Chapter III: Life After Mr. Wonderful: Reflecting on What I Couldn’t Make Up For (His Parents)

It’s been over seven months. My Mr. Wonderful exited this world on November 7, 2017 and I have been in a semi-productive, semi-coherent, semi-realistic state since. I wish I could explain my thought process and where I’m at in my grief, but I really just can’t. I simply exist.

I remember. I continue. I grieve.

Almost nothing about my life since my husband killed himself is the same. There are moments, moments when I recognize my actions as those uniquely mine, when I remember who I was before I met him. And there are moments when I reflect upon who I’ve become, who is very different from the person I was when he and I first met.

I like to think, and believe it to be true, that the person Rob fell in love with back in 2004 is more closely aligned with who I am today, more so than the person I was after we met and up until his death. This truth makes me sad and proud at the same time because it reminds me of what I’m capable of but also what I lost for so many years.

I am and always have been comfortable with the idea that my situation is largely dependent upon me. I never could and would not rely on someone else to make my future. Hence, when I was a single mother at 24 I went back to college and busted my ass to make sure that a) I met my own criteria for success and b) my young son saw me do it.

After college I had a great career, one I earned with hard work and brain power. I had moved away from my hometown, which allowed me to earn my reputation (good or bad) on  my own merit instead of my family name. In my new surroundings and in my position I had risen to a role many would envy. It was at this point I decided that I was ready to meet my match.

And within a month I met Rob.

“From 35,000 feet I see a woman who  made her own way and is raising a great kid,” I remember Rob saying soon after we met. Full of confidence, I knew he was right. And I knew I was worthy of him.

And then life happened. I married him. I loved him without end. He traveled. I wanted to prove that his needs were paramount (something not easy when raising a son who deserved everything I had to give), and I made it work. When my son spent every other weekend at his dad’s house, I devoted my time to my husband, who traveled for work almost exclusively. Eventually I left my job, because (and I remember saying this time and again to friends who were curious), “When it comes to my career or my marriage, I choose my marriage.”

Conversely, I remember my mother reminding me that my future was my responsibility. “Take care of yourself, honey,” she said, “Make sure you’re protected.” I scoffed. “His future is my future,” I remember thinking.

Aside from my undying love and devotion, I felt like I could give Rob a sense of family, which was something he never had. His mother had lost her parents early and she didn’t get along with her mother-in-law. Their relationship was so contentious that Rob didn’t see his father’s mother for many years preceding her death in 2003. As a matter of fact, Rob nor Rob’s mother attended the funeral. This rift was fallout from Rob’s parents’ split and eventual reconciliation. His father’s mother was critical of his mother and when his parents got back together, she was out. Rob assumed it was a condition of their reconciliation. His father was an alcoholic and his mother put her foot down on many things. She’s been in charge ever since and God help us all for it.

So Rob never had the warm and cuddly grandmother figure that I was blessed with. And he never grew up with the understanding that family, even when they make you insanely crazy with hurt, are always there. At least in my case, I could always count on them, even if I was a giant shit (which I was on occasion). When he and I got together, I thought I could provide this kind of love and acceptance to Rob, but what I didn’t understand was that because of how he was raised, and by the people he was raised by, he wasn’t equipped to understand that level of love and understanding. In his world, if someone, even family, hurt you or made you uncomfortable, you excised them.

It always perplexed me, how Rob was so great at loving me and being an unconditional support for me, but he was unable to accept my family in the same way. This doesn’t apply to my son; Rob was so proud of him and never let an opportunity pass to brag about him. I loved him for that. But beyond my son and me (and our dogs), Rob couldn’t conceive of unconditional love.

Sadly enough, he never felt like he had that from his own parents.

I tried to discuss this with them on Rob’s and my last visit to their home a year before he died. They would hear nothing of it.

As a matter of fact, Rob’s mother used my emotional/teary state during that conversation as a means to berate me some time later. “Oh yeah, boo hoo,” she said, remembering my attempt at a conversation gone awry. I guess she thought my emotions relative to her son’s pain was a reason she could make fun of me. It broke my heart many times over. Her poor son.

In reviewing just what I’ve laid out here I am reminded of what allowing negativity into your life can do to even the most grateful soul. It stings. It infects. It remains.

I love my husband. I always will. But when I think about the negativity his parents brought into our lives, even from thousands of miles away, I am grateful to never have to see or hear from their sad and bitter asses again. Rob would be happy for me. He knew his parents were shitty people; we discussed it more times than either of us would have cared to admit. He tried so hard to distance himself but felt a sense of responsibility to continue trying to be the son they wanted. It was never going to happen.

When his parents told him, just weeks before he killed himself, that they wanted him to move “home” with them and that he wouldn’t ever have to work again or have any responsibilities BUT NOT IF HE CONTINUED TO BE MARRIED TO ME, it broke him to his core. He cried like I’ve never seen him cry before.

And we only ever loved each other. Without measure.

Never, in a million years, did I ever expect that when I found the love of my life – my first and only love at 34 years old – that his parents would hate me so completely and mercilessly. Why? When I only ever loved their son?

Did they expect me to fix him?

 

Dad Believes That Everyone Has A Story. This is His.

New friends suggested to my husband and me that we tell the best stories. I guess when you’ve saved a few of them up and get to tell them all in a drunken night of getting to know each other, it might seem that way. 🙂

Everyone Has a Story Cover

The truth is that my dad, Jim Cates, has the best stories. He’s been fortunate enough to have been raised in a beautiful and friendly town, Liberty, Missouri, and his parents were the most social people I ever knew. Dad came by his social skills honestly, and because his young home life was centered around an extended family of life-long and local friends, he learned early on that friendships are everything. As his dad would tell him, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” And dad proved that adage time and time again.

His professional pursuits always centered around his ability to meet people well, which led him to a career in sales, an interest in politics, and eventually directed him to a successful second career as radio talk show host. When you are good at identifying what is important to a person (by really and truly listening to them), it’s easy to match them with others who can help further their goals, which is something dad has always done well. Dad believes that everyone has a story, and this is his (click link below).

Everyone Has A Story – Jim Cates