Last night, around dinner time, I played my latest recording for Bill. I almost always cringe when I hear my voice, because I always hear things I would like to have done differently. But Bill likes my efforts, and I knew he would especially enjoy the video I made for “Sand and Water” because it was made with footage from our trip to Ireland in 2016.
Those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile and followed me on Blogspot may remember that November 2016 was kind of an interesting time for many reasons. It was when Trump was elected, so people were on edge about that. I remember arguing with some of my friends and relatives about Trump at that time. Eventually, a lot of those people– my loved ones– showed sides of themselves I didn’t like. I deleted a lot of them from social media. I also learned that month that our beloved beagle, Zane, had mast cell cancer. The diagnosis came right before our anniversary. Arran had also had a mast cell tumor removed, but his never really affected him. Zane had more trouble with the disease and eventually succumbed to lymphoma last year. Many dogs who have had mast cell tumors go on to get lymphoma. In 2016, he had about three years left, but I didn’t know that, and I was very stressed.
November 2016 was also when went to Ireland for our fourteenth wedding anniversary. Bill had been there before, but if I had ever been, it was during a time when I was too young to remember. That anniversary trip was our first time in Ireland together, and, for many reasons, it was a trip we had long awaited. At that time, we still thought Bill was more Irish than I am, although 23andMe and Ancestry.com both debunked that notion. It turns out my people are apparently mostly all from Britain and Ireland, with a smidge from Germany, Norway, and possibly Switzerland, while Bill has a more “colorful” ancestry.
One night during that trip, Bill’s younger daughter turned up on Facebook as “someone [he] might know”. When he saw that friend suggestion– his own daughter, whom he had not seen, talked to, or even emailed since 2004– he got a very serious and distressed expression on his face. It was the kind of expression one gets when someone important has died. I remember demanding that he tell me what was wrong. He really looked like he was very upset. Here’s an excerpt from my old blog about that incident:
So tomorrow, we’re headed back to Dublin for a night before we go back to Germany. I will face my dogs and my never ending housework, along with Christmas decorations and everything else that goes with my existence. We’ve had a pretty good vacation, but as it happens whenever I venture to this part of the world, something kind of bad happened tonight.
We were about to head to the pub next door when Bill checked his Facebook. He suddenly got this stricken look on his face. It was serious enough that I was wondering if there had been some kind of terrible accident or our country was under terrorist attack again. I asked him what was wrong, because I was worried maybe he’d gotten a bad email about one of the dogs or a family member had died. He didn’t want to tell me what was wrong. I probably should have listened to him. But I was thinking of the dogs and my worry about Zane all week, so I pressed.
He came over and showed me his Facebook feed. There, under the “people you may know” section, was a picture of his long lost ex daughter. She’s apparently married now, and uses her stepfather’s name and her husband’s. Bill looked absolutely gutted, seeing a picture of her in her white dress and veil. Naturally, because she is Mormon and Bill no longer is, he probably wouldn’t have been able to attend her wedding even if they were still speaking. But because Bill’s ex prompted the kids to kick him out of their lives, he’s reduced to seeing them as “people you may know” on Facebook.
When I found out Bill was upset because his daughter had shown up as “someone [he] might know”, I was incensed. I know this may sound unreasonable to those who don’t know our story, but I was genuinely pissed off. At the time, younger daughter was behaving in ways that made us think she was like her mother. I resented yet another intrusion by one of Bill’s children, who refused to have anything to do with him, yet kept “popping up” during holidays and celebrations. For instance, one year, Bill called his father at Christmas to send holiday greetings, and he heard about how younger daughter didn’t want to talk to or about him. That made him cry, and Bill’s mom and I, who were due to celebrate Christmas at my sister’s house, had to calm him down. It put a damper on the holiday spirit, that’s for sure.
These kinds of “intrusions” had happened repeatedly throughout our relationship and, by 2016, I was really fed up with it. The kids had told Bill they wouldn’t speak to him again, but yet there was younger daughter… someone Bill might know on Facebook. In fact, Bill was the first person to hold her when she came out of the womb. He fed her, financially supported her, and changed her diapers. Yes, he knew her. But, at that point in time, she wouldn’t deign to so much as say hello to him. So yes, I was pissed… because we were in Ireland, where it was so beautiful and we were celebrating surviving 14 years of this kind of treatment. I wondered why she hadn’t blocked him.
