Deserter

September 15, 2010 at 10:19 AM (Able Bodied Antics, Assumptions, Autobiography, Cerebral Palsy, Comittment, Disability, Ex Love Interests From Hell, Impairment) (, , , )

This one will be controversial, I’m sure.  And mean, and not showing either of the female participants in their best light.  But…

Why did it matter to me so much?  It did.  And not just on the basic relationship level.  Always, always, why did I feel I had so much to prove among the able regarding my personal life, my romantic relationship?  A lot of folk at the time advised me I was putting too much emphasis on it.

I was.  I’m such a damn cavewoman about these things. It actually became something of a game sometimes,  an old school catfight if an “other woman,’ showed up.  But what I wonder is why I was…

A bit of a prologue is needed, from the time before I was really ‘dating’ my future spouse.

1980 or so.

He  met her at a church function.  She was completely able-bodied, and his disability was fairly invisible. At that time, or shortly thereafter they began to date and it got serious rather quickly. One of those couples that, when they are together, make it seem as though they are the only two people in a room.  (My late husband, when he emotionally committed, did so fast.)  At some point down the line a ring was exchanged and they got engaged.  She was either already in, or joined the military shortly thereafter.  He had begged his brother-in-law to drive him to her place of deployment to say farewell after a leave, and the brother-in-law, while grousing a bit, did so.

After coming home, he realized she had left a gym bag of hers in his closet.

I don’t know how he came to read her letters…whether he was then in the habit of going through other people;s  things routinely (Something I didn’t permit in our home.  Each of us had to ask permission before handling the other’s stuff), or when he picked it up, was the bag open etc.

Doesn’t matter.  What did matter at the time was what he found.

It wasn’t just the shock of realizing she was also very seriously involved with someone else, someone near the deployment she was going back to.

There were particular paragraphs that noted with some scorn, that she had some guy back in the States who thought she was in love with him…very sarcastic in tone, he said, as if the two of them were laughing, via letter, about it.  I often wonder, if unconsciously, she left it there on purpose, to be rid of him.

His mother, a very religious lady described his reaction to this as ‘possessed.’   According to him, he wept. Shouted. Sank into a serious depression.  He did not leave the house for days. Truly devastated.  And, appropriate to be so overset after such a betrayal.

When she returned from that deployment, still well before I knew him,  he advised that there  was some trouble getting the ring back, I don’t remember now if he did or didn’t…but there was some sort of highbrow kitchen accessory still in  a box in his mother’s kitchen in 1985, and she often lamented about what the heck to do with it, since neither he nor she gave a darn about it.  (A child of the Depression though, she just couldn’t bring herself to throw anything away.)

Christmas, 1985

We were dating by that time, and he was working in one of those seasonal holiday shops in the nearest mall.  I was visiting my dad and my dad’s  latest girlfriend.  She happened to live in the same suburb as my guy did.

As my cousin told it to me, here’s what went down.

The ex girlfriend found out where he was working through some mutual friends, and showed up, all interested in getting interesting, very hey, baby what’s up.  As if the weird painful breakup had never occurred.  My cousin and her husband happened to be there, visiting.   My husband excused himself from the kiosk for a moment and proceeded to flee to a restroom and get physically sick…from just seeing her.

My cousin politely but pointedly mentioned that he was in a relationship with me.

She did not know me, and apparently did not care, she intended to go after him anyway.

He returned fairly quickly, advised her he wanted no part of her.  She apparently advised him that she intended to show up in church that Sunday in the company of  these mutual friends…He finished out his shift, shaky on his feet.  He called my dad’s condo, and I got on the phone.

“Hey I know we were supposed to go out to dinner and a movie, but can you just come over?”  He sounded so shook up, I wondered what was going on but said, sure.

We had the house to ourselves, and got comfortable and he calmed down and explained.

He needed hugs and reassurance that night, and got them.  He wanted to make sure I was with him at church, because he advised he didn’t know  if he could handle it.

I wanted to make d@mn sure I was at church too, because gossip ruled in that place, and also because I wanted to make certain she knew where I stood, and what I was willing to do to handle   that archaic “hold on to my man,” thing. (It just irks me to no end that I thought of it in those terms, but I did, and there’s no sugarcoating it.)

I got so insecure, inside my head that weekend.  If he really did want her, how could I compete with that?  Not just able, but military…I was so sad.  I thought, “Well, it’s been good, but here’s the able chick sweeping in.  He’s shook now, but she’ll pester and pester and she’s probably better looking, and they have a history, and she can do more things, and doesn’t limp around and doesn’t have a lazy eye like I do…”  All of the old, “Not good enough,” stuff came up.

After all I have three great male friends, all because,  couldn’t get them interested romantically due to, at least in part, my disabilities…they let me down gently, but they did, and left me feeling inadequate (although they are friends to this day, and I’m now so pleased with that.)

I never actually saw her face till the end of service. By prearrangement we were in the last pew.

She walked in, in uniform, back straight, and didn’t even turn to look at anyone.  Brown curly hair past the shoulder.  A sturdy person.  She sat in the front pew with the folk she was staying with.  I had my best dress on, something that I fit into for only about two weeks.  A periwinkle blue dress with an old-fashioned bodice top.

He had a death grip on my hand and sat through most of the service with head bowed.

He often made scenes and I could see he was mightily suppressing his urge to do so.

The service ended.  “Here we go,” I thought.  Here’s where I have to prove to her in about thirty seconds that she never even had the wisp of a chance with him.” Me, the gimp, facing down a military person. She turned.  And happened to look straight at me.  My impairment was much less obvious standing in a pew from that distance.  I stared her down like murder.  Her brows raised.

And then I smiled.  Wolfish and obvious. the look up and down,  slow starting, “Oh, you don’t impress me at all,” smile.

She looked for a moment like she thought of making an introduction…but when she left the church she simply rapidly walked past on the outside, my side of the pew, without another glance or word.

We heard one last thing about her, that she had later married and had a little girl.

Objectively I thank her for her military service, as I do all vets I meet.  But that’s where it ends.

Why did I *need* to win that battle so much? I still don’t know.  But I won it.

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