(a short story)

So last night I watch this movie, “Into The Wild”, about this young guy who leaves everything behind and heads to Alaska. I sit back in my chair and I cry. I was headed in that same direction in 1972.

In those days, I left my dorm room at Moody Bible Institute one night and walked home. I just kept walking. I walked fifteen miles. I walked from the Des Plaines EL station to Addison, fifteen miles. My mother cried that night. The school called my father. He called his friends. I show up at the house at 10:30 pm. I hugged my mother and I went to bed.

So the next day, my father makes me scrambled eggs and then he drives me back to Moody. I talk to twenty people. I talk to the men’s assistant dean of students and he tells me that men have cycles like women do. I listen but my head is in Alaska. He asks me if I want a new roommate. I say, “Yes. I don’t want to room with someone named Tim.” I tell him that my first year roommate was Tim from Indianapolis. My second year roommate was Tim from Pennsylvania. The school gives me a new roommate. His name is Steve. We become good friends, in fact, great friends. One Friday night, in my dorm room, I get a call from the men’s assistant dean of students. He tells me that Steve was killed in a car accident on the way to his wedding rehearsal. He fell asleep behind the wheel of his car driving in Kansas. I stay at school to finish the semester and then I leave and I don’t come back.

Three months later my dad comes in my room and wakes me up. He says, “You gotta get up. You can’t sleep anymore. You gotta work. You gotta find a job.” So I get dressed, eat scrambled eggs and I walk to the industrial section of Addison. In the industrial park I look for signs in the front yards of factories. “Help Wanted. Machine Operator” the sign says. I apply.

Inside the factory a man tells me my job. “Take the plastic pieces that come out of here and then grind them over here.” So I take the plastic pieces and I grind them but my head is in Alaska. I walk away from the job during my coffee break. The man calls my dad and he tells him that I walked away. I go look for another job.

At another factory a man hires me. He tells me that I will operate a plastic extruder on the second shift. I say “OK” and I show up that night. Someone shows me the end of the extruder. There are strands of hot plastic coming out of the extruder’s die. The strands are pulled under water to cool and then a blower dries them off. Then, the strands are chopped into pellets. The man tells me to keep my hands out of the pelletizer. I remember this. My job is to keep the extruder hopper full of regrind, keep the plastic strands in their path and empty the pellets into a box. I do this until the third shift guy appears. He is a tall, lanky black man in a jumpsuit. He is carrying a Yankee Doodle Dandy Hamburger in his hand.

I process plastic for the next six years. I also get married to someone I meet at church. We have two sons. I tell my bride-to-be that I want to live in Alaska. I tell her that I have collected maps and books about how to live in the wild. She tells her mother. Her mother tells her that I am crazy. Her mother wants her grandchildren to be close. We divorce after five years and two sons.  Alaska is on hold until the majority age of minor children.

So I work and I work and I work. I become a designer of plastic machines. I become director of engineering. I become a partner in a manufacturing company and I get married again. I tell my bride-to-be that I want to go to Alaska. She tells her mother. Her mother says that I am crazy. Her mother wants her grandchildren to be close. So, I work and I work and I work. I work night and day as a partner. I make a six figure income. I get a Suburban. I get a company credit card. I have twenty-five people working under me. I work so much that when my wife takes the Suburban on camping trips with the kids she says that she doesn’t know if she wants to come back. I went to work and I came home to an empty house. When she was home and I was home, my wife and I would fight. The way I figured it, she wanted more of what my well-paying job offered her but she wouldn’t stand me at the same time. I worked and worked and I worked until one day I told my partners that I wanted to quit.

So, I left the company I helped to start fourteen years before. I left the partnership and the perks behind. I came home and looked in the paper in the help wanted section. I looked and I looked and I looked but there was nothing. I refinanced our home to pay the bills. After three months my wife tells me, “I want a separation.” I cry.

So, we go to marriage counselors. First we go to a male counselor and then we go to a female counselor and then we go to a male counselor. My wife is convinced that I have something on my mind, that I don’t love her. I don’t mention Alaska. After some counseling, we agree to live to together again. My wife says, “I’ll see how you do.”

So I find a job and I go to work. This time I build electrical control panels. I work and I work and I work but the money is not the same as the partnership money. One day the manager takes me in his office and tells me, “Things are slow. We are downsizing. We are closing this branch. We don’t have any openings in our home office in Janesville, Wisconsin.” I say, “Oh.” I call my wife and we meet at a restaurant because I want to tell her in person what happened. I drink two gin and tonics while I am waiting for her to show up. I look out the window and see her pull up in our rusty family van. She comes in and sees me drinking and she wonders what’s up and I tell her. She asks me what I am going to do and I tell her, “I will look for work.”

So I look in the Help Wanted Ads in the newspaper. No jobs. I file for unemployment. Three months later my wife says she wants a separation. I say, “No.” She says, “Get out or I will force you out.” I leave. I go to a hotel. I get a room and call my kids.

So that night I watch this movie, “Into The Wild”, about this young guy who leaves behind everything and heads to Alaska. I sit back in my hotel chair and I cry. I was headed in that same direction in 1972.

