Sunday, April 10, 2011

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

My dad asked me recently if there was something else I wanted to write about. I told him that I can only write about what I know. However, his question stirred my thinking. My dear blogging friend, Elizabeth likes to say, "You can't make that sh*t up." It always makes me smile when she says it, and when she said it recently, it made me think about one of those things from my own past that I couldn't - and wouldn't - make up.

I don't often refer to the fact that I was married before. One reason is my respect for Gregg and our marriage, which is the great love of my life. Another reason is courtesy to the parties who were involved in my past, and yet another reason is the knowledge that those things are in the past, and are best left there. However, as I was going through my old photos in search of good ones to submit to the slideshow for Bob's memorial service, I found some pictures of my first wedding. They brought back a memory that I had forgotten until I came across the photos of the wedding party at the church in 1982.

When I was about 10 years old, I met the son of my mother's friend for the first time - at least, that is my first memory of him. He was a delightful young boy - just a couple of years older than I. It was as if lightning struck me - what the French call "coup de foudre" - and that was it, for me. I wanted him, and him alone. For years, he was the ultimate young man in my eyes, in both his looks and his personality.

Although he was always courteous, he didn't have the time of day for me - he thought of me like a sister or a cousin, I'm sure. I was his sister's friend. We saw each other every Sunday for years, had brunch every week after church, took vacations together with our families, spent holidays like Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve together...and still, he took no notice of me - he remained unaware of my attraction to him. In the olden days, perhaps our parents would have arranged a marriage for us; I know that his mother loved me, and I loved her, too - she was like my second mother. I would never have made a move toward him, though - I wasn't raised that way. It had to come from him, and it never did.

In high school, I had your garden-variety, age-appropriate romances. I went to college in California for two years, and then to Illinois for my junior and senior years. I fell in love with someone there, got engaged, and then broke the engagement - it turned out that my fiance was not faithful. This experience had a devastating effect on me; I had never been involved with a liar before, and it shook my world to its foundation.

Heartbroken, I graduated from college, moved to Boston, got a job, and met a man at work who became a good friend. He eventually asked me to marry him; I accepted his proposal. Was I in love? In retrospect, no - but I thought I was doing the right thing, at the time (to explain my convoluted logic about the situation would make uninteresting reading for you, so you will have to trust me when I say that my intentions were good).

About 6 weeks before the wedding, when all of the invitations had been sent, dress and flowers ordered, reception site reserved and menu selected, showers given and gifts arriving, honeymoon planned and joyfully anticipated, I experienced what is known as "cold feet" - a strong premonition that this was not the right thing for us. There were various signs that we were not well-suited, and I could not ignore them any more. I tried to break it off, but my fiance soothed my worries away - he wanted to go through with the marriage. I allowed myself to be talked out of my concerns.

On the day of the wedding, photographs were taken with the wedding party and family. Guests were ushered into the sanctuary and took their seats. My father and I were standing in the foyer, waiting for the wedding coordinator to straighten my train and signal that it was time for us to begin the processional...and in raced the man of my childhood dreams - late. He made a hurried, quiet entrance, took a good look at me, and my heart lurched. Looking at his face, I knew:  I knew, right then, that I was making a mistake. It was like a nightmare - or something in a movie - not something that really happens to normal girls like me.

It wasn't that this man would ever love me...it was the fact that I could be so upset, just by seeing him walk in the door of the church, as I was about to promise my heart and my future to someone who shouldn't have had either one.
He went into the church and sat down, and my father and I started our walk down the aisle together shortly after that.

The honeymoon was disastrous; in fact, the entire marriage was a disaster. In my naivete, I had not understood a vitally important thing: although this man loved me, he did not love me in the ways that mattered to me. Three years of difficult, humiliating disagreements and misunderstandings followed. Separation, reconciliation, counseling (for me - he refused to go on his own, or with me, saying, "I'm happy; you go get help"), and then, finally, the day came when I knew - I KNEW - that I could never have a family with this man - could never, ever be happy or at peace with him. I left, for good.

As Elizabeth says, You just can't make that sh*t up.

This is why I am so, so, so thankful for my relationship with Gregg, for our children, and for the fact that we share the gift of a full, happy, loving, passionate marriage. I do not take it for granted.

18 comments:

Allegra Smith said...

