44: The Adventure of Starting Over

44: The Adventure of Starting Over

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life

The Adventure of Starting Over

Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.

~Raymond Lindquist

“Bob, our loan was approved. We got the house!”

“Pat, there isn’t going to be any house. I just got laid off at work. We’re going to be leaving Denver.”

I couldn’t speak. After our daughter Jeanne was born, my husband and I had spent months looking for a house. The red brick bungalow with the built-in bookcases on each side of the fireplace, close to a park, was everything we wanted.

A month later we left our beloved Colorado mountains to start over in Missouri, where my husband found a job teaching at a junior college.

Two weeks after arriving in Kirkwood, Missouri, I was surprised to discover that I was expecting another child. While my husband was preoccupied with his new teaching position, I had plenty to do as I unpacked in our new apartment. This one had two huge bedrooms, central-air, and even a wonderful swimming pool and play area out back. I rekindled a close friendship with one of my favorite cousins who also lived in the area, and before long, starting over didn’t seem so bad after all.

In January that year Julia bounced into the world. Seventeen months later, we welcomed Michael. With three children under four years old, our family was complete. But unfortunately, over the next few years, our lives fell apart because of my husband’s addiction to alcohol.

After spending the day in divorce court, my mother and father helped load the moving truck, and my three children — ages three, four and six — and I left Missouri, crossed the Mississippi River, and drove to my hometown of Rock Falls, Illinois.

That was how my single parenthood began — near the love and support of my parents who were into their thirtieth year of a happy marriage.

Every morning before work mother stopped in for a visit. The children loved having their grandma around for the first time in their lives. Mom and I drank tea and talked about my job search and about how nicely the house was shaping up with my various rummage sale purchases. The tension that had permeated our lives in Missouri was gone.

The next month I found an interesting job at a radio station and, once again, starting over wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be. In fact, it was the best time of my life.

A year later, when I was broadcasting a parade for the radio station, I met a man who had come from Wisconsin to judge the high school band parade competition. Even though my mother warned me about the seventeen-year difference in our ages, Harold and I continued to see each other every weekend for the next two years.

When Harold talked about getting married, I wasn’t sure I was ready to start over again in another marriage, especially in another state. But Harold persisted. We were married in my hometown church and Harold began a commuter marriage.

The previous winter, during the happiest and most active time of my mother’s life, she and dad were taking ballroom dancing lessons, downhill ski lessons, and trips around the country. Mother noticed that she was becoming uncoordinated, even tripping and falling down for no reason. After months of tests she was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. She died after suffering with the disease for just sixteen months.

My best friend, confidante, and grandmother to my children was gone. I was devastated that she would never even see or get to know my fourth child. I was five months pregnant when she died. Andrew was born the following December while I was still under a cloud of missing my mother so much.

Harold continued his commuter marriage for nearly three years, even after the arrival of baby Andrew. Finally he insisted we move to Wisconsin so he could end his weekend commute. And so, once again, we started over, this time without my mother, who had always been my biggest cheerleader.

Once again, I prayed monumental prayers, turned over all the trust I could muster to God, and in a caravan of cars and a rental truck, the four children and I headed north to Wisconsin.

The children thrived in their new school. I found a part-time job at another radio station. Harold was happy that he didn’t have to commute anymore, and we all loved our new sprawling home.

And so we lived happily ever after, right? Well, not quite. Unfortunately, this older man I’d married did not thrive in a household with three preteens and a baby. It was different than the carefree fun and romance we’d enjoyed for the past three years when Harold was still making the weekend trek to our home in Illinois.

The next five years of our marriage were a roller coaster. Before long the unbearable times were the norm. I suggested we separate for a year, enough time to figure out how to make the marriage work.

Two months after we separated, I thought everything was going great. We were about to make another appointment with a marriage counselor. A stranger came to the door and served me with divorce papers.

Not again. I just couldn’t start over again. Not with four children and a two-day-a-week job. By this time I had fifteen years worth of starting-overs under my belt. Somehow each new start had brought wonderful people and experiences into our lives.

The day our divorce was final, Harold married his girlfriend. Within a month, my part-time work at the radio station became a four-day-a-week career. With the help of child support, some extra writing jobs, and the various jobs my teenagers had, we were able to keep going financially and stay in the house we’d grown to love. Amazing how the power of prayer comes to your aid when you need it.

The children and I laughed and cried together, created adventures for ourselves, made a home for each other, and figured out ways to get the three oldest through college at the same time.

I suspected that starting over as an empty nester just might be the most exciting new start of all. It was. I sold my house in Wisconsin and two-thirds of my possessions and moved to Florida. I married Jack. This mother of four, stepmother of six, grandmother of nine, step-grandmother of eleven and wife of one is loving every minute of life!

~Patricia Lorenz

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