Wednesday, June 30, 2010

An Open Letter to the Ex-Husband

This is an open letter to my ex-husband, Philip (I call him Pythagorus on this blog, but I honestly don't care anymore if anyone knows his real name), who has apparently left detox and refuses to tell me where he is, who he's staying with, and if there's anything I can do to help him. There is a great deal to think about here, which is why I'm posting it. There's also just the slightest possibility that he'll read it ... he does read this blog once in awhile, probably in search of a post entitled, "I Banged Andy Last Night" (which he would never find here because, even if it were true, I would never, ever post here. Trust me on that!). Anyway, he won't read my e-mails or texts or answer my phone calls, so what the heck.

I am in so much pain right now and I need to write. Writing is my Wonderwall, the only thing that can save me. And so here we go ...

Dear Philip,

Once upon a time, in the year 2000, I was a lost and lonely young woman trying to get my life together after a collection of tragedies that you know all too well. I met you in a math class at UNH, a class you were taking as a joke and I was taking as the easiest one that would fill the requirement. Pretty soon, you were tutoring me, and somewhere along the way you became my friend. It was a slow process because I didn't want to believe in anyone, but you were persistent. The kindness that you showed me in every possible way finally broke through, and it suddenly occurred to me that I could trust you explicitly and 100% not to hurt me, ever. You were the sweetest, most giving boy I had ever met. And so we went to Boston on Cinqo de Mayo (I can still smell the lilacs on Harvard Square ... can you?) and then to the beach, and all of a sudden we were "going out". Do you remember our first trip to Montreal? You probably don't know this, but my mother took me shopping to get a nice dress for my first "vacation with a boy" (well, parent-sanctioned, anyway). Those days in Montreal were among the best of my life. You knew the city well and showed me every gem, and I was so impressed that you could speak fluent French and communicate perfectly with the Quebecois.

We worked hard, both as teachers, and I will always remember the "You'll never believe what happened to me at work today" contests. Your stories of discovering a bomb in a locker (fake, thank goodness, although do you remember how you got stuck outside and called everyone you knew to come get you because Nashua was so far away?)or a snake in the hood of a kid's sweatshirt were more unique than my breaking up a gang fight or working with idiots. God, I wish sometimes that we could go back to those nights we talked for hours about our students and just laughed and laughed and laughed.

You stepped right into the role of Addie's surrogate father, and she adored you. You took her to the Daddy/Daughter Dance (something she would have had to miss otherwise), and the picture of you looking so young and earnest and of Addie in her red velvet dress and braids with so much pride and love on her little face just kills me now. You helped her with her homework and volunteered to be her soccer coach even though you knew nothing about soccer because they wouldn't have been able to have a team otherwise and you took her on hikes and made sure that our "adventures" always included something fun for her. You were a wonderful father.

When I went into labor with Belle, you stayed with me the entire 19 and a half hours. You must have been exhausted, but you didn't sleep. No, you went in the shower with me because the hot water helped my back and you talked and laughed and kept me from despairing. You held me in your arms when they finally put in the epidural needle, and then you were right there when Belle was born, crying as hard as I was. The love on your face at that moment in time, it was for Belle but it was also for me and for Addie.

Shortly after Belle was born, we got our first house. It was a little ranch with three bedrooms, a finished basement, and a lot of potential. But then my step-father got sick, and things got very bad. I had never really lost anybody before, and he was the only person that ever really believed in me. Losing him was a nightmare, and one I don't think I've ever awakened from since things seemed to go bad so quickly after that. Just a few months before he passed away, I had what was supposed to be an exploratory procedure to look at why my liver enzyme numbers were off, and I ended up in the hospital on a morphine drip for a month. You took care of Addie and Belle admirably during that time; my mother wasn't able to help you because she was busy with my stepdad, and your parents are so crazy that we'd long ago agreed not to let them alone with our children ever. We lost my stepdad in December, and I was in and out of the hospital for the rest of that year. You were in charge of everything, and I know you were so scared of messing things up. You didn't, though. You were so strong and everybody kept asking you to do more and more and more, and you did, you never complained.

I changed, too. Losing the man I consider my father and having my own brush with death, ultimately learning that I have a medical condition that will impact the rest of my life, scared me. It hurt me. It embittered me. And still you were strong for me, you were kind to me, you made me laugh, you got me to smile. Even when I acted like a spoiled child about wanting my parents' house, a house you must have known we could never afford, you went with it because you were a positive thinker and a hard worker. You lost your job over a political battle; finding out that being an excellent teacher isn't good enough when you are active in the union and in local politics was what embittered you. You had over 500 names on a petition and students spoke at school board meetings to fight for you and they still let you go. It was wrong, Philip. It was so wrong. But even then you weren't mean. You were never cruel. Your standard message to me was, "Don't worry, I'll take care of it. Want to go for a ride?", and then we'd drive around the northeast finding things to laugh at (remember the sign in Claremont advertising for a wife?).

