Monday, May 25, 2009

That ugly, vicious thing we call divorce

I don't get divorce.

Much of this is due to my parents, I'm sure. They were married my entire childhood, and still are. They've fought over money and they've dueled over how to raise the kids, but they've never parted ways. Sometimes my mom gets aggravated over my dad's sense of humor, and sometimes he zones her out, but here they are in their late 60s, and they're still together. They celebrated their 44th anniversary just this year.

And here I am in my late 30s, and it seems like one couple after another whom I've known is coming apart. They swore to be there for one another, never to part, and that foundation of love that they laid is splitting. My best friend and his wife married 17 years ago. They're separated. My other best friend and his wife married 12 years ago and divorced last year. And now another friend writes, after more than 20 years, "We're divorcing. He won't even consider reconclilation."


Divorce is an ugly, vicious thing. It takes lives that have grown together like flowers whose stems entwine one another so closely that you scarcely can tell where one begins and the other ends, and it tears them apart. Staying married isn't easy -- I doubt anyone alive can possibly begin to explain just how much work, hard work, marriage is, and how much it hurts sometimes -- but God knows it's worth it.  When my heart was torn from me and I dropped into the volcano, it was my wife who saved me. When her mother died and drought came to my wife's life, I was there for her.

Marriage hurts, but in the end, it makes me far stronger than anything else does. I've been short on hope, but I made it through because my wife was at my side. I've lost friends, but I survived because my wife stood by me. I've lost jobs and I've seen dreams die, but because my wife was with me, I came out on top. I lost a son and though it was like the sun was extinguised and all life had vanished from the world, I found the strength to keep moving -- because my wife gave it to me.

How on earth do couples who swore to love one another all their lives, until the bitter parting of death, give that up?

When my friends Myron and Jessica separated two years ago, I told a friend of mine about it. I wished I hadn't. Jon is in his late 20s, but when he heard that two people he had never met were divorcing, I saw the pain in his eyes. His parents had divorced when he was 9, and he's never forgotten.

I have no anger, no harsh words for people who divorce. I know that their pain is deep and beyond expression. All I have is grief that anyone should have to go through such an experience.

Copyright © 2009 by David Learn. Used with permission.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lower the shields and prepare for transport

Maybe I should take Eowyn to see the new "Star Trek" movie; I think she'd find it very accessible.

In many ways, she's like the Enterprise herself. Get into a talk with her, and if her long-range sensors pick up something getting too close, she raises her shields immediately. Get in closer and it's all power to the forward shields, launch decoys, or whatever it takes to keep you from getting in a position to harm the ship. And if she determines you're a real menace, she'll shut down all nonessential systems and float dead in space like Kirk had the Enterprise do in "Balance of Terror."

Is there someone there? the Romulan crew wonders. Or is it a faulty sensor reading?

But every now and then it's possible to fly in close enough that you get inside the shields. You can see the dents and dings the ship has taken from its years of flying at warp speed, scan for metal fatigue where Klingon warbirds have struck with their disruptors, and even beam a landing party aboard.

It's a rare treat to walk the corridors of Eowyn's starship, but it's more satisfying than anything Paramount has produced for its franchise.

Today Eowyn let me aboard. She let me walk the corridors, visit engineering, and even gave me a seat on the bridge.  Put in non-Trek terms, this is a Big Deal. Essentially, Eowyn let me into the sacred grove as a sign of how much she trusts me not to desecrate it.

I walked carefully.

Eowyn and I were taking a walk while Ruth was at ballet, and discussion turned to hanging out with friends. Eowyn rarely does this, so I wasn't surprised when she made a silly remark to divert me. All power to the forward shields, Mr. Scott.

"You know," I said. "I've noticed that whenever the conversation gets uncomfortable, you make a silly remark. It's like this is you" -- I held up a clenched hand -- "and if someone gets too close, you try to keep them out here" -- I waved a safe distance away with my other hand. "Am I right?"

"Maybe," she said. But I could tell that I had nailed it. After all, it's not like I don't know where she learned this behavior. She has learned well.

But she has also learned over the past nine years that she can trust me when she wants to. And for some reason, she decided this time to trust me. To extend the Star Trek metaphor, she lowered her shields and allowed me to beam over, and while I was on board, we talked.

"I'm just kind of used to being alone," she said.

"Alone, or lonely?" I asked. She didn't answer, which was answer enough. "I see you alone too, and it tears me up inside, because I know how lonely you feel."

"It's okay," she said. "I'm kind of used to it."

And that, I pointed out, is one of the strangest things about human nature: We get used to anything, and tell ourselves that it's all right and even normal. I reminded her that the Bible tells us that Adam once had an easy time with his work. He would plant crops, and they would grow as easy as anything. It was work, but it was work that he could enjoy. But after the Fall, it didn't come as easy as it used to. Work became toil, weeds grew among his crops, and sometimes animals would eat his crops before he did.

"I'm sure Adam got used to living like that, but if he had a choice, which do you think he would have rather had: that life, or the one he and Eve used to have in Eden?"

