Ex, family, LDS, mental health

Finally hearing each other…

This morning, Bill told me that his daughter sent him a long email. It was mostly about how her little daughter is doing with some physical therapy she needs. She also had tubes put in her ears, which has made it a lot easier for her to hear. The baby is now a lot less temperamental. In fact, Bill’s daughter said she had an insightful moment when she realized her daughter was basically hearing her clearly for the first time. It was probably a stunning experience for her.

I continue to be amazed, watching Bill reconnect with his daughter. For so long, we had the impression that she hated him. But once they started talking to each other, it was clear that the bond they had years ago was still there. Then they started comparing notes about what it was like to deal with Bill’s ex wife.

I know a lot of people, over the years, have gotten the idea that I’m just a bitter second wife. I guess I can’t blame people for having that impression. All most people get of our story is what I write, and I write with a bias. But, when two people who have had similar experiences with a narcissist get together and compare notes, it soon becomes a lot clearer what the problem is and who the culprit is. I may write with a bias, but what I write is based in truth, at least as I see it. And I do try to be fair as much as possible and, in fact, have even managed to change my mind about some things.

I used to feel compelled to write a lot about Ex. I saw her as someone who got away with terrible things against good people. I don’t feel compelled to write about her very much now. Because now I see that she isn’t getting away with anything, really. Sooner or later, the truth always emerges. I knew it eventually would in this case, too.

I’ve also found that the animosity I had toward Mormonism has also dissipated somewhat. I no longer feel nearly as angry at the church as I used to, mainly because the church helped fix this situation. Good people in the church helped Bill’s daughter leave a terrible situation. While I think she could have found help from many other sources, the Mormons were there for her. She’s comfortable with the religion. I don’t agree with a lot of the church’s beliefs or practices, but I have respect for the fact that church members did some good for Bill’s daughter. And I laugh a bit, since it was Ex that introduced the church to Bill’s kids in the first place, and used it as a means of alienating them from him. Now, that plan has backfired, as many of her harebrained plans eventually do.

Younger daughter has turned out to be a very kind, insightful, and unusually empathetic person. I didn’t see these tendencies in her when she was younger, but I guess she must have had them. And, of course, I was never allowed to get close to her anyway. The image that was projected to us was one that made her look a lot like her mother. But she’s not like her at all. I’m sure what we saw was carefully crafted to discourage others from throwing her a life ring out of the situation she was in.

When she and Bill visited earlier this year, they talked for hours. They compared experiences. She wanted to know about some painful things… although she doesn’t even know the half of what happened. But even as she was asking about those things, she recognized that talking about them might be painful for Bill. She even realized that he was a victim of domestic violence, which really impresses me. And she has said outright that she wants to avoid continuing the cycle of destruction and abuse.

Switching gears here… it just occurred to me that our new dog, Noyzi, could almost be a metaphor for what Bill has experienced with his daughter. Here he is, this very sweet dog born on the streets of Kosovo, a country where dogs aren’t necessarily adored like they are in Germany and the United States. When we first got Noyzi, he was so afraid of everything. He didn’t understand anything at all. He bumped into glass doors, because he’d never seen them before. He shied away from Bill and me, and didn’t want to eat or walk on a leash. In fact, his first day here, he didn’t want to come inside.

As time passed, he started to get used to life with us. It took him no time to realize that being in a house is a good thing. He quickly claimed his bed, as well as a spot by the loveseat, where I usually sit to do my jigsaw puzzles. He loves trying different foods and always accepts them gratefully and politely. He’s still terrified of Bill, but he makes progress every day.

It’s not unlike watching Bill rekindle his relationship with his daughter. It started very tentatively and has developed into something beautiful. And there’s new progress every day. It won’t be long until those old fears will be replaced by good memories and love. It’s so rewarding to work with him. Likewise, it’s so rewarding to see Bill and his daughter heal their relationship.

I watch a lot of videos about narcissism on YouTube. I’ve found several good channels. I like the ones in which the tone taken is one of empathy and kindness, even though I will admit my basic instinct is anger. Narcissistic people and others with character disorders are typically very abusive people who lack empathy. It’s hard to maintain empathy for people who have none, but I think it’s important to try. Otherwise, we aren’t much better than they are.

