During my ex-boyfriend’s honeymoon, I sent him a dozen red roses, along with three singing telegrams, which I had delivered three days in a row. The girl paid to sing to my ex was yelled at by his new wife, who was angry at the constant intrusion of their privacy. Evidently, she was offended that her new mother-in-law kept me informed of their whereabouts.
One year later, I rang the doorbell of a handsome new father, his tired wife, and their screaming infant. When the door opened, my ex groaned, saying, “Yep, my mom doesn’t know when to cut off a friendship. Will you ever leave us alone?”
My eyes misted and my hands started shaking. I thought of his mother getting down on her knees, pleading with God for her son to wake up and choose the right woman for his family. In that moment of looking into my ex’s eyes, our souls connected and we merged like popcorn and melted butter. I thought of my own great-great grandmother, huddling with a screaming child in the hull of a ship as it tossed to and fro in a storm, determined to follow her man to America even though he’d left her. The women in my family are strong and persistent: we don’t take no for an answer.
My ex’s Mom is the same way. After my own mom died, she picked up the pieces and treated me as her own daughter. Both of us love Tom. We know what’s best for him. Neither of us can envision Tom spending his entire lifetime as another woman’s husband, so of course we ask others to befriend him in order to gather information. We keep track of where he is, what he does with his time, and we spend hours in prayer, asking for some higher power to humble him, open his eyes and bring him back to a place where he can see the love he’s lost.
Joan Bauer said it well when she wrote this, “I had taken the photograph from afar (distance being the basic glitch in our relationship), using my Nikon and zoom lens while hiding behind a fake marble pillar. I was hiding because if he knew I’d been secretly photographing him for all these months he would think I was immature, neurotic and obsessive. I’m not. I’m an artist. Artists are always misunderstood.”
I too have been misunderstood, but not because I’m an artist; rather because I’m a loving person who wants those in my life to be happy. I see their self-destructive patterns and I want to break them. I know what will make Tom happy, who is best for his family, and what he needs.
I am not alone in this. There are men all over the country who’d like to disregard their mother’s opinion when it comes to who they should marry. Fortunately, they have ex-girlfriends who know better than to leave them alone. We, as people who truly love them, will not quietly slink away. If life doesn’t treat you well, we’ll help you find a job near us and bring you home cooked meals. If you have a heart attack, we’ll call 911. If your babysitter flakes out, we’ll show up on the doorstep to watch your kids. Because you mean more to us than anything, we’ll be there for you no matter what. That’s our reality, and it’s a reality many people envy. Unless you disown your entire family, you will have phone calls, letters, and home visits from those of us who know best.
A few weeks ago, I met with Tom’s mother. We strategized for half an hour on how to get Tom’s preschool aged daughter to come when I called her. Most parents would be grateful to have others pay attention to their children. Most parents would be grateful to have someone like me to love their son and rescue him from himself. It’s the same kind of thing Jesus did in trying to save each and every soul.
Twice a month I meet with Tom’s parents and go over a “List of Love,” trying to bring him back into my life and into the good favor of his family. We pray, read the Bible, seek the will of God, and come up with new ideas. Plans are made. Everyone contributes. Seeking out and rescuing family members means being committed to an unyielding chase of those in peril, even if they don’t see that they’re in peril.
Never forget that you are loved. Never forget that if you’re an ex-boyfriend of mine, you’ll be taken care of, even if you say, “Leave me alone!” Never forget that there’s no such thing as a “Restraining Order” with me.
Try to remember that we all have loved ones (like Tom) who want their parents to stop interfering in their personal life, who’d rather not deal with singing telegrams, flowers, or visits from old girlfriends. Try to remember that for as long as you’re cared for, you will receive those visits. And gifts. And good advice. We’re not trying to tell you how to live your life, only how to be truly happy. And if you say no, we’ll still come back. Because we know your worth. We know that God wants you to be loved in a way that only we can love you. So, yes, we are unyielding: it’s how we operate.