"The one they used to have," Eowyn said.

So we talked some more about friends, and how sometimes you meet someone and she becomes one of your best friends almost immediately; and sometimes you meet someone, and you like her but she doesn't like you; and sometimes you meet someone and it takes a while to become friends, and you have to work at it, by talking with them, and hanging out with them, and getting to know one another.

"And sometimes that's risky, because sometimes you get hurt," I said.

"What do you mean?"

"Well," I said, "sometimes someone will do something that hurts you. They don't mean to, but it does, and you need to forgive them. And sometimes they won't do something that you thought they should, and that hurts too, and you need to forgive them."

"And sometimes they go away."


"Eowyn," I said. "I miss him too."

Of course it's not just Christian. It's Gabe and Kyra, two of her best friends from preschool whom we used to see regularly, except Gabe moved away, and Kyra's family didn't fully reciprocate our efforts to build and maintain the relationship. It's also Cassie, the older sister of one of Ruth's preschool friends, whom Eowyn got to know, but whose parents also didn't fully reciprocate our efforts to maintain the friendships.

And of course it's also the entire stinking third grade at school, when Eowyn was thrust into a classroom with none of her friends, and was barred from sitting with her friends at lunchtime because of some petty administrative need for control during the one time the kids have each day to be themselves.

But we talked. We talked for a good 30 or 40 minutes, sometimes on a bench, sometimes squatting in the parking lot. We talked about how there are a lot of people in her classroom and on her softball team who like her, we talked about the need to talk to friends and to reach out to people we like so that we can become friends, and we talked about how there's only so much that I can do as her father, and she needs to do the rest herself.

We talked a long time, and when we were done, I knew she had been crying, though she didn't want me to see the tears that had gathered on her nose.

We talked, and before we had dinner she called one of her friends and invited her to come over on Monday after school.

I'm trying, Lord. It's not easy, but I'm doing my best.

Copyright © 2009 by David Learn. Used with permission.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Rain, rain, go away

It's pouring for the fourth or fifth time in the last six days. Huge, heavy sheets of water are pounding the pavement outside my window, streaking the air and scouring the streets, carrying away anything small and light enough to be borne upon the currents.

This isn't rain. Raindrops are small, they strike the window with a dainty tink-tink-tink that is calm and reassuring, as gentle as a bee on the flower. This is a river, falling from the sky in a torrent of a thunder god's wrath. If you go outside in rain, you feel refreshed and cleansed; if you go outside in this, you feel cold, tired and miserable, and all you want to do is to go someplace warm and dry off.

Rain waters the plants. This beats them to the ground, stripping leaves and even branches from trees. The only thing that is growing from this symphony of thunder and water is mushrooms. They came from nowhere, an army of decay, and suddenly the soldiers are everywhere, overrunning everything. They have overrun the back yard, appearing on wood chips, popping up between the blades of grass, and growing ever larger in the dim afternoon.

Meanwhile lightning strobes overhead. It barks thunder like a mighty cannon, rattling our ears, shaking our teeth, and making tall buildings groan and hide.

This must be what it was like for the neighbors of Utnapishtim: day after day of unrelenting water and no sun, until the creeks rose, the rivers revolted against the chains that fixed them to their beds, and even the highest hill disappeared beneath the cresting waves.

As it was in the days of Noah ...

Copyright © 2009 by David Learn. Used with permission.

Friday, May 01, 2009

linkedin recommendation

As someone originally from the Northeast, I frequently have been disappointed by the quality of drugs available during my trips to the South. I've never found a dealer who could give me a nice cut of weed, one that didn't give me a headache when I smoked it; the last three times I tried to buy coke, the idiot tried to sell me Mello Yello; and the ecstasy dealers, when they weren't peddling useless shit, were so clueless that they actually preferred to sell E at clubs frequented by the police.

Ms. B., however, has renewed my faith in the South as a place to do illegal drugs. She runs her organization with an efficiency that borders on the brutal. There are no snitches in her organization, although there are several buried beneath parking lots and shopping malls in her area. Delivery of the smack was always prompt, discreet and at competitive rates.

What's more, this is some high-quality shit that she peddles. Smoking even a small dose of the crack that she provides was enough to put the monkey on my back, let me see all my bones, and give me an experience that neither I nor the fifty people I allegedly ran into that night will ever forget.

And the angel dust she sells -- wowza! The police claim that I broke the jaws and ribs of sixteen different officers before they were able to take me down.

I would be remiss not to mention the extensive connections Ms. B. has built up with local, state and federal authorities in Georgia. I attribute this not only to her line of work, which always draws official attention, but to her generous nature, which prompts her to give money, cars, expensive watches, junkets and other gifts to friends in need of them.

In short, you cannot ask for a better employee for your organization than Ms. B. She is going places, and believe me, wherever she is going, she will take a horde of clients in her wake. I would not hesitate to do business with her again, once I am eligible for parole in 2096.

Copyright © 2009 by David Learn. Used with permission. All rights reserved.