© Sally Paradise, 2010, All Rights Reserved


Hard Sun – Eddie Vedder

The Boy in the Tent

Last night I found myself in a van, my ex driving us to a familiar campground in the next state.  We wanted to get there as fast as we could.  We urgently wanted to get to our seven year-old son.

 We drove through the darkness panting and leaning forward in our seats. Just before sunrise we entered the campground.  We drove over to the campsite where we had camped many times before. There in the middle of a grassy opening surrounded by oak trees was a lone pup tent.

 I jumped out of the van and ran over to the tent. Down on my knees I lifted the tent flap and looked into the dimly lit tent.  My son was sitting in the middle of the otherwise empty tent.  He was facing the other way.

 There was nothing in front of him. He sat dead still.

 I crawled over to him.  As I did so he turned his head to look at me. He then got up, jumped into my arms and hugged me tightly.

 After a while we released our hug and I put him down.  He returned to sit in the same place in the tent. He sat down facing away from me.

 I went out of the tent.  My ex had been yelling from the car that we had to leave.

 I called back to my son and told him that we were going, that he must come along. There was no reply.


 I opened my eyes and winced them shut again.  The pit of my stomach felt as if it had been carved out of me while I slept.  When the silent sobbing began I tried to cover the wound.

© Sally Paradise, 2011, All Rights Reserved

Heaven’s Home

At 3:38 am this morning I awoke melancholy from a very sad dream. Without giving you the details, the dream replayed my grief and loss from a divorce, especially the fact that my children and my family are no longer with me everyday. As I write this I am still reeling from the effect of this dream.

The end of this dream is mystifying, as dreams tend to be. I saw myself enter a business meeting with a woman friend of mine. We both sat down at a conference table across from our clients. I whispered to my friend that I wanted to borrow her engagement ring for the meeting. She handed me her diamond under the table and I put it on my ring finger. Then I awoke almost crying.


If you have ever seen Terrence Malik’s movie Days Of Heaven and the scene of the singular house on the hill then you may have some idea of what I am about to describe.

Since childhood, my recurrent dream of heaven is a specific image: I see a small one room cottage sitting on the crest of a rolling hill. It is almost midday. Effusive 11:00 o’clock sunshine gilds the opulent scene. The light infuses everything including me. I am of it.

The cottage stands alone, nested in a bright sea of yellow flowers. I see the flowers move in waves as cool breezes wash my face with the freshest of air. The sun warms my cheeks. I face home. I know that this is my forever home. “Delight” is the only earthly word I can affix to my emotions.

The dream always has me looking at the cottage from a short distance. I have never been inside but I always sense that I will love living there. And though I am alone in the dream I do not feel alone. Rather, I know that Jesus comes to my home. My family comes and my parents come and those who have died come to this place. They are all bathed in the same golden light in this never-ending day.

There are imaginings of sumptuous feasts, of raucous laughter, of child’s play and of a complete collapse into the arms of the One Who’s hands are forever scarred.

What has been lost has now been regained seven-fold. Heaven.

D is for Divorce













































© Sally Paradise, 2011, All Rights Reserved

Divorce and PAS

Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)

Over Easy, Please

eggs over easy

Father Henry and his wife Margaret were already seated in the restaurant when Daniel arrived. Daniel had been futzing about at home looking for his reading glasses. He had wanted to read a newspaper article about claustrophobia when he realized that he was late for his weekly lunch with the rector and his wife.

As Daniel came in the restaurant door, Father Henry looked up at him from the table and caught Daniel glancing at the newspaper. Father Henry was reading the same article that he was trying to read at home: Claustrophobia, Uncovering Your Fears. The title of the article had caught Daniel’s eye and apparently Father Henry’s. Margaret moved across the table to sit with her husband and Daniel sat across facing them both.

“Hi, how are you Father Henry and Margaret?”

“We’re fine Daniel. How are things?” Father Henry spoke, looking at his wife Margaret.

“Except for some claustrophobia, I guess I am doing alright.” Daniel smiled with a nod to the newspaper lying open on the table.

“Hah, I see. Well, good. How about some coffee? Here comes the waitress.”

Daniel ordered some eggs over easy and some coffee. Father Henry ordered some French toast, two plates and two orange juices.

“The last time we had gotten together, Daniel, you had mentioned that you had a close friend at your previous church.” Father Henry spoke from behind a raised coffee cup.

“Yeah, Allan and I were close friends. I spent time with him and two other guys in a prayer cell group. This was before the divorce. We met at least once a month to talk and pray. Later, after the divorce, I would also bring my two kids over to his house and spend time with him and his wife. I often ate dinner with them. We both had kids the same age. The kids got along really well.”

“What was the prayer cell group like? Did you enjoy that?”

“It was alright, I guess. The prayer cells groups were started in order to bring together the people who ministered in the church. The cell group was to be a place of accountability and fellowship. Before that group ever met, I often met with Allan for breakfast to talk about work and to pray before going to work.

“Were you ministering in that church then?”

