It is my experience that in this life, regardless of who you are, there are going to be both cloudy and sunny days. The question is…how well prepared will you be when the storms come? Because trust me…the storms WILL come.
I thought my storms and clouds had ended when they came into my life. They meaning, my wife and her, then, four-year-old son. Dawn was very graceful and mature to be 10 years my younger. She was smart. She was a good and sharp Soldier. She was good with her money. And she was one heck of a mother.
She and I were just friends. JUST FRIENDS. She was my homegirl from Louisiana who one of our mutual acquaintances had asked me to look out for. She was a single mom, and had just gotten stationed where I was. Fort Bliss, Texas.
I didn’t mind, because she was kind and sweet, and cooked regularly and well. She had that downhome hospitality, and treated most people like family.
And did I mention that she looked good too?
She would have been any man’s dream. And I wanted her to be mine. Even though…I wasn’t ready.
Not because I wasn’t established in my career or young in my years. I was almost 40 years old at the time, and had been in the military over 20 years. But the truth was…I wasn’t ready because I wasn’t whole.
But I did it anyway. I married her. And I didn’t waste any time either. She and I were married in four months.
Months prior to our marriage, my mother and great-aunt had come to visit me from New Orleans. Dawn and I were just friends, but when they saw Dawn and met her, they were convinced. When she left for the evening, my great-aunt told me, “Leon, that is your wife.”
Had they forgotten that I was only a few months shy of my divorce from my second wife? Yeah that was a stormy ride. Twelve years of so much, I can’t even begin to say anything about it all. Just know that neither of us were good to or for each other in that marriage.
Dawn and her son were my chance for a do-over, I thought. A chance to be a good husband and a father. And that sounded really good in theory; but honestly, how could I rightfully act out roles that I wasn’t familiar with, nor had I ever successfully accomplished.
I used to jokingly tell people that I had been married since I was 18 years old…just not to the same woman.
As a child
I was raised initially with both my parents, along with my three sisters. We didn’t have much, but we had each other. We lived together on a dead-end street. So, the “flow of traffic” didn’t affect us much.
However, things began to change as our parents were going through a rough patch. Our father and mother were not only arguing a lot …but fighting! Why? My dad had created a “flow of traffic” that would be with me for pretty much most of my adult life.
Now, the things I remember as a child about my dad…were when he would come home from work or wherever he had been, he was a funny man who made us all smile. At least my sisters and I. My mom…not so much.
My dad and mom were dealing with some struggles that I at the time didn’t understand. My dad was our dad and my mom’s husband; but he was also a lady’s man and hustler. In their marriage, my mom experienced some meanness, as well as infidelity. Her pain, she kept in her heart most of the time. She didn’t openly reveal it to us.
I wasn’t made aware of the severity of the struggle of my mother’s inner pain until one day an ambulance came to our house to get her. I and my sisters stood on the porch while our mother was covered up to her neck with a white sheet. What could have happened to my mom that an ambulance would come to this dead street?
My little mind at the time didn’t understand how life and relationships could affect not only your heart, but your mind and your soul. My mom wasn’t feeling well that day. She was pregnant with my baby sister at the time. When she had expressed to my dad she needed to go to the hospital, he told her that he had to go to work. And so, he did.
When I asked where he was going, like I so often did, Daddy just said, “I am going crazy. It don’t cost nothing!” Those words…became a part of the fabric of who I would become.
Thankfully, my mom survived and so did my little sister (at least in birth). She would experience quite a few more health problems throughout her life.
My parents broke up when I was around 5 years old. The years that immediately followed we very difficult for my mom and my sisters. My parent’s separation would be a devastation that would take years for my mom to recover from…financially, mentally, and emotionally. However, she always did her best to keep my sisters and I involved in church. Trust me, I am grateful to my mother to this day for that part. That at least sort of helped me to know right from wrong.
As years passed, I got used to Dad not being around us. But he always seemed to find himself in different relationships and other environments that seemed to satisfy him. As I grew up, he never really gave me “the talk” — a moral compass that would help aid in my development, other than to play sports. So, sports were what I used to cope; I would depend on sports as my escape for probably the next close to 25 years.
My dad, at the time only concerned about his freedom and fun, had taken for granted whether I would be able to properly and safely handle situations as a man. He left me to have to figure it out.
