48 years 3 months 4 days
I have to apologize, I didn’t mean to do a bait and switch. I just realized that in order to tell the story, there’s so much on which I need to catch you up. I also feel it’s important to emphasize something: I am not the hero in this story. There are none. There are no villains either. There are only people being people and doing the best they can with what they have. And with that, we take you to Montreal, Quebec, Canada on the second day of September in the year 2000: the night after my wedding.
I married into a large Ukrainian community, but a small Ukrainian family. I found the community overwhelming at first. It was nothing I had ever seen or been a part of, and it was just so large and boisterous that it was just…too much at times. The worst part is that I was thrust into it alone. At the dances and wedding that would gather 300+ people, my significant other would often just leave me alone. I actually stopped and thought about that statement. The word “alone” sticks out because that’s exactly how I felt. Like I was moving through this sea of people alone. If I were alone, I wouldn’t have been there. I wouldn’t have moved to Montreal, where I couldn’t find work because I didn’t speak French, I wouldn’t have subjected myself to my brother-in-laws phone calls where he would be silent on the other end of the phone because it was a new negotiation technique: “why don’t you want to work?”. I do want to work, asshole. I should have said that. I told my spouse about this incident, and it later came up in therapy. “He was just being protective.” He was just being a cunt. I’m getting way ahead of myself. The incident in question was the night after my wedding.
In the end, the community treated me as one of their own (in fact, my Best Man was one of my spouse’s dearest friends whom I became very good friends with as well), however the family did not. After all I had no degree (I still don’t), and I wasn’t Ukrainian (I’m still not) — you know, a real shit bag. However, the Big Fat Ukrainian wedding proceeded as planned, and when you have a BFUW, there is traditionally a party the next day, called “Popravyny”. I have little memory of the majority of that day, since the marriage is over, who fucking cares, really (I’ve been editing too much, I need to get back to more stream of consciousness and vulgarity).
I have a small family, similar to my ex-wife’s. But I have a smaller community: zero. But our wedding still had 300+ people. Now, the tradition of Montreal Ukrainian weddings is for the families to split the cost. My family was in no way involved in the planning, and it was fucking opulent. (Side note: my ex and I got married in Bermuda a few months prior, but her family made us do it again in Montreal. I guess it didn’t count. What was funny to me is that we wanted the wedding to be outside, but according to my father-in-law (I will come up with a derogatory name for him at some point), God doesn’t live outside. Only in the church — let that sink in a bit). So, 300+ people and 14 of them were mine. I had, like, two friends, and the rest were family.
Just to make sure you’re with me: opulent wedding, my family not involved, 300+ people, 14 were mine. The night of the Popravyny, my drunk father-in-law (fart-in-law? I’ll keep working it) wants us to help pay for the wedding out of our gifts. And, I actually think that’s not a bad idea. After all, he footed the bill (of course his wife and daughter went haywire, although I did help pick the place because if you’re going to make me do this bullshit again and make me GET CONFIRMED IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, then it’s going to be a nice place). The solution: we take the total cost of the wedding, band, church, all of it, divide by the number of people and multiply by 14 (the number of my guests). Makes sense, right? He didn’t think it was enough, so we gave him some more cash, like he’s was whore. Because, well, he was acting like one, and not in a good way.
Here’s where the shit hits the fan. He tells me he wants to talk to me on the back deck. My mother-in-law and wife looked at each other and followed me out. It was there that he said this to me, and my spouse: “You [spouse] always have a place here. You can always come home. Because he isn’t going to amount to anything! He can’t even get his own Best Man!” It was at this point his wife threw a drink in his face. When he said the line about the Best Man, I laughed. Because it was funny. The two ladies were yelling at him, asking what was wrong with him. I walked inside, where he got in my face. He quickly got out of my face, because I’m much taller and I was about 30 years younger. It may have also been when I said, “If you do not get out of my face, I will fucking drop you.” Who knows.
The reason this story is relevant is because interactions like this happened a few times over the years (I once slapped him across the face when he came at me. I’m not proud but I wouldn’t take it back). The last time was the summer of 2018, right before the event that changed my life.
I don’t even remember what he said, but I got in his face, “If you ever talk to me like that again, I will fucking end you! Do you understand?” It was different this time. I meant it. He was afraid and it felt good to me because I had been afraid, anxious. I wanted to turn it all around on him. My spouse and her mom were yelling at me. Calm down! Me calm down? This is all YOUR fault! None of you ever backed me up! You’re scaring your daughter! Fuck.
I turned around and there was my 8 year old, standing on the other side of the screen door crying. I rushed and gathered her up in my arms and brought her to the bedroom.
“Why are you sad, baby?”
“Because you were yelling at my Grandfather.”
“I know. I’m sorry. I know it seems like it came out of no where, but there was a lot that went on that you don’t know about, and I’m very sorry. The only thing you need to understand right now is that I love you and he loves you very much.” I was extremely proud of myself as a father in that moment. I didn’t want her to think this wretched asshole that made my life shitty was a bad person. I might be rationalizing, but I’m going to go with it because it’s my story.
Here’s where the rubber meets the road: I was told I had anger issues by, well, everyone. And the sad thing is, or maybe it’s not such a sad thing, but I agreed. I was miserable. Anger comes from fear and sadness, and although I didn’t care about my relationship with, well, anyone really, I was tired. Just physically tired of being sad and angry. And it was then I decided that I would get myself to a therapist, and this would begin a tornado of change. I say tornado, because it was pretty destructive for a while.