The sign is about to go up. The sign for the this year’s high school musical. This is significant to me, because, as I’ve written before — I remember things, so many things. It’s a gift — and a curse.
The local high school here has a very well-respected music and theater department. Going to see a play at the high school isn’t something that only a parent of a performer would put oneself through. It isn’t a painful two hours required by some familial connection to some pimply faced kid. No, it’s kind of like going to a “real” show. It is actually enjoyable, yet since it is still just a school production, the tickets are cheap. When my kids were little, I would take them to these shows and to other local high schools if they had a decent theater department. It’s a night out, and a way to introduce live theater to children without having to take out a second mortgage.
My kids’ high school usually alternates between a classic musical or one of the lesser known newer ones and they “recycle” ones they’ve done before when enough time has passed.
This brings me to the personal significance of the sign going up. Apparently, enough time has passed that the school has decided to repeat its production of the musical they did when my marriage ended. Let’s say it was The King and I — it wasn’t — but that’s the one I’m going with for purposes of this post.
Over the years I’ve only danced around the actual happenings surrounding my husband’s departure, dealing more with the fallout after he left than the painful process of his leaving. I tell myself I’m saving it for my memoir, but really — I’m extremely uncomfortable talking about it — still. For me, I guess, not enough time has passed for a revival.
Sometimes, though, you just have to raise the curtain — a little.
So here it is. It was about three weeks after he’d told me, “I have to go.” Those three weeks consisted largely of me begging him not to leave me, until one Friday night I finally said to him — “I guess I can’t force you to stay.”
That’s all he needed to hear.
By the next day, Saturday, he had booked a hotel room, and planned to sleep there that night. (Say what now?) That joker wasted no time. The plan was to tell the children on Sunday (aka the worst day of my life). After, he would officially move out.
So Saturday night? Separation Eve?
We went to see a play.
Our family was too big to get seats in one row. Musicals are a hot ticket in town. So I sat behind my husband, we each were flanked with kids. I remember thinking it was a mistake to sit behind him, because I’d have to see him, the back of his head, if I looked up at the play. And I didn’t want to cry. I remember trying very hard not to cry during the show, though there was comfort when the lights went down that my tears wouldn’t be noticed. Too bad it wasn’t really The King and I, I always cry at the end of The King and I. No matter, I had tissues to cover any escaping signs of my emotional turmoil. I always carried tissues with me from that time on. Trying not to cry or be seen crying in public became almost my vocation in the next year.
I remember during the play reaching out in front of me and caressing my husband’s shoulder. I just needed to touch him. I needed him to know I was there. Still. There. Hurting. I remember him acknowledging my touch without looking at me, as if he were saying, “Oh bless her heart.” I remember the awkward Intermission, when small talk with my soon to be ex-everything seemed so wrong and eye contact deemed so dangerous, as it might trigger the tears. I talked with someone I knew in the pit orchestra instead, I recall.
And I remember the play, “The King and I.” I remember thinking this would really be good, except for, you know, my life falling apart.
I was in a fog, a fog of shock, denial and accommodation. I’ve since had some clarity on the subject. And I don’t love him anymore. Haven’t for years. Still, I remember things.
The kids were oblivious. They enjoyed the play, having no idea that their world was going to be completely turned upside down — in a matter of hours.
When the show was over, we all went home and put the kids to bed.
Then my husband left our home to stay at a hotel. I knew that when he returned the next day it would be so that we could tell the kids he’d be moving out and he would, indeed, move out.
But that was then . . .
And enough time has passed (apparently) that it’s okay for the high school to put on the same musical. My kids aren’t little anymore. One is in college. The rest now go to this same high school, which means that I will see that sign every day, multiple times a day, until the show is over.
I used to hope that my kids would get involved in theater at the high school. None did. But, I think, this might be a blessing.
Because I don’t have to go to this show. Because if I did go to this particular production, I couldn’t help but relive that night, the beginning of the hardest days of my life and the long journey since.
If I had a kid performing in the 2015 production of The King and I ?
I don’t think I would handle that well. I remember things. It’s a gift and — oh hell — it’s a curse.
So, the sign will go up soon. Enough time has passed for a revival.
