I arrived home last night around 8:15 after a rehearsal for tonight's gig.
My lovely wife greeted me as always with a warm kiss.
Those eyes looked deep into my soul,
and told me without a word that I am loved.
The Post Office had delivered a package,
a birthday/Valentine's Day present and cards
from my daughter and her twin 8-year olds.
There were cute drawings,
little Harry Potter Valentines from the kids
and many great pictures of the kids, my daughter
and a few of the family including her husband.
Also included were a black baseball cap that said, "Old Dude - made of Achy, Breaky Parts"
and a coffee mug that said, "Old Croaker" complete with a caricature of a dead frog.
I put on the hat and mumbled, "huh."
My wife inquired, "What's bugging you?"
to which I replied, "Nothing, dear. I'm just tired from practice and hungry for supper."
But she persisted, insisting that she could tell something was wrong.
Finally she said, "You're disappointed, aren't you?"
I finally admitted, "Well, yes - I suppose I am."
Those gifts weren't meant for me.
They were meant for another person.
Someone who's dying physically and mentally.
Someone who's not me.
I may be 60, but I'm anything but falling apart.
I've been doing Jazzercise for 18 years;
I'm at my mental and creative peak.
Also on the table was a birthday card from a mutual friend.
Her card expressed true sentiments;
acknowledged me for being a good friend
over the two and a half years we've known one another.
Then it hit me.
Here is someone I've only known since 2003
who knows me better than my own daughter,
to whom I gave the breath of life.
Someone who's not related to me
actually understands the gifts I offer.
The gifts of trust, honesty, friendship
and sometimes help with maintaining her car.
My wife and I rescued my daughter
from a domestic abuse situation in the summer of 2004.
After receiving her frantic phone call in the middle of the night,
we pulled up stakes and made the 13-hour drive to her house.
He had hit her.
She had filed a report with the police,
and he spent that night in jail.
The judge issued a 72-hour restraining order.
She was scared for the safety of herself and her children.
Upon her request I accompanied her to the court house the next day
to fill out papers for a permanent restraining order
and child support.
But the next day she let him back in the house.
Her husband stood toe-to-toe with me,
spoiling for a fight
and angrily ordered us out of his house
in front of my grandchildren.
Since then according to my daughter, they've "patched everything up."
But I've heard nothing from him.
For months I called her every week,
inquiring if everything was okay.
She was polite and even friendly on our phone calls,
filling me in on the kids' activities
and sometimes describing things she and her husband had done together.
On one of my last phone calls
I reminded her that her husband's actions
precluded us from visiting them again
until he apologized for his behavior toward me and my wife.
I reminded my daughter of the pain it caused me
to know that my wife and I are separated from my own grandchildren,
whom I may never see again.
That we had responded to her desperate call for help.
missed my 40th High School reunion
to stand by her side in her moment of need.
and that now I felt discarded,
and my wife feels used and abused,
frightened of the monster that my daughter married.
I wanted to make it as clear as possible
that we had responded to HER call for help,
and now we are paying the price.
She refused to have her husband call me.
Said he doesn't like to talk on the phone.
So I suppose she thinks it's up to me
to call him and...
Of course my daughter is in denial.
Maybe she wants to believe that the incident simply didn't happen.
Maybe she wants to believe
that her husband didn't really say the mean, nasty things
that we all heard come out of his mouth.
Maybe she just wants to escape the awful reality
that she is married to an abuser,
and that she refuses to leave him.
Maybe out of fear,
maybe out of laziness.
She busies herself with babysitting three other children,
teaching voice students,
and raising twins.
Some day her busy world will stop,
and she will realize that she has discarded the love
of the one man on earth
who had more to give her
than anyone else.
Her own father.
And so as these thoughts cascaded through my mind last night,
my wife sat by my side,
her eyes filled with understanding and love.
She knew already what I at first didn't want to admit.
That I had been betrayed once again.
But I felt a greater reality,
the reality of her love.
Her abiding, unflinching love for me.
To be known and loved by a good woman,
to be respected and admired by a good friend,
these are the true gifts of a life well-lived.