(for the first part of this story, click here)
I was finally ready to leave Roy.
I left Seliah, too.
Roy was a better father than I was a mother, and I needed to live some before committing to being a parent. Yeah, yeah, yeah. A little late into the game to make a decision like that, but what can ya do?
Speaking of parent – mine didn’t know a thing. And that’s how I intended it. Instead of manning up and keeping them posted, I decided to just let it go. I really wasn’t all that concerned about them being worried over me. It’s not like I was dead or missing. Radio silence was simple. Easy. I’ll worry about that later.
I left Roy and kept my ruby ring. Something about the siren’s call I always experienced made me leave it on my finger.
I left a note.
Seliah was five years old.
Young enough to recover from that blow. She probably wouldn’t even remember it when she was grown.
Speaking of blow… there was that, too.
Harold was everything I wanted from life then.
I want to tell you my excuses and why I did it. But looking back, they weren’t even full blown reasons. Just excuses why I left my daughter and my marriage and the one friend I had.
Life was bigger with Harold. Boring skipped my vocabulary. We got involved in the theater – and it was a haven of gays and drugs and booze and gypsies. There were nights out in the swamps and lavish costume parties. Opportunities to run from the police when our group drinking got out of control. Bailing our party friends out of jail the next morning. Alligator wrestling.
I was twenty-five years old.
On the lam with my love, this was when I experienced my first taste of the occult. To add to our list of many wonders, I also carried myself away by attending séances laced with hallucinations. And let’s not forget the fortune tellers and tarot readers who predicted heaps of money and joy.
I had been raised in a liberal family – the Unitarians didn’t exactly limit my ability to think and choose where my spirit led me. Maybe it was the rebellious part of my soul that was so attracted what wasn’t acceptable. And believe me. There weren’t movies about teen witches back in those days. In fact, we were closer to the times of Salem witch trials than we were the Blair Witch Project.
In my defense: I grew up oppressed. And that sounds so cliché to you younger folks – but when you’re from Nazi Germany during the war, when you are forced into a loveless marriage with a man you hardly remember, and when you escape the tragedy of life by fleeing overseas, discovering the dark allure of witchcraft was kind of a godsend, if you will.
Harold’s family was posh southern royalty. Post civil war, they no longer held slaves, but that culture hadn’t really escaped them.
And it was disgustingly similar to the prejudiced shit I had come from. Every interaction, every flippant racial slur, every innuendo designed to put me in my place didn’t escape me.
Not only was I foreign, but I was a dreadful German.
We didn’t need to be around them much – thank gods – but every so often Harold’s mother and aunt dangled his allowance over his head. Those hateful biddies ran the hotel in St. Petersburg and money wasn’t an issue for them.
I think you call that a trust fund baby now days.
I called it brilliant because it meant that neither of us had to work. Which meant more time for getting high and the wild adventures I was so taken by.
Things were good for a few years, but then they started to go bad.
Harold’s allowances were late. First a few days, then a few weeks. Pretty soon it got to the point where I wasn’t sure when I was going to eat next. We weren’t homeless, but a lot of times we were hungry. The one way the old ladies could control Harold was to withhold the very thing that fueled us.
We were in party mode, so as soon as we finally got the allowance, we threw a little celebration. Bottles of drink, plenty of opium, and a few days at the dens. Prohibition was over then, but overboard was the rule of the day. For us, at least.
Of course, by the time the cloud of celebratory stupor passed, there wasn’t much left in the way of food and we’d have to scramble to feed ourselves.
Sometimes Harold would go begging his aunt for more money. A lot of times he threatened to get a job. A friend had even offered to get him in with the ranger service – so Harold could wear a fancy forest ranger hat and still hang out in a boat in the swamps – but that was never really something to get serious over. A job would just get in the way of having fun.
Which sounds like the perfect time for me to dissolve my marriage with Roy.
Days required to settle the divorce: thirty.
Days required to wait for Harold’s next allowance: twenty-three.
Days required to blow through said allowance: three.
Weeks required to realize I was pregnant again: two point five.
As wild as he was, Harold didn’t want his child born a bastard. And on to the next adventure – getting married to the man who lit the fire inside me.
Roy: “You’re marrying my best friend?”
Roy: “And this is what you really want?”
Me: (in a haze) “Yes.”
Roy: “And your daughter?”
Me: “You’re a good father.”
In the few times I saw Seliah, Roy handed me a stack letters from my parents.
Before, I’d only been communicating with the parents twice a year. How long had it been since I wrote?
I had to calculate the years in my head – how old was my daughter?
She must be almost seven now.
I’d been so caught up in the dramas of being high and fighting with Harold’s family and looking for hand outs and food that I guess I hadn’t realized how much time had gone by. I was nine months pregnant and swollen like a balloon.
Wir haben nicht die von Sie im Laufe des Jahres gehört. Was ist los? Seine Schwester hat wieder geheiratet und ist schwanger. Wie Sie wissen, Lily gerade mal 11 Jahre. Sie ist mit der Schule zu kämpfen . Dein Vater ist im Orchester . Ich bin einsam. Wo bist du? Ihr Mann schreibt uns noch einmal vor sechs Monaten und die Sie in der Lage zu schreiben, nicht. Wie ist Seliah ?
