Monday, September 20, 2010


Oh Joe! This was the relationship that really made me grow up. The one that defined how I looked at men afterward. The one I really never saw coming. The relationship that taught me how to set limits.

In December 2003, my parents went out of town. They'd left for Thanksgiving that year too. I'd spent that Thanksgiving alone. Well, with a good friend and 1 of my sisters. I made us dinner. And we just hung out. My parents were gone. With friends. They were on a trip. And failed to tell me beforehand. I found out the day before Thanksgiving. As I sat in their porch calling them.

Christmas happened the same way that year. And I was feeling bummed about Sancho. Something felt final and over between us. So I worked. My parents were gone. And I was working. Taking any gigs I could get. Freezing in the streets, as we played for different gigs. Yes, at 10PM, you'd find us playing for church events. Walking between the church and various homes. We had so many gigs! Then Joe called. He had some jobs for me. And I took them.

Well, we worked on Christmas Eve. It didn't bother me. I had no plans. And as it turned out, neither did he. So we hung out. And to my surprise, he bought me a Christmas present. Unusual. But it was a nice thought. I felt bad. I hadn't gotten him a thing. Well, besides the cookies, that I gave everyone in the band. So I invited him to dinner the next day.

I figured he'd be with family. I knew he was single. And older than me. But still, he has a big family. So I just thought he'd spend the holiday with him. No, he came over. And I cooked. We spent the holiday together. And for the next few weeks, we worked together. Spent all that time together. When we weren't working, we were hanging out. No pressure. We'd go out to dinner. Or stay in and watch movies. Listen to all kinds of music. Can you see a pattern here? To this point in my life, I'd only ever dated musicians...

Well, I moved back south and start classes in January. Because he worked on the weekends, he'd visit me during the week. And I'd visit him on the weekends. When I could. Because I was also performing during the weekends. And working at the hospital.

We dated. Became more and more serious as the months past. He showered me with gifts. And to be honest, I was uncomfortable of that. But I figured, over time, I'd get used to it. We also traveled. Went on trips together. By Summer 2004, we were serious. Working together a lot. He'd travel with me for work. And I'd travel with him. We worked all over the country. But it was a fun summer. I went to class during the week, and performed on the weekends.

The next year, was filled with fun times. We spent as much time together as we could. We worked together. Joe traveled with me. My performing career was really taking off. We spent so much time together. I was getting used to this lifestyle. We were getting used to the relationship. Spending more and more time together. Having fun. Learning more and more about each other.

My friends would all tell me how lucky I was. And I knew it. This man really loved me. He always had my back. Was doing things for me. Buying me the silliest presents. Like palm trees and paper dolls. And the most expensive. Like jewelry and clothes. We'd travel. See all sorts of new things together. And we just enjoyed each other. Enjoyed sharing dinners. Or just hanging out at home.

Then my nieces needed me. In late July 2005 our lives changed. My nieces really needed me. They needed someone to take care of them. Their mom was diagnosed with cancer. And all of a sudden, I became the sole guardian of 6 little girls. Did I mention? I also had my cousin and a friend living with me. My cousin was dealing with depression, as was my friend. Life was getting complicated!

Joe decided to move in with me. He figured that during the week, he'd help me with the girls. During the weekends, he could still travel for work. So we did that. This was the only time, that I was happy, that he had money. Serious money. Money to help support this crazy household. I had gone from living alone, to barely having a place to sleep in my own home. All of a sudden, my 3 bedroom home felt like a cramped box.

I was also working at the hospital. And at Target. I had shows to perform. Joe was working. He was running a business. During the week, he worked from my house. He's office and workspace, was also our Laundry Room. During the weekends, he was on the road. Life was ridiculously different. We had no room. But we were making it work. :)

Then Hurricane Katrina happened. One of his close friends was missing. That friend's wife and kids were stranded. So Joe went to get them. Along the way, they found his friend. He was seriously injured. And would have to stay in the south. So Joe came back. He also brought these 2 kids. Yes, add 2 more to the bunch. Oh, and Joe's niece. Who was now attending my university too!

So Joe rented the house behind mine. We put in a gate between the 2 houses. The 3 adult women, and my older 2 nieces moved in. But pretty much, they just slept there. Everyone spent time at my house. We'd eat meals together. Kids would play, homework would get done, and TV would be watched. All the little ones stayed in my house. Life was crazy. It was chaotic. Joe would make sure all the kids got to school. And the little ones, he watched. With the help of my cousin.

By November 2005, Joe's friend and wife moved. We helped them get a house, not far from mine. And they took their kids. But we still had 6 kids to take care of! And soon, I had 2 more nieces and 2 nephews that would come and go. Yes, they would spend good amounts of time with us too!

On top of this, we watched Joe's nieces and nephews on the weekends. When we could get home, we'd all go. My nieces would stay with my parents. And Joe and I would stay at his house. 95% of the time, we'd have some of his nieces and nephews. But the real thing that was bugging him, was that his niece and Sancho were dating. And they were serious!

Our relationship was changing. It was more like we were in "Survival Mode." We were parenting together. And every day was about surviving. We spent little to no time together, without the kids. It was just life. And it was busy. We were taking care of everyone. Living in too small of a space. So Joe bought a big house. We bought a big house. On a big piece of properly. More like a farm. Then I got hurt. I hurt my back really bad. And I stopped working at Target. We were in the middle of our move. I was still in school. Still in my internship. But not working. Not really performing. Just surviving.

