Maybe I'm getting sick of the story because I spent too much time in the sad/bad beginning part. It wasn't all doom and gloom and once I escaped Lake City ( or Lake Shitty it will forever be known as to us), things did start to improve. Like I said, I spent a few weeks as a gypsy to stay with different friends until I sadly realized it couldn't go on forever and I needed to decide where I would settle down, at least temporarily. I spent New Year's Eve of 2002 in a hotel room in Tallahassee with JR and his friends, thinking This isn't how I pictured married life.
Lucky for me, my sister and brother-in-law (they weren't married yet, but may as well have been) offered to let me stay with them in Orlando. What was good about that was it was far enough away so that I wouldn't be tempted to see Brian. That still wasn't going anywhere and it hurt too much whenver we did see each other and we kept it to a minimum, only enduring short and painful visits when we changed puppy custody. Yet it also wasn't the smallness of my hometown where I'd originally run. Have you ever been to Orlando? There's a lot to do there. Even though I wouldn't describe myself as happy, I mostly remember that as a positive, even fun experience. I got to know my sister's husband better than I ever would have otherwise. We went to a few Orlando Magic games, which was fun because they'd just turned into a decent team. There was a Disney trip in there somewhere, because you can't spend too much time in Orlando without getting sucked in there through osmosis. I was making fairly decent enough money at a temp job I'd found and though I saw JR a few times, I spent most of my time with Sister, Travis and good friends.
That era lasted a little less than three months and a few key things were responsible for its demise. The biggest one was my dad died suddenly sending me and all of us into a scary tailspin. Almost seven years later, I still can't say I'm recovered; it's just something I live with now.
I was working at the temp job in downtown Orlando that morning when I got a call on my cell my dad had been rushed to Citrus Memorial in Inverness, an hour and a half away. I didn't know at the time he had passed already; I guess whoever called decided it would be safer for me to drive not knowing first. I still can't remember who called to this day. Very weird. When I got to the hospital and found out he was gone, I found my mom and sister, who had gotten there a little before I had. There are whole blocks of that day I don't remember, but I know I called Brian immediately. He'd just started working at a golf course in Tampa - a job my dad had gotten him. He knew by that time we were separated, but he also still loved Brian and was optimistic we'd get back together. And that's the part that sucks the most about the whole thing - my dad never got to see that the shitty story had a happy ending. (Here's where somebody usually tells me He does know , and I start crying. If you'll excuse me for a few seconds.)
Brian arrived a little while later and went through that nightmare of a couple of days with us. He was as upset as all of us were; my dad was an amazing guy. His funeral at our town's main little funeral home was attended by so many people, they didn't all fit inside the building. Family came in from everywhere and most of my friends were there as well. Brian was more than a little uncomfortable being there, knowing a lot of people there thought he was the anti-Christ. But he was there through the whole thing. As were both sets of his parents, which is something I'll never forget. But here's the part where you need to remember how kind and decent Brian's been through most of this; and this was one of the hardest things I had to forgive him of after all the shit settled.
The day after the funeral he left Inverness and went back to Lake Shitty to HER. Yep. He'd spent a few too many days away from her with me and even though his father-in-law dying was an acceptable enough reason even for Ol' Crosseyes, she decided enough was enough and put the smackdown on him. I guess I was still in so much shock (and not-quite-sober for most of my waking hours) that I wasn't even too affected by it at the time, beyond being obviously hurt and pissed. It sucks to have to remember it, but there are no rules in a game like this. Maybe you would've handled it differently - bully for you. It's been dealt with as far as I'm concerned.
Thus began another strange few months. Brian worked during the week in Tampa and I still had the job in Orlando (though it wouldn't be for very much longer for me). We were both staying with my best friend Grace during the week now; I like to say she accepted both our emotional and literal baggage into her house without question. Which meant we both had 70 - 80 mile commutes, ONE WAY. EVERY DAY. On the weekends, he'd go see HER and I'd do whatever; sometimes see JR, sometimes stay with Grace and Elizabeth - and that's when I realized how close I was to the kid and what a rare source of happiness she was for me at that time. She didn't really understand what was going on at six years old, but she was some damn good company. You can't be sad too much around kids; or at least not that kid. I took her to Orlando to pick up my last paycheck and on many other fairly good-sized road trips for someone her age. We sang in the car. We went to the beach. I took her to see Crossroads, glad I had a child with me as an excuse to go see it. I sometimes dropped her off or picked her up from daycare; like I said, we got close. It's amazing how I actually now miss some things from that time.
Grace and I started referring to this as our "In the Ghetto" period. There wasn't a whole lot of money coming in for any of us but we pooled as many resources as we could, realized that no matter what is going on in our lives we still felt the need to buy groceries every week and make dinner (almost) every night. We had a lot of fun together and even though she was extremely pissed off at Brian, she never said anything mean to him or made him feel uncomfortable in her house. Amazing, Grace. Too easy, but I'm keeping it. So another couple of months passed this way and it sort of felt like controlled chaos. In addition to dealing with my stupid marital sitation, I was now in the beginning stages of grieving for my dad. I'm indebted to a lot of people but especially to Grace for the rest of my life for keeping me from going over the edge, because believe me there were times I was very close.
Please now sing a few lines from Lean on Me in honor of my friend Grace. Stand by Me works just as well. Or In the Ghetto by Elvis. It's fun, trust me.