Letters from David

Dear Nancy,

As a large rock that sits in one’s shoe as a constant bother and pain, so too have I been a rock in your life. Your niece has attached to you as a pillar of strength where I have failed miserably. There are no words or actions that can undo or remedy the pain and suffering I have caused you, your niece, and your family. All I can do is express my deepest apology and take responsibility for my actions. With the separation of Lindsay and I, finally life will brighten on both sides of the fence. I wish not to be a continuous burden to your family and will keep as far of a distance as possible to maintain some form of tranquility. Thank you for welcoming me into your family, and I’m ashamed that I have disappointed you all.

~David

This was only one of the many letters from David written to various members of my family and closest friends in the couple of weeks after our decision to separate and divorce was made.  During David and I’s sit down verbal agreement regarding our possessions and assets, he informed me that he had taken the liberty of writing letters and offered to have me “proofread” them before sending them or not sending them at all if I didn’t want him to.  I told him he could send whatever he wanted and no, I didn’t wish to read them beforehand.  I already knew every one would share them with me after they received them anyhow.  It seemed like an odd thing for him to do but who am I to stop someone from sending a letter?

By the time all were sent and read, the majority of them shared the same basic idea of which was that I was going to desperately need someone to lean on, endless extra support as a consequence of our “mutual” separation as he also once referred to it.  This struck me as quite assumptive and obtuse, not to mention borderline narcissistic.  Of course I couldn’t have gotten through any of this without my amazingly supportive friends and family, but I took it as a presumption that I was expected to be infinitely wallowing in my sorrow and drowning in my tears.

The particular letter above was sent via Facebook to my auntie right before he deleted all of my friends and family from his connections.  I chose to share this specific letter because I would go as far as to say that it’s the closest to accuracy out of all of them and fairly void of the egotistical premise that I was going to need someone in his absence.  If I were to dissect each sentence, I might say that a single, silly rock in one’s shoe doesn’t even come close to the proper analogy to describe his place in my and my loved ones’ lives.

While the majority of his message was quite contrite, I’m not so sure David even truly believed any of the words he actually wrote.  Regardless, I also chose this letter because only two of my closest connections had the displeasure of witnessing the darker side of David that I faced on a much more regular basis, that I had been living with for almost two and a half years – the drunk David – the mean, the vindictive, the competitive, the insecurely irrational David – The David that would say and do things he would deeply regret later.  These two connections are my dear friend, Jimmy and my auntie.

When passing through Kansas City en route to Los Angeles last winter, David and I joined my auntie and uncle for what began as a fun game of Monopoly one night complemented by alcoholic beverages.  I was worried when I realized that the bottle of whatever it was, Scotch or Whiskey, that my uncle and David were sharing was practically empty.  Even though I was in partial denial about David’s alcohol problem, I wasn’t oblivious to his drastic behavioral changes that erred on the side of nasty when he was intoxicated.

On one side of the game table, my happy-go-lucky drunk uncle was laughing and enjoying himself and on the other side of the table, my competitive by nature husband was pissed about the fact that I was winning the game.  His escalating attitude triggered my own defenses.  I recall wanting to leave sooner than later because the idea of my auntie and uncle having to observe one of our fights did not appeal to me and the tension was already tangible.

On the drive back to my grandmother’s house where we were sleeping for our brief layover in Kansas City, an expected and horrendous fight ensued.  David abruptly jumped out of the rental car at a stoplight at two in the morning.  I immediately turned right to park the car in a lot and run after him.  After catching up to him, we proceeded to scream at each other, right there on the sidewalk, across from the apartments where I spent the first eight years of my life and down the street from my middle school.  I reflect on these seemingly minute details, taking myself back to the fourteen-year-old girl, standing in front of my school waiting for my mama to pick me up – My body, blossoming into that of a young woman’s, never in a million years imagining engaging in a screaming match, fourteen years later, steps down the street with my future husband.

David indignantly walked away, down the street with absolutely no direction in mind.  I was so angry at his endangering audacity.  I teeter-tottered back and forth from letting him go, chasing him again and/or calling my auntie and uncle for help.  I chose the latter with remorse as we had all been drinking this particular night.  I knew that asking them to help would be asking one of them to drive under the influence.  They quickly came and drove down the street where they found David walking along in the dark, aimlessly.  My auntie demanded that he “get his ass in the car now” after failingly asking nicely and receiving no active response.  They urged us both to go home and sleep it off.

