Good Things Take Time
Mary -BrytEyz- Ball
Age Rating: 10 +
Good things take time; mine took ten years.
On a bright and sunny day I hurried to get my child ready for the jam-packed afternoon I'd planned. I submerged my consciousness in the joys of motherhood partly to avoid the rest of my life, which seemed a shambles.
I dressed my son in dark blue overalls that wouldn't advertise his gift for getting filthy in seconds flat. A cream-colored turtleneck with dark blue and maroon cars peeked through the top of the overalls, and his matching tennis shoes completed the outfit. I thought the cars on his shirt were appropriate, since we were going to an antique car show at a park in the small town of Sandwich, IL.
When I first heard we were going to Sandwich, I was disappointed, to say the least. I'd already conceded to moving to Grand Rapids from Chicago and could barely handle that without going stir crazy. Now I'd agreed to accompany my husband and his family to spend the day in a small hick town looking at antique cars all day and talking with the cars' proud owners. His father owned an antique car and often displayed it in shows such as this. I still don't know why I agreed to go in the first place, but something told me I had to be there.
My son loves cars and trucks and squealed with delight as my husband and I pulled in to the park at eight in the morning. After locating my father-in-law and letting my son honk the old horn, there wasn’t much else to do but smile while passers by admired the old Chevy and elderly folks reminisced. I took my son for a walk as soon as I could without appearing impolite. I held his hand through all the “ooh's” and “aah's” for the better part of two hours, reveling in his childhood innocence and delight. We took tons of pictures before returning to “Bomb-Pa's Car.” My son especially liked this one because it was the only one he could touch and actually get into!
We ate lunch there, and I tried to lay my son down for a nap — like that was going to happen with the surrounding excitement. I usually put my foot down, not wanting to break his routine, but not today. I looked at the playground on the other side of the park and felt it calling to us. I thought my son was going to get whiplash doing a double take when I asked him if he'd like to skip naptime and go play in the park instead. He was off in an instant, and I could barely keep up.
As we entered the playground, I had to pause for a moment because it seemed like I'd entered a new world. The oldies music and other assorted sounds coming from the car show were suddenly distant, and it felt as if the air filled me and hugged me with unexplainable warmth. I began to feel giddy and lightheaded as I pushed my son on the swings and chased him up and down the slide. When we climbed to the top of the monkey bars, we rested and surveyed the entire playground.
I could see all the other parents watching their children from park benches, barking orders to “be safe” and “keep clean.” I had to wonder, was I the only one who actually played with my child? Then I heard the most beautiful sound, almost like music; it was a little girl's giggle and her father growling and playing with her. It took my breath away and filled my eyes with tears as I watched his face light up each time she came closer in the swing. I could see the love, the warmth, and the bond between them.
I felt so…at home watching the pair. I couldn't take my eyes off them until I noticed my son tugging on my shirt because he had to go pee. He had probably already wet his diaper, but I wanted to encourage any attempts on his part to sit on the potty.
My body was numb — that father's smile and the twinkle in his eye were burned into my memory forever now, and my question had been answered. I was not the only one!
Somehow, that thought comforted me later in the day when I found drugs in my husband's clothes and felt I had no choice but to leave him. Unfortunately, he convinced me he would change and talked me into staying. That night, hazy images of a smiling man with twinkling eyes pushing his daughter on a swing danced through my head and lulled me into a peaceful sleep.
It had been more than five years since I felt that wonderfully warm calm rush over me, fill me and instill me with an unexplained peace. Now it was about to happen again. I was entering the Chicago city limits on my annual visit with friends and family. I didn't get to see much of either, since everyone's schedules seemed to be in conflict. Instead, my husband, my son, and I spent our time downtown museum-hopping and sightseeing.
I realized for the first time that I loved watching people. While my husband took our son to the restroom, I sat outside the Planetarium on the cement steps and studied the people walking by, the people standing around, and the people sitting. For the first time it hit me why I loved going to new places and being in a crowd but not part of it. It was faces — I loved watching faces and wondering what stories they had to tell. There were so many faces, each with an untold tale behind it. I saw irritation, annoyance, impatience, worry, anger, loss, and more. It was all so sad.
There were so many sad stories I could see. The first smile I saw since I sat down was on a child, though it hadn't been the first child I saw. As I realized the number of children I'd seen that day without smiles, it began to depress me even more. I stared at a girl who appeared to be the same age as my son. Her beautiful blond hair shone brightly in the sun and bounced as she skipped up and down the steps. Her father approached and, with a big smile and twinkle in his eye, handed her a lunch. They sat there, oblivious to the pain that surrounded them, lost in conversation, lost in their own world, and lost in each other.
