I have an admirer. Let’s call him Rocky. There’s a reason why I’ll rename him Rocky here. First, I want to protect his privacy. And, second, he’s an ex-boxer. These days I think he works as a bouncer. Yes folks, my admirer is a bruiser with a heart of gold.
We met years ago when I was still married and working as a contract attorney for my former neighbor, see Riding With My Boss. My boss was representing Rocky and his union in some kind of complicated dispute. I was doing background legal research in a back room. One day when Rocky had to come by the office my boss introduced us. As I recall he complimented me, my smile. Thereafter, when Rocky stopped by he always had a smile and compliment for me. He also gave me his card, which I stashed in my wallet and never used. I must have given him my contact information as well, though I don’t remember doing so.
Rocky’s case went nowhere. Consequently, there was no reason for him to come to the office anymore. In fact, most of the work disappeared for my boss also and I didn’t have a reason to come to the office anymore either.
For years since then, Rocky has sent me a text on or near my birthday and about every other month saying things like, “I was just thinking of you, lovely lady.” He’s my age or probably younger, but he is always so polite, referring to me as “young lady.”
After I became separated and sought to test my new status, I tried to call in some favors. Specifically, I developed a list of guys I already knew who might go out with me. I was on a mission. See The Best Advice I Never Took. I figured Rocky must like me and I’ve got to go out with somebody so — I called Rocky. He seemed to pleased to hear from me. I invited him to come to one of my gigs. As he always works at night he could only make it if he came early and he wouldn’t be able to stay long. This was good, since I wasn’t sure how this was going to work out. Plus, this was good because I had scheduled another guy come to see me for the second shift of my one day dating frenzy. Yeah, I was a player, and I was on a mission.
So Rocky was date one for the night. At that time I hadn’t seen him in person for a couple of years.
He still looked good, bigger than I remembered, a burly Teddy bear of a guy, soft-spoken and so sweet. I found out that evening that although he is such a tough guy, he spends his free time writing poetry and songs. Who knew?
It was as close as we got to a date. We hugged good-bye and I haven’t laid eyes on him since.
By the way my second date of the evening was with the man who would become my stalker. I should have stuck with the boxer . . . but I digress . . . If I’d Married My Stalker
Since that early evening “date,” I’ve received semi-regular texts from Rocky. This has gone on for years. He tells me I’m beautiful, refers to me as a friend or wishes me and my family well. I don’t get them often enough to feel like I’m being stalked or harassed but I get them often enough to know I’m still thought of. These texts never request a date or phone call, they are just — complimentary. Recently he sent a picture of himself — just his face, and it was NOT, I repeat, NOT taken in the bathroom. He asked me to send one in return, which I did not — yet. Oh snap, what if his memory of my appearance is better than my actual looks in real life? Wait, what am I saying? Clearly, this could not be possible. heh heh heh
Last month Rocky’s text said:
“You made a positive impression on me from the time I met you. That helped me survive some very tough times. Thank u. :p lol”
I’m not really sure how the “lol” works with the rest, so I’ll just ignore that part. And I don’t know what “tough times” I helped him through, so I’ll just accept that part. All in all, it was a nice message. Sometimes we help people without even knowing how.
Just today I woke up to a text from Rocky which said,
“Good Morning to a very special young lady who is so very sweet. In case no one told u this morning. You r very unique. :p Have a great day.”
Awww. Is it strange? Maybe. Weird? Perhaps. Whatever. I don’t care. It’s nice to have an admirer. And currently there is no one to wake me up by telling me I’m very sweet, so Rocky was right on time. I’ll take it. (Plus, it doesn’t hurt to know someone who could and would kick somebody’s ass for me. Just sayin’ . . .)
Just Me With . . . an admirer, via text. Absolutely.
See also, “Another Text From My Admirer”
For a couple of years my husband and I rented an apartment in the city. (Ironically, just blocks away from where he lives now with his new wife, but I digress . . . ) It was in a semi-circular stone post-war building that in its hey day was probably luxury living but had since come to disrepair. If I had a few million dollars sitting around I would have bought and refurbished the whole thing, it had great bones and was located near a golf course, it just needed an overhaul. All the units were attached around a shared courtyard with the “A” apartments downstairs and the “B” apartments upstairs. We all had separate entrances but “A” and “B” apartments shared a back door. The complex had an absentee owner but it was managed by one of the tenants who lived in the “B” apartment above me.
At the time, my husband and I were child-free and I was a student, so although he had regular day-time work hours and nighttime sleep hours, I was out a good portion of the day and up a good portion of the night.
The manager/neighbor upstairs was a nice enough guy, at first. I’ll call him Kenny. Kenny’s day job was managing the complex. I soon realized that Kenny’s other day job was selling drugs. There were too many short visits, too many exchanges of small items. Yet Kenny was a “family” man. He was married to, let’s call her, Laura. They had a son, little Kenny, who at the time was about four years old. He was a really cute kid, an unusually cute kid, actually — and a real sweetheart.
A neighbor next to me used to come out and practice Tai Chi and little Kenny would just sit down and stare at her, but he was very quiet and respectful. When I sat outside with or without my dog he would visit and talk with me about life the way only a four-year-old could. His mother knew where he was and that I was cool — meaning safe. I really liked that kid, and I admit I don’t warm up to every child.
I started to cool on Big Kenny, though. I soon realized that big Kenny had another dark side, other than the illegal drug activity. My husband and I would hear he and Laura arguing, yelling, screaming. It wasn’t pretty. Actually, we would hear him yelling at Laura. The building was old and the walls were very thick and we couldn’t always make out words, but there is an unmistakable tone of voice — that sound that means somebody has lost control. Some couples are screamers, that’s the way they argue. My husband and I were no strangers to the occasional loud argument, but we could sometimes hear Laura crying and as I said, there was something about Big Kenny’s tone. Laura worked during the day so these “situations” usually happened at night.
Occasionally, I would see Laura come and go. She was a small woman, probably in her early twenties, but looked like she’d lived a century. Her hair was usually just pulled back in a short ponytail, no make-up, her eyes were sunken with dark circles. I could tell she was brought up with manners, because she always spoke nicely but she avoided eye contact and small talk and almost scurried away. Maybe she was embarrassed by the thought that I could hear how her husband treated her? I don’t know. Maybe Kenny didn’t want her making friends with the neighbors.