You got another teaching job, but the magic was obviously gone. You were noticeably unhappy with your work, and you were starting to get really stressed out about how to make enough money to pay for the house. When the father of one of the kids you tutored offered you a position at a big business corporation for significantly more money, you jumped at it. And then, with that jump in salary, we started to live way beyond our means. At first it was just like little kids in a candy store, but eventually I think you were spending money, taking vacations that we didn't need to take, buying Addie's entire wardrobe from Abercrombie and Fitch, paying ever more to keep Belle in the best daycare situation, because you had started to hate your job so much. Having money to spend seemed like the one good perk, and so spend it we did. I was pretty much blind to this whole process--you gave me a credit card for gas and "whatever I wanted", and I went crazy on that credit card in bookstores sometimes. I had no idea how over our heads we had gotten ... or more importantly, how truly miserable you were at your job.

I don't know when you started to drink, Philip, but I suspect it was at that time and for those reasons. The more you tried to solve the problem of being financially overextended, the more you hated your job, the more money you spent (or encouraged me to spend), and so on into a dark and vicious cycle. I knew you were unhappy, Philip, and I wish with all my heart that you'd said to me, "You know, you've got to stop spending money" instead of buying me diamond earrings. I wish you'd said, "We cannot afford this house. We can get another little ranch, and then we'll be okay." I wish you'd said, "I hate my job so much that it's driving me to drink" because I would have told you to go back to teaching, a vocation you loved.

But of course those conversations never happened; you chose to drink instead. You drove both of our children all over the city completely wasted. You became defensive and sneaky, always trying to make excuses for what hadn't gotten done. When I got the first bill call, I said to them, "Oh, you've made a mistake. My husband always pays his bills. I don't care what you say he owes, he would never put himself in a position of owing that much. You need to check your records."

And still you wouldn't talk to me. I had started to realize that something was seriously wrong with you, but I thought you'd just had a nervous breakdown. When I finally forced you into the emergency room and you swore on your child's life to the doctor that you barely ever drank and he came back after the bloodwork was done and told me that your blood alcohol was at a .39 (which is, the doctor told me solemnly, almost dead), I was in shock. I hadn't had any idea, and then of course I just felt like an idiot for not realizing.

And then became a pattern of increasing violence and cruelty and lies and sneakiness then a disappearing act from you, then you'd call two days later very contrite, swearing it would never happen again. And it didn't ... until the next time. When you hit me when I was holding Belle, when I had to bring that little girl with me to take you back to the emergency room (it was a .40 this time) because it was late at night and there was no one to stay with her, when she saw you stagger and fall flat on your face in the parking lot, cutting your legs and the palms of your hands and your head before lying to the doctor once again about whether or not you'd been drinking (the .40 was pretty definitive, although you told me as you begged me not to leave that the person doing the blood test made a mistake), when you got two DUIs within a one week period and you'd still been driving my children around, I realized that I had to get off the roller coaster for good.

I did and I didn't, as you well know. You are Belle's father and will always have my love and respect for that, if nothing else. And it was incredibly important to me that Belle have a positive relationship with you even if it meant that I'd have to supervise your visits. This put a huge amount of stress on me, of course, because I had to gauge whether or not you were drunk before I'd be able to relax. You'd be really good for awhile--you'd been fired from the big business job and were teaching again, so you had a lot of balls in your court. I would bounce back into your court too ... until the next time you were drunk, lied about being drunk, turned me into the bad guy for "interrogating you", drove me to tears with your cruel comments, and then disappeared for a few days to a week, reemerging sober and sorry.

I don't know what would have happened if the events of January 12th hadn't transpired. You were clearly drunk, you lied about it, you grabbed Belle in the parking lot of Pizza Hut and staggered your way--with her in your arms--to the car and then started freaking out on me in front of her. "Mommy thinks I'm drunk when I'm not," you yelled. "Mommy always thinks bad things about people. Mommy doesn't know when she just needs to stop for a minute." Belle was, of course, petrified, so I went to bring her home as soon as possible so my mom could watch her while I drove you the hour and a half back to your parents' house. You were decent enough to pass out in the front seat, although this was a mixed blessing--your cruel mouth had gone away, but you wouldn't wake up to receive Belle's goodbye hugs and kisses, which broke her heart.