For the second time in my life, I felt an indescribable peace wrap me in a blanket of inner satisfaction that I would remember and draw from for years to come. It would be a mental haven in which to retreat when I could no longer stand to stay in the emotional hell that was my reality.
Throughout that year the best and worst came out of my husband as we dealt with my many physical health problems. I became pregnant and was hospitalized four times with blood clots in my ankles, legs and lungs. I was on thousands of dollars worth of medication; and to add to the mass confusion in my life, I was put on bed rest for the duration of my pregnancy and for a bit afterwards. My husband told everyone how much he loved and needed me one minute then verbally and mentally abused me the next. He was often out at a “job” he never got paid for, leaving my seven-year-old to care for his bedridden mother, who was depressed because she was supposed to be taking care of him.
After the baby was born, things got worse for me emotionally as my husband stayed away into the wee hours of the morning. I wanted to leave, but realistically, I couldn't in that condition. Even as things got better for me physically they got worse mentally, and the only thing that kept suicide at bay was the thought of my children and how they needed me. The only comforts I found in life besides them were my dreams at night and food during the day. I quickly rose above my already heavy weight of two hundred-fifty pounds to more than three hundred-ten by the end of the year. This only gave me more reasons to be depressed.
My husband had been trying for the eleven years I'd known him (and longer) to get hired in a really prestigious construction company in town, where his father worked. This year, they'd finally agreed to consider his application. This was, perhaps, our last hope, not only for getting the bills paid but also for finding happiness and making our marriage work. If he were happy, if he felt some kind of self-worth, and if he gained some self-respect things would get better. I believed this with my whole heart. I had to.
When the envelope came in the mail I ran it to him as if it were from the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes Prize Patrol van. He put it down on the couch and continued to play Nintendo without opening it or even looking at it. I was aghast. “Why aren't you opening it?” I demanded. Without turning off the game, he said, “Because I failed the drug test.”
My legs gave out, and I couldn't speak. For the first time, I couldn't even cry. He asked if I was mad, and all I said was, “I don't care.” I realized for the first time how true that statement was. I didn't care! Then I walked into my son's room to play with him.
As I sat there building with blocks, I heard a voice from some past vision. “You're not the only one.” I smiled with tears in my eyes and held my son close, not feeling so alone all of a sudden.
During the beginning of the year, things started taking a turn for the better. I made plans to end my marriage. I started singing karaoke with my mother, which gave me something to look forward to, and I'd lost more than one hundred-twenty pounds on an awesome diet called “I Love Dieting” I'd learned about it on IloveDieting.com. My testimony was added in the member section because my weight loss was so phenomenal. All my health woes were disappearing one-by-one, and I no longer needed all those prescriptions. The doctor was baffled but happy with my weight loss and improved health. Still, he absolutely refused to admit that any of it had anything to do with the supplements and herbs I’d been taking. I wasn't too upset when he notified me he was moving to another state and I'd have to find a new doctor.
I found one just in time as my eldest son caught chicken pox. We were a bit nervous being at a new doctor's office and all, but it was close to home and I was glad for that. I was glad, that is, until the nurse from hell walked in. Remember, I'd seen tons of nurses and doctors over the past few years, but none as cold and uncaring as Miss Jan. She was curt and nearly rude in her comments and she definitely lacked a decent bedside manner, especially while dealing with a child that was feeling miserable. She was callous about my son's discomfort and barked at him when he dared to complain. Needless to say, it was the last time we went there.
I drove away wondering if she had children; and just in case, I prayed for them. I wondered if she was married. Just in case, I prayed for her possible husband as well. I'm sure her child, should she have one, would need a father like the one I saw at the park, or the one I saw in Chicago. Yes, her child would need a father with a warm smile and twinkling eyes to overcome the drawbacks of having a mother like that nurse from hell!
Later in the year, my mom talked me into entering a karaoke contest because we went every week now, sometimes a few nights a week. I had planned on entering but didn't make it due to family problems at home that night. My mom did make it but lost to some man. Apparently, a young man (to my mother, that's anyone younger than fifty) had stolen the show. He was so good she didn't feel bad for losing; in fact, she said she'd have felt bad if he didn't win. Man, was I upset I missed it. For me, karaoke contests are like free concerts only better. I feel like the performers actually care about what they’re singing.
