In the past, I have had people call me “hero” regarding my actions with Dawn. They claim the things I did are mythical, unimaginable, breath taking…
I want to officially throw the bullshit flag.
I am not saying I do not appreciate praise. I am simply stating it is undeserved.
Courage is not doing something without fear. It is doing something despite fear.
Heroism is a similar thing. I did not do what I did despite my fear. I did what I did for a number of reasons, some of which I still don’t understand. The only fear in that moment was somehow Dawn would slip away.
In order for you to understand, I need to give you some history of our relationship. We met in April / May of 2007. We hit it off immediately, but we were both in other fragmented relationships. Those other relationships were the primaries and our relationship with each other was secondary. Over time, my primary relationship ended. The relationship between Dawn and I became increasingly close with each cycle, but she invariably broke up with me when the other guy wanted her back. For the record we never dated when either of us was involved with our “other” relationship.
In December of 2008 thru early February of 2009, we made huge strides in our closeness. The word love was often spoken between us. Probably most importantly, she invited me to meet her family in Maryland. Many of you know that my agreeing to enter Maryland is a HUGE tell to the depth of my feelings. She assured me it wasn’t a trip to introduce me to her family, just a trip and she would enjoy my company. About midway through, even she realized the depth of her bullshit. I was being introduced to the family as a prospective husband. In retrospect that became obvious, but I jump ahead.
At the end of the trip, I stopped in Georgia to hunt and she and Tucker went straight home. The trip was awesome, but as we headed home I saw storm clouds. We drove two vehicles and I knew she had sent Tucker to ride with me so she could text, privately. I knew what that meant. Sure enough, the next day I got no replies from my texts. She had “disappeared” again.
In the middle of the first week in February, she reappeared. She was a little bashful but very excited to see me. In my normal subtle manner, I called her on it. She fessed up and told me directly, he had finally snapped the last straw. We talked about it and I took her at her word. We spent three days together, 24/7. That included a trip to visit her mother; which went swimmingly, much to Dawn’s surprise. When we got back to my house, she asked me about marriage. I have chronicled that elsewhere, so I won’t repeat the details here. She left in the morning for work and I heard nothing. It was like a black hole swallowed her up, again.
I thought I knew what that meant. I did, sort of. It meant she had somehow agreed to go back with the abuser. What I didn’t know until mid-April was she had also agreed to MARRY HIM and had on Valentine’s Day.
Until that was confirmed, I was moderately hopeful she would come to her senses or he would throw her out again. But marriage, that is another thing entirely.
The boy who was my son was removed from my life with an email that contained only two words “NO CONTACT”. The woman that so recently asked me if I would consider her for marriage had married someone else 8 days later. I was not a virgin to heart break. My previous on and off relationship had been a drag through hot coals, but this. I had no comparison. I didn’t even have pain at first, just complete and utter shock. I felt a little like Adam must have, when he awoke missing half his ribs.
Once the marriage was confirmed, the floor fell out of my life. I kept up appearances as best I could. I didn’t tell my family. Most of my friends didn’t know. They mostly just assumed Dawn and I were off again. I just couldn’t bring myself to speak of it. It was better to deny it to myself rather than face it and make it real.
Slowly, I got a slight handle on things and began to filter through our interactions. Everything was examined; every disagreement, every missed opportunity. I beat myself up pretty well. Through it all I talked to God and I mourned. Those talks were not overly friendly. I mourned the death of our potential. I mourned the abortion of our love. I mourned the Death of Dawn as I knew he would either kill her outright or slowly drain her until she was an empty husk. The steering wheel in my poor truck got pummeled frequently when a song came on that reminded me of her, us, our dreams… The pain in my right hand helped dull the glass shards savaging my heart.
