Friday, November 10, 2006

Tales from the Basement, Part 2

(Okay, I must be honest. I’ve been writing a post all week that I couldn’t get quite right until tonight, when I just deleted the whole thing. I finally realized that I did not want to relive a lot of what I went through during my courtship with Al—there are just some things that don’t need to be repeated and put out to the whole world, such as my former tumultuous relationship with his ex-wife. Although in retrospect, some of the stories are quite comical, there are some that are very heartbreaking. I have come such a long way with her and understand her so well now, that to repeat any of these stories almost feels like a betrayal. So we’ll just have to fast-forward a little into the relationship…)

When I met Al, he was renting a room from his friend, a divorced chiropractor who rented out 3 bedrooms in his large home to other single/divorced men. Al had been living there ever since his separation three years prior to our meeting, and was the only one renting at the time that we began dating. He had one room to himself and was in the process of fixing up another room for his kids, but his chiropractor friend made the decision to turn that section of the house into a large apartment for a family.

I was in the throes of single, working motherhood and messy-kid-syndrome: my kids had nowhere to have play dates save for their bedrooms. By the time the respective parent came by to pick up their child, the bedroom would look like an explosion at the Toys R Us warehouse. I would then muster a phony, “Oh, that’s okay, don’t worry, we’ll clean it up after you leave!” when the parent expressed concern about their child helping to clean up. Most days, I found it overwhelming to deal with my own kids, so I was usually willing to compromise and clean everything myself if it meant getting all the extra kids floating around the house to go home in a timely fashion so I could have some peace and quiet.

My unfinished basement was being rented out pro-bono to a family of unwelcome tenants—I believe their name was “Rodent”—and I had a brainstorm that it would be a great idea to build a playroom, laundry room and studio apartment down there and kick these freeloaders out once and for all. Al and I were dating over a year at this point, and after some lengthy discussions, we decided that he could move into the studio apartment and pay me rent, which would basically cover any raise in my mortgage from refinancing the house to pay for the work.

The construction was done beautifully by my cousin’s husband, and Al moved into his “cave”—one bedroom with a small living area, and a tiny bathroom with a stall shower. Although there was a separate entrance—just in case things didn’t work out with Al, and I had to rent to someone else—he used the front door to come and go, and I eventually caught on that the neighbors thought that he had moved in. But not into my basement. Into my bed.

Anytime that I would mention that Al lived in a studio apartment in my basement, I was met with expressions of disbelief. “OH, come on!! You know he doesn’t live down there.” Or, “Yeah, right…and he puts up with that nonsense, going down to the basement every night without complaining.” And my all-time favorite: “Lisa, I’m sorry…but that’s…weird.”

Weird?!? We weren’t married. Neither of our divorces was final yet, even after all that time. We had kids… impressionable kids, for crying out loud! The very last thing that I wanted was for my daughter to witness her mom sleeping with a man in her bed every night that she wasn’t married to…and then, God forbid, having it not work out. So why was that…weird?

We continued our “weird” living arrangements for several years. My divorce became final; he was having difficulty coming to agreeable terms with his ex, even after 7 years. Once his divorce became official, I made the request that we become “legitimate”. Yes, I enjoyed our little “rendezvous” in his cave once I put the kids to bed—no one could hear us down there, that’s for sure—and I know he liked to have his own place to “escape” now and then. But it was becoming increasingly important to me to build a relationship based on the real commitment of marriage; not only to set an example to our children, but for our own emotional investment into our futures. I wanted someone to share my life with as a full-fledged, committed partner; it didn’t work out the first time, but I believed that Al and I had what it took to be there for each other through anything.

One wintry Saturday afternoon right before my 39th birthday, I was outside in the dog run picking up dog poop with a plastic bag on my hand, as my pooper-scooper had broken and had yet to be replaced. Al came to the back door and told me that he absolutely needed me to come inside right that minute, as he wanted to show me something. I came inside with bag still on hand, a little annoyed that he interrupted my wonderful hour of crap-slapping. He chided me to come into the living room, and I relented, still with the bag on my hand, so as not to lose any time in my race to get back out into the field of land mines. To my complete and total surprise, all of a sudden he dropped to his knees and popped out a small, square box. I sat there in disbelief, subconsciously thanking the heavens above that I was right-handed. He looked at me with the most loving, sincere face and…well…you know the rest. I of course started to cry, and we hugged for what seemed like an hour. There I stood; no makeup, a winter hat on my head, a bag for a pooper-scooper on my right hand, and the most beautiful solitaire diamond on my left. I never felt more loved in my whole life.

