A Bro Hug, Much Appreciated

3.5 years.  That’s the span of hellishness for which I have endured a bombardment of attacks from a particular “source”, and, admittedly, some blows have landed, knocking the wind out of me with force, sending me, buckled over, into the corner of the ring, ready for my cornerman to throw in the towel.

At times, I’ve felt pummeled by such incessant blows, coming in the form of accusations made in court documents.  Other times, a single jab breaks its way through my guard, having been delivered sarcastically or accusingly via text messaging or by email, at times when I have thought things had calmed down, reminding me that the end is not in sight.

Undoubtedly, I’ve bounced back from all, and in the end, I’ll be fine, surviving as best I can, wherever and however I can.

Yet one aspect of the onslaught that has somewhat consistently maintained an echoing presence in my life for these three-plus years of a nastily overwhelming divorce and custody battle is the attacks that claim such things as, “Your friends have turned on you,” “Your so-called friends now know the truth about you” and have allegedly turned their backs, and in family court documents, the regularly employed, “Nobody likes him.”

In fact, in the last year or so, I’ve made acquaintance with a local artist, exchanged numbers, and on the second outing together, gulped incredulously when she stated, bluntly, sitting down for dinner, “So I heard you had an affair on your ex.” Immediately, I refuted such nonsense, rightly so, explaining that no such thing ever transpired, inquiring glumly into the origin of the ridiculous claim, to which she simply replied, “I have my sources in town.”

False accusation number one.

As for number two, leave it to a British guy whom I once knew from a semi-athletic club here, who came up to me at a cafe one morning, where I was typing away on court documents before heading to work, blurting out, “I heard you are bi-polar.  I am, too, so if you need any help, maybe we can talk about it.”  Near simultaneously, disbelief jumped from my face like a slinky whose bottom band got stuck on a stairwell yet whose top had already started its springy descent. Naturally, I let him know that such accusations are completely false–adding that I’d made similar statements myself over these past few years (no, not about myself).

Number two was in the books. Dismayed and hurt, my doubts about living in this city long-term started to fester.

To top that off, a European bloke, who used to have fairly regular contact with us, approached me recently at another outdoor cafe, starting up a chat about all that life has entailed, which naturally turned to the absurdities of court antics, my playing on an uneven field, etc. At one point, he guffawed when I mentioned the aforementioned episodes of rumor receiving, adding, “Oh, yes, I’ve heard you supposedly have PTSD, too.”

Of course, my replies was swift: Though I was in the service for four years, I never saw that kind of action! Being on a NATO peacekeeping tour, running logistics in the rear, visiting some local schools to help with reconstruction, etc., was not enough to result in PTSD!

What is really going on?  Is life going to encompass being bombarded by such absurd allegations the next umpteen years here?  Are rumors going to be intentionally spread to serve an end purpose?  Is the source going to cease spewing the BS?

The blatant accusations hurt only because people may believe it, yet I imagine it simply boils down to a matter  of living with a non-deserved tarnished image for the duration of time here in this city.  If people don’t like me because of any experience they’ve personally had with me that allows them to make such a judgment, so be it, but to have such falsehoods wrongfully revealed and the potentiality of someone buying it does vex me to some degree.

Anyone who has suffered through a wicked separation and/or a daunting divorce can attest to this fact: Friends will take sides. That’s a given in practically all similarly shitty situations I assume.  Whoever had sided, whoever had remained neutral, and whoever simply didn’t want to be involved, on either’s behalf, had a right to make such choices on their own, but when folks were deceived into believing something other than truth, or when not given all the facts, and their decisions are based on bias, it is frustrating as hell–especially to learn about it in the manner that I have.

Regardless, the unknown is what actually irks me most.  “Have people turned in droves? Do those initially-stated vindictive, hurtful statements from the source have merit, or were they meant to deliberately cause me to cast doubts about myself internally–and perhaps cause me to depart ways?” I started to wonder.

Having periodically experienced my own self-doubts as to whom the source may have implied as having turned on me over these past three-and-a-half years, I’ve mostly stayed away from former haunts, worried that I’d get an earful if the source’s claims were partially true (that some people had turned on me), if they were blindly led to believe the negative hype.

Eerily I can still hear a former female mutual acquaintance rip into me once at a coffee shop three years ago, telling me to not be bitter about things, even though I explained, even with tears starting to form, that I’d not been able to see my kids for months, at that point of a 189-day-long hell. Incredulous I remained about the woman’s reaction because I was suffering big time then, and my pain was abruptly dismissed by the suggestion that I merely stop being bitter about it.

Cumulatively, the aforementioned eye-opening scenarios have had an impact, not to mention some folks who had rejected my requests for letters of support as a father and a good guy, as a teacher, with them citing various reasons.  Indeed, on the other hand, I had received some wonderfully supportive letters, having submitted nearly 50 separate letters to the Court in a packet to show that I’m not the horribly abrasive, anti-social guy I was claimed to be.

Thus, with that background exposed, Dear Readers, to paint a picture of my mindset and the status of my heart (at times) here in this city, in a foreign country far from home, one minuscule-on-the-surface gesture recently stood out as one of the most powerfully supportive moments I’ve witnessed, hitherto.

After dropping my kids one night, after a damn splendid weekend with them, once again, I wandered a bit after getting a bite to eat. On every second and fourth weekend, each month, the hours after I say goodbye to my children for another two to three weeks are never good ones. Loneliness hits me hard.

I go instantly from a daddy role with two children to a man with less of an overall sense of purpose in life, having spent the previous 36-or-so hours protecting them, educating them, entertaining them–and reaping the benefits of fatherhood and the natural bond we share. My main purpose after saying goodbyes, besides my career, is to stay around until the next time I see them. But the presence of love is instantly gone, at least the tangible love of being with them.

Aiming to walk to and in a park a few blocks from the restaurant where I’d been, I was also contemplating going to enjoy one beverage at either of the two establishments in the vicinity. When I reached the corner of an intersection across from the park, I was a bit startled to see a Canadian dude I’d known before, whom I’d not seen in ages. Admittedly, it dawned on me that perhaps he’d have something to say–if the source’s accusations had some truth. I was probably on guard a bit.

When he saw me, he finished packing his helmet in his scooter seat, and walked up, pulling me into a bro hug, patting me on the back enthusiastically, asking how I’d been.

That man wouldn’t know it, and he still didn’t know it after just a few-minute chat, standing face-to-face on the sidewalk, for I surely didn’t say it, but his ephemeral embrace was just what I needed at that moment.

If I had a Bud Light to open, I’d say, “Today, I salute you, Mr Bro Hug Giver!” and then crack a cool one to share.  It was greatly appreciated.

Perhaps one day I’ll buy that beer for him to say thank you. That’s if I can risk going out and being bombarded with more nonsense by others who’ve heard the wrong things.  Or, luckily, hopefully, there’s another supportive friend out there who hasn’t turned his/her back, willing to share just one more hug.




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