The story of how we ended up in Omaha one year during Thanksgiving winds around a rocky path. Before Paul and I met, he was best friends with Dwayne. Dwayne was a man that looked like what you would picture Jesus to look like. He had rugged good looks with shoulder length brown hair that glowed a perfect shade of brownish red in the sun. He was a smart man who loved to discuss philosophy, theology, and psychology. He was fun loving, liked to joke and play cards. But Dwayne had one major personality flaw that inevitably led him down a path of destruction unaware. Dwayne would do anything for a dare. One night while camping with friends someone dared him to dive off a dock near the campgrounds. Dwayne accepted the dare and dove into water that was only a couple of inches deep. Instead of costing him his life, it left him paralyzed from his neck down.
Before his accident, Dwayne had married his high school sweetheart too young. They had two children and divorced. When Dwayne had his accident, he was with Tammy. I met Dwayne a couple of years after the accident while he was with Tammy. Now Tammy was an evil person. But you know how it goes when your best friend dates someone you don’t like, you tolerate that person. Plus there was never a dull moment with Tammy around.
Tammy had some major character flaws herself. First, Tammy liked to steal things. Once when we went out to eat for Dwayne’s birthday, Tammy went around to every table and took the fake flower displays. She shoved a stack of fake roses into her purse. When it was time to leave, the manager told Tammy she needed to give the flowers back which caused her to make quite the scene. Nothing unusual for her.
Second, Tammy liked to cheat. Tammy had two sons, one that she had with her ex husband and the other with Dwayne after the accident. Ok, there was absolutely no way that Dwayne could have fathered a child as a quadriplegic, but he was listed as the father on the birth certificate. One year at Christmas time the true story came out about her other son as well. Tammy and her ex were fighting on the phone while we were there. She told her ex that the boy that he thought was his for the past 10 years wasn’t his son, wished him a merry Christmas, and hung up on him. Tammy was just being Tammy. Tammy eventually got together with Dwayne’s caregiver and moved into the apartment next door. Her bedroom and Dwayne’s bedroom shared the same wall. He could hear them at night. Then she tried to keep his “son” from him. Tammy was not a nice person.
Parenting was very challenging for Dwayne as well due to his handicap. One time when he was still with Tammy, Dwayne and their baby accidently got locked in the van. It was twenty below outside and they were locked inside the van without heat. This happened over the weekend. Tammy was desperate to find someone to unlock the doors. Dwayne sat inside helplessly watching. It could have gotten dangerous really fast. Dwayne also had issues parenting his two older children. His little girl loved to sit on his lap but he could never hug her back. He couldn’t drive them anywhere or do anything. It was at this point that I saw Paul play the part of dad. He took Dwayne’s son Dan fishing, a hobby that he used to share with Dwayne before the accident. We took the kids to the zoo and had them stay with us sometimes. When I first started dating Paul, it was attractive to see him being a positive role model for the kids. He still was caring towards his best friend even after his friend made some terrible mistakes in life. He also had no problems treating his friend like a regular person, going out with him even if it meant emptying his bag or feeding him. He was not squeamish, nor did he complain. His compassion was touching.
Dwayne was the best man in our wedding. A couple years later, Paul was the best man in his wedding. His new wife had some major flaws, like having an absolute filthy house and allowing her children to run wild. But I have to give her credit for marrying a man that she would never have a physical relationship with and had to care for. Six weeks after he was married in his church, Dwayne was buried there. He had a heart attack and died in his 30’s. He will be gone for 15 years this year. What an avoidable tradegy that affected so many lives.
Fast forward time a bit more, Dan grew up and asked Paul to stand up in his wedding in Omaha. He wanted Paul to be there to represent his father. We flew into Omaha for the wedding over Thanksgiving. Dan’s in-laws welcomed us like we were family. We ate Thanksgiving meal there and played a lot of games. They seemed to have a very close knit family. His wife’s father was dealing with cancer. He showed us pictures of himself, a big guy at 300 lbs before cancer. He lost 200 lbs and was skin and bones. At this point, I want to tell you that everyone lived happily ever after. Unfortunately things didn’t go as planned. Dan and his wife moved across the country. He was in the military and was deployed overseas. During this time, Dan’s father-in-law passed away. Dan’s wife moved back home and the marriage fell apart almost a year later. But while we were in Omaha, everything was pleasant.
While we were in Omaha, we met up with one of my best friends from college. She took us to the Omaha zoo. It was hands down the best zoo that I have ever been to. It had an open concept. You didn’t get the impression that the animals were unhappy in their cages. The aquarium was my favorite display as it submerged the viewer in a tunnel surrounded above and at all sides with beautiful water creatures. Great job in your design Omaha zoo. I just wish the marriage turned out as well.