. He was smart, true not that same smart aleck smart that GPP was but still, he was in med school. Then a few weekends later I was walking across campus and David appears. Surprise! He had friends to see and me and I was on cloud nine as we went into the cafeteria for supper. GPP was there, he apparently saw us (I learned later) but at that moment I didn't care. That weekend was wonderful. I could talk to and with David, we had similar goals and talk got very close to the "M" word. I think that if he had asked me to marry him that night my life would have been completely different. We talked around it but he didn't ask.

A couple of weeks went by and one night I got a phone call from GPP asking me out. Totally out of the blue. I was mystified, but I went. It was fun. He was graduating but returning the next year to pick up another B.S. in math. I was staying through the graduation ceremonies because I was one of two College Marshals who were the Juniors with the highest GPAs. We had to lead the lines of graduating seniors in all the baccalaureate and commencement ceremonies. So GPP and I spent a lot of time together before and during graduation and by the time we left for the summer, we were dating officially.

We wrote during the summer and dated all fall. I went to his home for Thanksgiving and he came to Delaware at Christmas where he asked me to marry him. My answer was one of the lack of processing classics, "Are you kidding me? If you're kidding me, it is not funny." Loose translation, Yes. Through the years it has became more clear to me that the only reason he asked me was jet lag. He had jet lag, didn't know where he was, in shock at meeting my family and just blurted it out. That is the only explanation. Of course, I already had the wedding dress, actually two of them, much to my mother's dismay. One was borrowed and one was bought. She kept saying, "What if he doesn't ask you?" I have always been practical. I just said, "He will, but if he doesn't then I'll keep it until someone I love does ask."

I planned the wedding at school, finished my senior year, got into medical school at Pritzger School of Medicine in Chicago and UT Galveston but turned them down because he was going to graduate school at North Texas State University. It was UT Southwestern in Dallas or nothing. Everyone of my professors thought I was nuts and I was. I had lost my mind. I was crazy, madly, overwhelmingly in love with this boy. UT Southwestern came through three weeks before graduation and the wedding. I thought that this was God telling me the plan was right. I couldn't see that it wasn't God driving the plan, it was me. I was in love and people in love can ignore warning signs, the small things.

Yes, there were warning signs even then. He never could come out and say, "I love you." His standard response was "What is love really?", but I ignored it. Another sign I should have taken seriously was more obvious. A close friend of mine who had dated GPP a few times received a dozen red roses anonymously from a secret admirer. She tried to find out who they were from and in doing so had asked GPP if he had sent them. This took him by surprise and bolstered his ego far above what was normal for an engaged guy. He was elated that she would think he might send her flowers even though he was engaged to someone else. He talked about it for weeks. That should have been a "hit-me-in-the-head-with-a-frying-pan" type of sign for me but by that time, any geeky, rational, practical mind I had was gone. I was in the "I can make him love me when we are married" and "He can change when we are married" mode.

So, I chose my path. I walked head long into it with the best of intentions and with an open loving heart and for the longest time (13 years) I tried to make him love me. After twelve years, he gave me Nyssa, the best and only gift he ever gave me that mattered. But he didn't love me, never did as it turns out. I believe he loves Nyssa, just in his own way. I hope it is enough for her.

I didn't want to divorce but it became too painful to compete with the girlfriend. He said he wanted us both. He didn't know what to do. Through counseling and prayer and a lot of crying, I had regained a little part of my sanity, enough to ask him the most important question he would ever hear from me. "Are you happier with her in the last few months than you were with me for twelve years?" He said simply, "Yes." With that one word he cut my heart out and the last remnants of my love for him vanished. But, I was calm, totally sane and I knew exactly how to respond. "Then you have the answer as to what you have to do, and so do I." And so I did.

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