The end of 1989 was extremely difficult and those few months seemed like years to me.
Depression wasn’t as understood back then; so I thought I was just physically sick and went to the doctor. I was so blessed to have a physician’s assistant that spotted my problem right away. Even though he didn’t know the “why,” he did explain to me depression and how situations can bring it on and make you feel the way I was feeling. He prescribed an anti-depressant for me to try. He let me know I wouldn’t have to always be on the medication, but just until things were better. It took several weeks to kick in fully. I was still very sad and depressed, but now I could at least function. I still cried a lot but instead of crying for days I would have shorter times of intense sorrow and grieving; then I could dry my tears and do whatever I needed to do. With the medical help I was better able to care for my sons and do more than just exist.
One of the heart wrenching memories I have is of my boys seeing me cry so much and so often. One day little 2 year old Caleb said,”Mommy, please don’t cry anymore, ok?”
They needed their mom to be whole and healthy and that didn’t happen overnight.
Somehow I made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas. I felt like I never got warm that winter…..I felt hollow, unwanted, and just plain sad, cold through and through.
About a month or so after the divorce was filed, the reality began to sink in that I had to get a job and get a car (I didn’t have my own). I began to open up my heart to a few people and was met always with open arms and compassion. Depression loves the isolation. The more you reach out, the less power it has over your life.
As I told the story in my earlier post “A January from the Past,” the thought of finding a job was overwhelming, not just because of my depression but also the fact I had no college education or career. I knew I would have to leave my boys with others while I worked and that was hard as well. I pulled up to the Sonic Drive In in Mena, Arkansas that cold January day; and somehow I knew after many stops at other places with no success, I would be offered a job there. That’s exactly what happened.
I was barely 26, but I felt like I was 126…..no confidence, no self worth, empty and sad .
When I left there I cried in my car because it was not the job I wanted, to be honest. Back then only 16 year olds car hopped and I felt silly as a woman with 2 children to be a carhop….but I had to work, I had no other options; so I did what I knew was necessary.
My Sonic job holds many sweet memories as well. I would have never imagined I would ever look back on that time as anything but humiliating; however, I always smile when I pass a Sonic 🙂
I didn’t know at the time that people tipped at Sonic. I was so surprised when I started getting tips. I was not only the oldest car hop in history (in my mind, ha) but I also became the highest tipped one. I made more in tips and salary than I could have ever made at -say, the bank or a more glamorous place. I also was able to pick my hours every week, which helped with scheduling around times my boys were taken care of. Added bonuses were I was forced to be outside walking (a lot), fresh air and human connections, all of which are so good in fighting depression. At first I wanted to hide when I would see someone pull up that I knew. I hated feeling the stares, knowing what the talk inside the car was; but I had to face them, no room for pride. I slowly realized that I needed to do my job and not worry about people and gossip. Before you know it, I was in full swing as a car hop. Not long after I got the job, I found a car for sale. With the help of one of my aunts and uncles who were willing to co- sign for me, I was able to buy it. It was nothing fancy, a little maroon and silver/white Chevy Spectrum 😁
Another reality during this same time frame was that I could no longer live in the house where we had lived as a family; I simply could not afford it, not even slightly.
A wonderful energetic minister’s wife that I had known for years and still adore, took me under her wing and said, ” I’m coming with you and we are going to find you a place to live.” A couple of days later she and I were pulled up in front of the Polk County Housing Authority (government subsidized housing), and again I felt that same feeling as I had when offered the job at Sonic.
I filled out the paperwork with her encouraging me all the while, reminding me this wouldn’t be forever; but it was the next step. I was almost relieved when they said there was a waiting list and it would take possibly a couple of months or so. The thought of leaving my home with all the memories, the boys’ tire swing in the big tree, sand box, my flower beds I had worked so hard in; everywhere there was a connection. Less than a week later I received a call from the office and was told that, amazingly, a little duplex had just opened up and would be ready to be moved into in a matter of days. I remember a hint of excitement rose up in me, because I knew this could only have been possible through God when it was supposed to take months. The excitement was short lived as the reality sunk in that I was moving, not to a cute little house or adorable apartment, but to a government housing duplex. Not where I wanted to be; but just like Sonic, it was exactly where I needed to be.