I wasn't too upset though, as I missed competing against this supposed vocal god and embarrassing myself. I sing karaoke because I like to sing, not because others like to hear it! As for the winner, Mom said she couldn't forget how his eyes glowed with excitement.
I was dancing at a karaoke bar when that familiar calm came in on a breeze. Just like before, all the sounds became distant and life's whirlwind seemed to slow down a bit. This time it nearly came to a standstill, and everything became blurry like a rained-on watercolor painting — everything, that is, except one little spot amidst the night's confusion.
Much like the dance scene in West Side Story where Tony and Maria see only each other, hear only each other and know only each other. My sight was drawn to a distant table in the back of the bar. I don't even remember who I was dancing with when that sense of peace took my breath away.
I looked toward that table in the back of the bar because I felt someone staring at me, but I didn't see anyone looking. A man sat there, but he wasn't looking my way. It was weird how he was the only thing not fuzzy in my vision at that moment. I normally wouldn't have even been able to see that table at all, but the fifty or so people sitting between him and I were arranged perfectly so a clear path of vision existed between us.
I looked at my dance partner but couldn't seem to hear or make sense of what he was saying as he rambled on. After a baffling moment, I was drawn to look again at the distant table; and this time I caught the man as he turned away. I was overcome with both an immense sense of calm and an overwhelming wave of excitement. Through the smoke and haze his face seemed to glow, and I couldn't take my eyes off first his smile and then his eyes. Time and existence froze, and I felt as if I recognized those eyes that seemed so full of love and compassion. I felt myself smile — not a surface smile consisting of lips and teeth but a deep inner smile of my soul.
My whole body and being was light and airy as the bar shone as if the sun had come out. I knew the song had ended because the couples began leaving the dance floor. I can't remember if I thanked my partner or not. My only thoughts were on getting closer to the mysterious man.
As I got closer, I noticed my friend Jason was at the table as well. I walked right on by, as I didn't know what to say or what the heck I was doing; but the pull between me and the man who had touched my soul wouldn't let me get far before turning me around to head back. I had to meet this man, I had to find out what made him so happy and fulfilled that I could feel it so deeply within me and I had to inquire about this strong and passionate inner peace that radiated from him to me across a crowded bar enough to momentarily stall my universe.
When I returned to the table, Jason was gone; but my friend Jen was there. “Mary! Sit down for a sec,” she said. Yeah, like she had to tell me twice! I glanced over at the mysterious man next to me, who looked away again. Jen introduced us then left to turn in her song slip; but she never returned. This conveniently left us alone. He timidly requested a dance in the most unforgettable and polite manner I've ever been asked.
“If you'd like to, you could save me a dance later.”
I could barely speak, so I whispered, “I'd love to.”
I found out later that he nearly melted right then and there. The very next song was a slow song, and I asked him if he'd like to dance to that one. His face lit up as he flashed that smile of inner happiness and joy that his whole body reflected; he smiled from deep within and it radiated throughout. He later told me that while he'd been watching me on the dance floor (and yes, he looked away each time I looked over at him) he felt I'd smiled from within as well. I guess it was my soul that smiled that night.
I walked to the dance floor on a cloud of happiness and turned toward him to begin our dance. I noticed right away that he didn't grope me or try to plaster his body to mine. He didn't let his hands roam over my hips and butt, either. His right hand rested politely but firmly high on my waist while his left hand's fingers laced mine. There was an instant connection when we touched hands for the first time on the dance floor, something that grabbed our hands, brought them together and cemented something permanent between us. We both felt it; it was like some force took our hands, brought them together and wrapped silken chords around them never to be undone.
I instantly felt at home with this man. Then our bodies were tied with the same bond as we were drawn to each other. We came together so smoothly, like a door closing on its hinges; and we fit together like a hand and glove. Some might wonder how, because he's shorter than I, but I don't. We're two pieces of a puzzle that are just meant to be together, and we fit just that snugly.
I felt a bit shy and thought of looking away but couldn't. My eyes were glued to this miracle of a man I was dancing with. I thought it made him uneasy, because he was the one who looked away. Later he said that there was something there, something between us, something so powerful and honest that he had to look away to catch his breath.
I felt a powerful current flowing between us as we danced. I've never taken any dance classes; but when I'm with him, we dance! He dipped me, swayed me, twirled me; and we didn't stumble once. Our legs looked like we'd choreographed the dance. And practiced for months. It's like that every time we've ever danced, and everyone watches with smiles on their faces and in their hearts.
