Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Why I Stayed
For this reason, everyone but my best friend is jealous of me. He's served dishes like this one to our friends at numerous dinner parties, but this particular one happened to take place on a Tuesday, just because tuna was on sale at the seafood market. That's edamame, and some wild rice, and other little julienned veggies...and that's FRESH ginger. There is absolutely nothing bad about this dinner.
Not only is he a wonderful cook, but he LIKES to cook. Every day. He will walk in the door exhausted after a day of dealing with difficult clients and endless meetings, put on an apron and whip up a feast. To him, it's not a chore; in fact, it relaxes him. By the time he's done, he's in a better mood than he was when he got home.
He can also fix just about anything. He fixed the brakes on the truck, the pump in the pool equipment, and even the microwave (did you know you could fix a broken microwave?). He doesn't care what type of equipment it is. If he's never fixed it before, he researches it, orders the parts online, and gets it done.
He's not particularly good looking, but he's funny, smart, and loving. After nineteen years of marriage, he still wants to hold hands. He tells me he loves me every day. And this time last October, I had a suitcase packed and sitting in the hall closet.
It was the fault of the bar, of course. I've mentioned the bar before. From the day it opened to the day the landlord locked the door was one year and two days. During that time, I don't recall ever having a conversation with my husband.
I could go over the details, but that would just bore you to death. When he had that place, he was a different guy altogether. Part of it was the stress, part was the drinking (which he did from morning till night, I don't care what he told me), and part was the schedule. He worked from 10 AM each morning till 2:00 AM each night. He brought in no income, of course, and was never home. I had trouble paying the bills and couldn't tell him we were in trouble. The real problem was that he wouldn't listen. I tried everything, trust me, but there was always this look in his eyes. If I ever see that look again, I swear I will not stick around for five minutes. I've seen that look on the faces of soldiers in Afghanistan: eyes constantly darting from place to place, coming to rest on me and then moving on like he's trying to locate a sniper hidden behind the sofa. And he was always, always drunk. Always.
I had no respite. I worked every day, picked up our daughter, came home and tried to feed her. I had to let my cleaning lady go, but I couldn't keep up with the mess in our massive house alone. I tried to buy food with no budget. I couldn't afford a sitter. My social life ground to a halt. The house was falling apart, but I couldn't afford to get anything fixed...the car, the broken window, the microwave. It may seem strange, but my work wasn't a burden; in fact, it was my work that saved me. My life had been turned inside out, but my work remained the same. There were rules there, and everyone followed them. It was predictable. I wanted to stay at my office all the time.
So I took my employee mental health services and went to see a counselor.
I told her that there is nothing wrong with me, but my life had become intolerable. She told me something that helped me more than anything:
Just being ready to leave, doesn't mean you are actually GOING to leave.
So, knowing that somewhere inside this ridiculous shell of a creature was the husband I described above, I packed a suitcase.
But I stayed.
Because not much later, the landlord came and locked the door.
And the bank seized the assets
And we had to declare bankruptcy
And he went back to work
And one day he sat down with me and wept, and apologized, and begged my forgiveness.
I wasn't ready to forgive yet, but I held him and told him I loved him, even though at the time it may not have been true.
And then one day, he fixed the microwave
And we had enough to bring back our cleaning lady
And we hired a sitter and went on a date
And slowly, over the year, life got back to normal.
Until one day, I unpacked the suitcase and put it away.