About a week later, truck after truck of loving friends from the little church I was attending pulled up to my house and loaded all that I owned (which wasn’t much) and moved Charley, Caleb , and me to our new little duplex. It smelled a little funny but it was now home. Everyone helped me unload everything and got things set up for me …..the quietness of the evening settled in; and as I lay there in my bed, I felt one of the first real feelings of peace in a very long time. The beautiful country moon that had shown over my home in the country was replaced by a street light. The solitude I knew there was now the fact that I lived in a duplex with total strangers who were just a wall away, but still there was undeniably a trace of peace. It was just right for us, really; and the boys and I could live here for 32.00 a month, rent was based on salary. Soon with the help of the scented candles and other touches I brought to this new home, the funny smell was gone, a few pictures began to be hung, and the beautiful trees that budded and surrounded us later that spring gave us a new beauty, a new hope, a new beginning. This was our little house, and even though it had a few bugs that came out at night at times, it was ours! Little did I know I would find a greater peace than I thought possible while living there.
As spring began and I was able to plant a few flowers in front; the beauty of the wooded area on one side of the complex was very inviting…..color, warmth, freshness that only spring brings. Looking back I see how in my life the same process was starting. It was slow in my eyes; but just as spring had brought things to life, my life and that of my little boys was ever so slightly beginning to bloom again. I just could not see it at the time. In my dark, dark tunnel of depression…..around this time , if I looked very close every now and then, I would catch a glimpse of a flicker of light, just a hint of hope; and every now and then, I would smile.
Though sadness still ruled my life for the most part, it would not always….I was starting to heal. A few of those shattered pieces of my heart were lovingly being worked on and cared for awaiting the day that each piece would be restored without a hint of a fracture….it was beginning to happen, I just didn’t know.
The Lord is my shepherd;
I have everything I need.
He lets me rest in fields of green grass
and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water.
He gives me new strength.
He guides me in the right paths,
as he has promised.
Even if I go through the deepest darkness,
I will not be afraid, Lord,
for you are with me.
Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.
You prepare a banquet for me,
where all my enemies can see me;
you welcome me as an honored guest
and fill my cup to the brim.
I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life;
and your house will be my home as long as I live.
The letters continued, and we talked briefly on the phone at least once or twice.
We didn’t talk about anything too deep; but he did mention that maybe sometime when I made a trip to my sister’s, we could meet each other in person. Just the thought of that produced major butterflies in my stomach. I kept thinking that he didn’t have any idea what my life was like. I wasn’t sure he even knew I had boys or had been married. My sister didn’t know much about him either, just that he was a Christian and was in business with his brother. He knew I was in nursing school and that was about it, I thought. I didn’t know for sure if he knew I was divorced with kids. We had shared only one, possibly two 5-10 min conversations and a couple of letters that were “short and sweet.”
He did mention a couple times that he wanted to meet me, so I began to think of my next trip to my sister’s. After receiving my first letter from him on September 1, I soon had plans to go to Broken Arrow for the weekend of the 15th.
Wow, was I ever extremely excited and extremely nervous . He hadn’t asked me for a date just that he wanted to meet me. Pam and I were not sure how that would happen. Coincidentally, it was the weekend of the annual garage sale in her neighborhood, so we thought well that’s at least an excuse to walk down the street and see if he was in his yard or something, haha!
I let him know I was coming into town after my Friday nursing classes. I arrived Friday evening around six.
I sat around talking with Pam and waited, wondering if he would call or not, wondering if he had Pam’s number. After all he had never really met her either. Nine oclock came, and I was beginning to think he might be reconsidering. Trying not to get disappointed I refused to think about it, assuming the attitude: “If he doesn’t, he doesn’t; it’s no biggie.” All the things I was saying in my head jolted back to reality as I heard the phone ring. Could it be? Yes it was, and with my heart in my throat I took the phone from my sister and said, “Hello.” It was a brief conversation, about 2 minutes: “How was your trip,” and that sort of thing; and then he said, “Would you like to go out tomorrow night to a movie and maybe dinner?” I tried to sound calm and cool, which I was anything but! I mean after all, I thought he would ask to come down and meet me first before he asked for a date. Now there was more pressure/excitement on that first meeting. I agreed on a time to be picked up, not sure I took a breath between that and saying goodbye. He had already taken my breath away 🙂
I had just scheduled a blind date. If you want to add some stress to dating for the first time after all I had been through, then make it a blind date. The excitement was almost too much. Pam was a bit anxious, too, and said, “Well, tomorrow we will still walk down the street and see if we can spot him just to make sure he’s really cute and it wasn’t just a good picture.” (haha) A sure sign of my insecurity returning a little, I wanted to make sure he saw me in person before the date in case he might want to change his mind. I still had things to work out in myself, so it didn’t take much to bring up the weak areas and scars in my self confidence leftover from divorce.