But no one asked me.
It will take all the restraint I have left in my being not to run the damn sign over.
Just Me With . . . a night at the theater. Too bad it isn’t Chicago, about famous murderesses . . . and their men — who had it comin.’
And I’m glad it wasn’t really The King and I, because that is a beautiful show and I would hate for it to be ruined.
Postscript: The damn sign is up now.
My Daddy Moved Out — What one kid said about it at school.
Happy Birthday to My Ex-Husband’s Ex-Girlfriend — Because I remember everything.
Worst Super Bowl, Remembered — Again, because I remember everything
My Cheating Husband was Packing Viagra — I helped him pack.
Six Days of Separation — I was a mess the next week.
I Don’t Love Him — self-explanatory.
When I Needed A Helping Hand — To move his stuff.
Although my husband and I were regularly engaging in “the physical act of love” (channeling Ross from Friends), whenever he wanted, and I mean, I really mean — whenever he wanted, see Sex On Demand, let’s just say that such activities did not require a huge time commitment.
I had suggested that my husband talk to his doctor about it, but he declined. No, he would not. No.
Fast forward to after my husband “broke up with me” and moved out, taking surprisingly few possessions, saying he’d come back for the rest. As I discussed in When I Needed A Helping Hand, I didn’t want him to keep coming back to get his stuff so I decided I’d pack it up for him–not to help him, but to help me. Like mothers often say to children — “in or out,” he had chosen “out,” despite my begging, and I mean, I really mean — begging him to reconsider. So, I thought I’d help the process along if for no other reason than to keep him from prolonging it.
One night, after the kids were in bed, behind my closed bedroom door, my sister, a friend, and I packed up his shit. At one point I pulled out one of his suitcases he’d used for his last trip, an island vacation which I’d recently discovered he’d taken with a lady friend. See My Worst Super Bowl, Remembered. I intended to use the suitcase to pack some of his things.
The suitcase, I noticed, still sported the airport tags.
It also contained some papers, which I read.
The papers turned out to be receipts for my husband’s prescription for Viagra, well actually Levitra, a “sister” (or should I say ‘bro) erectile dysfunction drug . The prescription had been filled in the week prior to my husband’s romantic island vacation with his sweetie.
What the . . . hell?
I read it, showed it to my sister and friend. They both said, if I recall correctly, “Ew.”
There it was, in my hand, evidence that my husband had pursued the best that modern western medicine had to offer in order to enhance his sexual relationship with another woman, the woman he was not leaving me for, or so he said, though they had secured an apartment together and that’s where all his things were no doubt going.
Lucky girl . . . she got his stuff, and his stuff on steroids . . .
Looking back, I remembered I’d previously discovered (and suppressed) facts in support of this information — facts that suddenly made sense.
His doctor had called the house to confirm an appointment.
I had wondered: Why? Why? When we were going through this god-awful thing, was my husband making doctor’s appointments? I was the one who was sick, wasn’t eating or wasn’t sleeping and was constantly crying — why was he going to the doctor?
The pharmacy had called to tell him his prescription was ready.
I had wondered: What is he taking? He’s not sick! He’s a mean son-of-a-bitch, certainly — but he’s not sick!
Later, after his stuff was packed and gone, at some point in my post-separation cleaning frenzy –I’m the polar opposite of a hoarder, when I’m upset I throw everything out — I’d found a letter from the insurance company, dated right after the romantic trip time, stating that yes, based on his doctor’s recommendation, the unnamed medication in question would indeed be covered by insurance.
I had wondered: What? Had he paid the full price for the Viagra in order to get it before the trip because insurance hadn’t kicked in yet?
According to the dates and bank receipts which showed a $200 plus expenditure at the pharmacy on the eve of the island trip, yes, yes, he had.
Ouch. But it all made sense now.
I wanted to scream, “Did he tell his doctor that he needed this medication for use with his girlfriend and NOT his wife? DID THE DOCTOR KNOW THAT LITTLE FACT?????”
Not that it mattered.
I tried not to think of his chemically enhanced love-making to this woman. She brought him newness and adoration, he brought . . . drugs.
I packed his crap a little faster after this discovery, as I recall. Just a little bit faster.