During the summer months big Kenny spent more time outside, not working on the apartments, of course. No, he was working on his car, listening to gangsta rap, meeting “visitors” and, as I could tell when I had to pass him, sampling some of his product.
Drug dealing is a dangerous vocation. People get angry, people get ripped off, people get paranoid. I wasn’t going to live there forever, but in the meantime, I’d keep an eye on this guy.
Kenny started to get even meaner. The late night fights with his wife escalated in intensity and frequency. My husband and I would lay in bed and hear muffled yelling. Soon we heard crashes — things got broken.
My husband and I discovered that if we made noise, it would stop. I guess once Kenny realized there might be a witness he would calm down. So my husband and I got into a habit of making noise whenever heard them fighting upstairs. We would start talking really loudly, knocking on furniture, making our dog bark, turning up the television, etc. It would usually stop. One night it got so bad I sent my husband to actually knock on their door. Of course, they didn’t answer. Still, our noise making temporarily stopped whatever was going on up there. It became a semi-regular routine.
I would see Laura from time to time. I admit I didn’t know what to say. I was much younger then, and I was a different person, up to my eyeballs in a co-dependent yet not physically abusive relationship with a man. I wish I had known how to help her better back then. The Roxanne now would have been blunt in offering help, talked about shelters, asked to drive her somewhere, anywhere. But back then I took a more passive approach by making my presence known during the fights and when I saw Laura, hoping she would just know that I cared, that I knew, though I didn’t say the words out loud. I didn’t realize that perhaps Laura might have needed a more direct approach.
I handled many things passively back then . . . .
Big Kenny was a big asshole, but he was also a drug dealer who managed my building and I was alone in my apartment a lot. I didn’t know what else to do.
One night it got really bad. There was yelling, screaming, crying, crashing and then — it sounded as if Kenny threw his wife down the stairs.
“I’m calling the police,” I said. And I did, while making a whole lot of noise. Things got quiet, suddenly, as was usually the case when we became the noisy neighbors. Whatever was happening up there had stopped, again. I just hoped Laura wasn’t badly injured.
The police came. Kenny and Laura refused to even answer the door. Laura came to the window and told the police she was fine. The police said there was nothing they could do if the woman doesn’t complain since they didn’t witness the abuse. So all we had accomplished was stopping the fight that night — and I guess we created a record. Small victory. Now I was afraid of what big Kenny would do to her when I wasn’t around.
Big Kenny needed to have his butt kicked, big time. His very presence was pissing me off, and he had this adorable son who he didn’t deserve, and a wife who did not deserve to be treated like that.
My purposeful noise making increased, not just during the fights — but when Kenny had his visitors, whenever Kenny went in or out of the house, whenever I was home. I would go outside for no reason to let him know when I was there. I just wanted him to know I was watching him. Jerk.
Then one day, Laura was gone.
Little Kenny was gone, too. At first, I thought they were just gone for a day, a weekend, but then big Kenny seemed to be on his own. I’m suspicious by nature, I’ve been known to often suspect foul-play, it’s just where my mind usually goes, see “What Happened In My House?” but not this time, somehow I felt that Laura finally just left. At least that’s what I hoped.
Fast forward over a year later. My husband and I had since bought a house and moved out of that apartment complex. I was downtown, making my way to the train out to the suburbs. As I was walking some woman stepped right up to me and said,
“Hi, Roxanne!” She was all smiles and seemed to know me.
I had no idea who she was. I put my mind through some mental gymnastics trying to figure out how I knew this woman, since she clearly knew me — Was it law school? Had I worked with her? Was she some sort of family friend I can’t place?
I guess I hadn’t hid my confusion very well because she finally said,
“Roxanne, it’s Laura. You know, with little Kenny.”
My mouth dropped open. I couldn’t hide it. Because this woman looked gooooood. I mean, her skin was healthy, her make-up was flawless, her cheeks were plump, her hair was out and styled, she sported a cute outfit. This woman had it together. She was unrecognizable — in a good way. I never would have known it was her if she hadn’t stopped me. Never in a million years.
I had to say, “Oh my God, you look so good!”
She knew exactly what I meant and simply said,
“Thanks. I got away. “
“How’s little Kenny?”
“He’s great. We’re both great. I’m done with him [Big Kenny].” I knew exactly what she meant. “I got out.”
She told me she’d moved out of the city and was doing just fine. It showed.
I had to hug her, and I’m not a hugger by nature. I told her I’d often wondered how she was and added, “It was so good to see you.” It was heartfelt.
I had never before been so happy to run into somebody I didn’t recognize.
I think I smiled for the rest of that day, and I’m smiling as I write this.
I never saw her again. But I never worried about her again, either.
I tip my hat to Laura, “You go girl. Here’s to one that got away.”
Just Me With . . . a happy ending.
P.S. I wish I had done more to help her. Now, looking back, my mind fills with the “I should have done this, I could have done that . . . ” and Big Kenny should have done time — for something, anything. But I am just glad Laura got away. I don’t need to be the hero. Laura did it. She got away.
It was Super Bowl weekend and I was in the beginning of some of the most painful days, weeks, months, years of my life. It was about a week and a half after my husband of many years had informed me he was leaving. He had said, simply, “I have to go.” He denied that there was anyone else, stating merely that he was not happy and was never going to be happy.
And, like Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.
He had decided to leave, but I had begged him to stay, regardless of his decision. I guess I was buying time. I was still in Stage One of trying to get him to change his mind, not accepting that the marriage was in Stage Four: non-operable, treatment resistant and terminal.
A few days before Super Bowl Sunday my husband went on a pre-planned, pre-paid SCUBA trip which had been booked about six weeks before he broke up with me — really that’s what it felt like — but I digress . . . The trip itself was not completely out of character because he belongs to a club and went on trips a couple of times a year. What was odd was that he had scheduled the trip during Super Bowl weekend. What was completely crazy was that he was still going on vacation after telling me he was leaving me and while I was a sobbing heap on the floor.