The rest of the drive to my grandmother’s was thankfully quiet.  I found myself on the telephone with one of my closest friends that night, crying in the basement where I spent many younger days playing with Lincoln logs and typing out children’s stories on the antique typewriter.  My girlfriend was shocked at the night’s turn of events as so many were mostly unaware of the trials that were swiftly becoming endemic within our rocky relationship.

The following morning, I awoke early and drove back to my auntie and uncle’s with the intention of profusely apologizing to them for having to witness and intervene.  As I sat on their couch, conversing in detail about the state of my new marriage, my auntie earnestly interjected.

Linds, you’re not going to like what I’m about to say but as I’m listening to you, you wanna know what this reminds me of?”  She asked and I already knew the answer.

The silence between us was deafeningly audible as I held my breath, waiting for her to finally say the words – To say what I was well aware of but too in love to admit at the time…

I’ve had this exact conversation with your mom.”  She sadly admitted.

I nodded, my head hanging a bit lower than it was before the harsh truth was spoken – before it was put into the Universe that existed between us at that moment.  She was right.  Everything I was saying was like my mom describing her relationship with my dad to her best friend, her sister.  Even though I didn’t swallow that pill that day, I kept it in my pocket and I pulled it out to look at it, turn it round and round in the palm of my hand, every now and then.

Those words, “I’ve had this exact conversation with your mom” hit me like a wrecking ball reminding me of the dire but necessary promise I made to my mama a few years prior.  I solemnly promised her that I would never make the same mistake she made in regards to a man – I would never spend almost twenty-five years of my precious life with someone who is less than everything I know I deserve.  My sincere promise wasn’t made in judgment toward her life’s decision either as I understand many factors played part in her remaining with my dad for so long – her children being the major one.  I had the advantage of an example to learn from and the premature confrontation of mortality definitely demands one live life to the fullest to say the absolute least.

Our lives are defined by moments and our reactions to the many hurdles and roadblocks that we encounter along the journey.  My auntie’s honesty was a hurdle I didn’t leap over right away – it took another five months to finally do so but I am grateful that she was willing to offer up that candor, to be frank if you will.

While I sat in my mama’s sister’s living room that early morning feeling sorry for the fact that she unexpectedly witnessed one of David and mine’s darker moments, today I am thankful that she did.  It makes me feel a little less crazy and alone in all of the madness that once was because within all of my stories, I have spectators able to validate my experiences if and when I begin to doubt myself.  It also enabled my auntie to be one of the only letters from David recipients to respond and she did so in the most appropriate manner that she saw fit.  Unfortunately, she lost her response somewhere in the space of technology but suffice it to say, she was quite frank with him just as she was appreciatively frank with me that despairing morning in the aftermath of fight number X to the third power.

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One Phone Call from our Knees

I couldn’t stop screaming – the agonizing sound was echoing off of the walls, penetrating its piercing vibrations into the neighbors’ apartments.  Stopping only to shortly catch my breath a couple of times, I continued screaming as the tears escaped their ducts uncontrollably, now a steady stream of water upon my cheeks, my chin.  Clenching my cell phone in my right hand, I didn’t even notice that I wasn’t holding it up to my ear any longer as the excruciating noises fled my mouth, unceasingly.

I gasped for oxygen as I placed the phone back up to my ear.

Linds, Linds…breathe, breathe…” My auntie calmly urged from the other end of the telephone.

Noooooooooooooooooo,” I cried, flailing my left arm in the air following up this dramatic gesture by punching the bed that I was kneeling on.  There was absolutely nothing calm about my demeanor as I was in the middle of experiencing the second worst day of my life to date.

It was around 7:00 on a Saturday morning, about a week before Christmas of 2010.  My West Hollywood apartment was halfway packed in preparation for my big cross-country move to New York City and I had just woken up to retrieve a glass of water from the kitchen.  Taking the first sip to replenish my thirst, I heard my cell phone loudly ring from the bedroom.  My heart dismally leapt from my chest into my parched throat.