Joe's niece and Sancho were dating. And when we moved, I let them live in my house. It was closer to the university. My friend and my cousin stayed in the rented house. So life should have calmed down. But it didn't. I was constantly worried about life. About money. About Joe. About my nieces. I never took any of Joe's money. It's a sore subject for me. But I've never felt comfortable taking money from a man. No matter if we were dating, in love, whatever. I let him pay for the girl's school. Because he wanted to do it. And he could afford it. But not much else.

But the girls also got money. Because of their mom. We used that for their food. Seriously, it wasn't a lot. And we'd put some in the bank. But Joe took care of everyone. And I was forcing myself to perform more. Bad back or not, I needed to make money.

By May 2006, we were exhausted! The girls were going to stay with my parents for the summer. And I was going to take classes and perform. I knew, in August, I was moving back home. Because my parents needed help with their growing business. My nieces' mom was doing better. But before she regained custody of the girls, she wanted me to live closer. So I could help her.

So I made all the arrangements. I took 5 big internships, up north. I talked to my professors. And I was going to be able to take all of my classes online. I was set. So when school ended for the girls and they'd gone to my parents, I tried to talk to Joe. I suggested that he should move north at the time. So we could get used to being home. In our hometown. Get ready for the next big adventure.

I was taking classes all summer. But I figured I'd spend all the weekends up north. And he could get back to normal. Have a normal life. No responsibilities. Could devote his time to his business. And in about 8 weeks, we'd be back to living together. It sounded like a good plan. But Joe wasn't on board.

That was the end! We had a horrible fight. A really nasty one. Until then, we'd really never fought. I'm serious. We'd talk things out. We didn't always agree, but we'd talk. Not this day. It got ugly. And I knew, I was done. As I turned around to leave, I was moving back to my own house, he blew it...

We were living in this big house. On a huge piece of property. A working farm. He would sell his crop. A local crop. It wasn't an animal farm. But a farm. The house was huge. The back of the house, had a huge window. The 3 story tall home, had a single huge window in the back. It looked out to the orchards.

And we had this coffee table. With a big bowl on top. That was filled with these HUGE stone balls. He picked one up and threw it. I ducked. And it shattered the glass. Luckily, we were the only ones home. And neither of us got hurt. But the window, was now in a million pieces! I'd never seen Joe mad or upset. Until that day. He'd never laid a hand on me. Never hurt me. But that, it scared the crap out of me!

I left. I didn't tell him where I was going. I just left. I ended up at a friend's house. J's. And I told him what had happened. That I'd never go back. So I stayed with J. Until I knew Joe was home. Up north. I went back to Joe's house, and I packed up all of my stuff. The girls had already moved. And I just made sure that we had all of our stuff.

A few weeks later, I called Joe's sister. Made sure Joe was gone again. And I took my stuff out of his house. The one in our hometown. I didn't take anything that he had given me. Just my stuff. Left all the expensive clothes, shoes, jewelry. Everything. I didn't want things that he had given me. I wrote him a letter and left all his keys. That was the end.

For a couple that traveled, vacationed together, even talked about was over. Joe had already bought "The Ring." We'd talked about kids. We wanted kids together. Heck, for 9 months, we had a family. We took care of so many kids. We were a family. We had bought a home together. Now, we weren't talking.

Soon after, he and an old friend of his decided to have a baby. He wanted kids. He had always wanted kids. Joe is 15 years older than me. It had never been a problem. Until the end. Because beofre that, we'd agreed that I'd finish my BA, then get married. Wait a year or 2, then have kids. Obviously, I wasn't working fast enough.

In the end, I think we were in different places in our lives. He was ready to settle down and have a family. I was still consumed in school and a career. Also, the stresses of taking care of his family and mine, it didn't lead to a good place. About a year after our horrible fight, Joe welcomed a son into the world.

We hadn't talked. Literally, that fight was the end for me. He'd call. I didn't want to talk. He'd text me. He'd show up at my house. I never opened the door. I just wasn't ready to talk. I didn't care how sorry he was. I refused to be in a relationship like that. I knew he was upset. About the way things ended. But I couldn't deal with it.

When his son was about 6 months old, he called me. It was the only time we've talked, since our breakup. He was stressed out. He had an infant son. A son that he had wanted. One that he had planned. His friend would have his baby, then give Joe the baby. All the responsibilities. He's be the only parent. At that point, Joe was overwhelmed. He was sorry for what he did. I wanted us to be together again. He wanted a family. He needed help with his son.

I couldn't do it. Joe is the only man, that I've ever dated, that I have not remained friends with. We don't talk. I occasionally will see him. While I'm performing. Or something like that. But we don't talk. His family, they never got an explanation from me. And I felt bad about that. I did get to talk to his mom and sister. His niece and I are friends. And occasionally, the 4 of us will meet for lunch.

But this was the relationship that changed a lot for me. I grew up so much. We dated for almost 2 1/2 years. We had made so many plans. Literally, in the last few months of our relationship, we'd begun planning our wedding. I figured, I'd take the easier option of my major. I'd have about 18 months left of school. Then we'd get married.

We had talked things out. I'd stay home. I'd be that housewife and stay at home mommy. He worked from home anyway. During the week. And on the weekends, he'd continue to perform. I'd occasionally do shows. We'd have 3 or 4 kids. We had it all planned out.

But the one thing, that never mattered to us, age, became the thing that was too big to ignore. We had bottled up all of our emotions. For months. Because we had been "surviving." And when they finally had all come flying out, it was horrible. On that horrible day, there was no turning back. And honestly, I would not change a thing that happened. It made me grow. Grow into a better person.

I'm now a stronger woman. Someone that knows exactly how much I'm really willing to sacrifice for love. I know that I'll never lose myself in a relationship again. I'd never allow violence to be in my life. And I'd never in my lifetime, be that scared again. ♥

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