What’s worse, my kids, who are unusually healthy, freakishly healthy — I mean I have five kids and I only remember dealing with two ear infections — ever — had come down with the flu, high fevers and all.
All five children had the flu. All five. Flu. They were too sick to even take to the store. I had to get my Dad to come over while I went grocery shopping.
I was housebound with five sick children. My husband had gone to the Bahamas.
Huh. Signs of things to come.
Although I was crying all the time (I told the kids I was sick, too) having him out of the house for a few days gave me random moments of clarity which tapped into my common sense.
Long story short: It was during Super Bowl weekend that I uncovered uncontroverted evidentiary support leading me to the conclusion that my husband was not in fact on a trip with his SCUBA Club. To the contrary, he was on a romantic island vacation with another woman.
Like how I lawyered that up? It’s a defense mechanism of mine to deal with painful topics. But in straight talk, I found out that my husband, who had simply announced after double digits of marriage, “I have to go” was on a beach getaway with another woman, a jaunt he had booked a month before he informed me he was leaving me. He was frolicking in the sand and surf with someone new, while I was heartbroken and housebound with five children suffering from the flu. (Rhyme unintended but I kinda like it so I’m keeping it.)
Stupid Super Bowl weekend. That was a long weekend. A long game. And the daggone Super Bowl happens every year and I get a little reminder of some of my worst days.
Just Me With . . . ghosts from Super Bowl’s past.
This happened some time ago. It’s all back story, the abridged version. I have a memory too good for my own good, see The Twilight Zone — Again? Seriously?, when I reflected on the date my divorce became final and damn near wrecked the car. When I’ve gone through something difficult, especially something which coincides with a holiday or special event, it is hard to ignore, try as I might. See A Sad and Disturbing True Halloween Story.
I’m better now. I’m not crying about it, at least not about him leaving me. It took years and thousands of dollars, but my divorce is final and he has remarried. He did not marry the Bahamas woman, in case you were wondering, that relationship didn’t work out — and that’s all I have to say about that.
The pain has decreased over time, but that does not negate the fact that it was a super-duper crappy Super Bowl weekend back then, by anyone’s standards, and I still remember it — like women remember (but don’t feel) labor, like people acknowledge (but don’t celebrate) the anniversary of a death. It’s just there. And it’s okay to acknowledge it — so that I’m not so hard on myself for being where I am now, and also so that I can celebrate how far I have come. Plus, one day I might even write a book.
I know I’m better off without him. But it’s like having a huge life sucking tumor removed — in the end it’s all for the best, but would it have killed somebody to give me a little anesthesia? That mess hurt.
I’m just sayin’ . . .
A couple of weeks after that Super Bowl, one of the kids announced, My Daddy Moved Out.
Narrator: There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.
— The Twilight Zone, 1959, Season One
My narrator: Meet Roxanne, a divorced mother of five who sometimes forgets to eat, or chooses to save a simple breakfast bar for her children rather than “waste” it on herself. It’s an ordinary day for Roxanne, who had left home for her only true indulgence — getting her morning coffee. She didn’t know that when she returned into her neighborhood, she would cross into . . . The Twilight Zone.
Over the weekend we had some icy snow in my part of the world. I was out running errands (in other words: getting coffee). On the way home I was wondering whether I could get my children to shovel the sidewalks for me, doubted that they would before going to visit their father and worried about whether doing it myself would throw my back out again. My Aching Back A neighbor offered to pay my daughter to do hers. I wished that daughter or any of the children would do ours also, without back talk, threats or rewards — and before they had to go. It probably wouldn’t happen. I got my coffee, and while there I picked up my daughter’s favorite breakfast sandwich as a treat, plus I wanted her to get something warm in her belly before going out to shovel the neighbor’s walkway. As is often the case, I didn’t get a sandwich for myself, saving a couple of bucks, not wanting to spend the money on — me. As I turned into my neighborhood, I had my daily thoughts of “I really hate this neighborhood, I don’t like living here.” Followed by, “I wonder if I can figure out a way to move again but keep the kids in the same schools.” And rounding out the trilogy, “Don’t be ridiculous, there’s no reason to move except that you don’t like it here and that’s just not a good enough reason.”
Given all these thoughts rushing through my head it was rather amazing that I happened to spot a woman on the side of the road. She had plastic grocery store bags spread in front of her in the snow, was shaking and clenching her hands and seemed to be trying to figure out a way to pick them up again. Clearly she was struggling to carry her groceries home in the snow.
I stopped, backed up, asked if she wanted a ride. She only gave pause for a moment and eyed me to make sure I didn’t look like a crazy. (Sometimes I can appear quite normal . . . but I digress). It was bitter cold outside. She accepted the ride, put her bags in the back seat and sat up front next to me, thanking me. She explained that she rushed out so quickly to get some things from the store that she had forgotten her gloves. It wasn’t that the bags were heavy, she said, it was that her hands were frozen and she couldn’t hold them anymore. “My hands hurt so bad,” she said.
It didn’t really matter to me why she was in her predicament, I just wanted to get her home. It was too damn cold and icy to walk, especially with groceries, no cart and no gloves. She went on to explain that her brother couldn’t shovel the car out because of his eye. His eye. Huh. I pondered this. Why would his eye keep him from shoveling . . . maybe he’d had surgery? I drifted off to my own little world, thoughts racing for first place in my head.
Then my passenger said, “I’m Roxanne.”
Skid marks on the brain. Thoughts stopped on a dime.
“Get OUT!!!” I responded, perhaps a little too energetically, reminiscent of Elaine from Seinfeld.
“What?” she responded, looking concerned. It was an unfortunate choice of words for my exclamation — I mean, saying “Get Out!” to a passenger in my car! Smooth, Roxanne.
“MY name is Roxanne,” I quickly explained.
“Yes. Really. Wow, that’s wild.” It’s a fairly uncommon name. It was surreal.
Roxanne said that I could drop her at a nearby intersection but I told her, no, I would take her all the way home. During the ride I discovered that we had gone to the same high school, and though I had assumed she was older than me, it turned out but she was too young for me even to have known her from school. She appeared worn beyond her years. I didn’t recall ever having seen her in the neighborhood or around town. It was odd.