I have been feeling somewhat more peaceful lately. I haven’t forgotten anything, but I’m a lot less angry. When I see things evolving the way they always eventually do, it makes me feel better. The truth always comes out eventually. It may take years, but eventually, the jig will be up. And while I don’t take pleasure in seeing people suffer, I do think that bad behavior has to be addressed somehow.

Narcissists hate to lose. Just watch Donald Trump’s behavior as he’s being forced to reconcile the fact that he is about to be kicked out of power. But inevitably, they lose. Inevitably, their behavior causes them to be kicked to the curb. I find as I get older, I’m quicker at spotting them and have less patience for tolerating them. I think younger daughter is going to be even less tolerant at a much younger age. I applaud her for that.

Just as Bill’s granddaughter is finally hearing her mom clearly, Bill and his daughter are hearing each other, too. They’re learning new things, comparing notes, trusting and growing. And Noyzi is hearing kindness and love, and is learning to trust and grow. These are really good things. So that’s my positive post for today. Now, to get on with some music.

P.S. The featured photo has nothing to do with this post, but everything to do with how I’m about to start feeling.


Truth tellers…

Last night, just before I drifted off to sleep, I watched a really excellent YouTube video by Doctor Ramani, a psychologist who makes videos about narcissists and narcissism. The subject was “truth tellers” in family systems.

Really great video!

She begins by talking about family roles and how they can follow a person from childhood into adulthood. She explains that in every family system, there is ALWAYS a child who “gets it”. They see everything clearly and tell the truth, sometimes in a naive way. In most families, they’re the kid who blurts out observations about the way things are, whether or not those observations are flattering. The family may “train” the child not to be so blunt, but ultimately, they’re the child who doesn’t get on the bus to Abilene.

In a narcissistic family system, being a “truth teller” can be very dangerous. Narcissists expect the people close to them to keep secrets and tell lies. Keeping secrets and telling lies is anathema to what a truth teller is. And so, being the type of person who is naturally honest, but living in a narcissistic family system, can be hell for a truth teller. They tend to do desperate things to get out of that sistuation.

I wasn’t raised by narcissists, but I think I’m kind of a truth teller. I related a lot to what Doctor Ramani said, especially the part about moving far away from their families and doing “desperate” things to escape it. I think Bill’s younger daughter is also a truth teller. When I first met her, back in 2003, she seemed to be more like a “golden child“. But years later, when she started talking to Bill again, it seemed more like she was very observant. She recognized that she grew up in a really fucked up family. Her mother has had three husbands. Her mother’s adoptive mother had seven husbands. Younger daughter didn’t want that for herself.

When she turned 18, younger daughter decided she had to go her own way. She got no help from her mother, so she struck out on her own, and sought help from church members. The church helped her out, and she was able to go on a LDS mission. She met her husband when he was on his mission in Boston.

Ex wasn’t very happy about younger daughter’s decision to date a missionary from Utah. She wanted younger daughter to stay close and remain under her control. But younger daughter wasn’t having it. She left, even though her mother went to some extreme and dramatic lengths to change her mind. Eventually, younger daughter started talking to Bill again, even though Ex had tried to convince her that he’s an abusive monster.

When Bill went to see his daughter a few months ago, they talked, and younger daughter said, “Wow. Look at you helping me clean the kitchen. I’ll bet when you and Mom were married, you did all the work, didn’t you?”

Bill nodded, telling her about what that time was like.

“When Mom visits, she usually sits on the couch, plays with her phone, and complains. She never helps.” younger daughter said.

Bill in action… he’s good about helping. Ex isn’t, but she’ll still try to convince everyone that she’s a saint and Bill is a bastard, even when the evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary.

More revelations came up over that visit. Younger daughter revealed more truths about what it was like to grow up with Ex, without Bill in her life. To her credit, despite all of the cognitive dissonance Ex tried to create, and even though it was easier to just “believe” and get on with things, younger daughter was never able to stop being a truth teller. She continued to see through the bullshit and, on occasion, she must have called it out.