“Yes, I was a Sunday School teacher for grade school kids and I played in the worship band. I play the trumpet.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Music and my trumpet have been in life since I was a kid. Music has often helped me cope with a lot of life’s madness. I enjoy playing the horn in the worship service. It’s very Biblical you know?” Daniel smiled.

“Were the other guys in the ministry at that church?”

“Ah, yeah, two of them were in the music ministry, as well. My close friend, Allan, was a working priest. He wasn’t a full time priest at the church. He had a full time job.

“How did it go with those guys?”

“I met with them as often as I could for the prayer cell meetings. I had a full time job. I was a partner in a company which I helped to start. I was the VP of Engineering. This meant that any equipment issues – we were a manufacturing company – this meant that if a customer called up with a problem the call was always forwarded to me. I worked a ton of hours and was out of town a lot. When I was at home I wanted to stay at home. The job took a lot out of me.”

“Yeah, something like that would. I am called on at all hours of the night in my position.” Father Henry looked at Margaret.

“I would go to church on Sunday and then I would want to come home and stay at home for the balance of the day. My ex, who was at home all week, wanted to go out and be with our church friends all day Sunday. I would tell her that I was exhausted and that I just needed some rest. I often worked 60-70 hours a week besides taking care of the house, the kids and the rest. When she heard me say that I wanted to be at home on Sunday afternoon she would tell our friends that I wasn’t coming. She told our children, I later found out, that I was being unsociable. My own kids would later say this back to me. I was upset by such a characterization by my wife.”

Did the guys in your cell group talk about their jobs and their marriages?”

“Yeah, my friend Allan and I usually talked the most intimately about our lives and marriages. The other two guys would talk about somebody being sick at their office. That’s what they would pray about, too.”

The waitress brought the meals and poured some coffee in Daniel’s cup. Father Henry gave thanks for the meal.

“So you shared your life with these guys?” Margaret asked.

“I shared with them about my job and about my two business partners. I talked about the work I did and the frustrations of my job. I also talked about my marriage and about how my wife always wanted me to go to counseling. She constantly pushed for a separation. She would say that I was the cause of our marriage’s problems.  She, in turn, wouldn’t accept responsibility for her part in the marriage’s problems. I would go to counseling by myself and nothing would change because the issues she had with me were inside of her and she wasn’t willing to go there. Her past was present in our marriage but she couldn’t see it. My issues were being talked about constantly. I talked about my own unresolved anger and my projection onto her. I learned to stop doing this and to look at the source of my own anger, which usually came from out of my past. I learned that I must face my own anger and my past and to speak out about my real needs. I felt that I couldn’t share with her my needs or who I was and this made me angry. I often felt alone in the marriage, too. I did learn that I should know who I am, that I should know why I am angry, that I should speak about my needs to my spouse and then don’t expect her to meet those needs. If my needs were met by her then, of course, that would be great but I couldn’t demand such a thing from her. I learned to live in the tension of not having my needs met and of not becoming angry and not being escapist with pornography. I put that out of my life. I wanted to be real and be in a real relationship with someone for the first time in my life. But, it was actually at this point when I started to become ‘real’ and honest within that I started to say “No, its not true.” to her angry projections put onto me.  It was then that she became more determined to divorce. We were in two different places and she wouldn’t let me get near her, even though I had tried many times. I understood it later that her perfectionism, born out of her troubled past, kept her from responding to me. She wanted things to be perfect, for our marriage to lived out perfectly with no remembrance of her past troubles.  She denied having any issues at all.  And,  she wanted something that even she could not put her finger on and of course I couldn’t meet that undetermined need.  This was an impossible situation, so things remained unresolved.”

“That must have been frustrating.” Father Henry spoke looking into his coffee.

“It was extremely frustrating. And, I found out via the guys in the prayer group that my wife was saying negative things to their wives about me. They wanted me to share my “stuff” with them in our get-togethers. I felt betrayed by everyone involved. I later decided to stop going to the prayer cell group. I wasn’t going to become the focus of the prayer cell because of my wife’s projection onto me and because two of the guys in the group didn’t share anything of substance at all. I was also working so much that I needed as many breaks as I could get.”

“What happened then, with your wife?” Margaret asked.

“We separated and eventually divorced. We had gone to marriage counseling for a while but never once were her “issues” with me ever discussed, examined or understood. Never. The counselor and I, neither of us, knew what issue she had with me other than her saying, “I don’t think he loves me.” We did know that she wanted to end the marriage and it appeared that I was going to be the scapegoat for her decision. Again, as I found out later, she had talked to our close friends at the church, the rector and her family and she had made me look bad before them. I was being set up for the divorce.”

“What about your close friend, Allan? Did he see what was going on?” Father Henry queried.

“Yeah, I think so. He said he wouldn’t take sides. I was the one in the group who talked openly about things in my marriage so it would seem to the guys in the group, I think, that I was the one who was the problem in the marriage. I did not want the marriage to end and I had made that clear. I wanted to reconcile with her and she couldn’t bring herself to that place. Her own troubled past was too much in the present and I became the object of her unresolved anger. She couldn’t see that this was happening.”

“Did you and Allan get together after you and your wife were separated?”