So what of my surprise passenger, Roxanne? A woman who shared my name, who was walking alone in the snow-covered street, who failed to think of her own needs while rushing to meet the needs of others. The consequences of her neglect of self was finding herself standing in the snow with frozen fingers, groceries at her feet and blocks from home. For whatever reason– her family was not there to help her and she had to accept a ride from a stranger.
It gave me pause.
I’m that Roxanne, too, coming home with a sandwich for a child so that she could shovel another family’s walk but bringing no food for myself.
I almost said to the other Roxanne, “How could you leave home without gloves? You’ve got to take care of yourself. You’re no good to anybody if you get sick or frostbite.” But what stopped me, other than that being creepy coming from a stranger, is that other people have been saying that to me lately. My therapeutic goals are largely based upon meeting my basic self-care needs without guilt.
“Roxanne, have you been eating and sleeping? You can’t take care of your family if you don’t take care yourself.” I’ve heard often. Too often.
Did the universe send me that other Roxanne to remind me that I need to help myself? I mean, I know that when I get sick, the whole system fails. I know this, yet I still need reminders that protecting myself from the elements, eating, sleeping and yes even doing something just for my sheer enjoyment of it is as important as, well — anything. Somehow, that reminder got in my car that day, and her name was Roxanne.
I dropped Roxanne off feeling good about having helped her, since it was so very cold outside, but I knew that both of us need to take care of ourselves. I need to take care of me.
Maybe picking up a reflection of myself — what I could become, what I have been . . . was meant to be that day.
My Narrator: Roxanne, a functioning, yet melancholy divorced mother who often puts her basic needs well behind those in her care, stops in the snow to assist an eerily familiar woman in distress, a woman who perhaps shares more than just her name in . . . The Twilight Zone.
Just Me With . . . an over-active imagination?
P.S. I told my therapist about it. She queried whether the woman was real.
I’m not even going there.
See the Sequel: The Twilight Zone — Again? Seriously?
I was in law school. In other words, I was grown ass woman. Indeed, I was a married woman. But there was one law professor who had most of the women swooning. I’ll call him Professor Silverstein. His area of expertise was criminal law. I had no real interest in criminal law at the time, yet I took extra classes in criminal procedure. So if you ever get arrested, call me. Or more importantly, ask to call me . . . it will preserve your rights and the cops have to leave you alone . . . but I digress.
Professor Silverstein was of medium height, well, that’s being generous, I think he was kinda short. He was older, of course, had salt and pepper hair parted on the side. It was always a little long and he often ran his hand through it to push it off his face. (I really wanted to do that for him.) He had a slim build and occasionally looked like he could use a shave. He had just a perfect smile, kind of like a George Clooney smile. Now of course Professor Silverstein was not as Hollywood attractive as George Clooney — c’mon, this is real life — but he had that Hollywood smile. Yes, yes, he did. Wait, what? I guess got distracted. Anyway, and he was so, so smart. Smart is sexy, very sexy. And he was funny. The whole class would be cracking up over the Fourth Amendment. If you’ve read the Fourth Amendment, you know that it isn’t funny at all. It’s all about searches and seizures and probable cause and such — but Professor Silverstein made it so freaking entertaining. Did I mention he had a sexy voice, too? Smooth, confident, but I digress . . . again. Anyway, Monday, Wednesday and Friday was like a trip to a strip bar. We could look, riveted, but we could not touch. The Professor was out of reach.
I sat front and center. My Law School Crush was on one side and my Law Professor Crush was directly in front of me. No wonder I was such a good student. Professor Silverstein taught in a relaxed socratic method, but not in a mean way. No, he was pleasant and cordial. People, well, women, we all wanted him to call on us, just so that he would say our names. I loved the way he said my name. Consequently, I was always prepared for class. Always.
Call on me, baby, call on me.
One day after his class a friend and I were walking together. We were being just plain silly. Having recently discovered that we shared the same crush on Professor Silverstein we would often discuss important issues after class like,
“Did you see him smiling today? He was so sexy. He is so cute.“
I’m not sure why my friend and I were upstairs near the offices, we must have had something administrative to take care of, but we walked the faculty halls giggling like teen girls talking about how cute we thought Professor Silverstein was.
Me: “Did you see him today?”
My Friend: “Oh my God, he’s so sexy.”
Me: “He said my name, did you hear it?”
My Friend: “Oh my God, you’re sooooo lucky . . . . ”
Grown women, acting like kids. We were just being over-the-top silly, messing around. Law School can be so serious, got lighten it up some, right?
Hanging on each others’ arms and still giggling, we rounded the corner and something caught our eyes.
We turned together and . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . .
There he was, that man with that smile, that Professor of Criminal Law, the man we had been ogling over and giggling about . . . and who had apparently been walking behind us for the entire length of the hallway leading to his office. Yup, yup. We didn’t notice because we were too busy giggling about how cute and sexy he is. And there he was, smiling . . . at us.
It was a double deer in headlights situation.
“Helloooo Ladies!” he said, like he was some mac daddy in a bar.
“Hi!” We replied in unison, with voices much too high for grown women in law school.
He kept smiling as he entered his office. He may have chuckled.
My friend and I just stood there, eyes wide, “OH MY GOD!!!!” — except we were whispering this time.
Just Me With . . . a crush on my professor and outted as a silly girl — thank God for anonymous grading.
I’ve watched and read too many crime dramas, in my day, yeah, I know. But some things make a person go hmmmm. A case in point.
The house I live in now had previously been occupied by, let’s say, a “different” kind of family. I bought the house and according to the terms of the sale, the family rented it back from me for six months. During the rental period I worked on the outside of the house and occasionally the inside. I got to know the family. Sometimes they told me things I’d rather not know, but people need to talk and what the hell, I’ll listen.
