There's a new radio station in Atlanta, DAVE FM. I think this must be a syndicated broadcast. I was more than mildly surprised to hear this little piece of 80's synth pseudo new wave playing on the predominantly rock oldies station. Ahh, times change, I guess.
Never had a doubt
In the beginning
Never a doubt
Trusted too true
In the beginning
I loved you right through
Arm in arm we laughed like kids
At all the silly things we did
You made me
Knowing I'd believe
You knew you'd never keep
Second time around
I'm still believing the words that you say
You said you'd always be here
"In love forever"
Still repeats in my head
You can't finish what you start
If this is love it breaks my heart
You made me promises promises
You knew you'd never keep
Why do I believe?
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
What a strange feeling it was to be in that house again, with those kids and him.
I had asked for a short leave of absence from my new job, and I told my boss why. She was very understanding, and she graciously let me have a week out, no questions asked. She told me she would do her best to arrange additional time, if I needed it, which I appreciated. He had taken off a few days, as well, and his boss already knew the deal - everyone where he worked was heavily invested in these kids and their well-being, so he was given time off with good wishes.
Our family and friends all nodded and smiled and thought the same thing: that through this horrible tragedy, we would put our marriage and our life back together, and the kids would live with us happily ever after. It seemed like a happy ending, and you know how people love happy endings.
He spent a fair amount of daytime with us, but he spent his nights at his brother's house. Well, it was a little house that his brother owned that was near his mom's place, but he was there alone. He had stayed there when we had first split up, and when evening came, he retreated and left me and the kids alone at the big house. We both knew that the restraining order was still in place, and even if I wasn't enforcing it to the letter of the law, I could, so he really didn't push the issue.
Our days were spent in each other's company, and I would catch myself watching him play with the kids. My heart would twist in my chest, the image was so idyllic. He could be so incredibly kind, and he was so gentle with Kimberly that it was almost impossible to reconcile the image of this perfect man with the monster that had attacked me.
Like a shark in blood-filled water, he seemed to sense me weakening. He would make comments like, "This is how nice it CAN be, when we are working together," and "Things would be alot different if you had just gotten a job like you have now back when we were going through our bad time." He would always refer to the attack and the days that followed it as "our bad time".
He continually ingratiated himself to me by saying things like, "You know, I haven't been with anyone else since we split up." He knew that those words were heavy currency with me. Although I had never displayed my jealousy in the ways that he had displayed his, mine was every bit as strong. I had lived in fear of him finding another woman for years, and I was plagued with nightmares of him walking away from me, his arm around another woman, them both laughing. Just like my childhood crushes had, my jealousies embarassed me deeply. I had really only admitted them to him once, in an intimate moment. He was so delighted with the admission that he had kidded me ever since about other women coming onto him. I feel sure he never knew how deeply that cut me, because I never let on.
Later in the marriage when he began to angrily tell me that no one else would ever want me, those pangs of jealousy and fears of abandonment mutated into monstrous, debilitating, panic-inducing shockwaves whenever I allowed myself to envision him with another. It was by far the hardest part of the divorce, dealing with the feeling that I had been abandoned and left alone. If there was any part of my past and my weak makeup that would be my downfall, it would surely be that.
Being back in that town, back in that house, back in his presence, it felt like I was succumbing to a very seductive brainwashing. If I could forgive and forget, I could have my home, my kids and my husband back. I wouldn't be alone and scared anymore. The kids would have a home. All I had to do was admit that it had been all my fault and that he wasn't to blame, and that he would never, ever do it again. I began to rationalize everything that happened. Maybe I had driven him to it. He was a good man, he had never cheated on me. I had found the new house, not him. I had lost my job, not him. I had created alot of the financial pressure. He had never hit me in all of the 10 years that we had been together, it was just a bad time, like he and everyone else tried to tell me. I began to freefall.
When the time was right, he sweetened the already sickeningly sweet deal: since the house had appreciated, we could sell the house and buy something smaller, we could adopt the kids and I could stay home with them. The temptation that literally dripped from that offer was too much for me to resist.
In quiet moments, when the kids were sleeping and when I was laying there NOT sleeping, I mulled the situation over. As usual, my mind tumbled the rough ideas over and over, smoothing and polishing them to a high sheen. This wasn't the kind of situation that I needed to bluff through. This wasn't changing the year on my birth certificate, or having my sister give me a good reference for a nonexistent job. This was something that would affect the kids' lives. And mine. I knew that if DFCS had any inkling that I had been beaten, those kids would be whisked away pronto. I wasn't sure I would be able to admit it publically, but that wasn't the only thing worrying me.