For instance, Ex had told the kids a wild and completely made up story about how Bill and I had a torrid affair when they were still married. Younger daughter never really believed it, but she still wanted confirmation. She asked Bill how and when we met, and he told her. She said her mother had said Bill was cheating on her… conveniently forgetting that she had moved her third husband into the house Bill was paying for before the divorce was final. And yes, they were having sex outside of marriage, despite being so-called ” devout Mormons”!

By contrast, Bill and I lived together from May 2002, almost two whole years after the divorce was final. We did not have sex for the first time until about two weeks after our wedding day, in November of that year. In fact, Bill even wore his first wedding ring until the day his divorce was final. But, in Ex’s eyes, I’m nothing but a homewrecking whore who weakened Bill’s resolve, and if it wasn’t for me, she and Bill would not have divorced. That is a lie, but I know it’s not personal. She would have hated any woman who married Bill. It wouldn’t have mattered how kind, cooperative, and forgiving she was. And I am not the kindest, most cooperative or forgiving person. Like younger daughter, I am also a bit of a truth teller.

The more I learn about younger daughter, the more respect I have for her. I know it wasn’t easy to pull off what she did. She grew up sheltered, and was told a lot of lies. Ex did everything she could to sabotage her kids and keep them from abandoning her. She tried to cripple younger daughter. But younger daughter saw through the bullshit and had enough resilience and strength of character to break away from that mess and get out on her own. As Dr. Ramani says in her video, younger daughter was willing to do the extreme to escape a situation in which she had to suppress her need to be truthful and authentic. She turned to the church for help, went off to college with nothing but the clothes on her back, went on a mission, and made up her mind to get married and start a family. And now she can make her own choices.

However… I do wonder if Bill’s visit wasn’t traumatizing to her on some level. I wonder if she looks at him, clearly the more stable parent, and realizes that if he had raised her, her life would have been completely different. I wonder if it makes her sad that they didn’t speak for fifteen years, and she missed out on having him in her life. Having a mother who is mentally ill and narcissistic is a huge burden, but God forbid she say that out loud. She’d be called disrespectful. But it’s the truth, isn’t it?

We now know that Ex’s current husband was not a substitute for Bill. Even though Ex tried to convince Bill that #3 had fallen right into the “daddy” role and it fit like a glove, the truth was, #3’s attempt to fill Bill’s shoes was a failure. The kids were forced to call him “Dad”. Why? Because during their one and only visitation with Bill, older daughter was holding Ex’s first child with #3 ,and she pointed to Bill and said, “That’s Daddy.” #3 got very upset and jealous, and Ex told the kids that henceforth, #3 would be “Daddy”. Why? Because she didn’t want another marriage to fail… so they all had to buy into a fantasy that Bill and #1 had never existed. They’d always been a happy, cohesive family, just like the fucking Brady Bunch! It was all a crock of shit. And younger daughter knew it, even from a tender age.

These days, younger daughter doesn’t have much to do with #3. She says he isn’t in the best of health, and Ex isn’t very nice to him. But they’re still together, probably by sheer will and lots of threats on Ex’s part. She knows that finding husband #4 might be hard, and she’s done having babies. Ex’s youngest child has severe autism and may never be able to live on his own. She’s been trying to coerce her other children into promising to take care of him, even though he’s not actually their responsibility.

Years ago, I predicted that Bill would hear from his younger daughter. I knew that one day, she would approach him. I didn’t think it would be on such good terms, though. I originally suspected that because she’d been the first to reject Bill and because she was so young when Ex divorced Bill, younger daughter was the most brainwashed. However, I also suspected that she had a strong will, and she and Ex would eventually clash. And when that happened, younger daughter would approach Bill, if only to piss off her mother and rebel.

It turns out that younger daughter initially didn’t want to upset her mother. She didn’t tell her that she was talking to Bill until some time had passed. Ex eventually found out and hit the roof. She still thinks she can dictate to her adult children who they are allowed to speak to and associate with. She still thinks she has the right and ability to tell them to avoid the man she chose to make their father, even though Bill’s daughters are well past 21 years old. She sees them as extensions of herself, subject to her command, even though they’re grown women.

