Friday, November 21, 2008

The 800 lb. Gorilla and the Pretty Barista

This morning, I was in a heavier-hearted, contemplative mood. It's Friday, and a bright, crisp, sunny one, at that-- it was 18 degrees with not a cloud in the sky as I took out the trash this morning. TJ asked me why it was so cold, and I told him that it's because it's winter now, and pointed out that all the trees had lost all of their leaves. He beamed with delight as he inspected the trees and felt the cold creep in as he stood in the shelter of the garage while I did trash duty. He's really taking in the changing of the seasons this year, and as much as he was awe-stricken with the beautiful colors of autumn, he's REALLY pumped up about winter. Snow and Christmas are 2 of his favorite things.

This little exchange, the beautiful sunrise, and the fact that it's Friday should have been enough to free my heart a little, on any other such occasion. But as I said, it wasn't so today. First off, I'm sick, now. Sinus infection or something-- perhaps the bug that TJ had last week, minus the fever. But as I said, my mind was awhirl and my heart just felt... heavy. The prayers just didn't jump out of my chest the way they typically do, during my morning shower. My mind wasn't as clear. Maybe it was the sinus infection... or maybe we all just have mornings like that, from time to time. Leslie had those mornings every day-- she was admittedly NOT a morning person. :)

After taking out the trash, I packed TJ (sleepy-eyed and paci-faced, donning his warm and wooly blue footed pajamas under his winter coat) into the car seat, threw a change of clothes for him in the passenger seat, and took off for Dana's house, where he was to play today. I stopped, of course, at Caribou, where I'm something of a regular. (It's kind of like Bolingbrook's own little "Central Perk" scene, for those Friends fans out there.) After spending 5-10 minutes making my rounds through the crowded little cafe', saying hello to the people I've come to know there, (including the pretty barista behind the counter), and chatting with Pastor Ronn who was there preparing his sermon for Sunday, I ordered our favorites: a large depth charge for me (that's a regular coffee with 2 shots of espresso added to it) (I don't mess around when it comes to my morning caffeine), and a blueberry muffin for TJ. Only... they were out of the blueberry muffins today. This made TJ quite sad, and his cute and cuddly cheeriness which previously had everyone in the place going "ga-ga" over him began to fade into the whiney "grumps". I was just thinking to myself, "I should've just got in, got out, and got back on the road. Cut with the socializing and just get him to Dana's. Now I'm losing him, and he's going to make a scene." I hastily ordered a piece of coffee cake for him instead-- they had free samples out at the register, and I had given one to TJ, and he said he liked it-- assuming that coffee cake was better than nothing. But apparently, that turned out to be a bad idea, because as the barista handed me TJ's coffee cake, he plunged further into his grumpiness-- now heading full-bore toward a melt-down. Pretty Barista, in a compassionate effort to help a needy customer, said that they had just received some more blueberry muffins, but that they were still in the freezer, and then offered to have one heated up. At that point, I knew that there was no changing the momentum of TJ's mood, and it was just a matter of time until we reached melt-down status, so I just politely declined, then thanked her, grabbed our treats, and bolted for the exit. Indeed, we reached melt-down status just as we were pushing out the glass door of Caribou, back into the cold parking lot. As I was trying to console him, reason with him, scold him, encourage him, and throw every trick in the book at him in order to get him buckled back into his seat so I could resume the prolonged Friday morning commute, I was just overwhelmed with second-guessing and self-doubt. This was the scenario that my heavy heart had been anticipating since I rolled out of bed before sunrise. "What am I DOING to this boy? This is just so hard on him. This is not fair to him. He needs a mommy. I need a partner. I can't do this alone. He should be able to be at home in his PJ's with a sippy cup right now. He should be waking up in the same bed every morning, and sleeping in that same bed every nap time. He needs to be able to hold the same neck and cuddle with the same arms-- the same smells, the same voice soothing him." (... and so-on.)

The struggle in my heart and head morphed into prayer, wherein I once again gave it all up to our Father... placing even TJ (the HARDEST thing for me to "give up to Him") back safely in the palm of His hands. "I know you can't do it yourself," I heard that familiar whisper on my soul. "But I can. In your weakness, I am made strong. I am not only providing for you, but I am providing for your boy, as well." (... and so-on.)

I'm doing much better with it now. TJ's having a great day at Dana's with his cousins. I'm abiding, once again contented with His manna. And all that stuff. Please don't feel the need to write me an encouraging response about how great I'm doing or whatever. I need to just be able to "deal" with my insecurity and weakness honestly, without feeling like I'm fishing for complements or a hearty slap on the back.

