Family is Not Blood Ch. 04bywieliczka©
It had been three weeks since Cathy and I decided to try again. We had many issues to talk about, and the painful ones really took it out of both of us. These were the most difficult three weeks of my, I mean, our lives.
We had to put everything on the table for us to reveal, touch, prod, float, poke or slay. We brought up hurt and heartache, expectations and wants, failures and successes. We were starting to rebuild trust. We both realized that we were both still angry at what the other had done. Her having a long term lover, and my publicly humiliating her. We looked at it, not really resolved it, but it had been slightly put to rest. Many things could not be resolved immediately or sometimes ever.
We also felt that we both responsible for what happened too. My Aunt and Uncle and her father were really helpful in supporting us individually. I think that they saw many things that we could not immediately see in us and in our past partner. One thing that we both acknowledged to each other was that Franciszka was not part of that anger. We came to realize that she was bringing us together. It was going to be up to us what we were going to do from now on. We decided to go forward with a real openness with one another.
It is sometimes hard for me to explain to other people why that little girl is so important to me. After all, she was not mine. She came about from my wife whoring around. But I don't live in a vacuum. I saw how my father-in-law Fred reclaimed his non-biological daughter, gave her healthy support, not what her mother was feeding her. Cathy was abandoned by the people in her life after the shower.
But her 'father' came back to her. He did give her serious shit about what she did, but kept her going to start seeing what she had done. He supported her to make the changes needed to be a good mother and a good person. He did not direct the changes, he just helped to build Cathy so she would be a good mother for his granddaughter. He lived 'family is not about blood'. He gave her a second chance. She had changed, and I needed to give her a second chance too.
I have felt that I was partially responsible for Franciszka. In those months between the time that Cathy became pregnant, and the shower, I started to realize that I needed to make sure that the child was going to have a chance at life. I felt responsible in an indirect way for her. She was innocent and in reality, became collateral damage. For who I am, I realized that I had made a big mistake in getting my pound of flesh, rather my 6 pounds and 8 ounces of flesh from my cheating wife. I got pulled back in, not by a great love of Cathy at that time. That love died when I saw the first video. I got pulled back in because of her daughter.
After those first three weeks of working out some of the harder issues, we both agreed that I should not be moving back in. For one thing, her mother was still there. And even if that was not the case, we were both were not emotionally ready. Neither of us had planned to even see the other. It was only because that jerk became violent that we were thrown back in together. So with all the grief in our lives in the past couple of years, we made a good decision. We were going to date. There would be no friends with benefits. Not between us, or outside of us. We were going to be exclusive for one another. Our dance began.
It was actually kind of fun to be dating again. You know more the second time around. It was all new and old at the same time. It took a couple of weeks for us to become more relaxed with one another. When things are new, everyone is on their best behavior and nothing is worth an argument. But we had been married and were able to partially get back to what it was like living with the other.
Cathy will be bossy. Underline. Bold. Large type face. Period. End of statement. This is her core. But the thing about your core being, the rough edges get sanded down by life, and your partner. This time around, I started to give her more 'feedback' when it was needed, as it was happening. This was a new one for me. She needed to know when her attitude was damaging her, me or us. Not all the time, but just sometimes. This was my biggest failure in our marriage, my biggest fault. I just kept on hoping that she would grow out of it. I do not like confrontation and will do my best to avoid it. She also would go on the attack, and I could rarely get through.
This time around, I felt she was listening to me. She did not address each and everything I said to her, but she would come back and mostly we would talk about it, without venom. It became more likely after she had cooled down, sometimes even when it was happening. Having her hear me and respect what I had to say was probably one of the biggest things that drew me back into this marriage, I began to really feel that this could work. She had changed, and so had I. It takes two. I knew how hard it was for her. I did not realize how hard it was for me.
The thing about dating your ex-wife, is that the normal places you would go are full of people you know. We were not ready for that. We needed to concentrate on us, not what others would say, or see. Chicago is a big city, and running 45 minutes to a quiet place that was away, was getting very tiring. Baby sitters, time from work, the weather. After a couple of weeks, we became more solid, and tired. I was the one that suggested our Wednesday date night be at the local Giordano's. It was quick to get to, the deep-dish pizza was good, and we could get the baby sitter out by 9 PM. Cathy thought about it for a millisecond before she agreed.