The night prior, after arriving home from a long day at work, I felt the weight of the world – The same weight I would feel months later the day my dad passed away as I described in my audio post, Perfect Stranger. This particular night, I couldn’t figure out why or what but it was heavy enough to take myself to bed at 8:00 on a Friday night

My sleepy eyes opened to a cloudy, rainy early morning as I slowly made my way to the kitchen.  When the familiar sound of my cell phone became audible, that weight that urged me to an early slumber the night before drove me to quickly run to the bedroom as I thought to myself, no one calls me this early in the morning.  I knew it was important and I knew in my soul that it was going to explain why I felt like I was carrying not only the World but also the Universe upon my shoulders.

Singer/Songwriter, Mat Kearney once wrote the poignant words, “She got the call today / One out of the gray / And when the smoke cleared / It took her breath away / She said she didn’t believe / It could happen to me / I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees…”

Hello?”  I nervously answered.

Linds, I had to call 9-1-1 last night.  Your mom collapsed – She’s fine.  She’s in the hospital right now…” My auntie deliberately trailed off.

I discernably swallowed, “I don’t understand.  What happened?”  I persisted.

The ambulance had to come and it’s cancer, Linds. She had to have emergency radiation on the multiple brain tumors that were pressing against her skullIt’s not mono.  It’s cancer.”  My auntie continued.

To this day, I’m not sure if I made her repeat herself because I was talking over her or breathing so heavily that I didn’t think I heard her correctly but the truth is, I heard her just fine – I just didn’t want to believe the words that were coming out of her mouth.  I wanted it to be mono so bad.  Regardless, stemming from my masochistic nature and the need for it not to be true, I made her say the words again, “It’s cancer.”

No…No…NO!  NO!  NO!”  I kept on repeating in response, the volume increasing with each time until it was a steady, continuous scream of the word, “NO.” It was probably one of the first words I ever learned and now, I was using it as if it was the only word I ever learned.  I was in a perpetual state of shock fueled by an anger like I’ve never experienced before.

After hanging up the phone, I sat, motionless on my bed, staring at the peanut butter colored walls through blood shot eyes.  It was somewhere in between wheezing for breath between irrepressible sobs and shrieking “No” and it was somewhere between the unrelenting torrent of thoughts that began whirling around in my clouded brain and the sound of the rain pitter-pattering on the windowsill that I began deeming the Universe cruel and that I stopped believing in a Higher Power.

39,000 Feet Up in the Air

IMG_20140223_2129568/14/2010

Dear David,

I am writing this with the intention of giving it to you one day in the future.  I hope that I will have the opportunity to do so.  Think of this as a kind of documentation, a testimony to where you and I stand at this very moment in time.  I thought it only befitting that I write it on this United Airlines flight map since distance is a current factor in our relationship and I am on my way to see you as I speak.  I am about 39,000 feet in the air, somewhere not too far from Chicago.  As we took off, the moon was crescent and glowing a beautiful, yellow shade…God, there’s so much I feel like I need to say.  I sat in the O’Hare airport with the silliest, biggest grin across my face at the thought that I’m going to see you in a couple hours.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the conversation we had about forever not seeming long enough and each day that goes by (especially the ones where I don’t see you) that feeling gets stronger.  Life is so short, regardless.  With you, I don’t feel like I’m rushing into anything or moving too fast.  Everything just feels right and I want to do everything with you.  I truly hate being apart and that is why I’m going on this interview on Monday with the hopes that I land a fantastic job in New York City, so that we truly can begin to be with each other – in every sense of that expression.  There’s still so much I wanna do, but where I wanted to do certain things by myself, I now don’t.  I wanna do everything with you.  Can I just state how frustrating writing out my thoughts, feelings, emotions for you, for us, is?  As a writer, I don’t find myself at a loss for words often.  Perhaps this is because most things I write about I am actually familiar with.  You are new.  Again, I am stumped.  These words just don’t do your greatness justice.  I’m going to have the next four days to show you how much I love you and how much you mean to me and after those four days, I’m going to try to get you to come back to Los Angeles with me.  When I was asking the Universe/Higher Power for change, I never in a million years would have imagined someone as amazing as you.  If nothing else, you’ve changed my life and me for the better.  I feel like a child reaching for the cookie jar, trying so hard to grasp on to this extraordinary feeling so that I can put it into the appropriate words, but I keep coming up short.  I just can’t wait to look into your eyes.  Ya know – most people don’t believe in what we have – mainly because they’ve never experienced it, but I intend on protecting it with everything I’ve got.  When I’m this high up in the air, I like to think that there’s a lot of people experiencing what we are – all the twinkling lights from the homes that are filled by loving families that were created from the very connection that brought us together…I suppose I should end here.  I love you…I mean it more every time I say it.  Love, Lindsay