It must be very frustrating for Ex to lose control. It must be very sad for younger daughter to have a mother who is more interested in being in control than being a mother. For someone who feels compelled to call bullshit, it must be difficult to keep toeing the line. That’s why younger daughter got the hell out of Dodge while she could. I really can’t blame her at all. I suspect we’ll soon be hearing more truths as time passes.

Ex, music, social media, videos

Someone you might know…

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.

This one made Bill cry.

With love…

Bill is teleworking today, thanks to the coronavirus. I’m glad to have him home, especially since he’s been traveling so much lately. On the other hand, my thoughts are with some of my friends who have lost their jobs– hopefully temporarily– as businesses are forced to shut down due to the virus. I remember the days when my livelihood depended on dealing with the public. I didn’t necessarily love the work, but it paid the bills. I wonder if Americans are prepared for what’s about to happen.

We had our doggy interview yesterday. A very tall and friendly German lady came over to talk to us about adopting a new canine family member. She immediately endeared herself to Arran, who was loving all over her. I was gratified to hear that she could tell Arran was in a good home because he was very relaxed. I always enjoy watching Arran interacting with people. He does the oxytocin stare very well. It’s his way of bonding with people, probably because before we adopted him, he got passed around a couple of times. I have always sensed that he never quite got over that. He’s a very sensitive and emotional dog, and I think his feelings were hurt when he was rejected. Fortunately, he will never be rejected again. He’s with us to stay.

Hopefully, we’ll soon have a new dog in our midst, although European countries are becoming stricter about travel. The dog we’re looking at is currently in Hamburg, which is some distance away. But at least we passed the interview, which was probably the biggest hurdle. The lady told us she’d have no trouble recommending us to the rescue. As for the dog we’re looking at, he’s lost some weight and apparently loves children. We don’t have children, but there is a school just down the block from us, and our landlord, who is also our next door neighbor, has grandsons who visit often.

I sent Bill’s daughter a thank you e-card for thinking of me. It was picked up about four minutes after it was delivered to her inbox. This was what I wrote:

Your dad’s Aunt Betsy used to send me these cards before she passed. She was a very creative lady. I never got to meet her in person, but I always loved these greetings, and the times I got to talk to her on the phone.

Thank you so much for seeing Bill last week and for sending me your very kind and thoughtful note. I have been hearing Bill’s stories all week about how great it was to see you and Steven and meet his grandchildren. I’m so glad you had such a good visit. You have so much to catch up on.

It’s been easy for me to be good to Bill, because he really is one of the best people I know. And I can see that you are very much his daughter. Bill gave me a thank you note after our first date in May 2001, and ever since then, he has been the king of sweet cards, thoughtful emails, and loving gestures. In fact, Facebook tells me that a year ago today, Bill sent me flowers because he was TDY and knew I was sad because I was home alone. It’s nice to know you are representing the next generation so well.

I’m so happy you were able to reconnect. Your family is beautiful. Thank you again for thinking of me. Stay safe during the coronavirus crisis! 

I never thought I’d ever write such a note to Bill’s daughter. For years, I’ve been angry with her. I hope I can write many more nice notes to her. I don’t enjoy being angry with people.

Overall, we had a good weekend. The weather is getting nicer. In fact, we even broke out the robotic lawnmower yesterday. It’s so quiet that we can use it on Sundays and not piss off the neighbors. I may do some weed whacking later, just so the lawn looks better.

I don’t know when we’ll know about the new dog. The coronavirus has really put things in a strange way. I’ve never experienced anything like this before… it’s definitely weird to see countries locking down over a virus. However, I think it’s for the best that they control the spread of the coronavirus, because it is killing a lot of people. I just hope the economy survives, and people like my friend, who just lost his job, are able to adapt and survive without lingering financial damage.

I’m just glad we’re not on a cruise ship, like we were four years ago (during which I got norovirus AND my period). I just read about several ships stranded with their passengers in isolation because of the coronavirus. It would really suck to be stuck on a ship right now. On the other hand, I guess this situation is a good reminder as to why it’s best to try to spring for the better stateroom. At least one with a window…

Hope all is well where you are. Batten down the hatches, folks!


