This month we invited Katie Grange to be our guest blogger. Katie resides in Aspen, Colorado, and is a parent of an adult child with special needs also. Katie’s three-part series on Love, Disability and Single Parenting is chock full of insight and advice for parents of special needs children.
Startled by what I read, I recognized myself in Katie’s words. I heard the same sentiments echoed throughout my own life especially when my parents offered, with love, these words: “Who would want to marry a single mom with two kids, especially given Mikelle’s many challenges?”
Katie was warned by “well-meaning” friends who themselves were recently divorced. These friends had not “found someone,” and therefore couldn’t imagine Katie could find someone either. And yet, Katie has found true love for the second time around.In Part Two of Katie’s blog post, she shares tips on avoiding heartache. The top item on her list: Beware of the Knight in Shining Armor.
My own experience in this realm, when my dreams of the “Knight in Shining Armor” turned to disaster, just recently became a short story called “A Slow Leaving” and can be found in the collection, “Women’s Stories Gathered at the Kitchen Table” (2014)
.It has been a very long time since my second marriage. I am older now and so are my children. One thing still remains; I’m still the mother of a special needs child – one who is now an adult.
So what are my chances at lasting love? What are yours? After reading Katie’s blog, I believe that they are alive and well for all of us and ready to be realized.+
Here is the condensed version of a A Slow Leaving, my Knight in Shining Armor story.
A Slow Leaving
The cart stuttered and stalled; its wheels catching on to the gray carpet as he rounded the corner to the front door of our high rise apartment. A trail of sweat dropped, twisted and turned falling onto the back of his dull white Indy 500 T-shirt. His appetite for extremes had left its mark, his expanding belly stretched the boundaries of the knit fabric, just has he had stretched the boundaries of our marriage.
Slow and deliberately, Frank picked his way through the narrow hallway with the last of his meager belongings dumped into the shopping cart he had brought up from the basement earlier this morning. He was soon to be a memory, stuffed into a Tiffany’s aqua blue gift box, tied with a white ribbon with the rest of remnants of loves lost. With every step he took towards the door, he faded into my past. The truth was Frank had been fading for a long time. His jet black beard now is mostly gray. The once full head of hair, his lion’s mane, has receded like his love. What remained were long strands of peppered white hair straggled together into his leftover, can’t cut my Hollywood pony tail. Like a night blooming jasmine love was exotic, intoxicating and short lived. For a while, I was the queen of his night. But sensuous love often fades, the petals fall slowly, one by one until the day comes when nothing remains.
Single parenting and caregiving had taken a toll on me as I tried to carve a place in the world for my family, especially for Mikelle. Friends and family doubted I would ever find love again.
Time slowed. Painfully, morning turned to afternoon. He was still here. Once again, he was in control. I wanted to be free of him and his constricting hold on my life. I sought relief, to breathe free, to wash my soiled heart clean. Relief stubbornly refused to come. How could it? As with everything Frank did, he did with a flair for the dramatic. In our separation scene, he was the producer; I was an actor in his personal movie. After working for years in Hollywood, his imagination had become his home. There he could produce his own cinematic scenes of life.
The first act was romance and seduction. The second act he wrote and directed with care, casting himself as the hero, the rescuer of the damsel in distress. The perfect man enters the imperfect world an imperfect family and saves them. The act would end in this “Hallmark” movie with a miracle. In his script, Mikelle walks walk down the aisle of the old adobe chapel built on the bluff overlooking the valley facing west towards Pikes Peak. Mikelle would walk down the aisle of our wedding chapel with his assistance; heads would turn for he was the one, in his ivory colored Great Gatsby dinner jacket and black silk tie, who rescued the single mom, the young boy and the little girl who couldn’t walk. All eyes would be on Mikelle and Frank. He was the hero of the storybook romance.
As the movie played on, the grateful bride would cry as she witnessed what she could not do—make Mikelle walk. The adoring stepson would finally have the father he deserved. A new beginning and happily thereafter would be the finale.
But today, sparks fly from his shadows of his eyes, as the last little bit of manhood Frank still processes disappears like vapor as his shopping cart bangs the front door open.
Today, the leaving is slow. Love lays still, motionless on the cold slab of a marriage that has died. The only warmth I feel is from tears burning, filling my eyes and refusing to fall.
Awkwardly, just tripping into adolescence, Kasey hesitates before he comes to my side. His forehead wrinkles, lines of concern are etched into a face too young to have to worry about such things. I feel the comfort of his long arm wrapping around my shoulder, pulling him closer to me, he seeks security and gives it at the same time.
Click, whir, the wheels of Mikelle’s wheelchair grip the carpet fibers as she maneuvers her wheelchair next to her brother and me. Fire and anger glow like embers from her black as coal eyes, tender with innocence, they dart back and forth as she seeks her own security from us. Jutting out, her lower lip begins to quiver in her familiar and endearing way. A volcano of tension rises up her spine. It spills over and she cannot hold it back for another second. Her mouth opens, but nothing comes out. I can see down her throat all the way to her broken heart. First her birth parents, then her adoptive father and now Frank—they all deserted her. She blames herself—not them. Now, the tears come. Her plaintiff cry of abandonment ricochets down the hall as Frank leaves.
“Mom, you okay?” I could feel Kasey lean into me, his warm touch anchors me and I think to myself, “This is the only real man in my life.”