As we walked in the front door together, the place got quiet. When we got accustomed to the lack of light, Cathy and I were shocked to find a half dozen of our friends eating deep-dish pizzas with two pitchers of beer. They were staring at us with their mouths open. Really, their mouths were actually open. I looked at Cathy and said that I have to handle this. She told me no, WE have to handle it, and do it together. And we did. We let them know that we were dating again and although it would be great to visit with you guys, we wanted the evening to just us together, by our selves. We went to a table in the back. After we ordered from the ever-present-not-ever-going-away waitress, and she finally left us alone, we looked at each other and busted out laughing. It is different the second time around, it would not have happened like this the first time we were married. This was better.
On Friday I got a call from Mary saying that she would be pleased to meet with Cathy and me. In fact, she and Maria invited us over for dinner next Sunday afternoon and to bring Franciszka with.
When I told Cathy later that Friday, she immediately became anxious. She still said that she wanted to go, but was worried. "How do you thank the wife of the man you were cheating with, for the hugh help she gave to your child? I've faced everyone else that I've damaged, but not her. Mike, this is only slightly less hard then facing you."
"Cathy, you were not the first one Corey slept with, nor the last. But what happened has happened. She is someone who saw little Freddie as a person needing help. All I have to say is trust yourself and who you have become, and trust Mary, for the person she has become."
I picked up Cathy and Franciszka at 11 AM. We were to be there at 11:30 and dinner was to be after 1PM. Mary knew that little Freddie ate at noon and was normally down at 1 PM for her afternoon nap. Mary had the playpen set up and waiting for her. It was one of the things I had purchased when I went to garage sales. I had dropped it off on Saturday.
Cathy was really worried about the initial meeting. Worried to the point that she held my hand tight and would not let go. Before we could even get a hello out, two sets of giggling hands grabbed Franciszka and then hugged us both. Cathy was speechless, but in a good way this time.
Coats were rustled off and there was so much talk about the little one, that Cathy forgot her fears. The first glass of wine may have helped too. When it became time to feed her daughter, both of them asked if they could. And they did. The whole experience for me was a little bit surreal, and very much like home at the same time. It seemed that we just arrived when Franciszka stated nodding off on time at 1 PM. She was placed asleep in the playpen, and we all went into the kitchen for dinner.
I kind of expected the awkwardness to start up again, but it did not. During a wonderful meal of chicken marsalla, linguini, and several bottles of Pinot Grigio, we all talked about what we all were doing at work, how the gang was, and just things that people talk about when they get together. The meal was finished and the plates were brought to the sink. The espresso pot was put on the stove and the gas turned on. Mary brought brandy and biscotti to the table while Maria was talking about her clients from the streets. As we stated to sip espresso with brandy, and dunking the biscotti in those little coffee cups, Cathy cleared her throat.
She needed to talk. "You have wined us, dined us, and welcomed us and me specifically with open arms. Why? You have set up a trust fund for my daughter to help out this filthy whore that was bedding you husband. Why? Why have you been so good to me? "At that point, she started crying. "Why?"
I attempted to reach out to her to comfort her, but I was too late. Both Mary and Maria got there first and gave her the warmest and the most supportive hugs they could. In fact, the three of them were crying. I was the only dry-eyed one in the bunch, but I hoped that no body really looked closely at me, or they would have seen that I was lying.
After a couple of minutes, the bodies dis-entangled and everyone got back to their seats. I was pouring a small glass of brandy for everyone but me. Mine was much larger.
Then Mary started to talk. "Cathy, both you and I have been through some horrendous things. We both lost who and what we should have been, and we both gained it back, gained it back in spades since then. My ex-husband was not just a jerk. He was an evil man who used people as he could. He nearly destroyed me. It was only my friend Maria, the mother hen of all mother hens, that kept me alive." Maria rolled her eyes, but smiled. "It was your Mike that dared get in contact with Maria to warn me. He made sure that I got the support I needed. The physical, emotional, legal and logistical support all together allowed me to leave with my head held high. It was what I needed to break out of that depression that Corey fed to control me."
