My friends, today I am going to share something with you that you don't know about me.
I think that I may have mentioned, sometime in the slightly more than a year since I started this blog, that my marriage to Mrs. Gunfighter isn't my first marriage. Your pal Gunfighter went down the marital aisle once before.
My first marriage was a dreadful mistake, a mistake borne of youthful exuberance, stupidity, and a quixotic desire to "rescue" someone from a life that I thought wasn't good enough.
I wasn't quite twenty three, in May of 1986. I was a Marine, newly stationed in Washington, DC, and had seen a lot of the world. By this time in my life I had been in quite a few countries (most of western Europe, East Germany, parts of Africa and the Middle east and other places) and reckoned myself ready to settle down.
I was naive, and thought that the country girl (OK, hillbilly girl) that I had met in a Georgetown bar in the summer of 1987 was just right for me. She was pleasant, nice, and blah blah blah.... and six or so months later, we were living together and speaking of marriage.
We were married in June of 1988, and started our life together. Naturally, the first six months were fine and full of fun... which is when I got orders to go back to Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. I was going back to the Fleet Marine Force, 2nd Marine Division... and I had just found out that I was going to be a father. Yup, that's right.
I reported to Camp LeJeune, and was assigned to Weapons Company, first battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and spent the next several months getting back into the groove of being a squad leader in a heavy machine gun infantry platoon. At home in Maryland (where she stayed because of her job, and because I was due to get out of the Corps in Dec of 1989), Jennifer awaited the birth of our child.
I was just coming in from the field, having spent the previous few nights sleeping on the ground in the coastal Carolina sand and scrub, when I got the call from the battalion staff duty NCO, who informed me of the birth of my daughter, Crystal, that morning... August 5th, 1989!
I was instantly placed on leave, and loaded my car and drove away from the base at an unhealthy speed. I made great time to Andrews Air Force Base, which was less than ten miles from our apartment. I saw my baby and was done in. She was perfect.
Once I finished a lengthy leave, I went back to Camp LeJeuene, and returned to Maryland every weekend to play happy family, although things were starting to come unglued already.
I left the Marine Corps in December of 1989 and started my first government job in February of 1990.
I'll spare you the ugly details, but my marriage fell apart by Christmas of 1990.
In the intervening couple of years, I met, courted, and married Mrs Gunfighter. After a time of trying (and failing) to have at least an amicable-because-we-have-a-child relationship with Jennifer, she found a man that she wanted to be with. They were married, and by the time Crystal is that age that soccer girl is now, Jennifer asked me to allow her new husband to adopt my daughter.
Since every bit of contact between Jennifer and myself erupted into combat of the worst sort (non-physical, mind you), I agreed.
Not because I was trying to shirk my responsibilities. No, I always did my share and more... but because I wanted my daughter to have something that I didn't: A stable, two-parent home.
My family went nuts.
They accused me of abandoning my child for convenience sake.
The women in my family all accused me of not wanting to pay support.
The men in my family all suggested that I was some sort of villain.
The only person that supported me was Susan.
Eventually, my dad came around. He facilitated meetings between me and Crystal whenever she came to visit him. He kept us in contact. He sent me pictures of her, and copies of her report cards.
It was a long time ago, and I knew that I had done the right thing... that eventually, Crystal would be old enough to understand why I did what I did.
Almost two years ago, I started corresponding with Crystal via email. At first clandestinely, where she would email me from school. Later on, with her mother's knowledge. Then came telephone calls. We talked of many things, and we grew closer. The intervening years, while not disappearing, certainly faded into the background.
Today, my oldest child will graduate from high school, and I'll be in West Virginia to see it!
I haven't seen her in three years... and Olivia was an infant the one and only time she met her sister.
I can hardly wait.