[We haven’t heard from you in over a year. What’s going on?
Your sister has married again, and is pregnant. As you know, Lily just turned 11 years old. She’s struggling with school. Your father is in the orchestra. I am lonely. Where are you? Your husband wrote us once six months ago and said you weren’t in a position to write. How is Seliah?
My life was in shambles. I was about to give birth and constantly stressed out because Harold’s family was completely dysfunctional. Or maybe we were the ones out of control. It didn’t matter.
As the intermittent first birthing pains began, it all came tumbling down on top of me.
Not only was I an awful parent to the child I already had – and hadn’t seen her in how long? Months maybe? – but here I was about to bring another baby into the mix.
Was I in love? Absolutely. The roller coaster that was Harold was amazing. The highs were at 14,000 feet, and the lows were under the deepest seas. There was nothing in my experience that could make me feel so alive as being with Harold. Was I loved? I thought so, though he never said it. We were married, after all. Was I having fun?
That’s the question.
Eventually in life you get to the point where you just can no longer say that being hung over and groggy is fun any more. I was huge, and seriously couldn’t think of myself as loveable. I was addicted to opium and alcohol and things didn’t look like they’d be getting any better any time soon.
So I did the best thing I could think of. I left him.
The next few weeks were a whirlwind. Not sure if I can even remember what all went down. What I do know is that giving birth to my son was the thing that saved me.
Let’s see if I can put it all together so you know just how it went down…
First, I wrote a letter to my parents. I asked if I could come visit them. I wasn’t sure how I’d afford it, and I didn’t care. Maybe they’d send me a ticket. Or three.
I put on the nicest clothes I owned.
I drove myself over to Roy’s.
And I knocked on the door.
Forgiveness is one of those rare gifts you never deserve to get.
And there I was, going through the hell that was withdrawal from drugs and pregnancy hormones, and now here was Roy, cuddling my baby boy. He agreed to raise my second child as his own, and he even picked the name: Lamar Kevin.
For anyone who will ever doubt the goodness that is Roy, here is your ultimate proof. This man forgave me for leaving him. He forgave me for abandoning our daughter. He forgave me for running off with his best friend. He forgave me for dragging myself back to his doorstep hooked on drugs and nine months pregnant. If I had any advice for any of you, it would be for you to find yourself a Roy.
The problem wasn’t him, it was that he just didn’t do it for me.
Early on in my new life with Roy, my parents responded to my letter. Their invitation to come home was a much needed reprieve, and Roy insisted that we visit as a family. Reinforcements, he called it.
I knew that a month back home in Munich would be good for me, though I dreaded the direct questions that were coming. At least they’d see that with my little functional family in tact, I’d finally gotten my shit together.
The whole time, though, I couldn’t help but find the façade so stupid. Was I fooling anyone? I thought the shame and guilt of living this obvious lie must have been written all over my face, scrawled down the bones of my arms, written in ink down my fingers. But it turns out people are often so intent on believing that you’ve finally done something better for yourself that they don’t want to focus on whether or not it’s reality.
By the time we returned to Florida, my withdrawal symptoms were mostly gone. The thought to use crossed my mind every single hour of every single day, but for the moment, I was clean.
Seliah was so grown up by then. She didn’t really know what to think of me – the woman she was supposed to love because my name was Mommy to her – but I’d never been around. She’d seen me in all my pre-hippie glory – running around with different folks every time I came by. She knew she couldn’t trust those other adults, and by default she couldn’t really trust me.
And for any of you parents thinking this whole thing might be a good idea, remember that your child won’t ever forget this. Never.
Seliah loved Lamar Kevin, though. Her little brother was a shining star in the whole story. She doted on him, cared for him, mothered him when I couldn’t. I was useless.
The best thing Roy had to offer me, besides being a loving, stable father for my children, was a calm and uneventful place to live. Food to eat. Working appliances.
He still received a check from the army, and worked a few days a week. When he was gone, Seliah managed the baby. When he was home, I did my best to hide my chaotic wits.
Conditions required for Roy to take me back:
- No more alcohol or drugs.
- No more Harold.
- No more gallivanting around town.
- I was to remarry him.
- I was to be home and present with the children.
- I was to live peacefully with Roy and Seliah.
- I was to TRY.
The conditions weren’t so bad. I mean, countless mothers across the country managed. Whether I was content or not wasn’t part of the equation. But I was intent on trying, at least.
My heart was broken and to say that the dissolution of my marriage with Harold hurt was the biggest understatement of the year. My soul was crushed. Normalcy was the bane of my emotional existence. But giving birth to Lamar Kevin had taught me something – that I truly was no longer on this planet to serve only myself. And for as much as Roy took over fathering this baby, there was always the unspoken promise that I was making sure that Harold’s first born son survived my lack of parenting instinct.
Words that got me through the following seven years:
“You’re doing this for the children. For Harold’s child.”
“You’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do.”
“Being healthy is a good idea.”
“Harold isn’t in a position to raise children.”
“If being normal wasn’t good, why would everyone be doing it?”
“You can fuck up your own life, but don’t fuck up your children’s.”