More than filling a vacancy

I once made a terrible mistake.

Yeah, yeah. I know. I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the course of my life. But this one . . . it was the worst.



If you’ve never read my blog, let me give you a little background. My wife and I had our son in October of 2003. We had a 10-year-old daughter at the time. Life was great, right? Yeah, it was, until . . .

About six weeks later, my wife started losing weight. But you’re supposed to lose weight after delivering a child, right? So no big deal. But then she became tired all the time. And developed a cough that just wouldn’t go away.

After a few doctor visits and a series of tests, we found out my wife had cancer. And it was bad. Already.

My wife passed away in October of 2004, just four days after my son turned one. So there I was, single. With two kids.

At this point, I want to stress something very important. I had NO idea of what I was doing. I was alone. With an almost teenage daughter. And a real, live, honest-to-goodness, baby, who pooped and peed and seemed to want to eat on a regular basis. And he was a bad baby, too. He seemed to cry 25 hours a day, and he didn’t sleep well.

I went through about the next three months in pretty much a fog. The only things I can remember from that period is I went back to work, we celebrated Christmas, and I visited my dad in the hospital.

But after I emerged from my personal mental haze, we kind of got in a routine. A pretty good routine. And, through trial and error, I learned how to take care of a baby. And I realized something else, too . . .

I was lonely. Really lonely.

So what I needed, I decided, was someone in my life. My wife and I had been married almost 12 years, so I hadn’t cruised the dating scene in quite a while.

And that’s when I made a terrible mistake.

I approached the whole thing the wrong way. Basically, I was just looking to fill a vacancy. Like a boss who just loses an employee. There were duties that needed to be filled, needs to be met, talking that needed to take place, and, of course, a family to raise. Also, I had never really gone through the grieving process. Part of it was I didn’t realize how important that process was. And part of it was the past year had been really trying, and I was really ready to do something fun. To do something normal.

I couldn’t have approached dating in a worse way and a worse state of mind if I had simply hung out a Help Wanted sign.

Yet somehow through this thinking, it never occurred to me that although the person I might marry could, just possibly, be different than my late wife.

I know what you’re thinking: that is just about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. And you would be right. But I wasn’t thinking right. It was not the proudest period of my life.

But I did find someone who would date me. And after we had seen each other for a couple of years, we got married. And, it wasn’t long before I realized I had pretty much screwed up. I was about as ready to get married as I was to sprout wings and take off flying.

Now, I want to stress, this was not the fault of the young lady I married. She was a wonderful, Christian lady who worked in a professional setting. She had many outstanding qualities and went above and beyond for me and my kids. But sadly, I never took the time to discover what those qualities were while we were dating. When most relationships end, the fault is usually about equal. But if my ex-wife were to tell friends that our divorce was all my fault, I would only slightly argue. It was only 99 percent my fault, or maybe just a little bit more.

Because I wasn’t really dating. I was interviewing. I was filling a vacancy – hiring an employee.

Our marriage lasted about six months, and I carried a lot of guilt over the divorce for a long time.

But it forced me to do something – I now had to actually think about the qualities and traits I was looking for in a wife. A wife who wasn’t my first wife. What was it I was looking for?  What was it that were must-haves in a mate for me. I knew I wanted a lady who was a Christian. Who was I could share mutual respect and loyalty with. Someone intelligent with a good sense of humor. Someone who I enjoyed talking with. Someone I enjoyed just being with. And someone who would love my kids like her own.

I thought I had that person, until my second big mistake ended that relationship last summer. Again, my fault. Again, more learning through trial and error.

As we approach Valentine’s Day, take time to appreciate your significant other. Tell them all the special things about them that you love and adore.

And, if you’re single, be patient. God has someone special in mind for you.

Right now, it’s still just the kids and me, and we’re doing well – sharing time together and creating lifelong memories. I’m still learning on a daily basis (sometimes hourly) how to be a better parent.

AND, I want to remember to always continue to look at the qualities and values of the person I’m dating, and not just try to fill a vacancy.

  4 comments for “More than filling a vacancy

  1. February 4, 2014 at 8:12 am

    Great Mark! This is why I was engaged for five years yet never sealed the deal! I didn’t lose a spouse as you did.. And it’s awful. Such a sad situation but you are so strong through it! However, we both are trying to fill a vacancy with prerequisites!


    • February 4, 2014 at 9:21 am

      Thanks, Betsy. You’re right. And it’s never easy to do, especially when there are kids involved.

  2. February 6, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    What a wonderful post! I found you through Eclectic Odds n Sods (she nominated me for the Leibster). Anyway, although my story isn’t quite like yours, it has similarities. I lost my husband to cancer in 2006 (very suddenly). I became a single parent with a 13 year old boy (our 25 year old son was out of the house and soon to be married). At least I didn’t have diapers! You are amazing to have gone through what you have and are still relatively sane 😉 . Anyway, I did a little dating for 6 years, although I hadn’t let go of my husband either (good and bad). The year my son graduated high school I decided I wasn’t tied to the town I was living in and was very ready to love and be loved. Without going into details, I found the love of my life (online no less) and we have been married a year and a half now.
    I figure your trial and errors only made you grow and to find out what you don’t want so you can look for what you DO want… and not just fill a vacancy in your home or your heart. Nice to meet you!

    • February 6, 2014 at 8:54 pm

      It’s nice to meet you, too!

      Yes, our stories are very similar. I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s really hard to move on from something like that sometimes, and I definitely did not do it the right way. Congratulations on marrying again. I’m so glad you’ve found someone that you love so much. I thought I had met that I had met that same type of person (also online), but I kind of screwed that up. Hopefully, I’ve learned from my mistakes.

      Yes, surviving alone with a baby was not easy. It really made me appreciate all the stories I hear about single parents. And who said I was still relatively sane? 🙂

      Thanks for reading and following. I’m looking forward to reading your blog as well.

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