And I thank you…

This morning, I’m listening to vintage Bonnie Raitt. In my enormous CD collection, most of which is in storage in Texas, I own a copy of Bonnie’s 1979 album, The Glow. I was 7 years old in 1979 and didn’t become acquainted with Bonnie’s genius until I was a lot older. She really got popular when I was in college with songs like “Nick of Time” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me”. But thanks to my work at the campus radio station, I became familiar with her “greatest hits” compilation, Classics. That’s where I got an inkling of what a versatile artist she is. I discovered that I appreciated her bluesy stuff even more than her pop hits. I became a fan. So one day, when I saw The Glow on sale at my favorite CD shop, I bought it.

That album had Bonnie’s funky cover of the song, “I Thank You”, a number that has been done by many, many different artists, from Sam & Dave to ZZ Top. I was most familiar with ZZ Top’s version of the song, but I recognized it when Bonnie sang it. I had that song in mind this morning as I sat down to write this post. But as I was looking for a good video, I stumbled across another song by Bonnie called “Thank You”. It appeared on her 1971 self-titled album. After listening to the lyrics, I decided that it was a more appropriate choice for this post. “I Thank You” has romantic overtones, but “Thank You” is just about pure love and gratitude. And that’s what today’s post is about.

Sittin’ here thinking, baby, about you
I’m wonderin’ how I ever got through my life without you
Days passed me by and left my life somewhere behind
Games I was trying left me old before my time
You came into my life almost like you knew
The time was running out I came running home with you
You taught me how to love you
You helped me to believe
You could even love me
I was all you’d ever need
Sometimes when you’re sleepin’
I wonder if its true
I’m afraid they’ll come and take away this precious dream with you
Then you wake and hold me and love me through the night
Then I’ll know that somehow everything will be alright
Thank you baby, for giving me my life
I love you honey, you’ve given me my life
Thank you baby, for giving me my life

Bill came home last night. He was exhausted after many hours of travel that started Monday morning. He boarded a plane in Salt Lake City and flew to Las Vegas. After hanging out in the airport all day, he got on another flight from Vegas to London. That took eleven or twelve hours. Then finally, on Tuesday evening, he boarded another flight from London to Frankfurt. How he was still conscious last night, I’ll never know. I’m glad he took a taxi home.

Arran was delighted to see him. All week, he’s been waiting for his favorite person to come home. There were a couple of nights at about five o’clock, he’d patiently wait in the foyer for Bill. He was disappointed when Bill didn’t show up. When Bill finally walked through the door at about eleven o’clock last night, Arran joyfully ran down the steps to welcome him home. I was delighted to see Bill, too. We enjoyed a long hug and he cried a little. He’s been crying a lot over the past few days.

A few weeks ago, when Bill told me he had to go to Vegas on business, I suggested that he try to go see his younger daughter. They’ve been Skyping for the past three years, but Saturday morning was the first time he’d seen her in the flesh since 2004. I hate it when he goes on TDYs, especially when they’re in a different time zone. I definitely didn’t want to extend Bill’s time away, but I figured it was a great opportunity for him to finally see his daughter in person. It’s not so hard to reach Utah from Nevada.

Bill’s daughter had initially wanted us all to meet up for a holiday visit, but I knew that they needed to have some time together alone, because they had a lot to talk about… stuff that doesn’t involve me. I also thought it would be better if they did it on a regular day, rather than a holiday. Holidays often prompt high expectations that are rarely met. I didn’t want a holiday to be ruined if their meeting didn’t go well. Also, I wasn’t in Bill’s life for the first six years of younger daughter’s life, and though I’ve heard a whole lot of stories from Bill’s perspective, I didn’t know anything about younger daughter’s. I’ve also never met Ex in person, so I have a limited perspective of what she’s really like. What I know about her is reason enough to stay clear of her. Bill and his daughter needed to be able to clear the air without interference from anyone else. Younger daughter’s husband was great about that. He took care of the kids so that Bill and his daughter could bond.

