Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Chapter Eight of Making Lemonade A Spiritual Journey Through Pain and Divorce

A Solitary Christmas

I had kicked the wall in anger with my slippered foot. Steve picked me up and threw me into the Christmas tree. Never in our years together had he been physically violent with me. What made him hate me so much? We had been arguing over his infidelity.

Abhorrence for him held back my tears. I wanted to strike him, but I knew God saw the incident, and He would take care of it for me.

A few days later we got into another argument when his mother only sent my Christmas gifts. I opened them right away because it didn’t matter; Christmas didn’t matter.

Selecting a few T-Shirts, I threw the rest of the gifts in a bag and brought them to the church. I know that his mom went to all the trouble of picking out gifts for me, even after the divorce was taking place, but the objects seemed empty. They held no meaning. For once, my material items that I treasured above all other things, including people, seemed like a pile of junk. I decided to give them away to the church for other people who didn’t receive gifts.

The meaning of Christmas was lost in my heart as I slouched in Mass. Jovial parishioners filed out. Christmas blessings were exchanged. I was not a part of the world as I stood in the shadows concealing my bruises and scratches.

Christmas is a day of family, a day of sharing gifts; a day of joy. I was alone. My tree lay empty. My heart was broken. Deep under the covers I cried myself to sleep. I had never experienced a Christmas alone. My heart bled for all those people who were just as alone. Now I understood how difficult the holidays were for those who had no one to share them with. I finally understood what Christmas was really about and found myself dreaming of Christmas past and longed to walk through the portal of time.

Mom was heading to Phoenix to work on consolidating an office. A few days after Christmas, she picked me up so I could spend time with her and Michael, her new husband, and preview the area. I decided that I was going to move to Phoenix. It held the most opportunity for starting a new life. I even picked out a rental.

We went to Mesa to see the duplex. Exiting the freeway, I glanced at the neighborhood. Low Rent/Free Utilities signs hung from modest apartment buildings, dilapidated houses with barred windows lined the street on both sides. Well, this is directly off the freeway, I thought. It has to get better. Then I saw my street. I was in the heart of poverty. There was a pawn shop on one side of the street and an AT&T building on the other. Thankfully my duplex was behind the AT&T building.

The duplex faced two apartment complexes. One looked like gangs ran the place, the other seemed quiet. The rest of the neighborhood was full of older homes in a variety of conditions and a house that was a burned out shell. What disturbed me more was the police car sitting in front of the “gang central” apartments and the helicopter circling overhead.

Unable to catch the maintenance worker who was putting in my new countertops, I could only look at the back yard. So far, I wasn’t impressed, especially for the rent I was paying.

“Do you think they have other places you could check out while you are here?” Mom asked. I could tell she was biting her tongue on other comments she wanted to make.

“No.” It was almost a sob. “This is all she has in my price range. I don’t have a choice if I want to keep my dogs.”

“Well, maybe it’s not so bad —”

“You live here then!”

“We’ll call the realtor and express our concerns. Maybe she knows the neighborhood, and we just came on a bad day.”

I honestly think she was worried for me living there, but knew as well as I did, I couldn’t do better at the present time and silenced her unease. When she mentioned I could give the dogs back to Steve and rent an apartment in a better part of town, I told her that wasn’t an option.

We headed back to Scottsdale and decided to eat. I sat fuming. Why does he get my beautiful house and live in a good neighborhood while I have to live in that place? God, this isn’t fair! When the waiter came by, I ordered a Daiquiri with twice the alcohol and a bowl of soup. This was the one time in my life I wanted to be in a haze.

My mom just looked at me. “That isn’t going to solve your problems.”

“No, but for a few hours I’ll feel better.”

Nothing further was said.

The next day we were able to see inside the rental. My mood didn’t improve. The tile throughout the rooms was new and a pretty Tuscan brown color. Walls were freshly painted a soft cream, and three tall, rounded windows accented the living room. The charm, however, stopped there. The kitchen and bathroom did have the updated countertops the realtor said they were installing, and they were nice, but the cupboards were original 1980’s laminated wood festooned with caked on grime, grease and a mystery dirt. A damp, musty scent permeated from under the sinks, and water damage was evident.

If anything needed replaced, it was the shower doors. Green stick-on snowflakes were a permanent decoration to the ancient doors that didn’t slide easily and stuck before closing all the way. The kitchen stove, also dated, was missing the oven temperature knob. Although I was delighted to hear there were laundry hookups, the laundry room was located outside in the back of the duplex. Walking down the narrow side yard, I was greeted with an ornamental orange tree and a tiny dirt yard.

I had no choice but to rent this place, but I made it clear to God that this wasn’t my new home; this was temporary. I would make it livable, nothing more. I signed the papers and secured the duplex with my deposit and rent check.

New Year’s Eve I sat with my mom and Michael in an empty hotel bar watching a movie play softly in the background and munched on stale chips. Now, that was an exciting way to ring in the New Year! I was in bed before midnight, but found no sleep between my racing mind and the obnoxious, drunken pool party below our window.

For a few days I explored Scottsdale and Mesa, then it was time to go back to my cold, lonely home.

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