Sunday, May 20, 2007

It's All About Choices - Part 4...

This is getting more difficult to write, but here goes...

So, I officially made the break. Moved out. Free, sorta.
I found out later that Michael went on a drinking binge
that lasted several days. If his job at the time had not
been with such a shit company, he would have been
unemployed again. Lucky for me, I guess.

I started making phone calls to family and friends to let
them know the situation. The most common reaction was
shock and surprise. Why? Because, I had avoided "airing
our dirty laundry in public". Very, very few people had
any idea that there were problems in our marriage.
I did a pretty thorough job of covering that up, and Michael
was quite content with the status quo... until the last year
when I became very distant. Preparing to leave.

It was easy to keep up a front because all of my family lived
almost a thousand miles away. Visiting was infrequent. And,
they were always polite and rarely questioned my explanations
of his frequent job changes.

As far as my friends... I almost never socialized outside of work.
Michael was uncomfortable with my friends, calling them
"white-collar", "above" him, "out of his class".
The real truth was, they didn't drink like he did and that made
him uncomfortable. Very common for alcoholics to prefer to
only be around other people who like to drink a lot. Of course.

It wasn't until after he died that people he worked with let me
know how well they knew Michael... and, how surprised they
were that the marriage lasted as long as it did.
I honestly believed that I was the only one who saw him as he
really was. Co-dependants really do live in their own world...
a self-made world in their head.

After I got settled in my apartment, one of the first things I did
was to buy myself tickets to attend a series of concerts
by the London Symphony Orchestra. They perform here every
other year. In 1997, they would be in Daytona from the end of July
through the beginning of August. Remember this for later.

Michael found my phone number and address by calling the phone
company. (Thank you, Ma Bell.)
He started calling and leaving drunken rants on my answering
machine while I was at work. Let's say he was angry.
Let's also say that the few times we did speak, in those first two
weeks, the conversations did not go well.
Eventually, he became outwardly rational enough to attempt a
somewhat normal conversation. Unfortunately, those conversations
mostly revolved around him asking me to come back.
I told him I would never consider coming back unless he quit
drinking... completely.
I, of course, knew that would never happen.

At first, he did promise to quit drinking. He was lying. I knew it.
He would ask me to come to the house to watch a race with
him on a weekend. I knew he was lonely. I agreed.
He swore that he had not had a drink in (fill in the blank) days.
He was drinking soda. He reeked of stale beer.
I called him on it. He got angry. He would say he would quit
drinking when I came back.
Talk about your pissing contest.

I would never have left in the first place if I thought there might
have been a chance that things could have improved.
After a couple of months, I went to the courthouse and purchased
the do-it-yourself divorce packet. I made a copy for Michael.
I took the papers to him in person and asked him to read through
them. We had no children. I wanted nothing. It could be simple.
Michael refused to even look at the papers, let alone read them.
I believe that might have been the first time he realized that
I was completely... definitely... serious about ending the
marriage. Never coming back. His drinking got worse.
Neighbors told me he was having parties at the house.
I really didn't care.

I could include many more details of our relationship during
the months after I moved out. However, the redundancy
would probably become boring. And... I'm really not writing
this as a public whipping for him or a request for martyrdom
for me. No one is easy to live with. Me included.
This is my way of purging and flushing and healing.
Once.and.for.all. I hope.

Moving ahead to the end of July/beginning of August 1997...

I had tickets to three of the major LSO concerts.
The first two were wonderful. I attended alone.
I was in heaven.

The final performance was scheduled for August 9.
Because I purchased a "package", I also had a few
tickets to some of the mini-concerts in the series.
The last one of those was also scheduled for August 9,
in the afternoon. It was a Saturday.

I awoke that morning with tears sliding down my face.
I vaguely remembered dreaming, but had no memory of
any of the details. But, I woke up feeling sad... depressed.
I felt so heavy in this sadness that I almost decided not to
go to the afternoon concert. I finally dragged myself out of
bed and to the shower somewhere around eleven-thirty
that morning. My mood was terribly puzzling.