As this post's title foreshadows, all of this morning's adventures got me thinking quite a bit about a certain 800 lb. gorilla that's been in this room-- this "next chapter" of my life. I've been ashamed to come out and think about it out loud until just recently, but the more I bounce ideas off friends and family, the more I realize it's on everyone else's mind, as well-- and in fact, has been for quite some time. The 800 lb. gorilla is this: What about our future? What about a new "mommy" figure for TJ? What about a wife for me? Okay, so I might be getting ahead of myself, but I'm to the point in this "process" where I can admit that the thought crosses my mind... in fact, almost daily. If that's too bitter of a pill to swallow, I can soften it a bit and put the question out there in this way: "What does that 'dating' process look like, for a person in my situation?"

Now, if you're a newcomer to this blog, I encourage you to read through the last few months to see just how I loved my Leslie-- how she will NEVER be "replaced", how she will always be "my better half", how no woman will ever be Mommy for TJ the way she is, and how our family and I are coming to dwell in peace on the thought of her eternal healing and completion-- as our friends Anna and Leah sang at her memorial services, on Leslie's behalf, "I'm in better hands, now". So I proceed on this topic with caution, knowing that there are family and friends who visit this blog to check in, who also loved and miss Leslie deeply. I guess I submit myself to your mercy and compassionate understanding, hoping that you are easily reminded of what you know of me, how you knew our marriage, and how we loved each other. This topic does not negate any of that. It is what it is-- all part of "living without her". (In case you're wondering, I've already had these conversations with her immediate family, so it's not like I'm dropping a bomb on family dynamics here.) :)

I thought for a minute about being devious and falsely announcing to the world that Pretty Barista and I have a date on Saturday night. But that's just not the case. I am, in fact, not yet at a place in my life where I could commit the time, effort, and concentration that would be required of me in order to pursue a "dating" relationship. My saying this should be of no surprise to anyone-- and perhaps even a relief to most of you. (Certainly Pretty Barista would be most relieved to know this... I'm rather sure she doesn't read this blog, though. Crap... I hope she doesn't... Maybe I'd better think twice before posting this...) You'll note that I mention the pursuit of a "'dating' relationship", here, and not this notion of entering the "dating scene". Which brings me to my first point on the topic:

I've long since kissed [casual] dating goodbye.

This is just a clever little play on a book title that hit the Christian singles market in the 90's-- one that, to this day, makes me cringe. But regardless of my opinion of the book, the stark reality is that before Leslie and I started hanging out, in that glorious Fall of 2000, I had come to a point in my life where I'd basically had enough with "dating" in general. Casual dating brought out the worst in me, it seemed. It distracted me from my priorities, from my pursuit of God, from living as I wanted to live. In fact, I had declared an indefinite hiatus from the dating scene, just a couple months before Leslie and I started hanging out. (It was never my intent to "date" her-- in fact, I was certain, going into that proverbial first chat over coffee, that she and I would never ever "work", in that dating sense, due to how we DIDN'T get along in college.) (Another story, another time, perhaps.) Anyway, I dated quite a few girls-- a couple quite seriously-- back in the day... high school, college, after college. All were rather "intentional", as far as casual dating goes-- I never dated a girl who wasn't a Christian, or someone I couldn't at least consider being with indefinitely. But the truth be told, I just knew so LITTLE about these women, at that point of our first dates. And it takes so much time and effort to get to know someone, especially when your truest exposure to their personality is in the "dating" realm-- I mean, let's just face it... no matter how "casual" it is, that's a pretty intense situation, on a lot of levels.

All this rambling to make this point: I have learned through my life experience (especially the last year of it) that I am not-- nor will I ever be-- interested in "casually dating" anybody. When I am ready to date, don't be expecting me to just ride a wave of adrenaline-laced confidence and ask the Pretty Barista out for a Saturday night. Sure, she's a very sweet and attractive young lady... but that's basically all I know of her. Well, that, and the fact that she serves a mean depth charge. And while a pretty face and access to an endless supply of caffeine might be a good start-- a VERY good start, even-- I'm going to have to have more to go on that that. My time with TJ and our life and our home and my "ministry" are just too valuable to go whittling away time, just to "get to know someone", or to look at a pretty face for an evening. Sure, "dating" can be fun-- it can be a wonderful way to stroke the egos a little, have some good laughs, feel somewhat desired and cared for. But is "a little fun" worth my time away from these other things? Is it worth spending more time away from TJ?? (Those are rhetorical questions. We all know the answer.)

