Monday, December 24, 2018

The Love of My Life by Peter Reum Part 1 by Peter Reum

Having quickly bounced from a difficult divorce to another intimate relationship with a woman from Montana, I spent 1995 visiting her as time permitted, and we married in November 1995. Our time together was spent mostly in Albuquerque and Ruidoso in New Mexico. I had married my second wife despite having been warned by her family that her medical condition was progressive. We spent time with my mother, sister, and my second wife's family, all of whom lived in Montana. She had two sons who I admired for their independence and initiative in starting their lives despite their mother's progressive illness. They married in the mid Nineties and have families of their own. My second wife had been raised by her mother, father, and then a stepfather. All of the siblings of my second wife are resilient, and have gone on to be exemplary professionals.

As time progressed in New Mexico, the independent bookstore my second wife and I owned could not compete with Amazon and Walmart. It became difficult to pay for stock, and my second wife's illness began to progress rapidly. She was in very severe pain, and her heart was failing. She spent several days in the hospital in New Mexico, and somehow knew she was dying. In the end, we packed up a truck with the help of wonderful friends in Ruidoso, and I drove the truck with our meager possessions and she drove the van we had bought. On the way, she had to spend two days in the Las Vegas, New Mexico hospital, and we got to Billings and got an apartment there. My then wife had realized she was dying, and she had a near fatal stroke a week after we got to Billings. She entered Billings Clinic, and regained some movement and awareness, and with the help of a staff member at the Yellowstone County Welfare office, I was able to have her stay at Billings Clinic and the affiliate Nursing Home completely paid for. In June of 2000, she was transferred to a nursing home in Bozeman. Our van had been repossessed, and I had no way of seeing her. My boss from my first job out of graduate school had a spare car, and he graciously allowed me to use it for roughly a year. I began and lost two jobs in 2000, and was broken in too many pieces to count. I landed a job at a home for emotionally/behaviorally disturbed boys and slowly began to put my life back together. I continued to live at the apartment  we had gotten together with her in Billings. My second wife died on the evening of October 2nd in 2000. She died in Bozeman, and I did not get her funeral. The night between October 2nd and 3rd, 2000, I had a horrible nightmare that I was being cremated. My second wife's cremation was that very night, although I did not realize that until several days after her passing.

I have shared with the readers of this blog a few articles about my family. Having been married and divorced, then remarried only to have my second wife die, I really thought after that experience that my marrying days were done. I was wrong. My now wife and I were introduced by a mutual friend who told Christina, now my wife, then an acquaintance, that she had met the man Christina would marry. After a few parties with friends, Christina asked me to attend Christmas at her church. We had a nice service, but then Christina told me she had misplaced her car keys. She was given a ride by a youth pastor to her home, but before they got to her house, the minister's car was nearly totaled by a person who did not know how to drive on ice. The minister's car after it was hit could was not driveable, and  as Christina had left  her 3 daughters with me, we all piled in "the tank" (my car) and went to the scene of the accident. As it turned out, no one was hurt, and Christina had picked up a spare set of keys from a close friend. We all rode back to where Christina's car was parked, and I followed them home to ensure they arrived safely. Suffice to say, for an old fart who was out of practice dating.....my experience that evening went from sacred to very odd.

Christina and I began seeing each other regularly beginning with the New Years's Day after the odd Christmas eve date. I had just authored my essay on Brian Wilson, published in Open Sky Magazine, and had several copies I gave away. Christina told me that she had never been  so moved by an essay like that. Things warmed up, and I became acquainted with her three daughters which she had raised after a divorce from her first husband. Somehow she had been able to complete 4  years of college while raising Sabrina, Adriana, and Jenna alone after the divorce. Her ex had run away from his Child Support obligations. I saw that I was seeing a strong Christian woman who had gotten used to doing things herself. When I was off from working I spent time with the 3 girls,watching Looney Tunes, listening to them sing (they had voices that harmonize in a manner that was so beautiful that it gave me the chills.

We were engaged as of June 2006. I thought I would find the experience of family difficult because of my age. Instead, I found that I enjoyed the opportunity to love Christina''s children from her previous marriage as my own. The girls brought me into the 21st Century as far as what teenage girls were thinking about. Like my two daughters from my marriage to my first wife, there was lots to learn in a very short time. These three girls were gifted in marvelous ways...Sabrina, the oldest was the daughter whose personality most closely mirrored my wife''s. Her gift, among many, was to take people she met at face value, and to be non judgemental regarding their personality quirks and "knots," to quote British psychiatrist R.D. Laing. Adriana, Christina's second daughter, had the ability to bring the family together through being able to listen without judgement to  family members' feelings and to empathetically relate to the family member'since feelings without showing any preference between her family members whose feelings were in conflict with another's feelings. Jenna, the youngest of this triad,  brought leadership and creativity to the family. Her eye for what is beautiful and what is worth preserving in the family was unerring.

The year before Christina and I were married, there was much for me to learn as a male figure entering a family of females. First off, I realized that the girls already had a father, and although his visits to the girls were very sporadic, his place as father was irreplaceable. From the beginning of our time together, I felt that unconditional love and caring were the best things I had to offer. The girls tended to vent their feelings to each other and Christina as mom, and my silence and active listening was the best I had to offer. As time passed, the girls' dad showed more ability to travel to our community and spend a week of time with the three girls.

We knew each other very well after a year of engagement, and I had made up my mind that things could work as a blended family. I proposed on Groundhog Day, my birthday, and we were married on August 11, 2007, Christina's birthday. My older daughters' mother died of adrenal cancer, in 2007, and her second husband, an honorable and intelligent man, contacted me to see if I was able to add my daughter Chandra to our family. After a series of visits to his home and ours, Chandra decided to come live with Christina, the three girls, and myself. I had spent the time I lived with Chandra's mother before the divorce ensuring that Chandra had every early childhood service needed for lessening her developmental delays. This included speech, physical, and occupational therapies, as well as enrollment in an inclusive age appropriate pre-school. Just as the time came for her to enter inclusive kindergarten, my marriage to my first wife fizzled, and I  spent a year in Greeley before moving to New Mexico.

Our family of 8 squeezed ourselves into a rent to own home. My wife objected to the deal, and I should have listened more closely. As time passes, our family grew and we had a houseful. My daughter Lola Lynn was born April 28, 2008.