In my stronger moments I begged God for help. I prayed he save her from the mistake and the monster she married. I prayed that she might wake up and run. No need for her to run to me, just that she be safe. I begged God to protect her in my stead. On really dark days, the prayer was that Tucker would not find his mother dead at the monster’s hand. On weaker days, the prayer was that I be granted the opportunity and excuse to end the monster’s life even if that would insure Dawn’s enmity. More than once I realized I was driving toward his house with ill intent.
Eventually, I met someone else. We dated. She was a wonderful woman, but she wasn’t Dawn. She knew about Dawn and my issues. She had her own issues with an ex-husband and we were good for each other. We lived an hour apart and had our own lives, but we enjoyed each other’s company and both knew it wasn’t a forever thing. Despite that, over the course of months we got close. She helped me move away from the pit. Spending time together gave us both some happiness and at least for me (in the moment) I didn’t miss my ribs, so acutely.
In retrospect, I hurt her. When Dawn contacted me, I told her. I saw the look on her face. She knew before I did. It took me the full week until Dawn and I actually talked on the phone to come to any kind of terms with it. It took another two weeks for me to tell that her that our time was over. She was rightly upset, but to her credit she told me she knew. It was written all over my face. She said, “I hope Dawn is as amazing as the look on your face tells me she is. I hope she is worthy of that kind of love.”
She stunned me with that. It was a good smack across the face. It opened my eyes, but I knew the path I had to travel. I spent MONTHS begging God for another chance. I spent months inspecting every part of what “went wrong”. Every single night I slept alone, Dawn was missing from my bed. My failures haunted my days and nights. I spent months chasing crazy ideas from my head and no matter what I did, it always came back to Dawn. Not just that, but how could I be the man I claim to be if I didn’t honor the answering of my prayers? What kind of man would I be; if when given a second chance, I turned away? How could I even think about turning away the woman I love; especially considering the abuse, the cancer diagnosis, the theft of all her money and our son.
The simple fact, I was a shattered man. I knew Dawn was the key. Dawn was more shattered than I and she needed help, specifically my help. My honor would not allow me to turn her away. I had prayed, begged, bargained for this very thing. God did not choose to do it in a way that I envisioned, but he brought her back. I needed her as much as she needed me. Sure she was still married to the abuser. Certainly, things were going to be very tough. She had cancer with no insurance, no job and no money. She had our son in tow and he was having huge issues, but weren’t we all. God brought us BOTH low. He did that so we could rebuild together. I did not see that, but somehow I knew it fit.
People bring up how she married someone else and I put that aside. They mention how I stepped to the plate, despite her betrayal. Betrayal, Dawn did not betray me. She made a poor choice and she paid for it with brutal interest. Why would I spite myself and cause myself pain by turning her away? They cast me in the role of hero for that?
Other people imagine what they would have done in my place. They imagine themselves (or their spouse) turning them away and call me a hero for not doing so.
Heroic: doing something despite fear.
I did no such thing. In an earlier era, men protected women. They protected women, family and strangers alike. A woman in need, I think there are several mentions of that in the Chivalric code. It doesn’t qualify as member of your family or a favored aunt or a friend’s sister – a woman in need. Dawn was a woman in need. I did what my honor code demanded.
Or put another way. I did what we should all do for those who are important to us. I did nothing more than what was right. My actions were the actions that all men should do for those they love. The things I did were nothing special. I saw a need; one that I had the ability to fix and I acted. The fact that many facing a similar situation chose another lesser path does not make me a hero. I know what it makes them, but it does not make me a hero.
In doing what I did, it initiated forgiveness. We were able to forgive each other and perhaps more importantly forgive ourselves. As much as I helped her, she helped me more. That pivotal moment at the bottom is what allowed us to build a relationship on the bedrock of an equally shared and equally treasured love.
If you want to see heroes, I can point you to heroes. Many of them wear a blue ribbon with stars in the front. The ribbon often holds a small gold plaque inscribed with “Valor”. That plaque has a five pointed star hanging from it. Here is a list of some actual heroes.
You will notice my absence from that list.