Bill described the meeting. He knocked on the door and she opened it… and they hugged for a really long time. He said it felt like a little girl who was missing her daddy… and there was no awkwardness. As he was describing their first looks at each other, I was reminded of the day I met Bill for the first time. The circumstances were eerily similar. We’d been chatting online for about 18 months. He came to the city where I was studying– again, on business. Knocked on the door. I opened the door and after reaffirming that I was indeed a woman, he gave me a warm, secure hug. (Hey, it was the early days of the Internet and we’d only exchanged a couple of pictures…)

Last night, Bill gave me a thank you note that his daughter wrote to me. It was just two lines. She thanked me for being so good to her dad and added that she could see that he’s happy. And she wrote that she knew I’d helped him. After I read it, I was deeply moved. Then I remembered that Bill gave me a thank you note after our first date. She’s definitely his kid. She’s kind, thoughtful, and extremely empathetic… rare and precious qualities that she shares with her dad.

I remember in May 2001, when we met in person for the first time, Bill and I enjoyed a couple of dates. He stayed in a hotel room and we went out to dinner one night, then had a picnic the next day. In those days, Bill was really broke and couldn’t afford to wine and dine me. He was also a practicing Mormon, but didn’t mind that I wasn’t and wouldn’t be. We drove around Columbia, South Carolina and I showed him where I worked and where I attended classes. At the end of our visit, he handed me the thank you note and said, “It’s going to be so hard to go back to typing on the computer.”

At the time, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about him. I was very inexperienced with men and up to my ass in academics. Over time, it became obvious that I was in love with him. Then he moved from Leavenworth, Kansas to an assignment at the Pentagon. It was about a month before 9/11. Labor Day weekend that year, I invited Bill to come down to Natural Bridge, Virginia. He came down– again, stayed in a hotel– and we visited beautiful Goshen Pass and he met my grandmother, then 95 years old. When he left to go back to work at the Pentagon, Granny advised me to marry him. Then, a week later, 9/11 happened… and Bill was there for it. After that, we decided we needed to tell people we were together. We were engaged a few months later.

When Bill told his ex wife he was going to propose to me, she said, “Well, I guess now I can tell my boyfriend we can get married. He’s asked three times.” Two months later, she was remarried. Two months after that, she was pregnant, and doing her best to break Bill’s ties with his children. Ex also told her kids that Bill had cheated on her with me… even though she had moved her boyfriend into the house that Bill was paying for… and she and Bill were still married. As time went on, the girls became more and more alienated. For a few years, Bill’s ex stepson spoke to him, but that turned out to be more about money than anything else. We worried that the girls would be like their brother– although in fairness to him, he seems to have matured and turned his life around. Maybe someday he’ll reconnect, too.

We really thought the kids would never speak to him again. Younger daughter, especially, was hateful… or, at least seemed to be hateful. After awhile, I got tired of hoping for what seemed to be an impossible happy ending, and I hardened. I didn’t think I’d ever see the day that Bill would reunite with his daughters, and I gave up on the idea. I got angry when younger daughter inadvertently intruded during our much anticipated 14th wedding anniversary celebration in Ireland. Bill had checked Facebook, and she turned up as a “person he might know”. I will never forget the look of shock and grief on his face when he saw his daughter listed as “someone he might know”. I really resented it, because the last we’d heard from her, was basically a Mormon version of “fuck you”. It was, yet again, another intrusion during a special event from people who supposedly hated Bill. I knew he didn’t deserve their hatred and disrespect, and I refused to tolerate it. I just wanted them all to go away, once and for all, and leave us alone.

A few months later, Bill’s dad and stepmother lost their dog to old age. Younger daughter expressed condolences on Facebook. Bill tentatively greeted her. They started chatting and emailing. I was suspicious at first. I worried that she’d be like her mother. All indications before then were that she was like her. We’d already been through so much pain… and Bill had agonized so much for so many years. I simply wanted it to end.

Last night, I told Bill that life with his ex wife must be like an especially sick version of Three’s Company, where everyone operates on the basis of a misunderstanding. She spins everything, triangulates, and makes it impossible for anyone to compare notes and know what’s really going on. It may seem cold of me, but I got to the point at which I just didn’t want to play the game anymore. I have my own baggage stemming from my upbringing, and this was a lot to deal with. So I just gave up hope of connecting with Bill’s daughters out of self-preservation. It was easier for me, since I was never allowed to have a relationship with them.