Something is very apparent whenever we're together. My mother told him once that when I walk in the room the sun rises inside him, and she can see it on his face. People say similar things about me and asked when he and I were going to be wed even before I'd admitted to myself that I loved him! Somehow, they plainly saw what I refused to admit at first. More than one person has said they see that “something” between us when he sings to me. The whole place is captured in our dream, conversation stops momentarily at nearly every table and many look back at me and smile knowingly. It's plain to see the love he has for me and I for him. It's more than love, though. It's so much more.
I wouldn't accept it at first, how could I? I didn't understand its depth and magnitude. Little by little, it began to make sense. One day, while going through my photo albums with me, he looked at a picture and gasped. I asked him what was wrong; and he looked at me intensely, pointed to a photo I'd taken over ten years before at that car show and softly said, “That's my house.”
He began to tell me about how his day unfolded back then. The car show got there early and blared that oldies music, waking him up. He and his daughter later went to the park across the street from their home, which borders the car show's boundaries. I got tingles when he told me that his little girl was the same age as my son. Yes, he, too, was there that day at the park at the same time I was. He was pushing his little girl in a swing. He said he was so happy that day. I told him I knew — because it had shown in his smile and in his eyes.
When we started sharing more of our lives and our pasts with each other, I found out he nearly left his wife back then as well. He was glad he had waited until later because he had gained a mass of fond memories. He then shared some of his precious memories with me, like how he went to Chicago with his daughter a few years back. He remembered how his daughter loved it and how they really liked walking along the shore of Lake Michigan. Then he told me how they'd stopped for lunch and sat on the cement stairs of some museum to eat it. It was just him and her with her golden hair shining in the sun and blowing in the breeze while he watched and couldn't stop smiling. I told him I knew, and that his eyes were twinkling that day as well.
I knew there was something more than I could ever comprehend between us, and I knew what I felt for him. The only thing I wasn't sure of was how he felt about me at first, until one day it nearly knocked me off my feet.
I was shopping in the grocery store and somehow ended up talking to a man named Scott about the 9/11 tragedy. After a bit, the topic switched to family and love. He was going through many of the same things I had in my past marriage. I told him to hang in there because it would get better, and that life has an uncanny way of working things out. I proceeded to tell him about how I met this man who really loved me and how my life was finally turning around.
He said, “Damn! You have that same look in your eye as my best friend when he talks about the love of his life.” Scott told me about his friend, who was so in love with some girl who just danced into his life one night, and how he knew there was something there that was bigger than the both of them from the moment he laid eyes on her. He had known he was in love by the second date, which wasn't really a date but another accidental chance meeting.
Scott went on to relate that his best friend couldn't stop talking about how beautiful the girl was both on the inside and the outside, and he couldn't understand why a “fox” like that was even remotely interested in him. Everything about her was so perfect, and he was only a country hick; he was just a short old warehouse rat with nothing to offer her but his love. Scott told me what his friend said in the end: “Everyone's got someone out there, that one special one meant just for them. Scott, she's my ONE!”
As Scott told me how his friend had tears of joy in his eyes he looked at me and realized I was crying as well. I smiled, took his hand, and then softly said, “It's nice to meet you, Scott. I'm John's girlfriend, and he told me the same thing just last night.”
I've often wondered how in the world I accidentally met John's best friend in the store that day, or how any of these things happened; but it's not something that can be explained. Some things can be, though, like why I was so devastated each time I'd been dumped by a boyfriend in the past, even when I knew I didn't love him. I now know why I felt a loss, and it wasn't because I lost a boyfriend. It was because my soul was searching for its other half; and after a break up, I was forced to realize that this was not the ONE for me and I was still flopping like a fish out of water through life frantically searching for him. I knew there was someone out there for me; I just hadn't found him yet.
Those images of John at the car show, on those steps in Chicago and at karaoke that night we met were each steps to the happy home I've now found in his love. The never-ending coincidences keep rolling in like thunder before an awesome storm. The nurse from hell WAS his wife, and her possible child I prayed for was John's daughter. The man who won the karaoke contest I couldn't make it to was John. We've both dreamed of traveling out west on a Valkyrie with black leather saddlebags and a sissy bar, and we both purchased a Bursa for our first gun. We both like camping, the great outdoors, hunting, collecting knives, music, children, the performing arts and more.
My story isn't done unfolding, so I'll never be done telling it; but that doesn't mean I'll ever stop trying. The more I learn, and understand, the more I'll share about how I finally know what all those love songs are really about. I'll tell my story about how I've found my ONE, my love, my soul mate. With him I feel an inner peace and calm. I feel as if we fit together like we belong and like we're finally home after traveling far and distant foreign sands of time.