Being a man?!? I learned quite a bit of on my own. The rest, I would fake like I knew what I was doing. Hoping that no one else caught on to my ignorance.
Though I buried myself in sports, his absence caused me to become bitter towards him and envious of other families that had both of their parents. Personally, I didn’t know if the husbands, wives, and children in these families got along. I just saw them as a whole family. Something I didn’t have.
What I have always had is a big extended family. So, growing up I had plenty of aunts and uncles, and older cousins, who were really like big brothers and sisters to me. Yet, I still felt neglected; trying to understand why my relationship with my father was not there. So very often, out of hurt and rebellion, I would do things that were more destructive. Lie. Sneak off. And just other mischievous things that a boy from New Orleans could find to get into.
My thoughts depressive, I began to believe that my dad didn’t care about me and that I was nothing more than a “negligent discharge.” That my dad had committed a breach of manhood; because he sure wasn’t around to show me what a real relationship or how I should prepare or conduct myself as a man.
Though, as an adult, I continued to possess bitterness towards my father; I soon found myself repeating the very same patterns I had seen in him. On top of that, I joined the Army. That really didn’t help me with relationships or my attitude about relationships. The military can have a way of providing opportunities for commitment in relationships to be tried.
My Army Days
In my earlier Army years, I had been married to my high school sweetheart and we had two children. I loved the fact that when we shared time together we would have great fun as a family. But with the Army, if your marriage is not based upon a solid foundation, it will be difficult to survive those moments when a family is required to go in separate directions. And when complete maturity is not there…survival is even slimmer.
Unfortunately, my children would experience the exact same fate as I had. Divorced parents. And because of my commitment to the military…many times an absent father.
I made the Army a career. It became my new sport. I could throw myself into it to avoid feeling anything.
The Partial Change
During one time, I really focused on attending church regularly. At one point truly trying to commit to what I had been taught as a child. I buckled down to make sure I attended each Sunday faithfully. However, I was still wrestling with what type of happiness I needed. I wanted the happiness that was said to come from God; but, I also enjoyed the happiness of being around friends, hanging out, and connecting with the occasional lady friend. So, guess what? I would go to the club on Friday and Saturday, and attend church on Sunday mornings. LOL! Sound familiar to anyone?
I was going through a transformation, but at night when I was alone, I didn’t have the will power to make it through the storms. I was weak. No self-control. Still selfish. So, I hung out with those that were likeminded. Those same attributes that I mentioned about my father…though I despised them…I had them too.
And though I spoke what I thought I was to my father; while I was going out and being reckless, I would find out later I had some negligent discharge of my own.
I was at a time in my life where I wasn’t concerned about anyone but me. As long as I could make it to work on time, in the right uniform, everything would fall in place. Wrong!
I needed some help and I needed it FAST.
Dawn of a New Day
Fast forward, this is slightly where I was when Dawn stepped into the picture. I was doing great in my career, but I had had several failed relationships and two failed marriages.
I was, as some would say, a public success and a private failure.
One night when I was headed to the club, I called Dawn. She made it crystal clear to me that she was preparing for church the next day. I told her that I was going out, but that I would call her when I made it home. Her response, “Oh no! I’ll be sleep. I’ll talk to you when I get home from church. Have fun. Be safe.”
What!? Oh, she was different. And she was not playing the games I had been used to. Period.
When she walked into church the next morning…guess who she saw? ME. I wasn’t taking any chances. But she’s always had a smart mouth, though, because when it was time for meet and greet, she hugged me and said, “Are those still your club clothes?” And walked away.
In that moment I realized, “Green! It’s time to change and be a better man. For real this time. In relationships, and more importantly…with God.”
Through a very somewhat stark courtship, I asked Dawn to marry me, and she hesitantly said yes. I really loved Dawn, and I knew that she was the right woman for me. I didn’t just love her…I needed her. I made a commitment, not only to Dawn, but to her parents, to take care of their daughter and grandson. Through our journey together, they have loved me every step of the way. Even when I knew Dawn was planning to leave me, her parents would always coach her (us) through it. I thank God for them.
My transformation, however, was not easy by any means. That storm I mentioned in the beginning… I had some storm clouds in the form of insecurities and skeletons that were approaching; and neither me nor my wife were prepared.