“Yeah, we still hung out but it was more awkward because I was now single. I brought my kids over to his house, as I mentioned earlier. He and his wife, Joan, had seven kids. Two of their kids were my kid’s age, so they got along great. I enjoyed that friendship but I was hurting a lot from the destruction of our marriage. I didn’t know how I could even share it with anyone. Allan would talk even handedly like all the other counselors and say both people are to responsible in a marriage breakup and I knew this not to be true. I knew these words were just a gobbledygook response of impartiality on the part of the people saying this. If one person in a marriage wants a divorce than what can you do? Vows no longer matter to people like that. They are going to divorce and then relive their unresolved anger out with someone new.”

“I would agree with you, on this.” Father Henry again looked at Margaret.

Margaret asked, “Did Allan’s wife say anything to you about your marriage situation?”

“I felt a cold shoulder from her, like I was the problem in the marriage, like I was too stupid to know better or to change. This may not be true and it may only be my projection onto her but that is how I felt around her.”

Margaret spoke, “Maybe she felt in an odd place and she wasn’t sure of the whole truth.”

“I think you are right.” Daniel responded. “I was very sensitive at this time to any criticism. I knew that I was talking honestly to several people about myself and about my marriage during this time and I felt very vulnerable in doing so. I felt completely alone and isolated. My ex was making me out to be a pariah to my kids and to my friends at church and everyone, it seemed, was going along for the ride. Elise seemed so honest and sincere – this sweet girl from Iowa. I knew her differently, though, but I didn’t talk about her to my friends or to my kids. I just said that we were having problems at home and we were trying to find answers.”

“What happened with the kids? Who got custody?” Margaret asked.

“My ex finally got custody of our two children. I, of course, had to hire an attorney for the divorce and pay thousands of dollars defending myself. Elise knew that I had paid 28% of my income to a previous wife for my two older children for sixteen years. Elise hated the fact that I gave money to another woman for my two older sons. She wanted the money for her own purposes. She gave me grief over it every day. In fact, it became her new battle cry during the last two years of our marriage: “I can take your kids, I can take 28% of your income and I can make you pay!” “I wasn’t sure what I was going to pay for but she made it clear with her threats that I should toe her line. This situation was untenable for any marriage.”

“Wow, that became an impossible situation for you.”

“Imagine trying to run a business as a VP of Engineering and having to go out of town to represent your company. Imagine the weight placed on me trying to hold everything to together at work and at home and then being blamed for not doing enough by my wife to make her happy. Imagine.” Daniel looked down. “The real hard thing is that now I only see my own kids every other weekend. They are no longer the same happy kids. They are decidedly different. They are easily angered. They are no longer respectful to me or to each other or of anyone, for that matter. They have learned from their mother that they can choose who they want to obey. They no longer follow the Lord because Elise no longer follows the Lord. She abandoned her church and her church friends and they abandoned her. Elise tells the kids what to think about me. I get their attitude all the time when I see them. This is sad for me. Elise now lives with some guy she met at a bar. I love my kids and they have been hurt tremendously by Elise and the divorce industry. I have been almost destroyed by all of this, as well. My parents tell me that some day my kids will know better about all of this. I don’t know. I think they will be forever scarred. God help them.”

“Daniel, we will keep you in our prayers. The Lord knows your heart for your kids and towards Elise. He will make all things right for them and for you.” Father Henry ended our meal with a prayer:

“Father, let Your love surround these children, Elise and Daniel. Restore to them the joy of their salvation. Protect these children from the Evil One who desires to use this situation for His own purposes. Keep them in Your love. Give Daniel what he needs right now. We thank you for the courage he has shown in facing these issues. Grant him Your peace. I ask these things in the name of Jesus, Amen.”

© Sally Paradise, 2010, All Rights Reserved



“I can take your kids, I can twenty-eight percent of your income and I can make you pay.” With these words, Evelyn unloaded her pistol of anger and resentment into her husband as often as she could. These projections of malice and bitterness were focused on Daniel for most of their fourteen year marriage. The marriage ended with the death of their marriage. Daniel narrowly escaped the death of despair brought on by caring.

It was three years into the marriage when Daniel found out about Evelyn’s past. Before the marriage he didn’t think there was anything else to know. He found out that things were not as they presented themselves. First of all, Evelyn did not come across as angry. She appeared happy and confident. She was outgoing and friendly to a degree. She felt inadequate around others she deemed smarter than herself and she would often say so. She talked about growing up in a small town, but she didn’t fill in the details until three years later. The wounds of the past were under the surface of a simple veneer of introversion. She liked to be taken care of and Daniel obliged her willingly.

In the third year, Evelyn told Daniel about her small town life during high school: Evelyn’s mother had committed adultery right before her sixteen year old eyes. Her mother was making out with her lover right in their small town family kitchen. Her mother subsequently denied any involvement with the man and then went on to divorce Evelyn’s father and to marry her lover.

During those same years, Evelyn became involved with a seminary student. She went to his room and closed the door behind her. She lay on his bed and then she told Daniel that she was raped by the student. Before she knew it she was pregnant. A male high school friend helped pay for an abortion. Evelyn told Daniel that her parents never knew found out what had happened. She wanted it that way.