As I was getting out of the shower, I heard the phone ring.
Thinking it might be Michael, I decided to let the answering
machine pick up the call. It wasn't Michael.
I recognized the voice of a neighbor, and she was asking me
to pick up the phone. When I did, she said I needed to come
to the house. She said there was an ambulance and Sherriff's
cars parked in front. She said she didn't know what happened.
She did. She just didn't want to tell me over the phone.

(I'm starting to shake as I write this.)

I told her I'd be right there and I finished dressing.
Some kind of numbing feeling took over.

Michael had been diagnosed with severe asthma about seven
years before. He continued to smoke about three packs of
cigarettes a day. He told me after I moved out that he stopped
taking his medication because he couldn't afford it, even though
I kept him on my insurance through my employer.
More self-destructive behavior? Certainly.

My thought, as I was driving to the house, was that Michael
was dead from an asthma attack. That's what I expected to
be told. I was only partly right.

I had to park in my neighbor's driveway because there were
so many official vehicles in front of our house.
Most of the neighbors were gathered in the street.
There was a female deputy walking toward me.
Before I could say anything, she asked me if I was Mrs. ______.
I nodded and asked what happened.
She replied, "I'm sorry, ma'am. Mr. ______ is dead."
I remember asking, "How?"
She lifted her right hand to her temple, and with her index finger,
pointed and imitated the act of pulling a trigger.
I remember screaming.
She put her arm around my shoulder and walked me back to
the neighbor's house. I tried to turn around to go back to the
house. She stopped me, but that is when I saw all the yellow
Crime Scene tape on the fence around the yard.
Three or four other deputies and men in suits were standing
in front of the gate at the end of the driveway. Looking at me.

I guess there's going to be a Part 5. Sorry.

19 comments:

kdzu said...

Hard to read. I'm sure it was much harder to go through. But you bear no responsibility. A trial to go through and learn from. It made you stronger and wiser,

k said...

When I read each successive post I get this feeling like you're climbing a mountain. And the farther you go on, the closer you get to the top, the destination, it's harder and harder to continue. Slower. Labored breathing.

But you keep pushing on and you know, you know, that you'll make it to the top.

Take your time. Rest along the way. Don't be sorry about how many posts it takes! or whatever other inane things cross your mind as you write. Lord. No way. This is not about us, Jean. It's 100% for you, exactly as it should be. We're here in our supporting roles and we love you and want to comfort you as best we can. Be a listening ear if that's all we can do for you now.

Because I know, from my own experience, that writing it out, blogging it, truly helps. Tremendously. And the commenters who read it and make sure you know they're there for you? They help tremendously, too.

I have such conflicting feelings reading this installment. I'm so glad you survived it yourself. I wonder at the lady officer, and if the way she told you was a good way...and see, there is no good way, is there. And I feel such fury towards Michael.

When I said, awhile back, that there's often an element of spite in a suicide, I had no idea his was this vicious. I'm getting feelings right now like this: I'm glad he's dead.

I hate to feel that way about anyone. Hate it. I hate him for making me think that way.

I hate him for the pain he caused you. No, worse than that. For sitting around night after night after night, drinking and scheming, plotting out how he'd make it the very worst he possibly good. To get the absolute maximum mileage against you out of his act.

You never did one single thing to deserve any of that. Ever.

That's the point with a lot of these types. They want their victim to be innocent, and choose accordingly.

We know you did nothing wrong at all, Jean. Nothing at all.

Kim said...

Hugs. I know that's trite, but, hugs.
This is rough. But it will be a good thing.

Jean said...

Larry - at that moment, I felt very responsible. A common reaction for those who lose people to suicide. Fortunately, I worked my way through that... therapy, family, friends, reading psych-type books.
And, yes... in many ways, it forced me to the daylight... kicking and screaming.

k - It seems that, as my anger is subsiding, it takes more effort to complete this. The anger has less to feed on now... and that's good.

Yes, this is for me. And all of you
here... I will never have the right words of thanks.

Kim - Hugs are gratefully accepted.

Freddie said...

I don't know what to say Jean, except that I'm here with you, and offering hugs as well.

Jean said...

Freddie - Thanks for being here and for the hugs, my friend.