And I think I washed my hands.
Just Me With . . . a medical discovery.
After everything was packed I called a friend When I Needed A Helping Hand.
My husband had moved out. It had been six days. Six days of separation. (I had to make the picture relevant somehow. )
I was a wreck. Truly. I can’t even describe it here. I’m not ready.
It was the weekend after he’d moved out and my husband stopped by the house to see the children and to tell me he’d be away for a few days. You see, the “other woman” who I’d just found out about a couple of weeks prior, see My Worst Superbowl, Remembered, lived in another city. She planned to move to our town but that hadn’t happened yet. So he was going to see her. Ironically, she lived in a city where I had wanted to move, but my husband had vetoed that, said absolutely not, he would never live there. Now he was going there for a long weekend– to see his girlfriend. Huh.
On our anniversary weekend . . . Huh.
Regardless, the matter at hand was that:
My husband stopped by our house on his way to catch a flight to spend a few days with his girlfriend.
Let that sit for a minute.
My husband and I had been together since high school.
Let that sit for a minute.
We had been married for many, many years and had five young children.
Let that sit for a minute.
But on this day, six days after moving out, after breaking my heart, hell, after breaking me, and causing unspeakable pain to the children as well, he showed up at what used to be at our house . . . and knocked. That was appropriate, given the situation, but it was like a kick in the kidneys.
It hit me: He really doesn’t live here anymore . . .
Still, what sent me over the edge was . . . him . . . the sight of . . . him.
The brother looked good.
Now my husband has always been a very good-looking man, but he could be a bit of a slob sometimes. He went too long between hair cuts and shaves. He had a good job, but not the kind of job that required that he be clean-shaven. His facial hair came in spotty, he could never grow a full beard, so it wasn’t the sexy five-o’clock shadow. It was more of a “I just don’t give a crap look.” Still, he would clean up semi-regularly and when he needed to for an event. And when he did? He looked damn good.
On this day, six days after having moved out, he had shaved and had a fresh hair cut. And he was wearing, not the tee-shirt he usually sported on weekends, but a nice button down shirt and slacks. He looked damn good — for her — for his girlfriend.
Let that sit for a minute.
I didn’t know what to do so I went to the store while he played with the kids. Shortly after I returned he looked at his watch and said he had to go. I asked if he was going to her city (I didn’t use her name) and he said yes, and then snapped,
“What am I gonna do here?”
Ouch. Yeah, perhaps I’m not ready to share so much, but I digress . . .
Then he left. He left what would later be referred to as “the marital home” to catch his flight to get to his girlfriend’s house.
He had literally left me to go to her, and looked damn good while he did it. I, on the other hand, didn’t look so good — or feel so good.
He was gone and I lost it.
I guess it was a good-old fashioned panic attack, with an underlying dose of depression. I hadn’t been eating or sleeping and had been crying off and on for a month. I was already fragile. So fragile. And this, seeing my husband, my high school sweetheart, my first love, looking like he was going on a date, six days after having moved out, well that was too much. The thought of him, so coiffed and together and jetting off to stay with a woman and kiss her hello, maybe see her friends and family — like a couple — literally drove me mad. I went to my room. The kids must have been watching TV or something. I remember grabbing my address book (I didn’t have a smart phone at the time) and paging through it, trying to find someone to call, looking for someone to help me because I felt out of control. I was shaking. I was breathing too heavily. But my parents didn’t even know he’d moved out, I have no siblings in the area and my best friend who had helped me on moving day is not always available, being a physician. My heart was racing, my breathing panicked, the tears were coming and I had the kids to think about and take care of.
I found the name of a woman, an acquaintance, really. I’ll call her Christina. We’d met through our children and attended kids parties together, did the couples dinner thing at her house a couple of times (my husband and I rarely had people over, that’s another issue). I always liked this woman — but we hadn’t become good friends. There were a lot of reasons, my husband and her’s had nothing in common, I had so many kids, not a lot of money, was insecure socially and my husband was a loner and I followed his lead, as I’d been conditioned to do. Christina, a lawyer turned stay-at-home mom ,was also a professor’s wife with a manageable sized family. They entertained, they traveled, and she spoke three languages. This was not her home town. I think I felt inadequate around her, though we were both lawyers, or maybe it was that I saw in her a life I’d missed out on. Huh. But I digress . . .
