Sunday, March 11, 2007

Progressing through the Fog.....

In December of 1982, I took a bullet to the face just outside Washington DC. You can read how it happened in my previous post. For some strange reason, I never felt any pain until the doctor shoved that needle down between the bone to knumb me up before wiring my jaw shut for two months. By the way, Liquid Codine is Awesome!

And now, the saga continues......
Something happened as a result of that incident. I began to forget things. I had been accepted to attend the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland. I lived in the dorm there. It was an interesting experience and I met some decent folks, but I had a lot of trouble with my classes. I had to take a pre-calculus class since the credit from the junior college did not transfer. It was the same class though, and I looked forward to getting an “A” since I had gotten an “A” in this class less than a year ago, easily. However, I had the most difficult time in that class – I tried as hard as I could to do the work, but I just couldn’t do it. It was as if I’d forgotten how to do the math. The same thing happened in my Chemistry class. I finished the semester with a “D” average. I was really getting frustrated. I even got lost driving home a few times. I used to enjoy taking the back roads through Potomac, Maryland. A rather scenic and beautiful drive, but I could no longer find my way and had to resort to the main roads in order to find my way home. And even then I had a tough time finding my way.

Parts of my life were missing. That bullet must have hit me harder than I thought, because some of my life from my time growing up in Colorado was gone. I had no more memory of certain events and some close friends. Portions of my senior year of high school in Maryland were gone too. That bowling championship? Gone. I still have the trophies and awards and some photos, but the memory of that time and those friends are gone.
I spent the next six years or so in a fog. I had trouble focusing and it was difficult to concentrate on anything for very long.
I worked that next summer in Virginia, inside a mountain, pulling electric cables through the powerhouse for a massive hydro-electric project. In the fall of that year I went to Albuquerque, New Mexico to attend the University of New Mexico. I spent about two and a half years there. I took math and science classes, but didn’t even get close to finishing. While at UNM, I served on the staff of the Baptist Student Union as the Fellowship Chairman. This means I organized parties and fun events for the students. I also worked some odd jobs, sold kitchen cutlery, sold tires at Pep Boys, and delivered materials for a local jewelry supply company. Although I didn’t get much learning from being at UNM, I certainly had a good time.

Time to Go to Work
I had dated a young lady for quite some time and everyone we knew thought we’d get married. Then one year, right after Christmas, she broke it off. She never did tell me why. All I can figure is that she often talked about being a pastor’s wife someday. I felt God calling me either into the ministry or into engineering. Since I am now a licensed Civil Engineer, you can see which direction I felt led to go. (I didn’t want to push it.)
Around that same time, my Dad offered me the chance to move to Oregon and work on the same project as he in the mountains. A roller-compacted-concrete (RCC) dam. I wouldn’t be working for him, just for the same company. I had put off making a decision about the job until then. Now, with no reason to stay in Albuquerque, I accepted the job. I was tired of school and I was out of money, so it seemed like the right thing to do. Just before I left, another young lady, a friend, came to me to express her love for me. She said she’d felt this way for a long time, but had been afraid to tell me. We had a long-distance relationship, and later that same year, I returned to Albuquerque, married her, and moved her to Oregon to be with me. My head was still foggy and I had trouble thinking straight. There was still some swelling in the side of my face from the accident, but over time the swelling would continue to get smaller. Now, almost 25 years later, you can barely see the scar. The mountain air in Oregon must have done me some good, because I moved up in that construction company rather quickly. I had started out as a laborer and soon became an instrument man on a survey crew. I was on my way to becoming a Civil Engineer and I was starting at the ground level, literally.
I began working my way up through the construction industry, and moving across the country (following the work). I went from laborer to surveyor to Field Engineer to Senior Field Construction Engineer to Assistant Project Engineer to General Superintendent, all within a three year time frame. By this time we were living in Virginia, just south of Washington, D.C. (coast to coast, and back again). The construction industry was slowing down and finding more work became difficult. I was working but I felt as though I had reached a ceiling.

Back to School - Again
I couldn’t go any higher or progress any further without a college degree, despite my years of experience. So, with a little prompting from family, I decided to give school another try and moved my family to Texas. I attended the University of Texas in San Antonio and entered the Civil Engineering program. My son was born in Oregon so I was a husband and a father when I went back to school. The big difference this time was that now I finally knew what I wanted to do and the “fog” was lifting. I went to school full time and worked 2 or 3 part time jobs, which was somewhat frustrating since my wife and I had agreed, prior to me returning to school, that she would go to work so I could focus full-time on school. Her insatiable appetite for spending (keeping up with Joneses) made that particular arrangement impossible. What made it even more stressful was finding out just how much she was spending. Something I used to enjoy with my son while he was growing up was to empty all the spare change from my pockets and leave it on the edge of the dresser so my son could come by, scoop it all up, and deposit it into his little piggy bank. Once his piggy bank was full, he and I would go to the bank together and make his deposit into his savings account. The tellers at the bank would let him go into the vault and watch the huge sorting machine count all the coins. One day after the coins were counted and his deposit was made, the teller handed my four year old son his statement showing how much money he had. What was supposed to add up to over four hundred dollars was now only a few bucks. I had the teller check where the money had gone and she verified that the boy’s mother had all but wiped out his account. Now, what kind of mother would do that to her child? Did she really think no one would find out? When I confronted her that evening, her attitude was “So?” She said she would pay it back later, but she never did. She never even tried. That was the first time I took a part time job while in school so I could put all that money back in my son’s savings account. I paid it all back, with interest. I also set it up so I was the only one who could access that account to make sure this could not happen again. We continued our practice of depositing those coins and watching the machine. My son is almost 19 now, and to the best of my knowledge he still doesn’t know about what his mother had done. My son’s mother showed no remorse for any of it. In the twenty some odd years I’ve known her, I have not once heard her say “I’m sorry”.
On top of a full time course load, I took classes at night and during the summer, and was able to finish in four years. It had been a long time since I had been in school and most of my credits didn’t transfer, so there were a lot of classes I had to re-take. It wasn’t easy, but this time I was determined and I stayed with it. My son was always a blessing during those times. While studying at the kitchen table, he would join me, sometimes with a coloring book or paper and crayons, and we would do “homework” together.