Evelyn went on to tell Daniel about her life after leaving high school. Evelyn moved to college and then left college after a year. She moved out west and lived with someone for a time. She had another abortion. She moved to the south and lived with someone for time. They had a child together. She and her boyfriend sold drugs from their house. They took drugs together. Evelyn told Daniel that she worked as a call girl for a time with her friend Rosa. Rosa was a madam. When her boyfriend had overdosed once too many times Evelyn left him and moved to Chicago. She moved to the Lincoln Park area and cut her hair short. A year later she met Daniel. This is what Evelyn told Daniel that third year: “Those things are behind me.”, but Daniel wondered how far behind they were. He wondered about biting dogs at his heels.

Now, Evelyn loved wine and margaritas. She drank wine at home and then she would drink Margaritas at the Mexican restaurant. She wanted to go there often. On more than one occasion, after she drank three gold Margaritas, she would become mouthy, belligerent and verbally abusive to Daniel. Daniel decided that he was not going out to eat anymore. He began to bring food home.

Evelyn took often the kids to her mother’s house after several of these drinking bouts. Evelyn was angry with Daniel about some unknown fault or quirk or some vast deficiency: “You don’t love me.”; “I don’t feel loved.”; the kids weren’t “handled”; the dishes weren’t done or Daniel spent too much time in the kitchen; Daniel didn’t think ahead that Evelyn would be needing a bottle of wine, a “good” movie and the kids put to bed, again. It didn’t matter. Her marriage and her husband were not the perfection and panacea she demanded. Daniel was told by Evelyn that he was supposed to know what she needed before she said anything. “This is what a man does, Daniel. You’re not a man.” Her husband was not taking her pain away. She thought that alcohol and being with her mother would. So she would take the kids to her mother’s house after these evening drinking sessions and stay overnight.

Daniel felt that he was held hostage in his own marriage. Evelyn would threaten to take the children to her mother’s house if something wasn’t done to appease her before she even had an issue too complain about. The situation was unlivable for Daniel but he didn’t want to break his marriage vows and wander off to seek peace. He was committed to the marriage but he felt his hands were tied by the invisible bonds of her past.

After much marriage counseling and endless self reflection Daniel realized that he did everything he possibly could in seeking to remedy the marriage and to pacify the rage which quelled in Evelyn’s heart. There was nothing more that he could do. He wanted the painful spasms of fighting to end. He didn’t want to fight with her. At every turn, though, she found something wrong with him. Her perfectionism had become an obsession of finding the missing ingredient. She wanted a perfect man to fix her imperfect world. The children, and Evelyn‘s mother, would learn how imperfect Daniel was from Evelyn.

Daniel wished that he could surgically remove the growing cancer of hatred and disdain that Evelyn had retained in heart over the years. He understood then that a woman could hold a grudge forever if she wanted to. She could not forgive, she would not forget. Evelyn would not let go of her anger because it became too familiar to her. It became a cherished locket of fury hanging from her neck, always with her, but hidden beneath the surface. It was the locket of fury that replaced the wedding ring on her hand. Five months after demanding a second separation she took off her wedding ring and began to date other men.

Daniel, during the two years of separation leading up to a divorce, found one day that depression had cornered him in his small one bedroom apartment. He had been taking an antidepressant prescribed by the marriage clinic. After a year of taking the pills, Daniel found that the pills made him feel complacent. He felt that things were slipping away from him. He didn’t care about work and he soon didn’t care about the marriage falling apart. He decided to stop taking the pills. Within a matter of three weeks a deep depression encircled him. Daniel sat crying at his desk at work. He felt the jagged edge of every painful chasm in his soul. He didn’t know what to do but he knew that he wanted to get far away from everything and find a place of healing. He called his doctor.

The psychiatrist at the marriage clinic asked Daniel what he wanted and Daniel said, “I want to get away from everything right now.”

“Do you want to sign yourself in to the hospital?”

“Yes”, Daniel answered, thinking of an enormous Garden of Eden which would usurp the enormous load of grief in his heart with its heavenly serenity.

That night Daniel signed himself into the Hospital. After filling out the pile of papers required by the hospital Daniel was given a different antidepressant and a sleeping pill and then sent to bed. His room was shared with someone already asleep, snoring in his bed. Daniel went over to the window bed and lay down on the slab covered with blankets. No sleep came until the early morning.

That was Friday night. On Saturday, Daniel was given a cold hospital breakfast and a little cup with pills. There was no change of clothes only open hospital gowns and elastic slippers. The other patients sat around a little table eating some parts of their breakfast. Each of them was nervous to make eye contact with anyone else. There were some patients who were definitely around the bend. Conversation with them didn’t matter. Daniel sat down that first morning and ate silently. He just stared at the TV hung from the ceiling. A game show was on. Daniel knew that his expectations were not in line with the reality he was seeing. He wanted to leave immediately. It would take a week before he could go home to his one bedroom apartment.