The next day Pam and I walked down the street, pretending to shop for bargains. I mean we couldn’t just walk straight down by his house; that would be too obvious!
We stopped at his brother and sister n law’s house (my sister’s friend that was helping with this setup). They lived next door to him and were in business together with him. I met them both as they were putting a few things out to sell. Neighborhood garage sales were a big thing in Oklahoma back then with people out walking everywhere; so Pam and I were blending into the crowd. The next few minutes are still a blur, I heard something like, ” Well there he is now. Let’s walk over there and I’ll introduce you.” The next thing I know I’m walking; but I’m not sure I could even feel my feet move, almost a slow motion feeling. Then I look up as I hear the introduction and catch his eye. Wow, I thought to myself…..his picture didn’t do him justice; he was so handsome, tall, fit, and such kind eyes. When he smiled at me, I felt my face flush and I managed to choke out the words, “Nice to meet you.” I returned his smile, then we quickly made up some excuse how we needed to get back to Pam’s house. It was a bit unnerving for all I think, ha. We said our “Nice to meet you.” As we turned to walk away, I heard him say, “I’ll see you tonight, Quita.” Again, I could hardly get my voice to work as I said, “Yes, I look forward to it.”
The rest of the day was spent picking out an outfit to wear, going back over every detail of the “meeting”, how cute he was, how tall he was (don’t underestimate how important that was to me Haha). In my mind, I guessed he liked what he saw since he didn’t find a reason to cancel the date 🙂
I felt like a young teenage girl, spending way too much time getting ready for this date. It had been over 8 years since I had dated, so I wasn’t sure I knew “how” to date. In the mean time, my sister began to freak out a little because she realized she didn’t know that much about him, just what her friend Gail had told her. She had no reason to doubt her, but I think the thought of setting me up and the chance I would be hurt again, panicked her a bit.
She had as much fun as I did though with the excitement and waiting for 7:00 pm to get there. The closer it got the more I was sure I was not going to be able to stop shaking. To this day that’s the most nervous (good nervous) I’ve ever been.
The next thing I know he’s at the door and I’m in that blurry slow motion thing again that giddiness brings on. He looked so handsome as I opened the door, and was greeted by his smile. I realized for the first time he had dimples, and then of course my eyes were drawn to his kind eyes which were a perfect blend between brown and green. He whisked me down the drive way to his car , a very nice red 300z. He opened my door, and as I got in I was overcome with a calm. This was a night I would never forget and neither would Mike.
We talked like old friends that night, laughed, not too many awkward silences. He asked about my boys and I was relieved he knew about them. We talked about his business, his family. He was on the quiet reserved side, not shy in the least, just very good at listening. He seemed interested in every thing I said, and those beautiful eyes of his were always intent and soaking up the details. We went to a restaurant first (Charley Mitchell’s), then a movie, then a walk around the 21st river bridge/pier area. He took my hand and I felt my heart skip a few beats. Though it was a very long time since I had felt that type of touch, it felt very comfortable, very right. I could tell Mike was different than anyone I had ever met. I sensed he had a lot of self confidence, but not a trace of arrogance. His intelligence was obvious to me; his honesty was very noticeable. He was not comfortable talking too much about himself, but he listened intently to every word I spoke.
The night ended fairly early,around 10:30. He walked me to the door where we said goodbye. I walked into my sisters house to be greeted by her excitement and need for details.
I don’t think I slept much at all that night, or the next few. I replayed every moment of the date in my mind, thought of everything he said, how I could tell he loved God the way that I did. He was unlike anyone I had ever known; could it be a dream?
All I know is I had not smiled like that in a very, very long time. My steps were lighter, the sun was brighter, I felt like I had just tried on the Cinderella slipper and it had fit. My heart battled some between my hopes and dreams, and the fears and insecurities; but most of the time the hopes and dreams won. I had no idea how well the slipper would fit or the brightness of my future.
Looking back on that night I realize how God started something special in both of us. I know He must have smiled from heaven and said, “Now that’s what I’ve been waiting for.” His Plan B had been put into play.
I fell asleep that night feeling like Cinderella. I had truly been treated like a princess. I felt beautiful, I felt interesting, and I knew I wanted to get to know this mystery man more.
My heart was light and happy, the scars from divorce barely noticeable against the light of hope, the brightness of joy, the reflection of true inner peace.
Joy and gladness instead of grief,
A song of praise instead of sorrow.
They will be like trees
That the Lord himself has planted.
They will all do what is right,
And God will be praised for what he has done.