She paused, taking a big sip of brandy, then continued. "No, you are not blameless. If I would have had a voodoo doll during those times, you would have remained alive. But you would have been jumping around like mad from all the pins." I chuckled, but quickly corked it when I saw no one else was laughing. "After moving out, something happened to me. I started seeing very good people around me. The more I looked, the more of them there were. They were not great people 24 hours a day, but they were trying to do right, be upstanding, go out of their way for others. After having spent years being under some one's thumb, this was a slice of heaven. Maria kept telling me for years that people are good, now I was seeing it for myself.
"I also was hearing about you. At first I was numb, and to survive I would not allow myself to hear anything, anything good about you. But people talk, and from what they said about Cathy, it was not the not the Cathy I hated. I heard about a mother that became a hermit to fully and totally take care of her child. I heard about someone who was going back to others to ask for their forgiveness. One day I saw you and your father at church and I saw people interact with him and you. I was slowly healing, but I realized that you were too, Rebuilding bridges, being respectful, and even taking some grief from a couple of people and agreeing that you were wrong."
"Then Corey got himself killed. Officially a hit-and-run accident, but he was bedding the wrong husband's wife. That is at least what the police detective told me unofficially. I did not shed a tear, but felt a little bit of closure. That is when the money came in. He and I had a $200K term policy on each other. The $80K policy was from work. I realized that your child support payments were over, but I felt that I needed to be responsible for what Corey did. In some ways, this was his money. I had the funding to cover his support payments. That is why I had Mike set up the trust. This allowed me closure. It allowed me healing. Your example helped me move beyond anger, by helping another that was also hurt. Do you understand now? This is about healing and forgiveness. It is about taking care of each other."
Well, we went back to four people crying and hugging. The brandy helped. Mary and Cathy each started sharing more details of each of their own journeys since the shower. Then Mary and Maria started asking Cathy about how she and I had gotten back together.
She told the story about the jerk, and her father getting me to come on over. "That night, it was more important for me to apologize to Mike and take ownership of what happened then to be safe from that drug dealer. We started talking after that man was put away. We had not spoken since the day of the shower except as legally required. We have worked out a couple of things, but we have more to go. I do not know if Mike told you that we are dating, but no friends with benefits. We are going forward slowly."
Maria looked at Cathy and smiled. "You don't have to tell me about the friends with benefits number. A couple of weeks ago he came over and told us that he was going to try to make a go of it with you, so the three of us were stopped as of that instant."
Cathy looked at Maria and said, "YOU?" then looked at Mary and said, "YOU? Then she looked at me and said, "YOU? YOU? You were going to tell me WHEN?" I held up my hand in peace and softly said, "The most important thing was for you and Mary to meet and get some level of peace. I know you both and I knew that that peace would happen. After that, I was going to sit down with you and fill you in, like I said I would." Both Mary and Maria were nodding their heads yes. Cathy looked around for a couple of seconds, then nodded her head yes.
Maria looked at Cathy and smiled. "Don't be worried girlfriend. He was unattached, Mary and I were and are still are unattached and friends. We're not into girls." I silently mouthed an 'Oh darn' and immediately got punched in the arm by Mary, then Maria, then Cathy, then by Maria again. I ducked Cathy's next attempt.
"I could not find the right guy, and Mary was still healing. And it had been a long time for us all. Mary came home early and she saw Mike and I on the couch, how shall I say it, being active. She ran to her room crying, but after a word to Mike, I walked over to her and invited her to join us. This was recreational sex with friends. It was a physical release for all of us in a very safe environment with safe people. Yes, I am fond of Mike. But his happiness will not be with me or Mary. This was a port in the storm. But boats are not built to stay their lives in ports. They are supposed to sail. You and Mike are starting to sail. I am", she looked directly at Mary, who was nodding yes, "WE are glad that you guys are working at it."
And in the most theatrical voice and facial expression of Mae West she could come up with, "And you can throw him back here when you are finished with him." I groaned and the rest of them almost fell off their chairs laughing. So this is what a piece of meat feels like.
Little Freddie started crying, and six hands went in to take care of her. We stayed until 6 PM that night and only left when Cathy said that the little girl had to get home.