Dudley, my husband and I had been living in separate bedrooms for awhile; I guess we should have seen this coming. We hadn’t had a real kiss in several years. He and his last wife had begun the long road to divorce this way as well, almost exactly the same way we had, married after 6 years and it was unraveling.
Six months into our marriage, Dudley stopped caring, stopped going to the gym and playing his Wednesday golf game with the boys and took his place on the Lazy Boy recliner in front of the TV immediately after work. He would stay there until he felt himself doze off and then make his way to the bed beside me after I was asleep. I asked what was going on, was there anything I could do to help? He said it was seasonal depression. I had no idea it would last for 6 years.
I met Dudley in a bar where I worked, my 2nd job in the small hometown I had come back, to escape a bad relationship. I had a 2 month old baby girl, her father signed over his rights so he wouldn’t have to pay child support and never saw her. Dudley was 10 yrs older than me and even though we grew up in the same small town, I hadn’t known him. He expressed interest in me and asked me out on a date. He took me to Rockola Café and asked if I wanted a blush or white wine. I was enamored by this country man who didn’t know how to order a glass of merlot, hadn’t even known red wine had a name or a category. The date wasn’t exciting, but it wasn’t bad. I agreed to go out with him several more times; our dates consisted of going to the zoo, dinner at his house, church with his parents. It was quite a change from dating the bad boys, but this was nice too and very predictable.
My mother sat me down after I had been dating Dudley for 5 months and said, “Because you have a baby and a bad reputation, no one is going to want you.” She leaned her head sideways and formed her mouth into a concerned frown. “I’m telling you this for your own good. You are so lucky a nice man like Dudley would even consider dating you.” Now she got very serious. “Tell him you are going to stop dating him if he doesn’t have intentions of marrying you and set a date. I did this with Bob.” Bob was her current husband and found himself married to my mother so quickly he looked as if he hadn’t known what happened to him.
I followed my mother’s advice, even though I wasn’t madly in love with him. I was young and afraid and life with Dudley would be secure and happy because he was a nice guy. I would do everything I could to be a good wife and I would love him for his kindness. He didn't have children of his own, so this was a good arrangement for him as well; he would have an instant family. We married 8 months after our 1st date.
Dudley wasn’t actually a bad husband compared to most. I had been beaten, lied to, cheated on and had my bank account cleaned out in past relationships. Dudley and I didn’t have in-depth conversations, so there was no fighting. Our sex was tame, mostly missionary style with no frills. Dudley was a Christian man and it became apparent Jesus did not approve of cunnalingus, reverse cowgirl or stilettos. It was a small sacrifice to ensure I would not spend eternity in the fiery depths of hell. I figured I had had my fun, now I was a responsible adult of 23 years; no more kinky sex, pouty glossed lips or bottles of champagne chilling at the table while making out in the dark corner of a night club. I had found Dudley and Jesus and my mother had coordinated it all.
Church kept me very busy teaching pre-school, vacation bible school along with volunteering, attending church service and Sunday school each Sunday. I read the bible every evening, listened to Christian rock, didn’t curse, prayed and taught my children heaven was like a party with cake, toys and ice cream and if you didn’t know Jesus, you wouldn’t be invited. I was a Jesus Freak. It was true, I had doubted and been away from the Church for several years but I rededicated my life to the Lord in hopes I could show everyone, especially my parents what a good person I had become. I had gone to my mother and forgiven her for being a bad parent. Even though she constantly reminded me of my shortcomings, life mistakes and failures, I was able to let it pass in the name of Jesus. At this time I was so inspired by God that I went to Russia to adopt a near 3 year old boy in 1997 which I believed, all my husband really needed was a son. This would make him happy and he would come out of his depression. We would be the perfect family.
Dudley followed me around Moscow like a lost puppy. This small town man was intimidated by the signs and people from all over the world, it was confusing and maybe it emasculated him. Once we had our son in our care, Dudley disengaged even more as I would head out with our guides to tour the city as he stayed in the safety our hotel room. I drank in the culture and couldn’t get enough, visiting every little shop, museum and café. Dudley eagerly counted down the days until we were finally back to our home in South Carolina.