During the morning smoke break that first hospital morning, outside in the cordoned garden area, it was whispered that someone had hung themselves in their room the week before. Mostly, though, the patients shared cigarettes and talked about what they would do when they got out. Some said they would quit smoking. A small cantankerous Chinese woman told Daniel that she didn’t know when she could get out but when she did she would open her own business in her house after she kicked out her boyfriend. He had called the police on her and they put her in the hospital. She was a manic-depressive, she told Daniel, and she hadn’t taken her pills for a week.

Phone calls from the hospital were limited to one phone in the hallway. It could only be used from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm till 8:00pm. Daniel called his office during the day and told them that he was in need of a short vacation and it had something to do with his marriage breaking up. He wanted to keep his job. The cost of the separation, the cost of two separate homes; the cost of his imperfection was becoming monstrous before his eyes. This financial situation didn’t seem to bother Evelyn, who was waiting for the free ride the court would later give her, except for the fact of her unpaid cell phone bill:


“Hello, where are you?”

“I am in the hospital for some rest. I’ve been having a hard time with things lately. I stopped taking the medication I told you about. I’ll be here until the end of the week. The doctor wants to see if a new medication works before I leave. I want to talk to kids before I get off the phone. I don’t want them to worry about me.”

“Daniel, you need to take the kids this coming weekend. I’m gonna be gone. And, how is my cell phone bill gonna get paid if your in there?”

“I’ll be here until the end of the week. I’ll pick up the kids. I’ll pay it then.”

“No, no, no. I don’t want it to be late. They will charge late fees.”

“Write them a check.”

“I don’t want to write a check. I have enough going on here. You’re in charge of the finances.”

“I’ll be here until the end of the week. I’ll pay it then.”

“You better. Here’s the kids. You have to pick them up. I’m going to Las Vegas this next weekend.”

Daniel spent the week, until that next Friday which was Good Friday, in the hospital and then he was released. He drove to his apartment, changed his clothes and picked up his kids at the house and took them out for pizza that night. He didn’t forget to pay the phone bill. He paid it late and felt a relief, a withdrawal. His life had been returned to him in the few days he spent in the boxy little room along the boxy corridor of the unyielding hospital floor plan. He would never again let someone break him down as he had let Evelyn. He knew that he loved her. He knew that he wanted the marriage to work and to become more than the sum of its factors. But, he also knew now that he had to chart his own life apart from the unyielding demand for perfection coming from someone’s ruthless past.

In the end, Evelyn won the kids over with her begrudging ways. She had sufficiently belittled their father in their eyes. She told an unwary family law court, her family and her friends that the children’s father was not mentally stable. She gained sole custody. She then received twenty-eight percent of Daniel’s income. With the arrogant flippancy and unbridled urgency of a newborn teenager she took the children and they moved in with a single man who will never hear the portentous ‘third-year’ story retold. In these ways and with a thousand well-aimed shots of disapproval into her husband’s heart she made sure that Daniel paid for the infinite losses of her past. Someone had to pay for this she reckoned. It wasn’t going to be Evelyn. She now believes that she has settled her past accounts.

© Sally Paradise, 2010, All Rights Reserved

Fifty Minutes



The clinic’s lobby ebbed and flowed of people.  A mother and her son came in one door.  A teenage girl came out another door and left through the door the mother and son came through.  A therapist stuck his head out of another door and looked around the room.  He saw his next client and said “Hi, come on in.”  A man, his wife and their son followed the therapist through the door.  A woman came in the front door and proceeded over to the glass window to check in with the half-door receptionist.  This flow of traffic continued for thirty five minutes while I read a year-old garden magazine.  I was waiting for my therapist to stick her head out of a door and say “Hi, come on in.”  I was paying her to open the door, stick her head out and say “Hi, come on in.”  She would listen to me.  I paid her good money.  Everyone else I talked to, those I didn’t pay, would just shrug their shoulders and go about their business.  My life had come to this: paying someone to listen to me.  I, of course, didn’t know for sure if they were listening, but at least the door was closed and they faced me while I talked.  They sometimes nodded, too.  They looked like they were listening, anyway. “You get out of it what you put in it.” is what they told me when I began counseling at Hope Well Clinic.

 The door opened and Melody stuck her blond head out the door.  She saw me, smiled and said, “Hi, Denny, come on in.”  I replaced the garden magazine back on the small table between two doors.  I followed Melody and went through the door that separated the outside world from the ’inside’ world.  On the other side of the door was a long hallway with many closed doors.  I knew what was going on behind those doors:   The mysteries of life being sorted into sanity, into something someone could use, something for people to get handle on.  I followed her down the hallway past the closed door sanctuaries and entered her small corner office.  Melody was new to the clinic so she didn’t have a window, just a reproduction of a Kandinsky, Composition X, I believe, hanging on a four foot wide egg shell painted wall.  A floor lamp hung its one light over a love seat. A lava lamp on a small table in front of the Kandinsky provided a pink glow to Melody’s right cheek. I sat down on the left side of the love seat and nestled a burgundy pillow behind the small of my back.  I leaned back into the shadow cast by the lamp and rested my head on my hand.