Five people lived in the house. There was the ailing matriarch I’ll call Betty. She was only in her early sixties but suffering with what became terminal cancer from lifelong smoking and hard living. She was an old soul. Twice divorced, she had had three children. A boy and girl in their forties and another girl in her twenties. I’ve previously referred to the grown son as PissMan, read Piss, Puke, and Porn, and you will know why. PissMan lived there with his girlfriend, I’ll call her Diane, a quirky, frail woman (probably ninety pounds soaking wet) who seemed to have some mental disabilities. Her head was too small for her body. That isn’t a joke, it’s an observation, by many people.
The younger grown daughter from Betty’s second marriage, whom I’ll call Lori, and her school-aged son also lived in the house. The boy was adorable, but disturbed. The older grown daughter Gina, lived elsewhere, but nearby. She was the one that got away, so to speak. She held a job, had a home. She had no children of which I was aware, but she had a female friend who was often around her, they may have been a couple. She was a second mother to her much younger sister, Lori, because Betty wasn’t always around for her in those early years. Betty went through periods of never leaving the house, so I was told. I’m sure the family loved each other, but there was a lot of resentment and drama.
You know those people who, without any real prompting, suddenly launch into the most horrific personal stories? Well, this was a whole family of them.
I learned that the matriarch Betty and her youngest daughter had both been victims of domestic violence, and had been in relationships with alcoholics and drug addicts. I learned that the little boy has been in treatment because of his disorders resulting from his violent father and that there were ongoing legal battles over his abusive father’s visitation rights. The little boy’s sick grandmother, Betty, was his best friend. But Betty and the boy’s mom, Lori, mutually admitted that they have never gotten along. Betty and Lori told me so, separately.
I learned that when he was a child PissMan had been in an accident from which he never fully recovered (I think it must have been a head injury). Sister Gina always resented him because Betty babied him and never let him truly grow up because of it. PissMan did grow up to have a drug problem, however — crack, that is. He also has a grown son from an early marriage. This young man allegedly beat his disabled girlfriend. I met them both. The girlfriend had recently decided to give her abuser another chance.
I also learned that PissMan and his current girlfriend Diane had had a child once. Diane was so small, I had a hard time believing that she could carry a child at all. She had the body of a ten-year-old. Diane told me “they” took the baby away. Diane was counting the days until this child was old enough to look for his birth parents. (I secretly hoped that the child never did so.) Diane also told me that PissMan was her “first.” (Let the record reflect that I did not ask for this information.)
Youngest sibling Lori seemed to hate her brother PissMan and his girlfriend Diane because of the way they lived ( like hoarders, cats and all). Plus, PissMan and Diane did not seem to do much. Other than walking to the store or to the bank to cash disability checks, PissMan and Diane seemed to spend hours just sitting on the porch, smoking.
Over the six month rental period, the mother, Betty, became progressively worse, though her mind was still intact. PissMan and girlfriend Diane took care of her. In the last month, youngest daughter Lori had found somewhere to move with her son, and they left. The older daughter, Gina, only visited from time to time. Eventually, Betty was confined to a hospital bed in the front room because the home’s stairway is too narrow to get the bed and supplies upstairs. By the end, Betty could not get out of bed.
Betty was still talkative and seemed to enjoy company. I would sometimes visit with her when I had to be at the house. PissMan and his girlfriend Diane stayed with her around the clock, feeding her, caring for her, even when she became immobile and incontinent. Care did not always include good hygiene, however. Toilet or Kitchen Sink — Who Can Tell? Gina would come around to visit on occasion and help when Betty needed to go to the doctor, since she had a car. But Gina did not make frequent or even regular visits.
Regardless of their shortcomings, it was PissMan and Diane who were there for Betty. They seemed to really care.
The date the family was scheduled to vacate the home was fast approaching, and the family was looking into finding a facility for Betty. They had not had any luck. They didn’t know where they would go, let alone how they would house and care for a dying woman.
One Spring day I was at the house working outside and was surprised when the older sibling Gina came outside. Gina wasn’t often around. She explained that she had come to give PissMan and girlfriend Diane “a day off” and sent them away for the day. Mind you, as I explained earlier, PissMan and the Girlfriend rarely went out much, even before Betty needed so much care. I hadn’t known them to stay away for the day, I hadn’t known Gina to stay around all day. I thought it was strange at the time.
I didn’t go inside. I didn’t stay long that day. Though PissMan and Diane seemed to welcome my company, Gina didn’t seem to want me around.
When I came back the next day, no one was home. Betty had suddenly taken a turn for the worse and had been transported to the hospital the day before, sometime after I left. Having lapsed into a coma there, she was taken off of life support, with her family surrounding her. Reportedly it took hours of watching Betty laboring to breathe before she finally died. It was not a peaceful passing to watch, according to youngest daughter Lori. It was horrible, she said.
I think it was PissMan’s girlfriend Diane who later told me what happened that last day. She said simply that Betty had choked on coffee — and that she wasn’t supposed to have coffee.
I’ve always wondered —
Why did Gina, who wasn’t around often, suddenly decide to give her brother and his girlfriend “a day off” and spend the day alone with her sick mother?
Why did PissMan and his girlfriend Diane uncharacteristically leave the house and stay away all day?
Why, while in Gina’s sole care, did Betty suddenly choke?
Did Gina do something to make sure that her ailing mother Betty would never have move in with her?
Or, to be more direct, did Gina send Diane and PissMan away for the day so that she could kill her mother?
Just Me With . . . suspicions.
I’m just sayin’ . . . .
Postscript: PissMan and Diane asked to stay in the house for an extra month so that they could find a place to live, having been distracted from doing so earlier because of Betty’s illness and death. I gave them the extra month. Ironically, it was Gina who found them a place to live, and it wasn’t with her.
I expected to be the only uncoupled, hell, the only unmarried person there. Yup. These were many of the same people I saw when “I Went To A Wedding Alone” and was seated with four other couples. The party was hosted by the very cool woman who had been there for me “When I Needed a Helping Hand,” and her husband, my former “Go-To Guy.” Good people.
As expected, I got the same inquiries about the kids, the new house (though I’ve been there for two years now), how the “new” neighborhood is, work, career, how I spend my time, etc. No questions about whether I’m seeing anyone. I hardly ever get that question. What’s up with that? But I digress. That is a topic for another post.