I felt it appropriate to share something from when David and I were at the prime of our love, when it was new and exciting.  As I stated in “Once Upon a Time,” I choose to write about a lot of the bullshit but the bullshit would cease to exist without the beauty.  I chose a letter I wrote to him about a month after we fell in love with each other.

During the winter of 2011, I asked my mama what she thought about compiling a scrapbook of unread letters and memorabilia of David and mine’s relationship and gifting it to him on our wedding day.  Her response was my motivation to do just that, “I can’t think of a more beautiful gift to give someone.”  David received the above letter, along with many others, on our wedding day, July 9th, 2012.

I can remember writing this letter like it was yesterday, sitting eagerly in my United Airlines window seat.  I still remember sitting on the airport floor, anxiously waiting to board my connection to JFK, receiving an endearing text message from David stating that he couldn’t wait to have me in his arms.  My heart fluttered as I read the words typed out across the cell’s screen and I was smiling like someone had just shown me a wicker basket full of cuddly, furry kittens.  I like to imagine that that joy was contagious no matter how ridiculous I may have appeared.  I can still see the enchanting glow of the moon as the plane rose higher and higher into the summer night sky.  I remember listening to Alicia Keys’ “Distance and Time” on repeat – it described our long distance relationship so poignantly and I included it on one of the many mix CDs I created for David during our seven months spent on opposite sides of the continent.  I can easily recall the train ride to Penn Station, where David was meeting me, and the butterflies that were aggressively doing repetitive hurdles in my stomach.

As I hauled my luggage up the concrete steps of the subway, nervously scanning my surroundings for David, anticipating the familiar New York heat, I spotted a sun-kissed gentleman in a mint green t-shirt and dark denim jeans walking away from my location.

David!”  I enthusiastically called out.

He quickly spun around, our eyes instantly met and excited smiles immediately developed upon both of our faces.  I subconsciously dropped my luggage right there on the ground as we both ran to each other collapsing into an embrace like we were never going to see each other again.  He lifted my body into the air and spun me around – it was a scripted scene right out of a fucking movie, I tell ya, but it was real.  It was love – our love.  And it was one of the best feelings I have ever experienced.

After retrieving my abandoned luggage and taxiing it back to David’s shared residence in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, we wantonly made passionate love for a couple of hours until we were a satisfyingly sweaty heap of pheromones.  Shortly after, we dressed and trekked our way to the Brooklyn Bridge where we finally witnessed the sunrise, or “caught the unicorn” as David so charmingly referred to it.

Once Upon a Time

A few weeks ago, a dear friend of mine earnestly asked me, “Does it bother you that someday, some one is going to get a better version of David?”

I confidently replied, “No, not at all because he’ll never find a better version of me.

She immediately nodded her head in agreement and I took that doozy to therapy that day.  My shrink took it a step further, stating, “And you’ll get a better version of someone else.”

Another close friend of mine more recently inquired, in research for his writing project, “If your ex husband wanted to work things out would you?  Also do you ever truly miss him regardless of the BS?  Be honest 100 percent.  Or are you just over it?”

I responded honestly and curtly, “I would not and I miss him all the time.” My friend wanted to take it a step further asking in what way I miss him and if I could ever consider being his friend.  I politely asked him if we could talk about it another time and here I am, talking about it another time…

The truth is David and I already tried “working things out” and I was still trying the day he decided that he was done.  David plainly said during one of our counseling sessions one afternoon that he was going to shut off his emotions and not burden anyone with them any longer – he wasn’t going to talk about his problems to anyone.  I was flabbergasted at his ludicrous solution to say the least.  Shaking with uncontrollable tears, I beseeched, “Isn’t that why we’re here?  How can you just stop?  That’s like saying you’re giving up?!”  He, of course, could never admit that that was exactly what he was doing – giving up.  He tried to mind fuck me into believing that we could have a “happy” marriage if he just didn’t communicate!  And I, sadly, almost bought it!

