Like Fletch I too had an epiphany one day following two years of absolute misery and betrayal by those I trusted and loved.
In early February 1999 my first wife took me aside after dinner and announced that she wanted a divorce, that she had never loved me but only married me because she wanted a good man to be the father of her kids. Oh yeah, she wanted the kids, the house and everything else. After all that I had given up to be a better husband and father I was handed that. But wait, there's more! Like the TV offers I got the additional news that she had been secretly maxing out all the credit cards, was shopping instead of paying bills and was cheating on me. We stuck together long enough to get through a joint bankruptcy before splitting up.
The problems weren't over between us, not when we had joint custody of two children, but I tried to move on. I met a woman online through a dating site and she told me a similar story to what I had been through. Being a family man I welcomed the opportunity to be the stepfather to her four kids. After all, my dear mother had remarried to a wonderful man who became the dad that my own birth father had not been so I thought I could do the same. The red flags were there but I was blind to them, masked by my own desperate need to feel loved and whole again.
So in late February, 2000 I got married for the second time. Big mistake! The woman was a fraud and worse, a horrible mother. Yes, her first husband had dumped her and married his secretary but he was escaping a greedy, selfish woman who, when she had sucked every last dime out of me (easy to do since I was rebuilding my life following bankruptcy) tossed me aside. The worse thing wasn't the financial loss, it was the heartbreak of losing those four kids. Well, to be honest it was losing three of the four. The oldest was "the stepson from hell" who even his mom admitted would likely be either dead or in prison by age 19. He wanted to go live with his father and did everything in his power to force us to send him there. It worked and she followed the boy to Utah which I warned her was a bad idea. Being so close to her ex- would allow him to prove her to be the incompetent mother she was which soon occurred.
She divorced me before the year 2000 was up and by Y2k I was ready for TEOTWAWKI. Alas it didn't happen and my misery continued. In January, 2001 my car was repossessed due to the mess my second ex-wife had left me with. At least I was still working and seeing my kids though that wasn't going so well. My kids didn't know why we split up and my ex- was only too happy to spin it as my deserting them when it was the other way around. Then they were hurt by the second divorce as they lost their stepsiblings of only a few months. I felt like an abject failure as a father and human being.
Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse God gave me a gift, the wonder gift of melanoma. And I had to face it alone with no family and few friends to support me. Fortunately it had not yet metastasized so surgery to remove a portion of my right shoulder blade down to the muscle should cure it, my doctor said over the phone. Yeah, I didn't rate an office visit for the news, my lousy HMO doc just called me to tell me that and to give me a referral to a surgeon at another hospital.
Now I talk about the cancer as a gift and it was. It made me realize that my life wasn't that bad, that things could be much worse.
About 75% of melanoma patients die, it is the most deadly of all cancers. Futhermore I had lost a neighbor to melanoma and saw what it does not just to its victims but to the families. So I pulled my head out of my ass, quit beating myself up for all my woes and embraced life.
It took me years to turn my life around again but I did it. To help me stay on track God gave me a couple more scares, my last one being in April, 2005 when I lost a chunk out of my left upper arm. Also to help me he gave me a new wife and family with four more step-kids and just to keep me humble they are mostly girls.
To say my life has been an easy one since overcoming cancer would be dishonest. I've had further financial trials, legal troubles, sorrows from losing my oldest daughter to an early death and my son to drug addiction. The difference is that I have the emotional and spiritual fortitude to face these troubles and get through them with my life, my mental health and even my marriage intact. What is more is that we are able to give back to our community through being foster parents to kids with special needs. We are on our sixth foster child, an infant girl who turns eight months old this week. Yes, that means I have to deal with poopy diapers on a daily basis but that is a small matter compared to the joy that comes from having a loving child. So while I may be poor when it comes to things of this world I count myself rich in so many other areas. I love my wife, family, church and even my job (most of the time or I wouldn't have stories to share in "my job, my hell"