And on that topic, that brings me to my next very crucial point:

When I start dating, I'm not just looking for a friend. I'm not merely looking for a wife. I'm looking for a mother for TJ.

Well, if any eligible candidates weren't scared away before, they certainly are now! :) (By the way-- as an aside... I DO NOT welcome any gestures or covert suggestions at set-ups, blind dates, phone numbers, etc... at this juncture. Just thought I'd preemptively strike, on that one. When it is time, in God's eyes, I feel the right opportunity will be right under my nose.)

But seriously, to this crucial point... A big part of the "dating" process will be seeing TJ and this new woman interact. One important facet of this will be my and TJ's time alone, away from this new woman, just talking about her, getting to know his thoughts and feelings on the whole idea. He is my #1 thing. My prioirty. My life. He is the one person with "veto power", as far as I'm concerned. My own little 3-year-old president elect-- unknowingly preparing to set up in his new digs in our metaphoric Oval Office.

CONCLUSION/ WRAP-UP: (for now...)

Our life is not ready for me to date. But to be honest, my heart and mind are much closer to ready than I'd ever imagined they could be. I'm by no means in a hurry, but I look forward to the prospect of dating with a mixed bag of emotions: excitement and apprehension; patience and anticipation; a burden of protection for TJ's heart and my own heart's desire to again be known; clinging to Leslie and intrigue with this person God might be praparing for us. These things I turn over to God daily. And I know that He will provide, and I pray His timing, wisdom, will, and blessing will be known. But when that time comes for me to pursue somebody... it won't be just somebody. I'm not wasting my time on just somebody. She will need to be a person I know well enough that I am able to see her potentially being TJ's mommy. I will need to know going in to our "first date" that I could potentially love her as my wife. And she would have to be willing to love all the "Leslie parts" of me-- my "better half"-- just like she would love the rest of me. Gee... as I'm re-reading these "criteria", I'm realizing what a tall order this is for a person. God bless her! It will indeed take a miraculous act of God for such an opportunity to present itself... but if or when God presents it, I will be ready. And when that opportunity presents itself-- much like I was with Leslie, once I became aware of my feelings for her, (later in that year of 2000)-- I will be intentional yet unassuming. And it will be Christ-centered. And there will be nothing casual about it.

18 comments:

everydayMOM said...

This seems like one of those topics where you should just read and not say anything... But I will say this: I hope that coffee girl isn't reading?!?! haha.

Also, if I were in Leslie's place, I would want nothing more than for my children to have a mother (even if it weren't me) and for my husband to have happiness.

Thanks for keeping it real! Always hoping for the best for you and TJ.

Jessica Frye said...

Hey Ty! I just want to let you know that I am behind you 100% with whatever you choose to do and when. You and TJ deserve the world and Les knows that! Although I do think that after putting this thought out there, you may need to change your phone number. I'm kinda afraid your phone could start ringing off the hook! I know no one can ever replace her, but I know God has a plan for you two. I love you and I can't wait to see you on Friday!! -Jess

Becky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
L & J Gutwein said...

Thinking of you as you enter this stage & as you deal with TJ & his moods. Our Luca is almost two & I know that feeling of counting the seconds until he loses it in a public place- oh so fun :). Jenny G. (web.mac.com/lgutwein)

Jilli said...

I am certain that God will place someone very special in both of your lives - and I'm sure Leslie will have her approval too. ;) She would want nothing more than the two of you to be happy and be taken care of.

Anonymous said...

I live far away, I’m not the right age, and I don’t know anyone who knows you personally. I arrived at your blog because some of your writing was excerpted on another blog I read. To mirror your parenthetical disclaimers … I am not, in short, auditioning for the role, but I might have something to say that sheds light on this topic.

There is a certain type of person you will never meet in a conventional dating pool. She’s the girl who never went out with anyone in her twenties because her heart knew that God was asking her to give at least the first part of her adult life in rigorous service to Him that admitted no time for family or distraction. She wasn’t necessarily wearing a skull cap. She probably managed to look reasonably stylish and not nerdy, but her heart was off listening to some other music. For some people like Paul, this call to single-minded service lasts a lifetime. Others are called to family late, under unusual circumstances.

This kind of woman can’t be with anyone who has NOT been through a flood. Solitary ministry in forsaken places is deeply wearing. She still has her sense of humor because that’s how she survives, but she’s probably witnessed untold human grief and tunes out frivolity faster than most. She knows that real life is joy shot through with pain and the sweetest laughter is laced with some tears. She needs you to be broken because she is.