During the couple of months that my marriage was quickly perishing, my closest friends and I would mull over the details, analyzing every little conversation and absurd incident.  One hard to swallow conclusion we came to was that David wanted me to be the one to finally say the words, to end it first.  I didn’t want to believe that he was beating around the bush for days, that him saying, “I’m just not quite sure if we’re good for each other anymore” actually meant, “I want to get a divorce.”

As far as missing David, I think I have always missed him in some shape or form since our relationship developed from four, passionately beautiful days and nights we spent together in the city that never sleeps to a seven-month long distance stint to us moving into our first Brooklyn apartment together and finally, to this moment as I type:  Yes I absolutely miss him all the time.  I don’t like to dwell on this feeling much as it makes this separation/divorce ultimately more difficult than it already is and moving on and letting go of the past is the healthiest action I can take for myself.

It is difficult for me to speak about the countless positive moments that David and I shared, the ones that enabled me into believing that things would get better.  I tend to talk more about all of the bullshit than I do about the good memories because it’s the good memories that tear me apart, that, ashamedly, make me yearn for that life a little bit again.  It’s the loving moments that squeeze the tears from my eyes like someone is eagerly popping a giant water balloon.  I’m human and it’s only natural – I have to remind myself that if I didn’t have these yearnings, only then I should worry.  Do I miss having the warmth of David’s arm securely wrapped around me at night, his body tightly aligned against my back?  If I think about it, yes, I do.  Do I miss having him hold my hand, kiss the back of my neck and tell me that he loves me with the utmost sincerity in his chocolate brown eyes?  How could I not?

It’s all the bullshit, for lack of better terms, that I must focus on in regards to David, however, to avoid having what I deem a weak moment.  Focusing on all of the good is what kept me around for as long I was around and willing to forgive knowing full well that we would go through the same bullshit the following week.  I guess one could say it was hope that kept me coming back – the hope that maybe, just maybe, this time, things would actually change for the better.

History repeats itself, though, and in David’s case, it began repeating itself every other week.  In personal regard, I was living the life of my mother – accepting empty, thoughtless apologies from a damaged, selfish addict whose careless actions were the result of hopelessly projecting his inner madness on the closest person to him, the person he loved the most.

And as basic human emotions go, it’s comforting to imagine that someday, someone else’s better version may get the pleasure of spooning me, holding my hand, kissing me and loving me.

David awkwardly tried the “friends” thing a mere couple of weeks after our decision to divorce was made.  He would ask me if I wanted to “grab a drink” and text me cute snapshots of my cats.   I told him then, I told his brother on New Year’s Day and I will tell them both again, “We are not friends nor will we ever be.”  This behavior is a glaringly obvious tribute to his lack of maturity and while I understand this simple fact, it still has the ability to royally piss me off.  No, I will not go sit at a bar with the alcoholic I just spent the last three years of my life loving harder than any man before – to say the absolute least!

I know it’s customary to say “never say never” but friends with exes is something I’m actually good at, if I do say so myself.  In other words, I’ve always made an honest effort to remain civil and friendly with the few that came before David.  Friends with an ex-husband is a completely different situation and none of my relationships prior to David were this intense.  I married the guy for Christ’s sake!  Need I say more?

The dark, early morning hours of July 29th, 2013, as we drove northbound on the 101, I patiently listened to David take about ten drawn out minutes to describe in every possible way, excluding any mention of the word divorce, that our relationship was over.  As we descended upon our freeway exit, I responded with the first ounce of true confidence I could recall feeling in years, “I know I gave this marriage my absolute all and I will not lose sleep at night with the fear that I did not and I can say for certain that I want a divorce.”

Just like that, a three year and twenty-day tumultuous, rollercoaster of a relationship was over in less than sixty seconds.  As tragically sorrowful as that lonely situation was, there was a gloriously liberating feeling that alarmed my senses after I sealed our fate with that seemingly dirty word.  David quickly responded, “I agree.”  I had finally given him what he wanted but was too much of a coward to state his self.  Inside I morosely chuckled at his concurrence as we continued our short drive to the apartment where we would sleep in separate bedrooms from that night forward.  It may have taken a little time but I can sincerely say I am living happily ever after.