I treated school this time like a full time job. Once classes were over for the day, I would go to the library or to the engineering lab and study until dinner time. Then I’d go home to spend time with the wife and kid. Well, at least I got spend time with my son. His mother was steadily becoming more and more hateful and mean-spirited as time went on. Even with school and working part-time, I still tried my best to do things for her and give her as much time as I could. But she didn’t want any of my time at all. In fact, she rarely wanted anything to do with me. I wasn’t sure why. (I found out later she a had another guy on the side, but that's another story for another time). I remember one day in our Sunday school class, the teacher (who was also the pastor of the church) asked each of us to say one good positive thing about our spouses. I had the hardest time with that. After only being married for five years, I could think of one good thing to say about her. Baseboards! That’s it, baseboards! She’s the only person I know who will get on her hands and knees with a bucket and a sponge and clean the baseboards. Apparently, this was very important to her. Thank God for clean baseboards!
I know I am not perfect and certainly not the easiest person to live with, but I did all I could to be the kind of husband that she and God desired for me to be. She almost seemed to delight in making my life a living hell for those four years I was in school. Regardless, I was determined to finish school this time no matter what.
All that hard work and perseverance paid off. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering in May of 1995. It wasn’t easy. It was most likely the most difficult four years of my life.

One More Child
As graduation approached, I had decided to find a job as far away from that hateful woman as I could. I landed a nice job with large construction firm on a big tunnel project in California. I planned to take my son and start over. Just the two of us. However, God must have had other plans. On graduation day, while celebrating with friends and family, my wife presented me with a slip of paper. It was a lab report from her doctor. It was then that I found out that our wonderful little girl was on the way. I know what you must be thinking: “If things were so bad, then how did she get pregnant?” I was surprised too, but, it only takes once. And once is all there had been in the last four years. While studying for mid-terms one night, she walked in and behaved like we were an actual married couple. I really thought things were changing for the better that night. But the next morning proved just how wrong I was. She acted as though nothing had happened and went right back to treating me as she always had – poorly. But that one night was all it took. My son’s little sister was on the way.

Well, so much for MY plans. I couldn’t leave that new little one without a father, so we made our plans and moved to the L.A. area to start our new life. I had really hoped this new baby would make a big difference in our lives and bring us closer together. It seems as though I have a habit of being wrong about things pertaining to her.

Our little girl was born in late December. She was, and still is, the most adorable and precious thing I have ever laid eyes on. She's my little "Squeaker". I call her that because when she was born, and for years after that, while she sleeps, her breathing sounds like a little squeaky toy. She’s still tiny, but there exists a sweetness in her unmatched by any other child I know of. She is what God’s unconditional love is all about. She’s never been taught that, she just lives it. I thank God that she is nothing at all like her mother.


my4kids said...

Wow you have been through alot. I can also tell that you are no where near the end of the story.
There is alot to my own story also I wish I was a better writer and maybe I could tell it. There are parts I don't know how to explain though.
Your daughter is pretty!

Alpha Dude 1.5 said...

You're right. There is a lot more to the story.

There will be more later.

HeiressChild said...

you know alpha dude, and i hope you won't be offended by this first part, but when i first came to your blogsite sometime in february, i had followed your link from ellie's blog. i thought even though you talked about Jesus in your intro, that your statement was a little insensitive that reads, "life is hard for everyone. you're not alone in your pain, so don't act like it." i was like, whoa! so i didn't leave any comments. actually, i don't think i read any further.

then maybe a couple of weeks after that, i followed your link again, either from ellie's blog or that chick's blog, not sure which, and i actually read some of your posts, and they were good and interesting, and i did not think anything was cold and insensitive about you or your words, and i left a comment on one of your posts.

after reading parts 1 & 2 of your testimony, because that's exactly what it is, life hasn't always been easy for you, but you show what anyone can do with hard work and God leading them. i'm glad to see God has blessed you with a new wife after reading part II tonite.

i'm down to my last 5 classes towards my degree, and it's not easy. you worked and went to school full-time. that's a testimony in itself. my health can't take the pressure of both, so i sacrifice and do school only right now.

your testimonies are an inspiration to a lot of people, i'm sure. one thing i've learned is that a lot of eyes read thru the blogs, but don't always leave comments. i know you are an encouragement to many.

Real Life in South Carolina said...

Good for you for finishing school and sticking with it no matter what! You are an awesome father...for you to take on a part-time job just to replace the missing $ in your son's savings account, while dealing with everything else, what a great example of a father's love for his child! I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of the story. You do have an awesome testimony!

Amy W said...

I can't wait to hear the rest of the story...

The Old Fart said...

Amazing story, looking forward to reading the rest. You are truly a wonderful Dad and your Son and Daughter will have very fond memories of you as they get older.

I will have to read your blog from the beginning, I was going to ask about your wife and what happened but heiresschild answered that question with her comment.

Anonymous said...

I am interested in reading more of your testimony. God is so good, isn't he?