(Next installment…our wedding day. Absolutely the most wonderful day of my life.)

10 comments:

Carine said...

you two have to be commended for working on having such a strong commitment where others would have maybe bailed. Having had to work on it for so long makes the relationship something more than just a little special!

www.Carine-whatscooking.blogspot.com

Lisa said...

Carine,

Thank you for the kind words. I say it all the time, I am very fortunate to have met someone like my husband. He just doesn't care about things that might make some other men nuts (can you imagine the "tree guy" sleeping in my basement for 3 years?!?)!

It's not always easy to put the kids first, but they were our top priority. I hope all our hard work pays off!!

Take good care,
Lisa

Kacey said...

Dr. Laura Schlessinger would be so proud of you for not having Al in your bed in front of the children! I am proud, too. My three grandsons were absolutely horrified that their dad and girlfriend were indiscreet about the bed thing before he was divorced from my daughter. They were only 1, 3 and 5 and they knew what was what. This post is fun---crap slapping? Love it! You'll have to read about my trip around the manure pile ---- bigger than dog piles!

Lisa said...

Kacey,

You know what, it wasn't as hard as people seemed to think that it was! Although, I must admit, now that we're married I love sharing the same bed with my hubby. My kids went through the same thing as your grandsons with their dad and his girlfriend. I guess I wouldn't have minded so much if they didn't go to a Christian church every Sunday--it seemed a little hypocritical to me. If you're gonna talk the talk, you'd better at least make an effort to walk the walk!

It sounds like you had your hands full with those horses! Crap-slapping is nothing compared with manure-slinging, I'm sure!

Take good care,
Lisa

E said...

Written very nicely - I can't help but think that the reason it wasn't "right" is because you may have been trying to tell the wrong story (or maybe the wrong part of the story).

What a memorable proposal! - of course what ladies out there don't remember theirs... (I bet the guys remember too)

Thanks for sharing. Best wishes to continued bliss (and the day to day hard work that it takes).

Lisa said...

E,

Yes, I was telling a story that may have shed a somewhat negative light on someone who is not into the internet, so therefore could not even begin to defend themselves.

Ironically, I just got off the phone with this same person, and my insides are shaking. She was defending her God-given right to wear designer clothes because God wants her to be like royalty and somehow she was crying poverty at the same time. When I told her that I have to shop off of the sale racks at Macy's with a coupon because I have a house to help support, she told me that I should get a job on the weekends.

I guess it's not enough that her kids live with me and I go to work five days a week and I come home and cook them dinner and I clean up after them and I drive one where she needs to be and I let her friends come over and I let her have sleepovers and supply the snacks and I have to clean the house on Saturday along with running my own errands and I have to pay utility bills that have gone up considerably with the extra use of water now that there are two extra people in the house and one takes a 1/2 hour shower every night and electricity for 2 extra computers that are running all the time...and I have to listen to this person complain about money because she's having trouble affording Abercrombie and Fitch. Wow, shame on me for not getting a weekend job.

...Oh wait. Now she's at my door.

I need to adopt a Nom de Plume, because these stories are just too unbelievable not to be told.

Take good care,
Lisa

Teri said...

Okay...what happened to my comment from the other day. Hungry blogger ate it!

I just wanted to say that you had me at "pooper scooper."

Ciao for now...

Summer said...

Lisa, sorry for the belated comment..i meant to be on top of things on my readings on the blogsphere but i had to be away..go back to my blog and you would know why!
very nice writing, i loved the proposal post..i really cannot wait for the wedding day post! this is so much fun reading because this is real life and this is what i like about your blog...you cannot beat real life stories.. i admire your ethics. have a wonderful night!

Lisa said...

Teri,

OMG, I had no idea that you posted the other day? I know that I was having trouble with Blogspot, but I never saw it!

Yes, "pooper-scooping" usually gets everyone! There's something that I find comical about picking up dog droppings to begin with, then they go and name it something like that! Actually, around here we have professionals who do it that call themselves "The Poo Crew" and another company that brags that they're "...always on Doody"!! Cracks me up every time.

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Summer,

I'm going to peruse your sight tomorrow morning, as I am under the weather and taking the day off (right now, I'm ready for bed)! I hope all is well.

I have to get started on the wedding day post! I actually wish that I could show a video clip on here, but as you witnessed with my "posting pictures" fiasco, I have no idea how to do it!

Thanks for commenting and your kind words. As you know, I enjoy your blog as well, and look forward to stopping by tomorrow!

Take good care,
Lisa