On the way home, Andy called to make sure I was okay--I'd texted him from the bathroom at Pizza Hut that you were drunk, and you knew your history as a drunk and was concerned--and I told him what had happened. He asked if I was afraid, and I said I wasn't, that you were so drunk I could probably beat you up with one finger. Yeah, that's when you woke up and grabbed the phone. "Oh, Andy, sweetheart," you yelled in a high-pitched voice into the phone. "She's gonna be up to fuck you shortly. She just needs to drop off her drunk HUSBAND." Well, it was pretty much ex-husband by then (divorce decrees do get caught up in the mail, don't they?), but whatever. Anyway, you got violent with me. Hard enough to leave bruises (and I had those bruises photographed in a police station, Philip ... but I never filed charges and I never used them in court. I didn't want you in any more trouble than you were already in). Andy got on his other phone and called your uncle when I gave him the number. He really wanted to call the police so I could be escorted or pulled over so they police could take you out of my car, but I was still trying to protect you from trouble. I dropped you off with your uncle and went home.

I neither saw nor heard from your for several weeks. I finally received a letter explaining that you were in detox and apologizing for what had happened. You left that detox pretty quickly, I'm not sure why, and ended up in the detox center that you'd be in for many months. It was very hard at first, but Belle and I came and visited you at Sunday dinner every other weekend. It was a long ride, well over an hour, but I didn't complain. I was starting to see vestiges of my sweet boy, and it gave me hope that maybe you would be pulling through this time, finally.

This is you showing Belle how to feed the chickens at your detox center.

You also showed her how a hawk attacks (by pooping at people who come too close) and let her play with the center's collection of musical instruments. We went for long walks on the property, looking at a really neat old cemetery with headstones belonging to slaves. Interesting stuff. And so I was starting to believe you, and to believe in you. You got a job at detox after you'd been there awhile, kind of a work/study kind of thing. However, you'd been told that the job was done in June but that one of the night counselors was leaving, so that position would be open through August. In terms of logistics, that's all I knew.

When I askeg gently if you were going to be finding a halfway house, you freaked out: "You and my parents are just alike, you both think the world would be safer if I was locked up!" You know that I know your parents are child molesting, alcholic, passive aggressive nutjobs; this was the hardest blow you could come up with for me. The cruelty was back with a vengeance, and I am convinced that, if you're not drinking again yet, you're a "dry alcoholic" at the moment and that it will come within the month. I pray this isn't so, but it is.

A quiet peace bloomed for a couple of days, then you started acting even stranger. When you didn't call or participate in our most-nightly IM chat last night, I thought I probably knew what had happened. And then, when 7:00, the time you are court-ordered to call Belle, came and went, I kept her up an extra fifteen minutes and finally called you. I asked you point blank if you'd left the detox center, and you finally admitted that you had. I wanted to know where you were staying because you're supposed to be seeing Belle this weekend and I like to have plans in place, plus I still care about you. I don't want you living in a dumpster. You said you were staying with "Chris", but I've never heard of a friend named Chris before. You then got cruel, refusing to tell me where you were (and I wasn't asking for a street address, just a city ... and I had to bite my tongue to keep from telling you that I wanted to be able to identify the drunk guy found dead in a ditch on the news) and saying that it was like being in the inquisition. And then you refused to talk to me, just kept saying, "Is Belle available? Is Belle available?" no matter what I sad. After you talked to Belle, you hung up the phone. You then hung up on me twice when I tried to call you back. I sent you two e-mails asking you to call. I've gotten nothing back.

We have had a "standing date" at 10:00 on AIM, so I went on there with the hopes that you would have a change of heart and go on there so we could at least apologize to each other and get back to "civil". Yeah, not so much. I did send you two IMs, though, and here they are:

I guess the one thing I want to know is, why are so quick to think that I am accusing you of anything or giving you the third degree? I want to help you and support you in whatever way possible, and yet you are so quick to look for an ulterior motive.
(10:15:50 PM): Ultimately, I just think I feel really badly for you. I mean, take the one person who has given you a thousand chances and tried to be whatever you needed and there for you on your terms at a great personal cost to her ... You know, Philip, I do look at the world with a naive eye. I believe in people over and over and over again and get lied to and emotionally abused and accused of "interrogating" when all I do is care. It's torture ... but it's a million times better than being a person who sees only the worst in people. I want to help you. Please call me.

This whole thing makes me very, very nervous. Until the past week, you'd been doing so well. Now I don't know where you are, who you are with, what your plans are, how I can get in touch with you in case there's an emergency with Belle (since you're not taking my calls or e-mails and I don't even know what city's police department to call if I needed to find you). Please, Philip, don't drink. My heart tells me that you've already started, but if you're reading this, know that you can stop again. One day at a time works, and if you mess up today, tomorrow's another one.

As I hope you can see from this letter, we have been through a great deal together. I had my moments when I acted badly, you've had yours. It would be nice if we could both realize that and move forward with a sense of respect and, above all, honesty.

Please call me ... I am worried sick.



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