Anonymous said...

Jean,

Thanks for writing this, not just for your healing, but also for those who may providentially find themselves here hoping to find something that will give them courage to leave, or who need to see their situation from another person's perspective, in order to realize they are not at fault, or responsible for what happened. Especially for those who are still co-dependent, they need to realize as you said, that there was nothing anyone could have done to change him or the situation.

I hope this continues to help you, as much as those who stumble upon this in the future will be helped by it.

michele/lettersfromnyc.mu.nu

Scott from Oregon said...

I'm still angry reading this. But I think it is good for more than just you to type this horror out.

alan said...

you're a very courageous woman jean. i hope writing this provides the kind of catharsis you need and deserve. if only my arms were longer i'd reach out and give you a great big scottish hug...

sparrow said...

I gasped out loud when I read about the female deputy miming the gun to her head and pulling the trigger! There is no easy way to tell someone something like that, but there are gentler and less graphic ways to do so.

And I'm with k -- don't worry about how many posts it takes to get it out. Go at your own pace, and know that we are here to hear you and support you and empathize with you. And like Michelle, I hope for the added bonus that your story can help others.

boneman said...

ok, good news, bad news....

if it had been in indiana, you would have had an easy three or four cameras shoved in yer face and being questioned with things like.
"..how does this make you feel?"
"..what are your plans now?"
and
"..why do you think he did it?"
but, the good news is it wasn't here.

The bad news?
Heck, yer writing it.
I just wish I was in a better frame of mind to be more helpful.

Like....
I heard from a trucker that Michael is still alive. He's hanging around truckstops selling handjobs fer five bucks a pop.

But, I'm just not with it so much right now. I wanna go paint, but, I'm stuck working some guy's mulch on his yard fer 12 bucks an hour.
Ain't much, but dang, it's more'n I have right now, y'know?

Blaez said...

i have no words to try and comfort you, altho i wish i did.

just know this: through the spaces of our universe my arms around you and huging you and my tears are falling with yours.

when you screamed, i'm sorry.

Snog Dot said...

I came
I read
I left

I came again
Read again and left again

I came back...empty handed and empty headed.

It is a testament to your strength that YOU didn't take the coward's way out.

AspergantuS said...

Jean,
Hang in there...
Hugs from here too.

Mick

Jean said...

Michele - thanks, dear... actually, I've been contacted by a few people who are or have been in similar situations. Knowing others are being comforted or enlightened by telling my story honestly is beyond my original selfish reasons.
(selfish is not always bad and often necessary.)

Scott - for me, anger was the most difficult emotion to deal with in all of this. It is, finally, thankfully, dissipating.

Sparrow - I also thought the female deputy chose poorly. If she had to inform anyone else of the same thing, I hope she was wiser.
I appreciate everyone's patience here. I need to do this completely in order to finally get it right.

Berry - At the time, I was afraid it might end up in the news or in the paper. I am grateful that didn't happen.
Just you being here and taking time to let me know, is more helpful than I can express.
(Be glad for the money right now. You will paint beautifully again soon.)

Blaez - The comfort you offer is felt strongly. Thank you.

Jack - 'empty handed'?... oh no, not at all. Your presence is a comforting gift.
'Take the coward's way out' crossed my mind more than once. I love life too much to go that way for those reasons.

Mick - thanks for your hugs, as always.

og said...

The more you clear this garbage out of your mind, the more you clear the garbage out of your house, the more likely you'll be to fill your mind and your house with you. When you come out the other side you will be clean and whole within yourself. Nice, but tough work, getting this out of your head and where people can see it.

Jean said...

Og - You're right... thanks for this.

Doom said...

Jean,

I'm sorry for your loss, the long and the short of it. He was slipping away a long time before his death, that must have been nearly as difficult if without the conclusiveness. You showed a powerful love and self-respect that seems awesome. I don't understand the strength of women like you, but I do respect it, whichever way it leads you. I truly hope you can see that, or yours can point it out to you.

I hope you find your way clear to the life you maybe should have always known. God's blessings and comfort.

Jean said...

Doom - kind words, sir. Thank you.