Our new son had a host of emotional and physical issues that I believed would be overcome with prayer and love. He was demanding and I had to keep a constant eye on him as he was always eating everything and anything he could find, persistently searching for food. His therapist said it was normal; a survival skill he had developed at the orphanage where food had been scarce. It didn’t bother me much that he ate the Gerbil Treats or the Fish Food Flakes. What bothered me was when he would suddenly have a piece of gum in his mouth and I would ask where it came from; he would point under the fast food restaurant table. Or to turn around to get my purse out of the car and he would be sucking down someone’s abandoned soda that had been left in the parking lot. Poison Control was called so many times; I thought he might be taken from me.
“Hi Poison Control, yes this is Patience again. You won’t believe what he ate this time….a furry nut that is green on the inside from the neighbors tree….how do I know if he ate rat poison from the basement stairs at my parent’s house…..a bug.”
Dudley began working longer hours. He told me he hated seeing my car in the driveway because it meant the kids and I were home. He couldn’t handle it and instead of leaving, he just existed in our home, a silent warm body that devised plans to create a beautiful landscape for our home just to get away from us. There were always shrubs to plant, weeds to kill, grass to mow, a fountain in install and hours long trips to Lowe’s and Home Depot on the weekends. I was a single mother in a sense, but I was too busy to be upset about it and my yard was the envy of all our neighbors. But things began to get to be too much or maybe I should say, not enough as my mind began to wonder, is there something better for me out there? I began to hate my life and this marriage that was tied to it.
There were a couple of things that happened in my life that made me want a divorce. My grandmother who I adored and who thought I was wonderful and truly loved me fell ill. My mother said if my grandmother really knew who I was, she wouldn’t like me, but I disagree. First of all, I wasn’t a bad person and second I could have been a serial killer and my grandmother would have said, “but she did it so precisely”.
My grandmother had fallen and needed a hip replacement, the kids and I went to stay with her. The night before the surgery she called me into her room and asked me to bend down by her bed. She fastened her pendant with the delicate silver chain and 2 tiny diamonds around my neck and told me to keep it for her, she would ask for it back when she wanted and then winked at me. She would never ask for it again. Years later, after her death I would be made to return the necklace I had worn nearly every day to the family estate as it wasn’t mine to keep after all.
My grandmother was never the same after her surgery. She forgot my name and fell into dementia. I would change her diapers and she would cry. I felt my own mental breakdown sneaking up on me. The family had to put her into a home. She cried each time I saw her. This wasn’t what she ever wanted. I felt such shame and guilt that I was unable to help her anymore than I could. It made me reflect on my own life....this was it and I wasn’t happy.
I also had all the responsibilities of the children. Dudley couldn’t bare them. One day while my daughter was in kindergarten, I went to enroll my son into K-4. The requirement was that he be potty trained. We were still working on that but I signed him up anyway. He peed in his pants at school and the teachers were not happy. But God, did I need a break! I kept him home with me for a week to work on potty training and finally I thought we had conquered it. I was washing dishes, watching him out the window going up and down the sliding board over and over for about 45 minutes. He played and I cleaned the kitchen, all was well. After he picked up the hollow plastic dog bone, filled it with water from the dog bowl and drank it; I decided it was time for him to come inside. When he did, he brought in a horrendous odor.
I took him to the bathroom, took off his big boy underwear. He had shit literally cemented onto his bottom. He had been sliding down the sliding board in his own shit for nearly an hour. I could not get it off with baby wipes or a wash cloth. I had to peel and it off of his bottom like crazy glue with my fingernails while holding back my gag reflex. I stood him in the bathtub with the water running so that the hardened feces would come off. He was angry that I had made him come in and hated baths more than broccoli, so he began to fight me. Hitting at my arms and trying to pull my hair. Even though I had been raised in a home where hitting children was a regular practice, I had worked hard to relearn this behavior through workshops, therapy, seminars and books upon books on non-violent discipline. I suddenly snapped! I took my open hand and hit him hard on the bottom. It left a red handprint. This is what I had pulled out of my mental toolbox, the tools I was given and were forced upon me as a child. I was becoming my mother. At this point I felt I had let this child down, I was a failure at being his mother. I held him and told him I was sorry and I cried.
