It was Father’s Day weekend, ironically. I didn’t plan it. I wasn’t being spiteful. It just happened to be my breaking point.
We all have one don’t we? An imaginary threshold within our minds. I knew my lines. I could take a lot and honestly, I took a lot. I tried like hell. I tried so many times. I just couldn’t do it anymore.
It had crossed the threshold.
Maybe you wonder what it was; what did it for me?
What made me leave?
For 8 years, I was part of a very Dysfunctional marriage (notice I gave that a capital ‘D’). I HATED that it was dysfunctional. I tried to make it better. I wanted it to be better; I wanted it to work. It bothered me a lot. It bothered him too.
You see, I’m an over-analyzer. I dissect my life, my choices, chances and everything in between. I know now the causation and/or correlations of what fueled or contributed to the dysfunction; his and mine. I didn’t know this then.
So what did it for me?
I ran the race as long as I could and I ran hard.
I tripped, I got scraped up, bruised up and hurt along the way, but I never felt like our children were running along with me, until that day.
I had an appointment; an eye appointment to be exact. I had asked him to please not be late. I needed him to watch our children so I could make the appointment. I needed another pair of glasses. He had broken the only pair that I had months before.
I had a habit of watching the clock; I watched the clock a lot during those 8 years. I hated the clock. I watched the clock as it got closer to the time I had to leave. He wasn’t home. I had no phone to call him.
Somewhere deep inside of me, I knew he wasn’t coming. I wanted it to be important to him. I needed him to show up; maybe some sort of reconciliation for breaking my glasses. I wanted to matter. He never came.
My appointment came and went. Around 8, I knew; deep down, I knew. I started crying. My oldest child saw me.
The words that he spoke soaked down all the way to the depths of my soul.
I realized at that moment that this was affecting them.
That there was no way it couldn’t.
What were we teaching our children?
That this was normal?
“Don’t worry Momma, Daddy’s just at the bar” as he came up to me and hugged me.
I knew what that meant. It resonated deeply within me.
I pulled it together and I hugged him.
I told him I was sorry.
I was so sorry.
I packed up all four of those babies and put them in the car. I’ve done this before. I knew where to look. I had great detective skills; I think it was a learned behavior, to uncover the truth. I prefer the truth – no matter how harsh it is…
I found him at the bar across from the police station. I left the car running and I left my children in there for approximately 2 minutes. I told them, “Momma will be right back”. I was.
I walked into that bar with my pajamas on. I saw him immediately, but he didn’t see me. He was all the way at the end of the bar. UGH! I had to walk all the way across the bar; everyone was going to see me. There was no way to avoid this. I held my head high as I walked that walk.
Everyone stared at me. I hated that. He was leaning over the bar with a drink, chatting with the bartender. We had history with bartenders. I hated bartenders.
I went into auto-pilot. I was scared but I knew the rules that he played by. I walked across that room, went up to him and slapped him, hard across the face. He fell off the bar stool. He knew I was there; that point of no return.
I remember the look he gave me. It was the first time and the only time I had ever done that. I never said a word. I turned around and walked out, got in the car, drove home and put our children to bed.
I’m not sure if it was the next day or a few days later, but my little sister was going to be graduating high school. I wanted to be there; there being Virginia. I was in New York. I rode down with family; I took our children with me. I did not let him come. I don’t think I even told him where I was.
I remember talking to some of my family. Some of them had never known. But some did. Some had known for a while; it changed our relationship, it strained it. I knew this.
My uncle offered me a place to stay; a camper. My best friend helped me. She knew all of it. I had run to her house one night in the middle of winter, barefoot. She knew more than anyone. I had no secrets with her.
I had left before, but never like this. It was one of the hardest decisions in my life and even harder to follow through.
Maybe you don’t understand.
Probably most won’t.
Because I still wanted it to work.
Because deep down, I really loved him.
And he loved me too, the best he could at that time.
I know this probably raises questions from others and I get that.
I loved the good, the bad and the broken.
There was a lot of ‘broken’.
The first night in that camper was hard as hell. I choke up when I think about it.
My two year old started crying. I remember his words like they were seconds ago. “I lost my Daddy!”
I grabbed him. I grabbed all of them in that camper that night. I sat on the bed and I just held them; all of them. We cried together.
I hated this.
I almost went back because of those four words. That’s how hard those words were. My heart cracked in half with those words. I thought about how I could make it better; easier. It was so hard!
We stayed in that camper about a month I think.
I didn’t know what to do.
I got a job. I knew he would hate that.
I got an apartment. He hated that too.
I still hoped for a miracle. Deep down, I always hoped.
I have been honest with them; our children. I think it’s important for them to know and yet, I tried to balance that.
I didn’t always do a good job.
Sometimes my own hurts obscured my view and my words and I worked through that.
I showed them what they now refer to as ‘the book of love’. It is a scrapbook I put together when he was killed. It’s the story of how it all began. I want them to know the truth. What I did. What he did.
How it was.
The good, the bad and the broken.
I don’t want a façade with my children. I’m very honest with them.
I don’t tell them that I was perfect, because I wasn’t.
There is no such thing as perfect.
I wasn’t a victim.
I made choices.
He wasn’t a victim either.
He made choices.
We live with the choices we make. I’m aware of my choices. I processed through my choices and gave them a lot of reflection.
The hardest thing was when he was killed. It took away any options. It took away hope in a way for me. It was the realization that all that had happened was the end of the story. I had a hard time with that. I hated what that entailed for our kids. I didn’t want it to end like that. So final. So tragic; the worst ending possible.
And yet, I look at our children.
It is not over.
I know that if he came back today, for just a few minutes and saw them.
If he knew them today.
He would be blown away.
He would say he was sorry.
And he would say that he is proud of them.
He would be so very proud of them.
They would make him laugh.
I know he would cry.
I know this.
I don’t know how to explain that I know this, other than I knew him.
I knew him well; the good, the bad and the broken.
I don’t know if we would’ve ever gotten back together had he not been killed. I cannot answer this honestly, because I don’t know.
I knew I needed things to change and I knew I couldn’t live the way things were. Is it okay to say that? I hope so. I want to be honest.
A few months ago, my older children and I were talking about our relationship; his and mine.
This is what I told them and this is what I believe… “We were young. We were just two young people, brought together by our own insecurities, trying to make it work. We had our own baggage that we hadn’t dealt with. We each had our own hurts; prior to hurting each other. We both tried, at our own levels, and it was just too much. We loved each other the best we could at that time.”
My deep thinking kid paused for a minute and digested this. He looked at me and said, “Mom that was a good answer.” I wasn’t trying to have a good answer, but I’m glad it was.
I really was just trying to be honest with them. I believe in honesty. I believe there is a lot of freedom in honesty. I think there is healing in honesty.
“Fire can warm or consume, water can quench or drown, wind can caress or cut. And so it is with human relationships: we can both create and destroy, nurture and terrorize, traumatize and heal each other” (Perry & Szalavitz, 2006, p. 5).
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