“I hope the days come easy and the moments pass slow and each road leads you where you wanna go. And if you’re faced with a choice, and you have to choose, I hope you choose the one that means the most to you. And if one door opens to another door closed, I hope you keep on walkin’ till you find the window. If it’s cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile. But more than anything, more than anything … My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to. Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small. You never need to carry more than you can hold. And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to, I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too. Yeah, this, is my wish. I hope you never look back, but you never forget all the ones who love you in the place you live. I hope you always forgive, and you never regret and you help somebody every chance you get. Oh, you find God’s grace, in every mistake and always give more than you take.But more than anything, yeah, more than anything … My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to. Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small. You never need to carry more than you can hold. And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to, I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too. Yeah, this, is my wish.” ~ Rascal Flatts
Today was one of the most bittersweet of my journey thus far … her first high school interview, a day that Zack and I had been dreaming of for years. If you knew him at all you knew how important her education was to him and that it was the initial source of inspiration for the lifestyle he was determined to give us. He wanted her to have every “thing” and opportunity he never had as a child and wasn’t going to let anything stop him from laying the world at her feet from the ground up. It was no secret that it was my husband and not her “real dad” who single-handedly paid for every cent of her primary education at St. Mark’s. I fondly recall the very day this journey began …
We were freshly married and still living in our little apartment in Fairview when first grade finally arrived. Since our address fed into in a public school with less than favorable stats and Christian had been privileged with a private education, Zack and I assumed that her dad would be on board with affording her the same opportunity and thus willing to split the cost with us, which, not gonna lie, at that juncture was going to be a stretch. Especially inasmuch that my “wedding gift” to him was: Me, a little girl, a recent stay at one of the most exclusive psychiatric facilities in the world, $35K of unsecured debt, a car we couldn’t afford, a mental health resume about 62 pages long, a less than supportive family that all but despised if not cursed the day he was born, and oh yah, I wasn’t exactly what one would call “employable” then. YET WITHOUT HESITATION HE STEPPED UP TO THE ENTIRE PLATE FOR HER! Go figure, I’ve digressed. The day I called her dad to ask what he thought about sending her to St. Mark’s like her big brother, with a knife through my heart and a shot heard ’round the world his verbatim response was this:
“Nope. Not happening. Guess you should have thought about that before you left here. Your gravy train is over honey, so why don’t you let the moron pay for it (then he literally laughed out loud). Have fun explaining to her one day why she couldn’t go to private school like her brother. Good job mom! Good job!”
I was stunned by his callous response! What in the actual HELL? “MY gravy train?” THIS WASN’T ABOUT ME! IT WAS ABOUT HER! How could he be so cruel as to punish her just to punish me? DON’T get me wrong, by no means am I saying that public school is a punishment. I have always been of the mindset that an education is only as good as the student himself and a truly good student can and will flourish in any school setting, be it public, private or home. That’s not what this post is about and hopefully you understand where my heart and mind are in this regard. When I called Zack to tell him what her dad had said he was outraged in every sense of the word. “Let the moron pay for it? Really? He said that? Okay then, I WILL, just watch me! I’ll take care of EVERYTHING and he can ride his selfish gravy train straight to Hell!” It was in that moment that my husband’s relentless fire was fueled with a determination like nothing I’d ever seen before:
“Catherine, I can do this! I’ll empty out my savings. I’ll get a second job. Whatever I have to do, I’ll do it. If I have to sell my soul to the Devil, she’ll have EVERYTHING Christian had. EVERYTHING I never had. She’s GOING to St. Mark’s and she’s GOING to Catholic high school. Trust me, SHE’S GOING!”
When he got home that night, he explained how he planned to handle things for the first year and assured me that by the second grade he’d have the rest figured out. Then this is what he did: HE EMPTIED OUT HIS LIFETIME FITNESS CENTER 401K TO PAY FOR HER FIRST YEAR’S TUITION! The very 401K he’d been faithfully contributing to with the specific intention of eventually buying himself that brand new car he’d always wanted. Yes, he did that for her. My husband. Her “stepdad”. HE DID THAT! The rest is merely history and many of you have good sense about everything he ended up “doing for us” in just under ten years flat. And please do not mistake this post as braggard. If you know me at all you know damn good and well that I have never forgotten how this story began: With sterling silver James Avery wedding bands, a tiny one-bedroom apartment and nothing but a pocket full of dreams.
Yes, today was bittersweet. I’ve thought crying so many times since waking up to the cold, hard reality that he’s not here to revel in the triumph, pride and joy of “this day” he’d worked for, dreamt of and looked forward to since the day she bounced into his life, but I didn’t want to rain on her parade. Despite the impossible strength she very clearly recognizes in my process and recovery, the road to her process and recovery from the trauma that was his ironic and tragic parting gift to her is still so long ahead. There’s an unspoken rule between the two of us right now: She knows I’m okay, and that she’s going to be okay, but for her sake alone my darker days, tears and moments are best spent in private. At the end of the day however, as I sit with all this emotion, I am once again comforted in this peace: He was with us today! He’s with us every day. Knowing the God Who’s hands are wrapped around my heart like I do? The actual reality is not as “cold and hard” as I first thought. He is reveling in the triumph, pride and joy of “this day” he made happen for her with his legacy of love! He’s simply watching it from “the next room”.