I thought I had done all that I could to make sure that nothing that I did in my past could affect the present or future moments. I began to feel that what was becoming of our marriage was a new beginning for both of us.
Keep in mind, I was the son who was raised on the dead street. But now…my household was preparing for a very questionable traffic flow that I had created through the secret flaws in my character.
What was crazy…It wasn’t until I had totally committed myself to God and our relationship that the flow of traffic from my past found our road.
Those negligent discharges I would learn about were actually strong heartbeats that I had my DNA. Can you say, THE STORM?
To help you better understand, A NEGLIGENT DISCHARGE is a discharge of a firearm involving culpable (blameworthy) carelessness. I happens when someone flagrantly mishandles the weapon and it fires its ammunition.
Figuratively speaking…I had fired my personal weapon carelessly and I had to be held responsible.
I had committed acts of carelessness. I tried to get out of it unseen, but God would not let me sneak out that easy. Much earlier in my life, I remember propositioning God that if He got me out of a situation, I would serve Him for the rest of my life. This time He said, “I will expose you because I love you.”
In my hurt, shame, guilt and sorrow, I didn’t have anyone I could talk to. Dawn, though a good wife and very understand regarding most things, needed some time to process. She actually became ill from the stress of it all, and chose to go an spend some time with her family back home.
So, I confided in one of the church mothers. I knew she would provide me the comfort she always had. Her words, I also recall to this day. “Minister, if you lay…you pay.” Not the most comforting words…but they were the right words.
Still not delivered from selfishness and pride, I didn’t consider the feelings of my children’s mothers. How could I have any nerves built up to question their character or intent when I wasn’t right myself?
With Dawn now distant. Hurt. Embarrassed. I was alone. I wasn’t prepared for this type of storm. I literally wanted to drive myself off the road and into a tree.
Then I began to think about how my mother was all those years ago on that gurney, covered with the white sheet. God said to me, “No you are not crazy. You know who you are, who both of your parents are. These children don’t. So, if you humble yourself to me, l will give you strength for this storm. Trust in me!”
My sinful life was being led to death so that I could truly live. And through it all…Dawn stayed. Though hurt, she was my sounding board, my help, my protector, my defender, my friend, and most importantly…my wife.
We survived the storm.
If you have questions about my mother, I talk to her every day. She’s a strong woman, and in her right mind. The matriarch of our family. She gives me words of wisdom and encouragement daily.
My father is more to me today than I could ever ask. I had to release my seeds of bitterness against him so I could heal, and then go back and assist with his healing. He is so proud of me, and that makes me proud. Most days, he likes to ask me to explain scriptures and to pray with him. I’m always glad to do so. That’s my daddy!
My children!?! I love them all, support them all, claim them all, and pray for them all. Each one of them is always welcomed to eat at our table and into our home. Dawn makes the invitation very clear to my children and all my (our) grandchildren.
Who knew we would make it through the storms?
God has done great things and has allowed both Dawn and I to be witnesses of His grace, mercy, and truth. Now on this battlefield together for 17 years; when we see others under attack, we suit up and help fight.
What I would like for those who read to take from MY story is to always remember that relationships just like anything in life include the law of sowing and reaping.
Checkout this proverb and another scripture reference. It really speaks to everything I have said and everything I have experienced; as a child and as an adult. Also, I want to share just a few of final points. Remember, it’s never too late to learn or share from experiences. Iron sharpens iron.
Proverbs 22:5–6 (GNT) —
5 If you love your life, stay away from the traps that catch the wicked along the way. 6 Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their life.
1. People who refuse to stray from the path of righteousness will reap safety, health, and freedom from destructive “entanglements” (v. 5).
2. Parents who sow God’s truth in their children reap the assurance that it will stay with them throughout their lives (v. 6).
Galatians 6:7-10 (NKJV) –
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
1. There is no behavior that goes unnoticed. What we put out to others will eventually come back to us; so be careful. (v. 7-8).
2. Don’t get discouraged from the good you are doing. It’s gonna pay off. So, continue to do good works; especially towards those who are in the same fight (v. 9-10).
I asked God to help me be committed to Him and my relationships in times past. At times I did fail, but now I have overcome. So now I am all in! Just trying to help someone else.
Leon J. Green, Jr.
Guest Writer and Dawn’s Husband.