("That was fun!" Tiger had said about his first practice. "I paid more attention at basketball practice than I do at school!" That was my Tiger quote for the week-end. That, and his response tonight, as I was telling Corb's mom the story: "Are you going to tell someone else that story about me AGAIN?")
(Oh, and for those keeping tab on the "When will Ted tell his kids" watch, I FINALLY had THAT conversation with Annie on the way to the Auto Zone. It was low key and unassuming, and essentially went like this:)
TED TELLS ANNIE: A TINY LITTLE PLAY
SCENE: The inside of Ted's really stinky RAV-4.
TIME: One in the afternoon. a cold New England day.
TED: You know...we keep putting off having that conversation, and we really need to talk about it one of these days...and it's just as hard for me to talk about it as it is you, you know...but, well...you know what's going on with everything, don't you?
ANNIE: Yeah. I do.
TED: And are you okay with everything?
ANNIE: Yes, Dad, I am.
TED: I just feel bad. I mean, I've always tried to be a good dad, and I just feel that this past year, you guys think of me as a bad dad, and I hate that feeling...I just wish.
ANNIE: I don't think you're bad at all. In fact, I see you and talk to you a lot more than I talk to Mom, actually.
TED: Well, yeah. But I wish you two could talk more. And not yell at each other. I love you, you know.
ANNIE: I love you, too, Dad.
TED: I always have loved you, right from the first day Josie and I started dating..and why do I always get so teary about these things? Man, I'm a big wimp.
--Fast forward three minutes--
TED: And Corb's a pretty good guy, don't you think?
ANNIE: I like Corbett a lot. I didn't like him at first, because he liked the Yankees, but I've gotten over that, because I now know other misguided people, too. But he's just so clean about everything!
So anyway...I returned home at five, got in a little dumpster loving with the Corbster, started planning where we're going to go out that night, when suddenly, I received a call on my cell phone. It's Josie, and she's clearly distraught.
"Ted, I know it's your birthday, and I'm sorry, but you need to get home right now," she said. I heard someone yelling in the background, and Josie started screaming at whomever it was. "I just went to the supermarket, discovered I lost my credit card, and came back and found out Ashley took a big shit in the toilet, and she's denying it, but I know it was her and--" There was more yelling in the background, and Josie started to scream again. "And the toilet overflowed again, and flooded the bedroom again, and I'm not going to clean it up this time, so I'm sorry, but you're going to have to get over here now, because I can't take these kids any more and you're going to have to look after them because I need to get out of here and be alone for a while."
And then there was silence. Josie had hung up.
I sat at my desk, stunned. All my thoughts of getting away to Boston with Corb that night went up in smoke. "Um, Corb?" I called out, my voice wavering a bit.
"I think we might have a little change in plans tonight..." And I stumbled out of the bedroom, and into the living room, explaining what was going on. "I can't believe this is happening, tonight. How could she be freaking out like this?"
Corb placed an arm on my shoulder to try and calm me down, because it was clear that I was about to go over the edge. "Ted, calm down. Just focus on the important stuff right now--the kids. We have to go there and take care of them before something worse happens."
"I'm trying to be calm, I really am," I said, even though it was obvious that I wasn't. "Okay, let's go. Let's go over there right away."
Corb drove, because it was clear that driving wasn't going to be a good thing for me. And on the way, I started babbling, that's all I could do, about how I was going to have to take over custody of the kids, and how could Josie do this to me on my nirthday, and maybe she was trying to get back at me, and that had to be it, and how she had looked so sad the night before, and how could she have backed out of going with us last night, and just given me a crummy, nonchalant litle card, and now this, and all the time Corb's trying to get me to calm down, and we're driving along, and we pulled down onto the little dirt road in North Eldredge, and I closed my eyes, bracing for the worse.
...and I noticed, as we pulled down the road, that my driveway was filled with cars.
I turned to Corb, and realized that all this time, he had been trying not to crack a smile. "You guys planned this whole thing, didn't you?" I asked, and he burst out laughing.
"Yes," he admitted. "Josie and I have been talking about this for the past week. Surprise!"
So basically, I spent my birthday night surrounded by the people I love best in this world--Corb, and Josie, and the kids, and Buns, and Pauline, and Amber, and Donna was there, too, and we had a great time eating pizza and playing board games and laughing. And thank God, no, I didn't have to clean up after a clogged toilet!
Corbett, Josie...thank you. You provided me with a wonderful birthday surprise. I really don't think any other guy in my position could honestly expect his boyfriend and his soon-to-be-ex wife to work together to plan something like that for him--but you did, and I love you both more than anything for it. Sometimes I really do feel that I'm the luckiest guy in the world...I'm certainly not the richest, but I couldn't ask for nicer, more loyal, more loving friends...and I thank God for that, every day!