Even though we weren’t that close, I dialed Christina’s number after my husband backed out of our driveway on his way to his girlfriend. Christina had unwittingly won my dysfunctional lottery, got my call — and answered.
I could barely speak yet I stammered something along the lines of:
He was here and he left.
He left to be with her.
I don’t know what to do.
I can’t handle this!
I know I’m supposed to be strong but I really can’t handle this.
I can’t. I really can’t.
The tears were coming much harder now. I was pacing, panting and alternately shaking and clenching my free hand.
I was not handling this with grace and ease. Not by a long shot.
I don’t remember what Christina said to me. I can’t remember not because it was so long ago, but because I was really — ill. I couldn’t have told anyone what she’d said even the very next day.
Long story short, as they say, she talked me down from my frenzy and kept me from spinning further out of control. I think she told me to breathe. I needed to be told that. I think she offered to take the kids or at least some or one of them.
I don’t know. I don’t remember.
I do know that her answering the phone that day helped me more than she’ll ever know. (Not to sound overly dramatic but the situation was pretty bad. I was pretty bad.)
Christina and I never became the kind of friends who hang out regularly. She did take my son to play with hers a few times, but our kids were not in the same grade, and we lost touch.
Recently, however, I ran into her at a school concert. I admit that since that whole ordeal I’ve felt a bit embarrassed by my actions, my condition and my persistent inability to bounce back. I know she never judged me but I often feel like other women deal with this stuff so much better than I do — so I judge myself. Still, I was glad to see her to exchange pleasantries. Truthfully, I’ve always admired her. But when I saw Christina she had a bit of news. She casually told me she’d moved out of her house and now lives alone in a nearby apartment. I knew her oldest was away at college, but she told me that the other boy, a ninth grader, lives with his father in their marital home. Huh.
I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “Um . . . what?” ( I have such a way with words.)
She smiled, repeated herself and said, “You never know what life brings” and added, matter of factly, that her husband was going to buy her out of the house and that she’d been on her own for about three months.
She seemed fine. In fact, she seemed good, really.
We exchanged cell phone numbers. I don’t know if she needs help or someone to talk to . . . or whatever. If I can help, I will.
Just Me With . . . maybe a new (old) friend?
I’ll try really hard not to hyperventilate when I call her from now on.
See Also: “My Daddy Moved Out” — My daughters announcing the break up.
The social worker said, “She wants to break you.” She, being my daughter.
The reasons why there is a social worker in my house are beyond what I feel like writing about now. But know that it was my reaching out for help, not a protective services situation. My daughter is struggling with anger and depression and literally ran — I mean ran from traditional counseling. You haven’t lived until you’ve chased a child around a therapist’s office, but I digress. Consequently, I sought another route which brings professionals to the house.
Over the years I had done what I was supposed to do. I told the children what they needed to know about the separation and divorce and move based on their age and capacity to understand. I did not talk about the legal aspects of it. The children never knew that I suffered through dealing with various court filings (actually for me I was usually responding to my husband’s filings) and court appearances. They don’t know about the financial and professional ruin and my poor health. They were too little, it was appropriate to shield them. The younger ones don’t seem to remember my good old-fashioned nervous breakdown and years, literally — years of tears. I suppose that’s good. I know it’s good. When my children are grown and thinking back on their childhood and mother I don’t want them to recall an image of me lying on the kitchen floor sobbing. That’s not cool.
She has stated that her misery is because we moved from the big marital home in the nice neighborhood, but I think it’s more. I agree, she wants to break me. I believe she thinks any appearance of strength or acceptance on my part somehow negates her feelings of loss. The more comfortable I get with leaving the old life — the old house, the more miserable she seems.
What she doesn’t know is that I’m already broken, I broke down long ago, my loss was substantial. For the last few years I’ve just been in survival and repair mode, with medications and counseling as needed, along with a fair amount of carpentry. As the children have gotten older I’ve enhanced explanations and have told them they can ask me anything and I will respond (age appropriately). I’ve explained why we had to move, and why we moved to where we are now . . . but she’s too young and too miserable right now to hear it.
