Some people believe that our souls are transformable, or that we live many times, moving from one life to another. While Christians believe that Jesus was resurrected in the physical sense, many believe it was a spiritual awaking and resurrection. I was never a very religious person, but that would not always be the case. I stopped going to church as a young boy. I just followed the traditions of religion. When the truck left my home with my soon to be former wife and most everything we owned, I thought I would die right then and there. My mind was a blur of regrets, confusion and anguish. She didn’t leave me due to the lack of love or at least I thought so at the time. When I begged her to tell me why, she was direct. She said it was for power and money. She wanted both more than she cared about anything else. The man she left me for was very successful financially. She was lured away with power, the promise of country clubs and money.
I was enraged at first and incredibly jealous. Anyone would be. I drifted between wanting to kill him and wanting to win her back. I thought I could somehow reinvent myself and build a financial fortune, a fortune that would bring her back. Although it was almost impossible to walk, with the help of pain medication, I made the effort. I dusted off my camera. Walking and taking photographs became my way of mourning. At first, I would walk alone on the same beaches and parks I had photographed all the models. I started to pray again, mostly for her, hoping that she would find happiness with him. I forgave them both. It was the only way I could survive. I put her life and happiness above my own. I felt I never deserved her in the first place. I would live on until my heart condition took me, dedicating my life to my children. The first time she brought them back I broke down, not because I was seeing her again, but because I knew that, with or without her, I had my children.
Although I was still alive, something died inside me. I didn’t think I would ever get it back. My heart was broken. Not only was I suffering emotionally, but physically as well from the intense pain. The mega dosages of statins, experimental drugs and peripheral artery disease was ravaging my body. My liver was failing, as were my kidneys. Between the mega dosages of medications and the pain, I was all but dead anyway. There was no way that I was going to allow my four-year-old son and my newborn daughter to see me suffering. I would take large doses of pain meds each time, prior to their arrival.
I was with my father, changing my daughter’s diaper. At the time my dad was very ill, suffering from cancer. I was the only who knew. He told me something that inspired me. It was his mantra. He said, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going. You have two children to think about now, not a wife.” With that, I got out of bed and started looking for a new career so I could support myself and my children while I was resurrecting my life, body and soul. Before long a partner in my software business offered me the opportunity to come and work for his software company. Just getting out of bed and into a working environment helped. I was on so many medications. I don’t even remember what they were. I was very much an emotional zombie at first. Every time I picked up my children it was like Christmas. If it were not for them I am sure I would have died.
I could not let my children down. They needed me more than ever now, as my ex became too unstable to take care of them or herself. No one could blame her. I felt sorry for her. When I asked her where my wife was, she was only too quick to reply, “she is dead, and you will never see her again.” She was dead inside. The person standing in front of me was no longer the woman I fell in love with. I mourned her as if she had actually died and I was a widower. Her words were the saddest I have ever heard. She was angry, feeling sorry for herself and blaming me for getting sick. She was impatient and did not manage the responsibility of caring for two young children very well.
She hadn’t worked outside of the house, as she was a stay at home mom. She did help with my consulting business, but that was only because I wanted her to feel part of something. I realized that if I did not take care of our children her career would never take off. Beyond that, if I didn’t spend as much time with my children as possible, my children would forget I ever existed shortly after I died. I mustered up the will power and started to be as much of a mother to my children as I was a father. I was so medicated that I was not feeling much. But, feeling pity for her was a lot better than feeling as if I was dying from the inside out. After our divorce, she became mean and angry. Her therapist who acted briefly as our marriage counselor told me that people sometimes develop serious mental illness later in life, or after having children. She told me that there was nothing I could do to help her. Her suggestion was to be patient and never respond to her anger with anger of my own. So, I moved on as quickly as I could. My former wife, despite having significant education, went back to school for her masters and took years off from mothering as a result. It was something not many people would choose to do with two young children. I “Mr. Mommed” pretty much night and day, taking care of my children whenever she was too occupied with her new found social life and everything else that allowed her to avoid her parental responsibilities. She simply had no patience at all for my children when they were young and needy.
