Getting Hard


My talk with my divorcing friends over the past few weeks has gotten me to thinking. They say things changed, that people stopped caring, stopped interacting. What causes that?

I know that I've changed. Over the almost two decades of being married, I've changed, and not necessarily for the better. My relationship with my wife has changed too and it doesn't necessarily all have to do with my bisexuality or extra-marital affairs.

I think what changes people is the realization that life is, well, life. It's work, its hard, it's difficult. It's has it's ups but, has plenty of downs. And it's the downs that change you.

I remember getting married, how happy I was. How excited I was. New job, new place to live, newlyweds. Everything was new, exciting and fun. Then there were the other accomplishments we had together: new car, new house...then kids. Having children, were one of the most exciting, happy days of my life. Playing with them, watching them grow, talk, walk. Every step was a happy day.

Then, there was the sickness and eventual death of my father. It was soon after the birth of my second son. At some point, I was consumed with traveling by plane back and forth to see him at every important doctor appointment, treatment, surgery. To be there for my Mom, to be there for him. To make sure he was going to get well, as predicted by his doctors. My wife encouraged me to be there and never questioned my need to help my family.  Soon, my father seemed incredibly frail. Unable to walk on his own without assistance. Out of breath after a few steps. Unstable on his own two feet. This from a man that helped others, worked hard, raised children, was looked up as an example of what a father, husband and friend should be. This is what he had become.
One day, I got a call from my Mom. I had to come quick..take the next plane out.  My father isn't well. I book a flight...race to the airport, and nervously wait. I must be there..I have to see him. I want to be there for my mother. The plane is inexplicably delayed. Then again. Finally, we board and take off, then more than five hours later for a normal 2 1/2 hour trip - we finally land.

The next half hour or so was out of a movie: I race out of the airport, grab a cab and tell them my hospital destination. The driver understands my urgency and drives accordingly. I pay him, run into the hospital and tear through the hallways to the elevator down another hallway to the Intensive Care waiting room. As I walk in, my Mom is there standing, looks at me and shakes her head, with tears in her eyes, and brings her hands up as if she doesn't know what to say.  I drop my bag and say "What's happened?"  She grabs me in a hug, and cry's "it's too late."

I hug my Mom, cry and we go to see my father. I then head to another room to make some calls...and inform the family that my father has died.  I get angrier and angrier...I tell my wife how I was delayed, how I rushed, how I just missed being with my Mom and father when I was needed most. I'm hysterical, I'm mentally exhausted, I'm fuming with anger and now livid!

I bang the phone down, once, twice, three times. I rip the phone from the wall, and across the empty room. I'm screaming, I'm crying. The door opens and there stands my Mom, a hospital security guard and a nurse.

"I was supposed to be here. I should have been here. American fucking Airlines..there were delays!"  I'm screaming.."I wasn't here when my father died because American Airlines couldn't get their fucking plane here on time."

My mother consoles me. The guard stays until I'm calm and I apologize for my violence.

For the next year, I mourned. It was the first father's day, the first holiday, the first birthday, the first of everything without my Dad's smiling face. Every day was a day to be mourned.

And I've changed. From that moment on, I realized this ride called life is not a game. It's not always fun. The good times, don't necessarily outweigh the bad. The good times are good indeed. But they are there as a juxtaposition of the bad: they are there for comparison. Enjoy them, because bad times are right around the corner. I know, it's a glass half-full mentality...yes I'm a pessimist.

When you're young, you enjoy life. Hopefully, there's little to worry about.  You've got the love and security of your parents. But, we always want to be a grown-up. As we age, we get to experience disease, heartache and death. We bury our relatives, our close friends, and our parents. We see friends have adversity: get sick, divorce. We struggle in other ways...financially, relationship-wise.

We harden. Yes, I hardened, and I don't mean sexually. Life hardens you. It makes you angry.  It makes you sad. It causes you to lose the emotions that made life fun, the child-like feeling that you can do no wrong. You lose the innocence: the belief in Santa, the tooth fairy, or that Willy Wonka really does live.

My personality has taken a hit, not just by my fathers death, but by other deaths too, by current events (aka 9/11) and by the trial and tribulations of life in general. Being happy takes work.

When someone asks why relationships me, it's a natural progression of becoming an adult. We are no longer children. We no longer have the cocoon of safety of our parents. We struggle all our adolescence to finally grow up, be on our own, and this is what we have to look forward to.

We now have experienced life...we're a grown-up.
But, being gown-up it isn't what we expected. It isn't always so good.

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