“I’ve reached the point where I hardly care whether I live or die. The world will keep on turning without me, I can’t do anything to change events anyway.” – Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
“After all, how often do we get a second chance?” – Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why
“No matter how many plans you make or how much in control you are, life is always winging it.” – Carroll Bryant
“She’s still in love with that f***** and did this to hurt him.”
Those words bounced around in my head as I sat there reading the divorce papers again and again. This mad game had taken a whole new dimension, and I found myself in familiar territory once again in matters of Her, namely utterly confused and stunned once more. A few years of peace had gone by, so I shouldn’t have been particularly surprised that the past was returning to haunt me again.
A few hours later, She called me, a little afraid, a little meek. The voice of the confident woman determined to keep me close had changed to that of a small little girl, one unsure of herself and her world. This divorce had been in process for months, even years, and she had struggled to find the right time to tell me. We spoke a little bit then cut it off as we both needed to process the news. But despite it all, we avoided the elephant in the room, that for the first time since the whole mess began, the two of us were effectively single.
A few more months went by, and we spoke haltingly at best. I really didn’t know what to think, and she was still embarrassed about her choices all of this time. Worse, being across country, there really wasn’t too much either of us could do at the time. She had a home with 2 kids and family on the west coast. I had a job, and my own friends and family on the east, but realistically speaking, I could have left pretty much any time. Why didn’t I? I would probably say pride, or hurt or work or all of these things. But I think the real reason was pettiness. All of these years that she struck back again and again out of my emotional break, I didn’t have the same deep feelings as I once did… or maybe just buried those feelings out of a survival instinct. The marriage. The kids. Being a godfather. Seeing the mess unfold in front of my eyes. Each and every act made was like a dagger to me, and they cut deep. Could we have forgiven each other and made the right decision for once? I personally strive every day to be a better person… even a little bit more. But after 20 years of trying to hurt one another out of love of all things, I just didn’t know if I had it in me. I had felt tired, and needed a change from the whole mess (plus I was deep in another one with a redhead (my weakness) I was kinda dating in Ottawa), so I took a job with a company in Ottawa.
I think the Fates must’ve been laughing their asses off that day. At that exact same weekend when I moved into Ottawa, I got a surprise call on my cell from Her…. from MONTREAL. While I was unsure of my feelings, she had not. I had been essentially her one true love and had worked behind the scenes to moving back to La Belle Province. So secretly, She took on a new job at McGill University as a researcher, and had been preparing to move back with the kids for a year try out. She had taken a leave of absence from her work, quietly found a place and a school for the kids, set up the essentials for her family, and then once she thought she was ready, calmly made her call.
This definately wasn’t a moment of Serendipity, or even Irony… just pure tragedy I believe. She called my cell to my still-Montreal number, and surprised me with the news. No, not surprise, I would say absolutely and totally shocked me. It started with a cheery hope to meet that night, to renew, talk and reevaluate our situations, and her absolute desire to be my wife. I was just dumbfounded, and let her talk on and on, of her regrets, her loneliness through all the years, how much she missed my words of encouragement and mutual attraction, and how we finally had a chance to make everything right. My first real words shattered her heart once more. I told her that I was now in Ottawa on contract, and how I didn’t have the option to return. I told her that I still cared for her, but I had so many many doubts about us ever coming back. I told her that I still cared for her, but I wasn’t sure if I could be her husband. And to the sound of her tears and sorrow, I asked her to give me a little time to think about it. We would talk many times later over other issues with the kids, and to give me time to get used to possibly being their dad by having them stay with me for a few weeks. We talked about her dad and mom, and about her new job. But I never could have known that one conversation was the very last one I would ever talk to her about our feelings.
In March 2004, She was killed. It was a car accident by a drunk driver. It was quick and sudden, stupid, senseless, and she never had a chance.
In April 2004, I was busy looking for a summer day camp for the kids, as I had been transferred by work to Calgary of all places. At least in Ottawa, it was close to Montreal, and I had all sorts of resources to draw upon thanks to being a true son, although Asian, of Montreal. As such, I didn’t really know my new city all that much at the time.
I was supposed to take them in July for a few weeks, and given my work schedule at the time, I had decided on putting them through day camp so I could spend the early mornings and evenings with T & G. I was researching amusement parks, theme parks, trips to Banff, Medicentres for emergencies, food recipes and the 1,001 little things that I needed to know to make sure the kids would be fine and have an awesome time with me. They had never spent more than a few days at a time with me, and definately never actually lived with me, so I was trying to do my best to be ready for them. I was still unsure of my feelings for her, but I knew that those two were in so many ways, my kids, and there was nothing I wouldn’t do for them. What I didn’t expect was a lawyer coming into my computer shop instead.
It was bright and sunny. A Chinook was going through the city bringing us a stunningly hot day. The air was strong, though a bit acrid. But overall, it was a day full of promise and light. To me, that’s how it started, but the rest of the day was dark and forsaken. This man entered my store, and gave me a letter explaining why his presence. The woman I loved with all my heart was dead, and our future together was now comprised of ashes. I didn’t even read any further until he asked me simply, when would I be ready to accept the children.
I really didn’t understand anything at all, but as she had full custody, and that I was both official godfather and appointed guardian should something happen to BOTH parents, I was to receive the kids. As He had not contested custody at all originally but still alive and well, some legal twist had awarded me custody. Suddenly, all of that research became even more important, as I was now their father though I really didn’t understand how if He was still alive. I always thought that his natural parental rights superseded any legal ones I might have had. Why’d I have to be so right?
Only 2 days later, I was proven right. Her dad walked into my shop, calm yet you could practically feel the air aflame with his silent fury. Since her death, her parents had stayed in Montreal to care for the kids and to settle her affairs. They had viewed this whole mess up close over the years, and probably never forgave themselves for agreeing to my mad breakup schemes, and never forgave me for being the man their daughter wanted. He spoke calmly, yet precise in his intentions. The kids were to return to their custody, and eventually be reunited with their dad. I was supposed to agree to it, as I didn’t stand a chance legally, and they would spend their last dollar to bankrupt and ruin me if I fought. That meeting me had destroyed their daughter, and ruined all of their lives.
I listened to all of this, speechless, with only sorrow and guilt overwhelming my being in every way that mattered. I asked for a day, to absorb all of this and to ponder. He granted it, sure in the righteousness of his position, left and told me he’d be back the following day. I made a few calls, to lawyers and friends to get their take on the matter. And in the end, they all agreed with me with what I knew myself was true. The father was still alive, of good character, with the support of his parents and her parents. I had the help of my own friends and family, but I couldn’t in good conscience bankrupt my family in a foregone conclusion.
The following day, I met her father in a cafe. He already had a lawyer waiting with him, and I signed away my parental rights once and forever. I broke my last link to her, and broke my promise to always protect her kids. And to add insult to injury, they imposed a 5 year restraining order on me. I was to never contact the kids again or even be able to approach her grave. In a few days, I had lost my first love, and then lost our kids as well.
End of Part Four. Epilogue to follow.