What was different this year was that I was ready for the whole scene. I expected the questions and the topics of conversations that really did not apply to me and to which I could not relate. I had my stock responses. I came to the realization that this is how it will be with these folks as a group, people from a past life.
It was a step up from last year.
At this same party last year, I found myself chatting with two very different women. One is a true, down-to-earth angel who has been such a huge help and selfless friend in my time of need and thereafter. She was the mother of the bride when “I Went To A Wedding Alone.” The other woman is the wife of my old boss. See “Riding With My Boss.” This woman, who I’ll call Ellen BlueBlood, has been a long-time acquaintance, but never a good friend, we never really clicked. She always seemed a bit snobbish to me. Ellen BlueBlood was going on and on about her University graduated daughter who was doing all of these wonderful things, being offered all of these fabulous opportunities, she was becoming such of special woman of substance, blah, blah, blah. It was ridiculous, really. Then the topic turned to the daughter’s boyfriend. This was infinitely more interesting to me, it had to be better than hearing the enhanced overview of her resume.
As if this universally summed up the reasons for her distaste of this young man, she said,
“His parents are divorced. We don’t like that.”
It just hung there. It just hung there like a fart.
My angel friend, intimately aware of the toll that the end of my marriage took on my family, knew that this was just a stupid thing for Ellen to say — in front of anyone, let alone me. I don’t remember exactly what my angel friend said, but she tried to correct and diffuse the sheer stupidity and insensitivity of Ellen BlueBlood’s remark. It didn’t work. Mrs. BlueBlood didn’t get it. It went right over her head. She went on to discuss the boyfriend and made truly legitimate complaints about him — i.e. he tried to break up with her daughter at a funeral. Yeah, she should have led with that. Now that’s a good reason to dislike the boy.
I said nothing. At the time, Ellen BlueBlood’s stupid comment hit hard. I was already feeling so vulnerable, being single at a party for couples, and embarrassed that everyone in the room knew of my troubles, etc. But then, having to hear such hurtful stupidity, and suddenly realizing she might not be the only person in the world who feels that way, . . . wondering whether some idiot will unfairly judge my children because of my failed marriage — well, her comment, as I said, hit me hard — last year.
But this year, when the same woman went on and on about her daughter’s international travels and appointments, blah, blah, blah. I was just bored.
Okay, maybe part of me hopes her daughter shacks up with a truck driving, gun rack mounted, sleeve tattooed, home-made cigarette smoking, tooth challenged, GED failing and criminal record having, good old boy named Bubba, — that is, until Bubba kicks her out of the trailer and she ends up with an unemployed, black as night rebound guy, who is a multiple baby mama having, “Up and Coming” Rapper chasing a record deal, whose grandmother raised him (of course), yet she is ten years younger than Ellen BlueBlood and cleans her office at night. Maybe part of me would enjoy that. I mean, really, if Ellen BlueBlood is scared of a stereotype, let’s give her a boatload of the really offensive ones, right? Yeah, I’m human— and perhaps a little evil. heh heh heh.
And oh snap, Ellen BlueBlood also has a son– a less accomplished son attending a second-tier (oh, the horror) college. Hmmm. Maybe I should hit that. Ha! But I digress.
In the end, this year’s party was uneventful. I deserve that. My realistic expectations were met, nod to my fellow Tweeter @blogginglily who described it as such. Unlike last year, no one insulted me (to my face) and I was– if not entirely comfortable– at least accepting of being with this group of couples. Bonus, since it was a white elephant Christmas gift exchange party, I got a present:
We all thought it was a candle holder, but a smart Tweeter @TX_Lisa pointed out that the side candles would drip and suggested instead that it might be a vase. So yeah, the party “met expectations” and I got a scary, hideous, slightly pornographic vase. Not too shabby.
Just Me With . . . the ugliest vase ever . . . and expectations met.
Hmmmm, I wonder when Ellen BlueBlood’s boy gets home from college for the holidays . . .
(And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson)
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Ha!
Other holiday related posts:
Blowing Off the Holidays — Just say no.
Time Management, Procrastination, Holiday Shopping and Moving — Some things will take exactly as much time as you allot to them.
All I Want for Christmas is My Kids — Splitting the babies after divorce.
A Good Neighbor, An Accidental Friend, and a Christmas Surprise — You never know the impact people have on each other.
Keeping It Simple At Christmas — Bells and whistles are not always required.
My First Grown Up Thanksgiving — Kind of — Thanksgiving in my house, without my kids
Craigslist Angels — One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure — Giving Away Christmas Decorations Can Be A Very Good Thing.
I try. I try to stay on the high road. But I’m human.
It was during my “War of the Roses Situation” or “The Invasion” as I called it, when my estranged husband, after two years, moved back into the marital home with children and I, without invitation or permission, as part of a legal maneuver. I’m still not sure what the legal maneuver was intended to accomplish . . . but I digress. The home was still marital property, thus absent physical abuse there was nothing I could do other than file civil motions to get him out, which would take weeks. I guess the emotional abuse of forcing himself in the home after two years didn’t count. In the meantime, he came “home” after work every night, slept on the couch, and began legal proceedings to evict me from the home which he’d chosen to leave years prior and which, he told me later, he never wanted. Yeah, good times, good times.
The only good thing was that a couple of months prior I had removed the television from downstairs to keep the kids from watching too much. So he was sitting in there in silence, with nothing to do. (He had no laptop or smartphone at the time.) Ha.
Anyway, I was shocked, outraged, miserable, and yes, pissed.
This was just so unnecessary; he had an apartment. So this wasn’t one of those -“I have no where to go” situations. I knew this. Surveillance with My Mother– The “Look- Out“. But because I was not on that lease, that apartment was his alone. But my home? It was still his home, too, technically, because his name was on the deed. Legally he could come and go at will, even though his “will” had been to move out years before. It was so unfair. I had no choice but to wait for the wheels of justice to turn and get that court order to get him out for good. In the meantime, I would play it cool. Real cool.
Remember that “Sex and The City” when Carrie’s boyfriend, Jack Berger, dumped her via a post-it note? She was, of course, livid. That same night when she ran into Berger’s friends, she intended to take the high road and just say hello. Instead, she took the lowest possible road, first informing his friends that Berger was a bad lover, then educating his friends on the right and wrong way to break up with someone. Much to her surprise, she did not play it cool.