Not long after that trip, Bill and his daughter started to message each other on Facebook. Bill had left her a tentative comment on condolences she’d left for Bill’s stepmom after their dog died. That opened the door for the communications to begin. At first, they kept it very superficial and light. They slowly got reacquainted. Bill even kept it from me for awhile because he didn’t want me to get angry.
Then they started emailing. At around this time, Bill told me they were in touch. Then, they Skyped. Bill said the first time they Skyped and his daughter saw him on video, she put her hand to her mouth and gasped. He looked so much like her beloved “Pawpaw” (Bill’s dad). Personally, I think Bill looks more like his mother, another relative younger daughter didn’t know, because her mother hates Bill’s mom. Bill’s mom was cut out of her granddaughters’ lives a few years before Bill lost touch with them. Younger daughter has since reconnected with her “grandmaMAH”!
In March of this year, Bill finally saw one of his two beloved children. He had a business trip in Vegas, and I told him that I thought he should take the opportunity to visit Utah and see his daughter, even though it would extend his trip. Bill went, and they spent two solid days talking and clearing up many years of lies and misunderstandings. Bill learned some pretty awful truths about what happened during the years they were apart. He found out that his daughter is much like he is. In fact, when she opened the door, younger daughter and Bill embraced for a very long time… and the two of them shed a lot of tears as they worked to undo all of the years of damage done to their relationship.
So last night, when I was playing “Sand and Water”, which is a very moving song that I paired with video from that Ireland trip, Bill’s heart overflowed with emotion. His eyes welled up with tears and he said, “We’ve taken so many great trips and seen so many things, all of which you’ve chronicled in pictures, videos, and writing. For so long, I thought our memories would die with us… and now I know they won’t.”
I’ve often wondered how it must have felt for Bill to be separated from his children for so long. His older daughter remains estranged, although we have heard that she knows her mother has problems. Younger daughter has made it clear that she knows her mom told her many lies. She has suffered quite a bit, and I wonder if Bill’s visit didn’t cause some angst for her. As good as it was for them to reconnect, I’m sure it brought up some uncomfortable issues that, at one time, she could easily cover up with her mother’s half baked stories. She and her sister were told that Bill chose to abandon the family and that he cheated on their mother with me. None of that was true, but I’m sure it made it easier for them to accept that he wasn’t there for them. Now she knows the truth, and it’s probably caused her some distress. It’s hard to accept that one’s mother deliberately hurts people. But she’s seen and experienced it firsthand. The truth is, Bill’s ex wife treats everyone this way eventually. She’s a cruel person.
But when we were in Ireland, I still didn’t know. I didn’t know the truth, although I suspected that Bill’s children were coerced and bullied, much like Bill had been. I knew they’d been lied to, but it pissed me off that they were so ready to accept the obvious lies. I had a hard time believing that anyone could be so blind. I know better now. When people are in crisis, they don’t usually think clearly. Cognitive dissonance blurs what is painfully clear to other people. It’s also really hard to accept that the person responsible for your existence has done terrible things… and younger daughter doesn’t even know the half of what she did to Bill. But then, we don’t know the half of what Ex did to her children or their other fathers.
I remember that when we were on our way to Ireland, I told Bill I just wanted to find some peace. Ultimately, I got my wish, although it took longer than I expected. I got so angry on that trip, but I didn’t know that it would lead to reconciliation, and ultimately, the peace I sought. For so many years, I have been seething at Bill’s ex wife and their children. But now, I know more of the truth, so I finally got some peace.
Anyway… it was interesting to watch that ocean footage again. We were so lucky to find such a beautiful little cottage in rural Ireland, right by the ocean. We could watch the waves and film the beauty. I remember making the videos with my camera, wondering if I’d ever get to use them on a project. They were perfect for yesterday’s song. Maybe Bill will share it with younger daughter… although it will take some time before he can tell her everything that led up to the video. Ultimately, Facebook’s suggestion of “someone [Bill] might know” was a good one. They’re still getting to know each other better, trying to make up for many precious years of lost time.