Still, she is old enough to know that our move to a much smaller house in a poor neighborhood is not merely a new adventure; she can see that we have taken a step down, socio-economically. She also knows that her Dad also has a new life — with new people in it — and that’s just the way it is.
But, without acceptance of it all, it stinks.
Plus, my daughter is savvy, suspicious, practical and depressed enough to outright reject the “positive spin” talk. I’ve tried. She’ll need a different angle. She’s a lot like me that way.
And let’s face it, misery loves company, and she wants me to be miserable and angry, too. (I am, but I try not to show it.)
Though I’m thankful she feels comfortable enough with me to express her feelings, especially since she is uncomfortable with her Dad, I still want to (but won’t) say,
“Don’t break me, girl. You need me, more than you know. I’m all you got. I am not invincible. I am human, even though I am your mother. Don’t break me. Please. I’ve been broken before, you don’t remember — but it ain’t pretty.“
So when I recently tweeted, “I will not cry, I will not cry, I will not cry” after the heart wrenching session with my daughter and the social worker, it was because it hurt me to my soul and I feared that if I cried I would never stop. I know, sounds overly dramatic, but sometimes . . . it is.
Just Me With . . . some struggles.
She was in first grade when her world changed. Her Daddy had moved out during a three-day weekend — one of those holiday weekends when people buy refrigerators and mattresses. Me? I was online looking up how to tell children about their parents’ separation. That Sunday we told the kids and he moved out the same day (I cannot describe that day, it was — no words, yet.) On that holiday Monday I held back sobs long enough to call each teacher at home and give him/her a heads up. Having no idea how the kids would be at school, I asked the teachers to call me if there was any strange behavior — outbursts, crying, sullenness, etc. They were crying a lot at home, off and on.
They still had “Circle Time” in Mr. Harris’ first grade room. “Circle Time” was the part of the school day when the children sat on the floor, each taking a turn to speak freely. It was meant to encourage discussion and teach respect and listening to others. The teacher used a rain stick and passed it around the circle. The rule was, the child with the rain stick had the floor (or rug — ha ha). The other children must listen to the speaker and be quiet, but they could ask questions after the child has finished. Since it had been a long weekend, the children discussed what they had done over the weekend.
When my daughter got the rain stick she announced to the class:
“My Daddy moved out over the weekend.“
She told me all about it when she got home from school. She exclaimed, with bright, light eyes open wide, and in that — slightly too loud, high-pitched and overly dramatic little girl voice,
“Mommy, everybody got soooo quiet. I could hear the birds outside and the trucks on the street! Nobody said anything.”
That’s some serious silence for a classroom of first graders.
I was a mess; I managed to murmur something about how they probably didn’t know what to say. I asked what the teacher said. She said he didn’t say much.
I sometimes referred to this child as a wealth of “inaccurate information” (Hell, I still do). I never really know what the whole truth is with her. Once I found her name written on the wall at home. Of course it had to be her work. Why would another child write her name? She denied it of course. But not only did she deny it, she took paper and a pencil to all of the other children procured handwriting samples in an attempt to prove her innocence. Her investigation was flawed since little sisters couldn’t write anything but their own names at the time, but I had to give her props for her tenacity.
My little lawyer . . . but I digress . . .
She was telling the truth about Circle Time, though. I spoke to Mr. Harris later, and he confirmed her story, saying that the other kids did indeed fall silent when my daughter made her announcement. Since there were no questions he just continued on to the next child. Reportedly, my daughter appeared to be okay. Mr. Harris told me that he was glad he already knew, though, and he thanked me for giving him a heads up.
We often think of how to tell the kids. This is how one kid told . . . her whole class.
Just Me With . . . a Circle Time story.
By the way, her twin in the class across the hall didn’t say a word to anybody, and was angry that her sister told our business.
Our Break Up, The Musical Revival — Oh yeah, we went to a play that weekend.
Six Days of Separation — I was a hot mess.
My Cheating Husband Was Packing Viagra — Self Explanatory
When I Needed a Helping Hand — People can be so nice.