Fortunately, I was wrong about younger daughter. Turns out, she’s Bill’s kid through and through. She eventually realized that her mother is toxic and, at age 18, was more than ready to move out of her mother’s house. She noticed how many times her mother and grandmother had married… and how utterly screwed up their lives were. And, with surprising courage and resilience, and a lot of help from Mormons, younger daughter moved to Utah and started college. She arrived there with nothing, because Ex would not make it easy for her. In fact… it was much like it was for Bill in 1999, when he and his ex wife split. He left with the clothes on his back. So it was for younger daughter. And, like it was for Bill, she felt a lot better once she was out of that environment, even though she had no money or help from her parents.

Bill discovered that younger daughter had wanted to reconnect with him for years, but she was terrified that he would reject her. Likewise, Bill had been reading younger daughter’s blog and wanted to comment, but was afraid he’d be blocked. Indeed, Ex apparently found out Bill was reading and shut the blog down for awhile. Ex was afraid Bill would try to “steal” his daughters from her. Ex thinks of her children as possessions that can be “stolen”, rather than their own people. She had a similar reaction when younger daughter met her husband. She tried very hard to break them up. This is what happens to anyone in Ex’s sphere. She has to control everything.

I password protected my initial reactions to what Bill discovered during his visit because as visceral and raw as some of my posts have been about this situation, I was even angrier about things that came to light over the weekend. And, because I now have great respect for younger daughter, I didn’t want those very personal and profane words out in the open where her mother could read them. I know she’s read my blogs. I don’t really care if she knows that I think she’s a massive cunt. That’s a given. But I don’t feel that way about younger daughter… and also, I didn’t want to field commentary from those who don’t know the situation and want to blame this whole thing on me. I’ll admit, I’m not always likable and I am far from perfect, but this situation is entirely on Ex. I’ll take ownership of things that are my fault. I have only met Bill’s daughters once, and though I have kept my distance, I have never discouraged him from seeing or talking to them. That’s not my place.

I don’t know Bill’s daughters. I wanted to know them, but they were very convincing when they sent letters disowning him. We had a feeling the letters he received in 2006 were coached, but they were coupled with the way the girls behaved the last time Bill saw them in person. During that visit in 2004, younger daughter would barely look at Bill, let alone speak to him. So we believed her when she wrote that she didn’t care about him and that she preferred her stepfather– her “everyday daddy”– to be her dad. It’s now very clear that the whole thing was bullshit entirely orchestrated by her paranoid and selfish mother.

Bill came home emotionally and physically exhausted… but I think, overall, his visit to Utah was life changing. I’m glad I encouraged him to visit his child… and meet his adorable grandchildren. His grandson looks a lot like him. And… I have to say, I was feeling pretty good about everything, but when Bill handed me that two sentence thank you note from his daughter, it was as if the last seventeen years of pain regarding their situation just melted away. It’s amazing how little it takes to forgive someone when you know they are sincere. I know younger daughter is sincere. It makes me feel so good to know that Bill has passed on his goodness to another generation.

I was so wrong about younger daughter. I’m really glad I was. I hope now we can get to know each other. And now that I know a little bit more about the whole situation– including that of older daughter’s– I have a lot more empathy and respect for them.

I know some people have felt I was overly harsh regarding this situation. I know I was. But you have to understand the person we were up against. I have never met anyone as cruel, destructive, selfish, and ultimately stupid, as Bill’s ex wife is. We simply didn’t know if her daughters were going to be like her, or if they were going to be like their real father. I’m relieved to know that Bill imprinted them more than we knew… and despite what Ex has said, they never forgot him. And, for that, I am thankful. I’m glad we stuck it out and Bill trusted his daughter more than I did. But that’s only natural, because he knows them and I don’t. Maybe someday, we can change that.

Incidentally, it occurs to me that today is Ex’s birthday. I’m glad this year, her daughter gave herself a present by finally seeing her dad.