You've probably read a little bit about my ex-husbands (all three of them) in past blog posts. I've noted that the only way I can really explain those choices is to plead temporary insanity (despite the fact that each marriage lasted several years). You haven't heard - until now - about the one time I actually came to my senses and let another one of these "prize catches" get away (although it's more accurate to say I got away from him; he wasn't going anywhere at the time)...
As noted in a recent post, I spent seventy five days of the nineteenth year of my life locked in a mental hospital, court-committed to be exact (but that's a story waiting to be told another time). This is a story about someone I met there... someone I was actually engaged to, not once but twice. Dear God, what was I thinking?
I met DP in small groups "therapy" there. (Saying that anything resembling therapy occured there is pretty much a joke.) There weren't a lot of young people my age, and he was just a year older than me. I'm sure DP saw in me, someone young and more or less innocent about life. I saw someone fun and outspoken - a take charge kind of guy. He paid attention to me, a fairly new experience in my life - I liked that a lot. I've always been attracted to bad boys and damaged souls, and Lord knows he fell into those categories... but I didn't know, at least not then. Within a month's time he had given me his ring to wear, (more about that in a minute) and we became officially engaged, much to the interest of the other patients and staff.
Although we were assigned to wards in different buildings, we saw each other in passing fairly often at mealtime and on the way to various activities, along with occasional opportunities to meet up for "social events" such as bingo, and brief times outside on the fenced and gated hospital grounds, all under very close supervision. There was a lot of passing notes back and forth thru friends and acquaintances. There were also dimly lit tunnels connecting all the buildings, and a few staff willing to look the other way for a short while.
Then one day DP just disappeared, nowhere to be seen, no notes... I soon learned that he had been "shipped out". I found out that meant that he's been sent back to prison, that he'd only being doing his 75 days of court-assigned evaluation, like I was. He'd forgotten to mention that little detail about being a convicted felon to me. One other little detail he forgot to share... he was still married, though separated, and the ring he'd given me was the ring his wife gave him when they got married. That shocking bit of information was tossed in my face by a fellow patient one day in group... "So you still want to marry him? Well, what are you going to do about his wife?" DAMN!
At that point in my life I still saw things pretty black and white, and having a relationship with a married man was a no-no. I wrote him a "go to hell" letter, and returned the ring via a friend, though he claimed he never got it. The "friend" probably pawned it for drug money or something similar.
After I was released, I returned to my parent’s home briefly, and then headed to nursing school in North Dakota. (That ended abruptly as well... my choice... another of the "very wise" decisions I've made along the way.) I headed back to the people in Minnesota I thought of as family, and spent a few months there trying to get my life together.
I started thinking about DP, and decided to track him down. I found out that he was now in another small-town jail in South Dakota, awaiting shipment to the state penitentiary. (His life clearly headed in the right direction.) Tossing a backpack over my shoulder, I hitchhiked across the state and went to visit him, spending one night with friends, and the next on a cot in a garage of some kind folks who didn't like to see me sleeping in the park. They shared breakfast with me, and I headed over to the jail to see DP.
This was a very small town, and the sheriff took heart and allowed DP some "good behavior" time to spend the afternoon in the park with me across the street from the jail. DP knew all the right words to say, and before the weekend was over, we were once again engaged. I actually rode along in the sheriff’s car, DP In handcuffs and leg chains, as he was transported to the pen.
From there, I hitchhiked back to Minnesota to pack up my two boxes of belonging and put them on the bus to South Dakota. I didn't have enough money to send them and me, so I hitchhiked back again; my destination being the city where DP's mother and step-father lived, so that I could be close to his family. They were going to become my family too, or so I thought. Let's just say that the reception was less than warming, but DP’s mom and I did hit it off well. I'm sure she saw me as her son's salvation, a good girl from a good home, that could help get him on the straight and narrow (yeah, right).
I rented a room in a boarding house and got a job as a nurse's aide in a run-down nursing home. Not having any transportation, I walked to work and back, and to the grocery story, and to the laundromat. It was a hard time in my life. I wasn't in contact with my own family. I'd shut down that connection following my "incarceration", courtesy of them. I went to visit DP at the State Pen, a hundred miles down the road, a few times in the months that followed - once riding with his family, but most often hitchhiking back and forth to spend the twenty to thirty minutes of time allowed visiting on telephones, on either side of the thick glass window.
Strangely, I can't tell you what he was sentenced for, what his crime was, or how long he was supposed to be there. Maybe I knew then, but if I did, I don't recall now. He wasn't mean or scary, though I'm sure he had a temper if provoked. I know he was expecting to be released fairly soon, or so he said. I also can't say what it was that made me think he was "the one" that I wanted, the one I belonged with, a soul mate for life. I'm not sure I even thought along those terms back then. I was more in survival mode and hooking up with him seemed like a good idea. I did like him though, he was funny and warm, and looked out for me, as best he could, through contacting friends on the outside who lived in the town where I was.
A couple of those friends must have been God's angels in rough disguise, because they started dropping hints suggesting that maybe I was being taken for a ride. That hard-earned money I was sending him for cigarettes and toiletries was supposedly going for drugs on the inside, and I wasn't the only women being taken in by his charm. Then I got a letter from a fellow inmate who laid out some details and evidence fairly clearly, and said basically "Run, don't walk... and don't look back. If you stay in this relationship you'll regret it for the rest of your life. DP is deceiving you."
I was heartbroken. The one person I thought wanted me didn't really either, he was using me big time, or... if he did care for me at some level, he was still cunning enough to take advantage of my kindness and good intent. To hell with it. I hardened my heart just a little more, sent him a "goodbye, good luck" letter, and built the wall around me another ten feet high. I never heard from him again, and I never sought him out.
What I recalled, as I thought about him now and then, was a statement he'd made in the sheriff’s car on the way back to the penitentiary... "I don't mind going back," he said, "I know how to do the time." I realized that meant he would probably be a repeat offender for the rest of his life. He had no fear, at least none spoken, of doing time.
For reasons unknown, his name popped into my head the other day. I think it was triggered by rereading that "Apologies" post in which he's mentioned. Out of curiosity, I Googled his name today at lunchtime, and clicking on a link... found myself staring into a picture of him as a much older man... the picture accompanied his obituary. DP is dead. He died two years ago.
Dead? My head struggled to comprehend it. He was only a year older than me. It stated that he died of COPD, and that he'd spent some years before he got ill working as a woodsman in the Pacific Northwest. He had a wife and a son. His father, mother, step-father, and sister have all died too. He had two cats that he loved dearly, the memorial tribute said. Of course his past as a convict wasn't mentioned, and I wondered if he somehow managed to get his life turned around.
Strangely, I found myself feeling a bit saddened. I know that under all that hurt, pain, and anger, was a very damaged little boy who wanted to love and be loved. I hope he found that in his later years. I hope he found meaning, and I hope he found God there amongst the trees. Fly away home DP. God be with you... rest in peace.
It's funny how our lives take us down paths that twist and turn. Had I not reconnected with DP, I would not have returned to South Dakota. I would not have met my first husband, and I would not have had my daughter. I would not have been in Germany where I met my second husband, nor had my son there. I would not have ended up in New Mexico where I met my third. I would most likely not have connected with Papa Bear in the state next door. It is said that all things work out for the good... apparently that just might be true.