One specific example that springs readily to my mind is Pamela Rosewell Moore who spent years traveling with Brother Andrew and Corrie ten Boom and then providing five intense years of patient loving care for Miss ten Boom after her incapacitating stroke. Pamela Moore wrote a sweet book, long since out of print, in which she recounted meeting a husband she married late … a man who had unusual needs and children who were sad. She wrote that she noticed in the mirror how desperately tired and dry she looked upon leaving the house to go to the church where she gave the speech that called him up out of the audience to shake her hand afterward. She wasn’t exactly dressed for wherever it is people go on conventional dates.

As for loving someone else’s child, I have to answer in my own voice, out of the deepest part of my personal experience. I work with gang kids who are all tatted up, smell bad, and on any given day are probably packing at least a switchblade if not a firearm. I’m the quintessential white blueblood who listens to Mozart. Nothing prepared me for this work, except that I do love Jesus. When you do … when the love of the Holy Spirit is shed abroad in your heart … it’s the easiest no-brainer in the world to love another mother’s child as if he were your own flesh and blood. My prayer life isn’t great, and I don’t even have a church home right now, but loving those oddball kids in my path takes zero effort. I can’t stop loving them and wanting to pour my life out on the ground as much as a bereaved mother does when her biological child is hurting. If the reflex comes so easily to me to give my life over to these rowdy teenagers, how much easier for the woman God calls to love your Gap-cute little boy in his fuzzy pajamas.

Don’t hyper-analyze. The answer will be something you couldn’t predict, and there will be genius in the way your circumstances and hers mesh together in ways only the divine maestro could have devised. And don’t worry about the permanent, hovering shadow of Leslie over your household. The new person will be so thankful that Leslie taught you to hurt because there is no other way she could share her own vulnerability with you. She will bless her name and wish to honor her memory always, realizing too that a great part of what she loves in you and TJ came from Leslie’s soul. For a mature woman, there might be a small gnat, but no 800-pound gorilla.

Tyson Aschliman said...

wow.

Can someone get me her number?

:) (just kidding)

There was so much in that, "anonymous". Thank you. I think my favorite part was, "She knows that real life is joy shot through with pain and the sweetest laughter is laced with some tears. She needs you to be broken because she is."

Just a point of clarification, not specific to your comments, but to others I've received... the metaphor, "The 800 lb. gorilla in the room", isn't a commentary on a challenge that is to be overcome with great difficulty. The 800 lb gorilla is an obvious object-- an "issue", if you will-- that for whatever reason it has become tabu to acknowledge or address.

The point of my post, here, is simply to "out" the 800 lb. gorilla (specifically, the topic or idea of me "moving on someday", dating, remarrying, etc...), and to share my thoughts on the matter. If nothing else, just to show the poor beast the door, so people don't have to continually twist and turn in their seats, awkwardly pretending it's not there, so as not to offend the host of the party.

I know God will provide, as He will provide, and I will be content in it. The largest piece of encouragement you wrote, here, "Anonymous", was about loving those kids (thank you for doing God's work, by the way) with Jesus' love... and how, if Christ is at work, it will be a "no-brainer" for her.

Anyway... Don't worry, I'm not hyper-analyzing. Still "abiding" day-by-day. I'm just showing the gorilla to the door. :)

Thank you so much for your thoughtful response.

Anonymous said...

It has almost been 10 years now since I invited friends over for a Christmas Dinner Club
-always before it had been "couples"-this particular year "I" no longer was. A good friend had told his single friend who had never married and was 45 that there might come a day that this christian woman he knew would be ready to meet him. On Dec. 14th 1998, (God had the day planned all along)-even though my heart still ached for myself and my little girls, I faintly heard the words he said as he came through the back door with his friend,"Honey,I'm home"
I remember cautiously smiling that night almost laughing to myself. We never looked back and God has blessed our marriage.
Our little girls are now in college and high school. We were later blessed with another daughter and son. A wise friend suggested-let God build your family- don't stand in the way. Ty- I have never met you- but you are doing so well- God is at work in TJ's heart as you sleep- we will all pray with anticipation.

andy said...

i feel this in so many ways. someday perhaps we can talk about this. much love to you my friend, and God Bless!

Auntie Gayle said...