It was absurd. I was in so much emotional pain; despite the fact I was sedated twenty-four seven to keep from having another heart attack. When my children were with me, I would medicate myself just enough to be functional. When they were at their mom’s house, I would regress into a depressed mess and just sleep. I never slept deeply, but I did dream. As I looked back on my marriage I thought of all my previous chapters of love and realized that together we had a very long and successful chapter of love. I had my children even though I lost my wife. I went to work for my business partner. He gave me a large draw and commissions. As hard as I worked there was no talent in the software industry available during the millennium. Every possible body was already engaged in a Y2k fix. It became obvious that they could not find bodies to handle the actual work for the sales I was bringing in. I realized after a few months, that my dear friend was carrying me because of our friendship. I couldn’t ask that of him. I started looking for another way to make a living. Before I left, I met a younger woman at the office and that changed everything.
She was a beautiful young lady who worked in marketing. She would come to my office at lunchtime and try to cheer me up. It was obvious to everyone I was depressed. She started to flirt with me. That gave me a much-needed ego boast. After a few months, I started easing up on the tranquilizers and went off anti-depressants. I was surviving one day at a time. I never thought I was going to be ok without my family intact. On the other hand, my now former wife must have been planning for it for a very long time, based on how quickly we were divorced and the fact that she moved directly into her, soon to be, new husband’s house the same day she left mine.
At that point sex was so dangerous for me I didn’t think that I would ever engage in it again. Nor did I care. All I cared about was my children and spending time with them. However, one day after months of that same young lady coming into my office and bringing me chocolate chip cookies, she said, “you know I can have you anytime I want.” It took me by surprise. I blew it off as if she was just teasing me, or trying to lift my spirits. But, that night, after work, she met me at the exit and followed me home. Before I knew it, we were in my former marital bed. She was on top of me, taking her shirt off. I had not even thought of being with another woman. But, if I was going to die, I figured I might as well die happy. I was doing anything I could to try and move on knowing that there was no turning back and my time was limited. We started to kiss and a spark of love hit my heart. It was at that moment I realized that I could love again. There are simply no words to describe how I felt. It was as if my soul was flowing back into my heart. She was completely naked at that point and still on top of me and we were starting to go at it.
As we became more and more physical, out of nowhere, I heard my nearly five-year-old son knocking at my bedroom door and calling me. I threw her off me, put my clothes on and went to the door. I didn’t know what he was doing there all by himself. It wasn’t my day on our schedule. Somehow his mother had seen me with that beautiful young woman and left my son at my front door. I couldn’t imagine why, but later learned it was out of jealousy. Jealousy is a much stronger emotion than love. Maybe she lost it for that one little moment. I picked my son up and went looking for my daughter who was still in the car with my ex. She said it was my turn, so I just took them. She drove off in a huff. I had never seen her that way. She said nothing about the girl, but I could tell she knew and was for that moment unstable.
I never did invite her back to my home or continue that chapter of love, as the next day somehow the entire office knew she and I were together. My boss called me into his office and shared with me that it was the security cameras outside the office that gave it away. He also told me that she was engaged to a friend of his. So, I ended it. I was not going to interfere with another man’s engagement no matter how delicious those cookies were. I was so sick I did not believe I would have much of a future anyway.
About fifteen years later, while photographing a party at the Garden City Hotel for kicks and exercise, I took a photo of a very attractive woman who started to flirt with me. We wound up having a few dirty martinis at the bar. She asked me what my name was and I told her. She was shocked, as was I, to learn we knew each other. Yes, it was her. She had just gone through her third divorce. I will never forget the girl who followed me home, brought me chocolate chip cookies and restored my faith in love. She was the chapter of love who gave me the hope that my broken heart could one day heal.