And I am not even jealous considering...!:)

I told you some time ago that one has only to look at the way he looks at you to know. And as you said to me if anyone can understand this I am the one and indeed I do. You two were meant to be together, as we are.

Keep in mind my dear that as Nana Petrona used to say one must kiss several frogs before discovering the real Prince.

karen gerstenberger said...

Allegra, I wish I could have known your Nana Petrona.

Elizabeth said...

I wish that I could have known Nana Petrona, too -- but am certainly happy to know both of you!

ChiTown Girl said...

Wow, that is some story. Thanks for sharing it with us. I'm SO happy that you found your Prince Charming!

deb colarossi said...

wow.

I am so glad you and Greg have each other...
I'm sorry that you had to go through what you did, though...

Busy Bee Suz said...

And from each mistake, we learn something valuable. I just wish you did not have to lose THREE years of your life to learn what you 'really' knew already.
I am glad that you did not let it go any further though....look at the 'catch' that was waiting for you years later!!!
xoxox

AnnDeO said...

I think this is a beautiful story... so full of truth and how life really is.

Karen said...

You really can't make that stuff up! Such a good story...even quite romantic. True love always makes the best story, even when the pathway to it is a bit tortured. I am so glad you got your (mostly) happily ever after with Greg, with more to come when you reunite with beautiful Katie.

Renne said...

Karen - For many years before I got married (at 31 - first time for me, 2nd for my husband), I had a recurring dream that was EXACTLY like you describe...being in the foyer of the church with my dad....everything in place, hundreds of plans hinging on that walk down the aisle, and realizing that it was not the right decision. Everytime in the dream, my dad said that I shouldn't go through with it if I wasn't certain, no matter what the oost, the humiliation, the trauma of the moment. I always woke up being so relieved. I'm so sorry you had to live through that chapter. I only had to dream about it (over & over). Sadly, my dad died suddenly a year before I got married. Thankfully, I was sure of my decision, and 20 years later it's the best one I've made! (I like to think I got a heavenly nudge from my dad when I met my husband). Thank you for sharing your story. I love your writing! So glad you found Greg.

Lynda said...

just realized from my post above that I had accidently signed in as my 11 year old :-)

karen gerstenberger said...

Lynda, I was just getting ready to welcome the new commenter! Thanks for sharing your story, for your kind words, and for clearing up the mystery. =)

Karla said...

Isn't it interesting some of the roads that we travel in life.

Kay said...

So sweeeet. Like the others, I'm sorry you had to travel such a rough road to get where you are today, but I'm glad you made it and have such an amazing man in your life. : )

rebecca said...

oh this life...and the work of growing into wisdom. certainly the devotion and gratitude you feel is forever strengthened from the trials of the past.

you are so beautiful...as is the love that surrounds you in your husband and family, and dear friends.

i love knowing you.

Dawn ~ BJSMomma said...

I LOVED that story! And I can always tell that you both are the apple of each other's eye, and the beat in each other's heart. Isn't it so cool when you are still absolutely in love with the father of your children! Many more years to you both! And I agree with your dad....write what you know..I like it!

Janna said...

Hi Karen! I took a short blog reading break and came back to read this posting by you. You truly are an amazing person. So insightful for seeing everything as happening for a reason and learning from them whether it be at that time or in retrospect... Thank you for sharing your story with us and reminding us that things happen for a reason. I'm glad to have met you (nearly a year ago)!

Anonymous said...

Wow - this is such a heartfelt post. I've mused on it for days and kept returning back to re-read it. I know what you mean about loving someone - and realising that as long as you felt that way about them, even if it was not reciprocated, there was no way that you are going to make a success of it with anyone else. I suppose the only lesson I learned from the experience was that you really appreciate when in time you love and are truly loved back. The pain then is part of what makes the present so good. Loved this post, thanks for sharing,

Irene x

Tracey Axnick said...

This reminds me so much of one of my best friends... her first marriage was a disaster. I knew, on her wedding day, standing there in the silly bridesmaid dress, that she was making a horrible mistake. I think deep down inside she kne w it as well. She hung in there for 6 long miserable years and finally got a divorce... and now she (like YOU) is married to her "other half".. and is fulfilled and blessed.
And, as you know, everything happens for a reason.... God is always working "upstream" in our lives, even if we don't see him, or know he's working... and now you are married to the True Love of your life!