Who knows why I did it, maybe woman's intuition, maybe I wanted to see him, maybe some internal voice was trying to interject some sanity, but one evening while the kids were over at his sister's watching movies and playing with my nieces, I detoured while on my way to the grocery store and drove by the little house where he was staying.
You know what they say . . . timing is everything.
His truck was there, so I didn't hesitate to get out of the car and approach the door. The house was quiet, the front room was dark, so I knocked instead of just walking right in (small town, no one locked their doors). There was no answer, so I walked into the house to leave him a note. I figured he had run to town with one of his brothers to get a hamburger or something. I was searching for some paper when I heard him yell from the back bedroom, "Who's out there?" Walking back toward the room, I casually said,"It's just me, I was looking for something to leave you a note with." Opening the door and leaning in, I jokingly said "I know you don't read or write much, but don't you have any paper in this house?" I stood there staring, unblinking, not able to accept the sight or turn away.
He was standing beside the bed, hurriedly stepping into his shorts, and there was a girl sitting up in the bed, nervously clutching the covers up around her chest.
The shock was too much. I struggled to remain standing; my heart was pounding and seizing up all at once. I was seeing shooting stars and feeling far removed from my body. When panic attacks are extreme enough, you feel that way. Sometimes I passed out, but this time, I was fighting the feeling with everything I had.
I didn't make a sound. I turned and stumbled toward the door. He might have been speaking to me as I left, I have no idea.
I was back in the car, driving away, when it finally all registered with me. Quickly jerking the wheel to the right, I pulled off to the side of the little rural road, throwing the car into park. I left the car running, and held onto the fender and hood for dear life as I struggled around the front of the car and into the overgrowth and bushes, covering my mouth with one hand. When I made it an acceptable distance from the car, I let the sick feeling overtake me, and I sobbed, threw up, and choked until I fell to my knees, exhausted. No one passed by; I'm not sure how long I laid there.
Once back on my feet, I tried to stifle the sobs and compose myself enough to drive home. I had to get back there before the kids got home. By the time I pulled up, I had overcome most of the shock and I hurried inside to wash my face and change my clothes. I had a smile for the kids. They deserved that. Actually, they deserved ALOT more than that, and I made the decision then and there. I called him and let him know that I would be out of the house within the week. He began to apologize profusely, and I told him not to be sorry, that he was free to live his life without interference. I asked him not to return to the house until I was gone. Hanging up, I cried nearly as hard as I had earlier.
The next morning, I called the social worker and asked her to come to the house for a meeting. When she arrived, she told me that she was surprised to hear from me. With an excited smile, she advised me that she had received word that Cynthia had voluntarily surrendered her parental rights to Ronnie, Kimberly and Angela, and that the road was clear for an adoption.
I cleared my throat, and I told her the truth. I told her that we were divorced (they didn't know), that the divorce followed an episode of domestic violence, that I had kept that under wraps and that very few people knew. I advised her that we had no intention of reconciliation, and that even though I loved the children, I felt confident that the kids would be better served in a more stable environment.
It was the hardest thing I had ever done. She was incredibly kind, and she assured me that she knew more than one couple that was perfectly suited, financially capable, and ready to adopt all three of these kids. I begged her to try to keep the three together, that it meant so much to Ronnie, and she promised me that would be the first priority.
Two days later, I took the kids to the park to meet a couple that was dying to see them. They seemed very kind; she divulged to me that they had been married for 8 years and they had been struggling with infertility for most of those years. He was well-employed, and she was a teacher. They were very active in their church and were well-liked. They had a clean, comfortable home with large yard and plenty of cousins nearby for the kids to play with. They were willing to have all three kids together, and for lack of a better term, they gave off a good vibe. Since they were certified foster parents as well as prospective adoptive parents, the kids were placed with them immediately, even the baby. I said goodbye to them again, but this time, I felt good about where they were going.
I was proud of the decision I had ultimately made, but I was disappointed that it took such a slap in the face for me to make it. Would I have stepped back into the life and drug the kids in after me if I hadn't walked in on him? Maybe. I'd like to think that I was a stronger, better person than that, but I was close, very close, to closing my eyes and taking it all back for the chance to ease my lonliness and my loss.
With a sigh of resignation, I gathered my things and said goodbye to the beautiful house. Like the promises I had been seduced by, the house had a beautiful facade, but it was just empty and cold inside.
I left my key on the table and walked out of that house for the last time.
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