 Melody is a five-foot-two gorgeous blond with a petite figure that appeared to bubble out from her effervescence.  Her clothes were fashionable, maybe from Saks or Von Maur or Nordstroms.  Her look spoke volumes.  I appreciated the care she took in her appearance.  She didn’t look clinically challenged at all, just “peachy keen”.  A bevy of natural blond hair framed her oval cherubic face.  She appeared so angelic that it was easy for me to ‘see’ her every two weeks.  The visit with her provided for my own emotional ‘face lift’.

 Melody and I had developed some positive transference during our bi-monthly visits over six months   I was able to talk to her openly about most things and yet at the same time I held back on the one piece of the puzzle that confronted my daily life.  The reason for this resistance was the fact that a previous counselor, Jim, at the same clinic had told me that if I wanted to live as a woman and follow through with the surgery the Clinic, the Christian Clinic, couldn’t help me.   They couldn’t say why they wouldn’t help me only that they wouldn’t.  I was left to assume that they weren’t sure what do with the issue or that they just thought it was sinful or destructive. They couldn’t say why.  I later learned that Jim died from lung cancer.  I found this out when they cancelled my sixteenth session with him. That’s when they turned my case over to Melody, a licensed clinical counselor who had just joined Hope Well Clinic.  During my time at the clinic I saw a psychiatrist, too.  His method of dealing with me was to medicate me and then to take five minutes during the next appointment to ask how I was doing and then charge another $250.00 for another script.  I later decided not to medicate the pain. I decided that the financial pain was worse than the emotional pain of not being able to live as a woman. My impending personal financial recession brought about by his incessant billing was causing me severe emotional depression.  I quickly put a lid on the meds.

 There were reasons to talk to someone:   a 14 year long divorce that started as a marriage to Marybeth; my leaving a successful business partnership in hopes of saving the dissolving marriage; the accidental death of our eighteen year old son during the marriage, the everyday loss of my two children to an angry alcoholic woman because of the divorce; the loss of two significant jobs, long term joblessness and the financial collapse of my life.  A page of scripture verses or a bottle of anti-depressants was not what the doctor should have ordered.  Instead, someone just needed to listen to the pain being cast out of me like a demon from the recipient of the personal holocaust.

 “How are you doing this week, Denny?” Our dialog began with Melody’s opening line.

 “Alright, I guess.  No major tragedies the past two weeks.”


 “Marybeth is being a jerk again.

 “How so?”

“You remember how I told you that always threatened me that she would take my kids, take 28% of my income and make me pay?


 “That is what she is trying to do right now in the divorce agreement.  She wants me to agree to this arrangement and I am saying no.  It is costing me a small fortune to pay a lawyer to fight this.  My own lawyer keeps telling me that I can’t do this and that I can’t do that.”  My own lawyer is pretty useless if you ask me.  My lawyer expects me to just lay down and give Marybeth sole custody and I refuse to do this.  These are my children, as well.  I lived full time with my kids until this… this…this person decided to break up our marriage and our home with her perfectionism and her alcoholic rage.”

 “I thought last time that we agreed that we weren’t going to keep talking about Marybeth.”

 “I have to.  I am so angry at what she has done to our family, to the kids and to me.  Now she is living with some guy who looks like her father.  All of this in front of my two kids.”

 Melody lets me talk about the Marybeth situation but I realize that she has an agenda and is waiting to move on.  She just nods and looks dolefully at me while placing both feet on the floor in front of her rocking chair.  Her feet didn’t touch the floor unless she rocked forward to make a point.

 “I would like to get a different lawyer but I can’t get the retainer money together again.  I am deep in debt because of this whole divorce business.”

 Melody leaned forward.  “Yeah, that is hard.”  “Well, we have to get you through this, past Marybeth.”

 I leaned toward Melody and spoke directly to her large green eyes:  “I don’t understand it when people make vows and then they don’t fulfill them and just walk away from them.  How can you just walk away from a vow?”

 “”It happens every day.”

 “Then it isn’t a vow, is it?” Denny crossed his arms against his chest.

 “It is at the time.”

 “What?!” His threw his arms open into a wide questioning flare.

 “People say things and things change.”

 “What?! “For better or for worse” are the words we said to each other.  “To death do us part.”

 “Things change, people change.” Melody uncrossed her legs and then crossed them the other way.

 “Vows don’t change.”

 “Let’s move on and get past Marybeth.  You have to go on with your life.”

 “My vow to her was my life!”

 “That has changed.”

 What?!” Denny was incredulous.

 “The divorce is going forward and you must get past this and move on with your life.”

 “I can’t get past this.  Vows are serious things.”

 “She is with someone else.  You can’t make her love you.  You have to let go.”

 “I didn’t want the divorce. I wanted reconciliation.  I wanted to work through these things.  She was always pointing her finger at me and she never once took responsibility for our marriage.  That’s why I went to counseling in the first place.  She said that I was the problem. I was supposed to please her and if I didn’t then she said I was the problem – because she wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy but I thought I had a vow to fulfill and that I must keep working at it.  Happiness would just have to wait.”

 “People sometimes need to go away to realize what they left behind.”

 “What?!”  Denny’s face was bright red, flushed with anger.  “Once she sleeps with this other guy, her father, it is over for us.  I don’t want that to happen. We had children together; we have fourteen years of trying. We made vows.”