Happy 60th Birthday, Dad.

If my dad were here to blow out the candles, we would be celebrating his 60th birthday today, February 19th, 2014.  Wow.  Quite honestly, it is difficult to speak of my dad without conjuring up something negative, some despairing memory.  It wasn’t until he was nearing his last days on Earth that I truly began to understand where all of the despair stemmed from, why my dad held on to a harbor of deep sadness within his lonely heart.  It was only then that I was able to truly forgive him, as well.

Today, I am working through my own negativities, in and out of a therapist’s office, understanding that a lot of it derives from the first man to ever make an impact on my sensitive heart.  As I said, it’s challenging to think about my dad without thinking about the bigger picture, which is the tendency for daughters to choose men who are, if not just like their father, somewhat like him.  For some women, this is a decent thing.  For me, it is not.

With all of that being said, there’s no denying how much I loved my dad and how much I know he loved me.  As I described in my past blog, Perfect Stranger, I so wished with all of my heart that I had more time to get to know him, to piece together some of that incomprehensible mystery that was James Richard Dellinger.  His birthday is a stabbing reminder that I will never get that opportunity.  I can only utilize the twenty-six years that I had with him and if I’m lucky, the memories his beloved friends and family members are willing to share.

Being a little girl of merely five years old, sitting on a park bench with your sobbing mother, holding her hand, consoling her in the best way a young child’s mind knows how, poses quite the significant impression.  Saturday mornings in my household were not only the start of the sought after weekend but the much less anticipated, weekly intense fights between mom and dad – spine tingling fights that consisted of lots of yelling and, at times, ashtrays flying across the room, eventually crashing into a wall.  I grew up faster than most of my peers, to say the least.

Fast forward about ten years to the moment I was sitting, irritable, in the driver’s seat of my mother’s car one night as she drove around aimlessly, avoiding going home because that’s where dad was.  Fifteen years old, my brother already away at college in Iowa, I blurted out with grave, angered force, “When are you going to divorce him” with emphasis on the word, divorce.  Little did I know that thirteen years later, I would be asking myself the exact same, insensitive but necessary, gut-wrenching question.

After my dad moved out of the house, down the street into an apartment about a half a mile away, I planned on never speaking to him again.  I hated him.  I’m glad that I ultimately changed my mind on that one.  Because of the things my father put my family through due to a number of issues, mainly his depressing drug addiction, a giant wedge was placed between the second man to ever have a significant presence and impact on my life – my brother.  He couldn’t stand that I openly spoke about my dad’s addiction to pills, couldn’t understand that I needed support.  My brother and I were never extremely close but this definitely divided us even further.

It was around the time of my parents’ divorce that my mother suggested I seek anger management.  I never did – I was too angry and stubborn to admit to myself, let alone anyone else, that it may have actually been helpful.  Music was my outlet; my constant, unconditional support and I actually owe a lot of my knowledge about music to my dad.  As an army brat that traveled and lived in every corner of the world, he once lived in San Antonio, Texas for a spell where he drummed in a band with one of the members of the rock band, Live.

Fortunately, I have matured from the sixteen-year-old angst-ridden, idealistic young lady who thought she knew it all.  Due to my experiences, I now understand many different forms of addiction a lot better, to the point where my compassion and sympathy are capable of overriding my anger.  I choose not to let my past dictate my present or my future with acknowledgement of why I behave the way I behave, why I make the choices that I make and the intention to better myself with that valuable knowledge.

My father allowed a lot of his past dictate his present and his future to the extent that a lot of it, I’m afraid, was subconscious.  He didn’t have the same opportunities presented to him that I did and he also experienced some horrific things that I never have, namely the suicide of one of his dear brothers.

For my dad, wherever his soul may rest, on his 60th birthday, I wish for him peace in his heart, peace in his mind, boatloads of compassion and love and a greater understanding of self.  I think about you all the time and I love you.

This is a video I created for my dad last year.  Enjoy and thank you for reading and watching.