KUDOS! from us, Ty! Your desire to have another lifetime partner and a mommy for TJ is totally RIGHT! Another love will never diminish what you shared with our beloved Leslie. I love what ANON wrote, too--a lot of wisdom there. I made a prediction with regard to the "gorilla" several months ago. I'm not saying what it is---unless it comes true. I haven't figured out yet if I'm really a prophetess! Looking forward to seeing you on Friday, too! Praise be to our Great God!
Auntie Gayle

eness said...

hey, when you figure this out (notice, I said 'when' not 'if'), can you let me know? =)
you're doing great, tyson. have a wonderful thanksgiving.

Byron Gerber said...

Tyson,
Provebs 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.

Waiting on Gods timing can make your heart grow heavy and time stand still. However when you wait on His timing all things work together for good and your best dreams and hopes are blown away by what He has done in your life!


Hope your bringing your bball shoes this weekend, can't wait to see ya!
Byron

ps. I feel like I am preaching to the preacher! ;)

JenD said...

I have never left a message on a blog where I didn't know the author. (I live in another state and found your blog from a like 3 degrees of blogs away) But speaking in terms of our experience from my family (sister in law lost her husband at 36 with a 7 and 9 year old). What she came to realize and us too is that wanting companionship speaks loudly of not who you are... but who your wife was and is. It is good for you to want companionship because what you had was good and healthy. It can be that again. It will be different. It will be hard. But because of who leslie was she left you filled as a person and marriage was a blessing.
But...my sister in law would tell you that the first year is very hard.. lonely, quiet, missing a listening ear, companionship ect. She too wanted that void filled. She felt like God was wanting her to wait at least one year before she began dating. To her I think it was a date she could set. In her mind a goal. Much to her surprise after a year she felt like she wasn't ready. Don't make any huge decisions for a while. (I don't consider a date a huge decision by the way) But why date if it is not someone that you are ready for. Good luck. I love your posts. You are a great writer. Our God is huge and he knows the plans. Pray for her now, someday it will just all unfold before your eyes. Sorry for your loss.

Molly Grace said...

Hi Ty, Dana spent some time at my studio today and while looking at the pictures of her family, we got to talking about your story, as my sister's husband faces round 12 of cancer. Your wife seemed like an amazing person and your story of love through this time was a real raw and beautiful one. Thank you for sharing.

court said...

I’d like to say that your blog is very refreshing in the sense that it is rare to see such openness and vulnerability in people today, especially men. I’m grateful to see that.

I’d also like to add a thought, if I may. To echo the words of one who commented earlier, I too, am not applying for the role. That said, I am 29 and single, and I have experienced many of the same emotions you are voicing here. I do not think that your order is by any means “tall”. You also will be filling a “tall” order for your future bride. She will have her own set of wounds and flaws, and she will also need a godly man with a strong, sturdy shoulder on which to cry. As you well know, when God calls a person, He equips them fully. Women have an innate ability to nurture and love, and the one He has called will find it easy to love both you and your child.

As I pray for my future husband, there is a list of godly characteristics I desire to see in Him, and some days it seems to be a tall order for me as well. You are not so much different from the rest of us who have not been married and have no children :) I say that delicately, not making less of the heartache and pain you have suffered in any way, and I do realize it is different, but not altogether different, if that makes sense.

Anonymous said...

You write with great clarity and so I should affirm publicly that I understood your original intent and knew I was taking a bit of creative license with the gorilla image … so much so that the English major in me, not having read your response, thought to worry the following morning.

More importantly, know that I intended no criticism of present realities with the last imperative against over-analysis. Had I the benefit of an editing pen, I would replace that vague negativity with a positive construction more obviously construed as a wish for the future … Under enormous strain, you don’t seem to have put a foot down wrong. Friends and strangers alike, having been privileged to witness the exploits, can’t help but try to project for you the lightest peace and freedom possible in new days to come. I was imploring the stars for that gift when I wrote those words.

Tyson Aschliman said...

Thank you, again, my anonymous friend.

:)

Anonymous said...

Wow... is all I have to say about your blog. It's amazing to me how much your feelings that you post on the blog are so exactly what I go through. It's a very tough subject( or maybe just because I'm a widow). But I completely understand. It feels weird to even be able to fathom being with someone else when you think it's forever with the one you loved. I'm so appreciative of your thoughts. It's so encouraging to know that my thoughts and feelings are " normal" without having to say them aloud. I worry so much about the same things for my 4 kiddos... It's hard to even think that there would be someone to ( not replace ) but be like a father to them. It's one of the hardest things to trust God about ( as silly as that may sound). So thankyou again. God keeps bringing me back to your blog. I appreciate your realness