Well, I had a Carrie moment. I hadn’t intended to say or do anything. I was going to take the high road. But this was my home and he was just sitting there on my couch. He hadn’t lived with us for two years, but he was on my couch! It was too much to bear. My internal GPS took me off the high road, just for a few blocks. Like Carrie Bradshaw, my efforts to play it cool failed miserably.
But I channeled a different Carrie. I went Carrie Underwood on his ass.
It was quiet, the children were asleep. He was just sitting there. So I took the opportunity to fill the room with the sounds of Carrie Underwood’s Before He Cheats. If you are unfamiliar, this is a country, pop-crossover tune with the following chorus:
I dug my key into the side of his
pretty little souped up four-wheel drive
Carved my name into his leather seats
Took a Louisville Slugger to both headlights
Slashed a hole in all four tires
Maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats.
Pretty self-explanatory. Gotta love country music, no hidden meanings.
You see, my estranged husband/roommate had an SUV that he loved. I could see it from the kitchen. It was red. It was parked in the driveway. Every time I saw that truck I wanted to hit it, or at least ‘key” it. What is up with women and keying cars? Is it like some sort of primal urge — like shoe shopping or chocolate for some women . . . but I digress. I’d never actually keyed a car, but somehow, I really, really wanted to.
Anyway, I blared the song, I mean blared it. Volume at 10. I sang along, “I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped up four-wheel drive.” I danced, I whipped my hair. I pressed repeat. Oh yeah, I was jammin’. He sat motionless on the couch. He must have feared I’d lost my mind. And — I was standing in the kitchen with all the cutlery.
Then I started to talk. I went on and on about how dangerous it is to leave his car out on our dark driveway, that anything could happen to it. It really wasn’t safe. There had been some crime in the neighborhood lately, I told him. Maybe he didn’t realize since . . . HE MOVED OUT TWO YEARS AGO!!!!!
“I’m just saying,” I said, being ever so helpful.
He was non-responsive. But I think I made my point. Point being — that I might, I just might do something crazy.
Now, I’m too smart to actually commit vandalism. I would not intentionally destroy or devalue marital property. That would be bad. Plus, I never would have given him anything that could be used against me in court. I just planted the seed, so to speak, of my discontent.
The bottom line is I never touched his stinkin’ car. It took a tremendous amount of will power, but his ride remained an undamaged symbol of his masculinity and mid-life crisis.
I guess I hadn’t veered too far from the high road after all. Except I went a little justifiably crazy, but I had enough sense to do it in private and leave no evidence. Thank you very much, law degree.
Still, I would bet good money that the next morning and every morning after that he made a thorough inspection of his “pretty little souped up four-wheel drive” before heading off to work.
Legally, he’d won this battle — at least temporarily. But I couldn’t let him feel so comfortable about it. Not on my couch.
Thanks Carrie Bradshaw. Thanks Carrie Underwood.
Hell, he’s lucky I didn’t go all Stephen King’s Carrie on his behind.
Just Me With . . . A Tale Of Three Carries, and a slip off the high road.
Postscript: I got my court order two months after The Invasion. Later the marital home was sold at my request.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: at some point in our lives, we find ourselves in the bushes in some sort of surveillance situation. I know, with all the electronic information gathering capabilities we don’t have to drive by a boyfriend’s house anymore, we can check his Facebook wall and see what he’s up to and who he’s up under. Still, sometimes a girl needs more.
My divorce was nasty. At one point there was a War of the Roses situation. If you don’t know the reference, it was a movie where there was a wealthy couple going through a contentious divorce. The children were grown and gone and the couple was arguing over, among other things, the substantial, valuable marital home that had been painstakingly restored by the wife while the husband concentrated on his career, which flourished. During the separation the husband, upon advice of his counsel, moved back into the family home while his wife was still living there. Comedy, drama, wreckage and bloodshed ensued. Needless to say, it is a dark, black comedy.
Well, without going into all the sad details of my situation, though we’d been separated for a couple of years, my husband’s attorney advised him to move back into the house, without my invitation or permission. Unlike War of the Roses, though, we weren’t wealthy, and our kids were young and living right there — so to me, this was unforgivable. The fact was, however, the home was marital property and we were still married. Absent physical abuse I could do nothing except file civil motions to get him out, which would take weeks.
In the meantime, I suspected my husband was still keeping his apartment and his moving in with us was harassment, not a necessity, a fact that may become important in the upcoming hearings. Any evidence I could get of this might prove helpful, especially since he had stated in legal filings that he still lived “at home.” Perjury, anyone?
Well, during our War of the Roses, or as I sometimes called it, the “Home Invasion” — ooh I guess now I could call it “Occupy Wisteria Lane” or something . . . but I digress . . . I had already noted that he never showered at our house and only brought one small suitcase. His other stuff must be somewhere, he must be showering somewhere. Also, he usually drove a company car to work and left his car at his apartment. However, during the home invasion he never left his car at the house during the day (probably afraid that something would happen to it) so I suspected he was leaving the car at his apartment. I needed to document this. I could do this myself, I thought. Call it frugal, call it broke, but I wasn’t going to pay a private investigator or my lawyer for simple evidence gathering.
Get pictures of his car at his apartment complex. Simple.
What I Needed:
I needed to visit his apartment complex while he was at work — and I needed a partner– a lookout, if you will, to assist me.
Enter: My seventy something mother. She was willing, yet justifiably skittish.
We drove together under cover of darkness — wait, no we didn’t, it was a beautiful bright Spring day. The apartment complex wasn’t gated so I could just drive in. It was a swanky place, there were always landscapers working, keeping the grounds perfectly manicured. This was a complex primarily occupied by single professionals or child-free professional couples. It had a pool, a gym, a sauna, a recreation room . . . grrrr . . . . but I digress.
I drove closer to his apartment, and . . . I saw his car!
I pulled over and parked a safe distance away and started taking pictures, but I couldn’t get a good enough picture of his car which also showed the apartment building. I’d have to get out.
