The Horseman visited last night. He came in darkness, and did not leave alone. Most of you who read this Blog will not know I was not Helene’s first husband, no need for you to. The son and daughter I sometimes refer to were from her first marriage. As far as I am concerned they are mine and I have no complaints, a statement I’m sure will be quoted back to me endlessly in the coming years.
Anyone who has ever gone through a divorce, or even watched one from the sidelines, knows there is drama. Everyone says things when they are angry. It wasn’t my place to add to the drama as long as Helene was safe. To Number One’s credit as loud as things got I was always able to stay in the background.
He didn’t like me much. I know - big surprise. The closest we ever came to conflict was when Helene and I would pick Matt up for weekend visits. It always followed the same routine. Number One would come to the workshop door and glair at me. I would smile and wave. Real grownup behavior on both sides. For the most part we made a point of avoiding each other. That worked for years.
Finally came a time that wouldn’t work. Tammy was graduating from Para-legal school. She bearded me in my den (literally) and told me her father would be at the ceremony and didn’t want a scene. I believe she came to me because she knew how well that would go over with her Dad. I told her I would behave as well as he did.
“What’s that suppose to mean?” she demanded.
“It means” I repeated “that I will behave Precisely as well as he does.”
It wasn’t the answer Tammy wanted but she knew it was the best she was going to get. The two families did not mix (Number One had remarried as well) at the ceremony. It concluded with both sets of parents watching her graduate, and without embarrassing Tammy.
The next occasion for us to be in the same place was the first birthday of Tammy’s daughter. Tammy and I had the same exchange, on the phone this time because Helene and I had left Houston for Central Texas.
As I remember it forty plus people gathered to watch an infant that had no idea what was happening smear birthday cake all over herself and everything she could reach. A tower of gifts that dwarfed the child was opened with the assistance of excited adults. As I am never without a knife I got the job of freeing the loot from its shipping crates.
It was Number One who came up with screw drivers and wire cutters for the more stubborn packing. It was the first and only time in the years we had “known” each other that we talked. The time passed pleasantly and ended cordially. That afternoon was the best friendship we could ever have expected to have. I would never see him again.
Health does not fail overnight. A few years ago my Grandmother passed in her sleep after losing ground for more than a year. A couple of years later my mother was taken by a slow cruel cancer. I spent a week watching her die by inches after she was no longer responsive. I will say without shame that in the end I was grateful to God for ending her suffering, while at the same time asking the almighty why it had to take so damn long when there was no way she would ever get better.
I will not go into details, but for Number One it was much worse. The kids can’t be helped through the grief process anymore than I could. Family helps by being there, but it is a wilderness everyone walks alone.
When we got the call Helene and I lit a candle for Number One. It was at the same time the least, and the most, we could do.
God’s speed Number One