Being a Dad…the best role I've ever had.

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Life goes on

1988.  I was working two jobs, one at a company that made the front end gear for pocket paging systems and a part time job at a local video store (remember them?) I was content, for a change.  I was making a little money, had an automobile and … not much else.  Later in the summer, I was laid off from my full time job (who buys paging equipment anyway?) and went full time at the video store. In management.  Which, for me, was kind of funny.

My first assignment was at a store in Colonial Heights. It was a very busy store and a challenging position. Second Assistant Manager.  Oh boy. I was a MANAGER! I was there for a few months and was transferred to a store in Richmond’s west end. This store, as I was told, was a mess.  I was to help straighten it out.  I was promoted to ASSISTANT MANAGER too.  A plus, since it meant a raise.

Well, my first day at the store was uneventful except for my introduction to one of the staff.  A perky and young person, she was very friendly and seemed to get along with everyone.  I was smitten.  Toward the end of her shift, she asks if she can leave a little early. Jokingly, I look at my watch and said ‘yeah, I suppose so!’.  She gave me an odd look, thanked me and left.

After a few months, I was completely taken with this person and gathered up enough courage to ask her out. She turned me down. Not once, but several times.  One day, though, she said sure.  Now, today, I probably would have gotten into trouble for asking a subordinate out, but it was a different time then. 

That first date? Well, it was terrible. We saw the movie ‘Ghost’ and both had had bad days.  We did agree, however, to try it again.  That second date was way better, though I could not tell you what we did or where we went.  I’m sure it was dinner and something, but I forget.  That first date, though? I still remember it.  Unfortunately, nothing remains today of that date.  The restaurant is history. The movie theater is now a Kroger. The cars we had? Both are gone. 

We went on to more dates and I eventually married her.  We bought a house, which is now someone else’s home.  We had a child, who is now graduating high school and is no longer my ‘little’ buddy. 

June 7, 2015 marks the fifth anniversary of Jo Ellen’s passing.  And, while I do miss her, I know that she is no longer in the bad spot that trapped her  for the last two years of her life.  That life is gone, but the happier memories remain.  As I go through boxes that have lay dormant for four years now, I find pictures, yearbooks and other mementos from that part of my life. I am happy to find them and I realize that life, my life, has gone on.

And, so too is my desire to write about it. This will, likely, be the last time I write about that part of my life. I have another wonderful wife, two more wonderful kids and look forward to making more memories with them. 

Jo Ellen’s death was devastating for me, my family and our friends.  It was unexpected and seemingly out of nowhere.  One day she is in the hospital for muscular problems and, then…the ICU and she’s gone.  I will never forget the lifeless stare or having to tell my then 12 years old son he has lost his mother.  It is seared in my memory forever.  The decisions I had to make that day will haunt me as well.  But, there is a bright side.  She is no longer in pain. She is no longer suffering the deep depression she had fallen into and she is at peace. 

After five years, my life is completely different. While I do miss her, I have gone forward with life.  I have married another wonderful woman who has accepted my son as hers and given me another biological son and a really cool step-son.  Jo Ellen would approve, she always told me I needed to remarry if something ever happened to her because Chase needed a Mom and I needed someone who could tell me where my socks were and what day it was.  She was right.

Oh, and the comment I made to her that first day and the odd look? Well, I found out, years later, that she thought I was an ogre! She did not realize I was just having some fun. I’m glad she, eventually, realized that.


She was just pregnant and not crazy

Last June, I started to think that, perhaps, my marriage might have a serious issue. See, my wife was having a difficult time and, seemingly, I was a part of that problem. It was like I could do nothing right. She was constantly criticizing herself and me as well. My 15 year old also could do nothing right.  April and myself seemed to be growing apart.

For the life of me, I could not figure out what was going on with her and what the hell I had done wrong.  Things were at the point where I thought the last hope we may have had was a weekend alone, to re-connect with each other. Or, at the very least, find out what was going on.  She liked the idea and we decided to take a week end jaunt to the Norfolk, Virginia area. There is lots to do down there and it was not a long drive.

So, we made plans. Booked a room at a Hilton and made our plans.  For once, everything seemed fine.  We had a long talk the night we booked that room and decided that no, our marriage was not in jeopardy but, perhaps, we did have some issues.

Well, several days go by and, once again, she’s out of sorts. Chase and I were the devil.

During this period, she was still having some residual issues from her gall bladder surgery the previous fall.  So, her doctor had scheduled an endoscopy. 

In the months prior to this, we had been actively trying to get pregnant. We had no luck.  Test after test (and, boy, did CVS love us for that) proved negative. Was it me? Was it her? Turns out, it wasn’t.

So, we sort of just stopped trying. That’s when things went downhill. Or, so it seemed.

Well, the night before the endoscopy, April decides to take one last test.  She grabbed the test and headed for the bathroom. I’m in the bedroom, probably perusing Facebook or some techie-geeky site. 

Suddenly, I hear…’Honey, I’m pregnant! I’m not crazy!’

Naturally, I go running into the bathroom and there she was, standing over the toilet, hands shaking, tears coming from her eyes.  “I’m not crazy! I’m not!” I hugged her for what seemed like forever.  It was only a minute, but it seemed like longer. Not that that was a bad thing. Hugging my half naked wife is always a good thing. Of course, it’s better when she is completely naked.

So, we stood there, looking at the test. Yep, there were two lines. No mistaking it. 

“I need to try another test!”

“but, sweetie, this one was positive and we have no more.”

“Go get another one!”

So, I sped off to CVS to buy not one, but two more tests…just to be sure, mind you.

I get back and she takes another. Sure enough, two lines.  She was not crazy. Not that I thought that, mind you.

Of course, they would not do the endoscopy because she might be pregnant. Her pregnancy was not ‘official’ yet, but would be shortly.

Those three words-“I’m not crazy” did more for us than anything.  It was the hormones being out of whack that made things the way they had become. Seemingly, overnight, everything was great.  Well, about as great as it can get with a hormonal pregnant woman.

The following nine months were pretty good for us. I think we grew closer and, as the idea of bringing another little one into the world sank in, I knew it was going to be quite a ride from then on out.  I absolutely loved taking care of her, trying to pamper her as much as I could. Oh, as with any man, I made mistakes, said things I should not have, but, in the end, it was all good.  Things turned around, we were closer than ever, regained our intimacy and had a good time.

And that weekend trip, we still went. And even though Norfolk turned out to be such a bust, we still enjoyed being with each other. Speculating about our upcoming addition to the family, talking about Chase and Preston and wondering how they would respond to our new addition. 

In the end, we decided Chase would be fine with the baby, as he is a mature teen and able to cope with change. Preston, well, he was an unknown.

Admittedly, I had the occasional thought along the lines of “what the hell are you thinking? Are you f’ing crazy? You turned in the diapers years ago, mister!” But, they were just fleeting.  Really, they were.


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