My mother and I sunk down in our seats while I thought. I also pretended to talk on my phone. An excellent cover, by the way. We didn’t look so out-of-place sitting in the car if I was on the phone. Back to the problem. I had concerns: What if the car was there because he’s actually home and not at work? What if he pops “home” during the day. I mean I didn’t know his schedule anymore — he was my estranged husband for goodness sake even though we were kind of living together. But, I reasoned, I was there, might as well go for it. I reminded myself that this man, after leaving me — and leaving me a mess, simply moved back “home” as a legal maneuver. Yeah, I was going to do this.
“Okay, Mom, I’m going to get out. I’m going to walk over, take some pictures and then get in the car.”
“You’re going to get in? ”
“Why not?” I thought. “I still have a car key, it’s marital property — just like the house. If he can move in our house, I can get in our car! There might be something helpful and I can take more pictures without calling attention to myself.” In hindsight, it really didn’t matter if I had been seen by him or anyone else. I wasn’t trespassing and I was getting in my own car. And even if my husband saw me? Whatever. I was in public. What was he going to do? Plus, I could take a picture of him at his place. Still, I’d rather not have been seen.
Back to the plan. I instructed my mom, “I need you to be my lookout. Look around when I’m gone, if you see him come out of the apartment or see his company car driving in, call my cell.” I cued up my number so she’d be ready. I was fully prepared to run and dive behind some of the perfectly manicured shrubbery– if necessary.
Clearly I had seen too many of the various Law and Orders, CSI, NCIS, The Fugitive and all the Bourne movies.
I walked — all casual like — down the path. I took some beautiful pictures of his (I mean “our”) car in front of his very cool apartment complex, showing his apartment door in the background. I think I even got pictures of his bicycle on his apartment balcony. The date and time would show up on the pictures, and I had a witness — also known as my mom.
The next part of my plan was to get in the car — there could be something with his actual address on it, plus I needed pictures of the empty back of the car, showing he was not keeping his worldly possessions there.
My car key was already in my hand and ready.
I got in — all casual like.
Meanwhile . . . my mom was freaking out. She called my oldest sister, who called her grown children. The word was out: Grandmom was on a surveillance and evidence gathering assignment.
The responses were all over the place.
Granddaughter Number One, the conservative one, apparently said to my sister: “I don’t think Grandmom should be doing this. This can’t be good for her. Too much stress.”
Granddaughter Number Two, the less conservative one, was all over it: “I think it’s cool. It gives Grandmom something to do. She needs that. I think it’s good for her. I wish I could help.”
My Mom (the Grandmom): “I want to go home now. Can we go home now?”
We didn’t tell my Dad. Guys don’t need to know everything.
Meanwhile, I was in — the car, that is. I quickly got what I needed: pictures of a car which was free of personal belongings, a utility bill in his name showing he was still paying the electric bill to his apartment, and a bank statement, which showed that he had money, and that he was giving some money to his ex? girlfriend. I didn’t take a thing, leaving with nothing but the photographs in my camera. I emerged from his (I mean “our“ ) car — all casual like — and strolled back into my (I mean “our” other) car. I drove off slowly, trying desperately not to call attention to myself at this hip apartment complex. I was determined to blend — in my beat up old minivan, with a nervous and mumbling old lady at my side.
Whatever, mission accomplished. I had the goods.
And in the process, I had turned out my own mother — she was now a common look-out for her daughter’s questionable –but perfectly legal –evidence gathering activity.
Just Me With . . . a camera and a plan — all casual like — and a mom.
If you’ve never seen it, you should check out War of the Roses. It’s a disturbingly enjoyable movie.
Gavin, the Attorney: “There are two dilemmas . . . that rattle the human skull. How do you hold onto someone who won’t stay? And how do you get rid of someone who won’t go?”
War of the Roses
I’ve experienced both — with the same guy.
I’ll call her Erin. She was senior to me in the fancy law firm we worked in — seems like a lifetime ago. She was attractive, a model of good taste, not particularly well liked and frankly a little scary. Harsh, is what people said about her. She was playing with the big boys, and had watched the big boys make partner while they passed her over, year after year, despite her superior qualifications and track record. Picture a younger Miranda from The Devil Wears Prada, but a Miranda who has to work under all of the Mad Men.
On the personal side, Erin is single, never married. This made her an expert on dating. She also had had a long, too long relationship with an older man who would not commit. She spent the bulk of her last good child bearing years with this man, kind of like Mr. Big from Sex and The City, but not as cute. Following her ultimatum, he finally told her he would never marry. They continued to date and travel together but with no expectations for more. Like Woody and Mia (without all the kids) they kept separate apartments in the city.
When I was a junior attorney Erin scared the crap out of me and I vowed never to have a meal with her. Once I matured professionally (and personally) I found myself getting closer to her and we became friends.
By the time my marriage ended neither of us worked at the firm anymore. They never did make her partner. She had ended her relationship with “Mr. Big Can’t Commit Guy” for good but had had no serious relationships since. I was struggling, this was during some pretty dark times, but I didn’t want her to know how hard things were for me — maybe she did still scare me a bit. Regardless, her intuitiveness and observation skills revealed my pain. I was still deeply wounded by my then soon-to-be-ex’s ability to so easily discard and replace me. I admitted that it had deeply injured my ego and confidence. Erin, however, had never been impressed with my Ex and she didn’t mince words. She never did.
Erin instructed me:
She further explained that I needed to be around men who will appreciate my good qualities, men who will appreciate my choosing to spend time with them. She elaborated that these dates should not end in sex, that I should not be looking for a boyfriend or someone to love. These dates should simply be a means to an end, a means to break away from being the wife — the jilted and rejected wife. I needed, she said, to see myself the way others see me– not how my Ex treated me.
I wasn’t really convinced that I could or should take her advice, because I really did not want a man and was still too depressed and wounded to seriously consider it. She sensed that, and added, in her strong, pointed manner,
“Roxanne, he has changed the playing field. You have a right to play on that field.”
I wasn’t ready to take her advice then and I didn’t. But she’s a smart woman, a really, scary, smart woman.
Just Me With . . . the good advice, that I just didn’t take.