I needed to get out of the house, too much going on with my grandmother, the children, my 30th birthday approaching. I got a temporary 2 week job as a front desk assistant in a large home accessory showroom. Dudley was going to come and take me to lunch one day. He worked near the showroom and had told me about a high heel chair he had seen that he thought I would like. I couldn’t wait to see it, but he called and told me he didn’t want to go and gave me the address. Steve, who was working one of the booths, overheard my conversation and my pleading with Dudley to reconsider. Steve said, “I’ll take you” while I was still on the phone. Dudley heard this and was relieved he wouldn’t be guilted into lunch with his wife. I thought it was strange he was okay with it, but oh well. I wanted to see that high heel chair.
That afternoon, Steve and I went to a crowded diner. He was 12 years older, had long hair, kind of a hippie type guy, not a man I would have ever been attracted to or dated. He was nice, educated, an artist, and well spoken Californian. As we sat across from each other in the loud restaurant, he looked into my eyes and said tell me about you. I began talking about Dudley, the kids, church. He interrupted me and again looking at me without breaking eye contact said, “No, who are you? What are your dreams?” Wow! What? Me? I’m nobody, a mom a wife. Am I supposed to have dreams anymore? The realization that I had lost myself in my failed marriage, hypocritical religion and quest to be the perfect mother hit me. This man had touched me deeper than any other without even laying a finger on me.
I went home that night with an electric energy of rediscovering myself. I am an intellectual, sexy and young woman, something I had forgotten. I put on my black lingerie, fishnet thigh highs and stilettos that had been hidden away for so long. I went to Dudley in his bedroom, as mine was down the hallway now. He was lying on the bed talking on the phone to a man trying to sell him real estate I knew he had no interest in. I slithered close to him, letting him know I was ready to make this marriage work. He pushed me away and stayed on the phone for the next hour. I fell asleep at his feet. The following night I did the same thing. He told me to get out of the way, I was blocking the TV. And I did it again the next night, inviting him to have a bottle of wine with me on the couch, but he wasn’t interested and plopped into his lazy boy with a towel and carton of ice cream in his lap and focused on the glowing light of the television.
After being rejected for the 3rd night in a row, I got dressed and told him I was going out. I went to the showroom just to walk around. Steve was closing his booth preparing to make the trip home back to California. He was happy to see me and asked if I had eaten dinner. I had, but agreed to accompany him. He wanted to know what was wrong; I guess I wasn’t hiding my emotions well. I told him in great detail about my failing marriage, my grandmother and the difficulty I was having raising my children with an emotionally absent partner. It felt so good to have someone meet my gaze, to engage in conversation, to actually care how I was feeling.
After dinner we walked to my car. He put his hand on my cheek and kissed me. At first I tried to move away, but fell into it. I hadn’t been kissed in years. My senses became alive. Every nerve ending stimulated all at once. We got into the car and I drove him back to his rental house, wondering what to do, feeling guilty and exhilarated. I had a decision to make. I could continue pretending my grandmother would know me again, I would never again be influenced by the bad parenting skills that I had grown up witnessing, keep believing the bible was the answer to all my problems, that my husband would one day want to have a conversation and a glass of wine.
The next morning, I called my mother. “Mom, I don’t know what to do. My marriage is failing. I think I am going to have an affair if things don’t start to change.” My mother knew about my marriage problems. She had even pulled Dudley aside one Christmas holiday and told him he needed to touch me an hug me more. So I thought she could help me.
“Patience, I don’t know about breaking up a family and having affairs, you should call father and your step-mother about that because they are quite familiar with it.” She hung up and refused to take my calls for several months. I didn’t call my father.
I waited until Dudley got home. I fed our family, bathed the children and cleaned up the dishes. It was late, Dudley was upstairs in bed. I went to his room and asked him to turn off the TV. He turned the volume down, the blue moving light on our faces as he looked at me to hurry and speak before the commercial ended. I sat on the bed and told him I wanted a divorce. I expected or had hoped he would beg me to stay or shed a tear, but the only thing he mentioned was what to do about our daughter. My self esteem was so little that I still wanted this man who couldn’t acknowledge my presence, clearly didn’t want to be with me and had breath like he lived off Doritos and Vienna Sausages to still want me. I needed to be kissed, touched and loved. Since my husband would not and could not provide these things after 6 years of marriage, I decided to leave him.Disclaimer: You the reader are reading this blog at your own risk. At no time has the writer contacted the reader without their permission in reference to this blog site. If you find the content of this blog offensive you have the right to never visit this site again. The people, location and events have been changed to protect the innocent; any similarities to any persons either living or dead are purely coincidental.