I did it again.
Sonya was conveying to me information that was heavy and made herself vulnerable … and I found a way to completely insult her, like an insensitive prick. I called her back to let her know I'd come to see her when I got home and that we'd figure it out. But now I had to go into a dinner with my new girlfriend's family and pretend nothing was wrong.
I was in shock. I tried to be pleasant at dinner but I made some excuse about being tired from playing shows all week and politely exited. My girlfriend could tell something was off so when we got back to my hotel, she wanted to know what was eating at me. I came clean that my ex was pregnant with my second child and that I didn't know what I was going to do. She was unfazed by the news and was taken aback.
"You don't know what you're going to do?" she said. "Are you breaking up with me?"
I assured her I wasn't, but I wasn't so sure that we'd make it. She started talking about moving back to Louisiana and befriending Sonya. I knew that wasn't gonna fly. The next day, she came with us on a bus trip along up the coast. That was the last day we ever spent together. It was a nice enough day, but at some point, I realized I didn't love this girl and that I couldn't stop thinking about getting home and seeing Sonya.
Sonya didn't necessarily feel the same way about me at the time. I remember her encouraging me to work it out with this new girl, albeit with some tinge of sarcasm. What she didn't want was a man who pitied her situation, and that's what she saw from me. I was only ever that attentive, that serious, when the shit was hitting the fan. Sonya had seen it too many times by that point and wasn't going to let me back into her heart again, easily.
I don't know if it's because of the way I was raised or something else altogether, but I knew I was supposed to be with the mother of my children. I wasn't quite ready to get married, though. By that point, I had stopped all the lies, but I was still leaving Sonya alone most nights to hang with the boys. I recall (with great shame) me haranguing her with, "Okay, I'll only go out four of the seven nights a week. That's way better than what I'm doing now, right?"
(It should also be noted that this second pregnancy occurred while Sonya was on birth control, as was the case for our third pregnancy that would come nine months after the second child was born.)
Gibb was born on September 11, 2005. My first big record, “Carencro,” had been out for about a year and my career was on the fast-track to riches and fame. Maybe it was the fact that I really did have two separate lives—the road and home—that caused me such mental anguish about fully settling down. Sonya, on the other hand, was so patient so and loving through all of the heartache I put on her. Finally, after misery and lingering questions, I was ready to ask for her hand in marriage. I had the approval of her family and bought a ring.
After boarding a plane, we arrived in New York City in early December, right after Sonya's 21st birthday. My managers had arranged our lunch at MOMA. Here we were, a couple of country kids eating what can only be described as food art.
She wasn't impressed.
After lunch, I had planned for us to hop in a horse-drawn carriage and saunter over to Rockefeller Center so I could propose in front of the massive Christmas tree. It was quite the departure from my annual, "Hey, let's break up so I don't have to actually be thoughtful at Christmas" routine. It was so cold, though; Sonya was wearing some thin gaucho pants and was insistent that we go back to the hotel so she could change. I was like a madman on a mission and declined her request. She relented. I asked a cabbie where I could grab a horse carriage and was promptly informed that I wouldn't be able to get what I was looking for. When I then asked him for a lift to Rock Center, he told me to get stuffed as I was only a 10 minute walk from there.
There we walked, Sonya shivering and me shaking (though, for very different reasons). I don't know why I was so nervous. She had never given me anything but love. This was something she had been waiting a very long time for. But I was a mess. Such a mess, in fact, that after looking at the ice skaters darting under that beautiful tree, she turned to me and saw a man in distress.
"Are you okay?” she asked. “What's wrong? Are you about to break up with me?"
“No,” I said, and pulled the ring box from my coat pocket. She was stunned! The lady standing next to us started clapping lightly and Sonya and I just stood there holding each other, and maybe shared a kiss or three.
When Gibb was 11 months old, Sonya told me she was late and I went to the pharmacy to pick up a test. It was positive, and we were expecting our third. Sonya was 22-years-old. I was 25, and we hadn’t yet tied the knot. She knew I wasn't into a big wedding; between my income and her family we weren't going to be able to have a big ceremony, anyway. So, when I asked her to elope and get married on a cruise ship, she didn't blink.
I handed out invitations to my musician friends that were on that boat as they walked past the chapel. David Ryan Harris sang softly as Sonya walked down the aisle. The whole thing lasted 10 minutes. Sonya was six months pregnant, but that didn't stop me from reveling in my newly found station. We threw a party about a month later at our house for friends and family.
I was still such a piece of shit, though. I hadn't yet realized how terrible I was at supporting her during pregnancy. She handled it so well that I didn't think anything was wrong. She just continued to love me without condition. I took it for granted daily. Her love for me started to affect me deeply. I started to take notice of her behavior and realized how different it was from my own. She never gave me a hard time about anything, and I took full advantage.
Like a rolling wave, my past gently rolled out of view. I was starting to understand that all the lies and deceit deserved justice. The vows I had taken echoed in my soul and I could no longer ignore my responsibilities as a husband and father. Shortly before we had gotten married, in an early attempt at honoring that notion of justice, I told Sonya about my prior indiscretions. I remember thinking so highly of myself for doing something that no other man I knew would do: come clean.
In reality, I was trying to absolve my conscience by burdening her with information she didn't need or want to know. Ask her now and she'll say it was a good thing. What I thought was gonna be a clean slate was actually a great source of confusion for her. She still feels like she was stupid to give me so many chances, even though we have a very healthy marriage now. I can't say I disagree.
We're very lucky to have made it out of those dark times. We've seen our friends get divorced for far less. Sonya's love changed me … slowly, steadily … because it never faltered. Like a summer rain in the desert, Sonya's love was my salvation. She taught me everything I never knew about the subject. She showed me what the behaviors were of someone who professed love, honestly. Without her undying support and ever present grace, I would probably be dead or close to it. She's my muse and my best friend. We continually find ways to keep our passion alive and we've never been better.
I'm sure that deep down inside, she's still worried about me finding some younger, "hotter" girl. Truth is, though, you could bring me 100 hot young thangs and I'd be more than happy to shut ‘em all down. What I have with my wife is so much more powerful than fleeting moments of pleasure and friendly conversation. I have someone who I know loves me, without question or condition, more than any human alive.
I've known it all along. Just took me a while to realize that it deserved respect.
We’re celebrating 10 years of marriage in January of 2017, and we've been together going on 17 years. She's been with me longer than she wasn't with me. Sharing my life with her has become my source of joy and inspiration and I'm, no doubt, the man I am because of her.
For all you moms and dads out there, when you see a punk like me come around asking about your daughters, show them this.
If they don't want to read it, send ‘em packing.