 “She changed her mind.  I don’t know why.  Let’s move on to talk about you.”

 “This is me!” Denny returned.

 “OK, but she is not going to change.  Let’s talk about what you can change instead.”

 “She and I were one.  How can you change that except by splitting one into two?  Don’t you understand?  We are getting a divorce because she is not happy!  That’s the reason!”

 “I understand.  She has changed for whatever reason.”

 Denny fell back into the glow of the pink lava lamp, his cheeks flushed red against the soft rose light. He knew that Melody’s ‘agenda’ took precedence over anything that he had wanted to say regarding Marybeth.  He had come through the labyrinth of doors, rooms and hallways into her office so that he could talk to her about these things and she had already moved next door.

 “Denny, remember when we first talked and I asked you about the Healing of Memories Prayer?  We talked about what it was and about bringing up the past.  You said that you were open to praying with me this prayer.  Is that still the case?”

 Denny shifted his legs and then leaned forward putting his hands on his knees.  “Yeah, I’m open to that.  I don’t see why not.”

 “Good, well if you are in a good place then we can try it today. I wanted to make sure there is enough time to pray and to work through whatever comes up.”


  … My previous therapist, Susan, was a psychologist.  Her office was in her home in a northwestern suburb of Chicago.  Susan was very friendly and approachable.  So much so, in fact, that she saw me once a week, charged me only $30.00/hour and we talked for two to three hours at a time – costing me only $30.00.  I would not call her a typical therapist but we did enjoy talking with each other.  We talked about everything:  her dog, her son, her friends, her life, church, spirituality, movies and so on.  I didn’t know who was more pixilated:  me or Susan.  After a year or so of sessions with Susan I traveled closer to home, to Hope Well Clinic in Wheaton.  I did that for post-marriage counseling and because I was giving Susan more counseling then she gave me in return.  I later found out that Susan had some serious health issue that resulted from her breast implants leaking silicone.  The silicone had affected her brain.  She became mentally handicapped as time went on.  During one session with Susan the year before I learned that she had dated a plastic surgeon and that he had done her breast implant surgery.  That relationship apparently had deteriorated over time…

 “Why don’t we pray and see what the Lord brings up from the past.  Are you ready to have these things come up?” “Do you feel OK about this?” Melody leaned toward me and folded her hands.

 “I’m not worried about the past. I’ve been there before.  It’s right now that has me bothered.”

 “OK, let’s get started.  Father, we pray for Denny.  We ask that You would bring Denny to a place in the past, a place that You want to heal.”

 We waited in silence.  The room was quiet except for the low hum of the lava lamp.  The hallway was quiet except for the closure of a door somewhere.  I didn’t know what was going on in the lobby.  I was deep in thought and the prayer was reaching even deeper into my soul.  After ten minutes of silence I began to see an image in my mind:  I was standing in the doorway of my bedroom.  The bedroom was in the house I had lived in since I was eight years old.  I understood that the house was empty, no furniture and no people.  I was alone.

 I began to cry softly.  The aching pain of being alone had followed me throughout my life.  A rush of sadness came to my head and poured out into tears which fell from my bowed face. In my vision I stood in the doorway looking into the bedroom.  It had now become pitch black.  I was enveloped in darkness within an empty house looking into an empty room.  It was then that I heard a voice say to me, “Run free.”  I instantly saw a little Indian boy running around without a shirt.  He was happy and utterly free.  He didn’t have a care in the world.  I knew then that the Lord had given me this understanding because this vision was so intimate to my understanding.  This image of this shirtless Indian boy was something I had immediately recognized in my spirit.  I realized that God had set me free from my past and had given me freedom to go forward with my heart’s desires.  Only the Lord knew exactly what was in my heart – the desire I had not mentioned to Melody or to anyone since I told Jim.  The spirit of the little boy now lived in me – the spirit of freedom.  The past no longer pinned me down.  People would no longer be able pin me down with their prejudice and fear.  I was free to go forward with my life.

 Melody asked what I had seen and I told her about the empty and dark bedroom in my childhood home.  She asked me if I had heard anything and I told her, “The Lord said, run free!”  She looked at me quizzically and I kept my thoughts to myself.  She asked if I was OK and all I could say was, “Yeah.”  I knew that if I had told her my understanding of the vision that she would seek to negate my vision and suppress my perception of it because of a Hope Well Clinic policy based on ignorance and bias and, perhaps, fear.  My heart was dancing but my eyes didn’t move from staring at the floor.

 I wiped my face and fell back into the loveseat with a sigh.  I sat in her office with a red face and a growing smile.  I knew that I was loved by the Lord and that I was heard by Him.  I was not alone anymore in my very personal struggle.  The session ended with Melody saying, “Well it’s time.  Let’s get together in two weeks and see how you are doing.”  I went through her door again, down the hallway of doors and into the lobby of many doors where I paid my bill.  I left the clinic and found my car in the parking lot.  I would return just two more times to see Melody.  Everything had a different perspective now.  The Lord had heard me and He had answered my prayers. I had gotten out of it what I had put in it.  And, more.

© Sally Paradise, 2010, All Rights Reserved