Throughout the months nothing really improved, and for Calvin’s situation things were getting steadily worse. It really wasn’t a matter of if, but when, his marriage would fail completely. Contact between Calvin and I was limited to secret phone calls whenever and however we could, and we both knew it wasn’t over between us. It was just so deeply complicated, especially with kids at such an impressionable age, that any quick or snap decisions were utterly impossible.
So, given our limited contact, I was surprised when the phone rang early one Sunday morning in February of ’98.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Hey,” said Calvin.
“Hi! What’s up?”
“What do you think about going up North, maybe doing some skiing today?”
“What, really? What about your wife?”
“I’m supposed to be at work today. If I blow the day off, park the truck somewhere, ride up with you, and get back by 6:00, she won’t know.”
“Um, wow. Okay, let me get myself ready.”
“How long will you need?”
“I dunno, a half an hour?”
“Okay, I’ll meet you… at the Village Inn?”
“Okay, see you soon.”
“Love you, too.”
Thus we spent a clandestine day together. I, of course, was mad crazy to spend any time with him that I could. If you’ve never suffered the experience (and I really hope you haven’t), let me just express how very VERY hard it is to be in love with someone who isn’t free, who you can’t spend time with, and the feelings for whom you have to hide or suppress. I was sick to death of the hurried and secret phone conversations, sick to death of being limited to seeing him at work, sick to death of the entire situation. So, the prospect of spending an entire unhindered, unscrutinized day with him thrilled me to my very toes.
We drove up to Flagstaff, two hours away, skied the slopes at Snowbowl, pretended nothing was awkward and that we weren’t anxious, and drove back home again. Calvin was distracted and kind of distant all day. I was acting hyper and pretending the hell outta nothing being wrong. And, like a girl, asking him all day long, “What’s wrong?” “What’s the matter?”
Uh, GEE, could it be that he felt guilty for spending the day with me, anxious about his marriage, and conflicted about what he could do about it? I have no excuse except to say that I was dumb and a rather immature twenty-three.
When Calvin got home he told his wife he’d been skiing, just not with whom. He just told me right now that he’d spent the entire day paranoid that he would get sunburned and have a clear outline from his goggles on his face, so he just decided to tell her where he had been. Again, spending time together had made things both better, and worse. We wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to be together, but parting at the end of the day was, as usual, THE SUCK.
Our separate lives continued – me simultaneously pining for him and trying to get over him, he struggling and failing at a marriage gone bad, afraid to grasp for some personal happiness, and feeling guilty for wanting it.
A couple of months later, I got another phone call, this one mid-week nearing midnight.
“Hey,” said Calvin. “You doing anything right now?”
“Um, no, just getting ready for bed.”
“Do you mind if I come over? Things… aren’t so great over here right now.”
“Uh oh. Sure, okay, I’ll open the garage door for you.”
Thus we spent the next WEEK together. Calvin stayed with me, but visited the kids at his home each day. He and his wife had had (another) HUGE fight, and the atmosphere became so intolerable that Calvin felt he really was ready to leave and end things with her. I enjoyed the hell out of that week, taking extreme satisfaction in just little things – cooking for him, watching TV together on the couch, learning and observing his nighttime and early morning rituals, anticipating him walking through the front door at the end of a day at work… and of course, falling asleep next to him every night. I was happy and scared (hell, ECSTATIC and PETRIFIED) at the same time – happy to finally be with Calvin, scared that he could change his mind at any moment and go back to his wife.
Which… he did. At the end of the week, Calvin’s wife called him and said they needed to really sit down and discuss things. So he left, and didn’t come back to my house that night. I spent it VERY sleeplessly. The next morning, as per usual, I went to work, got settled, and called him at his desk. I almost didn’t want to call him. I already knew, since he hadn’t come back to me, that whatever he had to say to me would not make me happy. I wanted to pretend for a few more minutes that I could still be as happy as I had been for that entire week.
When he stopped by my desk, instead of going to the cafeteria for breakfast as we usually did, he drew me into a conference room.
Nothing good EVER happens when you get hauled into a conference room first thing in the morning.
Once again he told me he was going to try to make things work out with his wife. This time, instead of being accepting and understanding as I had in the past, I got PISSED RIGHT OFF. I was tired of feeling like he was jerking me around, tired of waiting for him to “grow some” and make a clear and definitive decision, and tired of putting my life on hold. I was tired of him coming to me and relying on me to make it all better, and then going right back into the negative fray again. I was tired of getting my hopes up, and then getting them dashed again.
I believe I expressed this all to him, quite thoroughly, there in that conference room. Basically, it didn’t make sense to me. His relationship with his wife was obviously beyond repair, and yet he was still too scared to make the “leap into the unknown”, as he put it.
As I’ve said before, Calvin does NOT suffer change willingly.
This being my blog, of course I am expressing things from my perspective. I know and remember my feelings about the whole situation very, VERY well. Here I will quote Calvin, as he tells me what it was like for him during this time:
“Basically, the exact same things as what Laura described were going through my mind. I think the thing that held me back the most was the history I had with my ex, and I was really afraid of the emtional toll that a divorce might take on the kids. I wondered if maybe people were right when they said that, “You should just tough it out for the kids,” and, “The kids would rather live in a broken home than be from one.” Or were they wrong, and was it the other way around? And, I was absolutely terrified of the unknown. I also wondered, was I really not concentrating enough and working hard on things as much as I thought? Was I not being as tolerant as I thought because Laura was there… because there was a distraction? I know now all of that wasn’t true… it was just pure and simple incompatibility between me and my ex, and nothing was going to fix that. I just couldn’t seem to finally pull the trigger on it as long as there seemed to be a glimmer of hope. It seemed that for all the past months, though I wasn’t trying very much, my wife wasn’t trying AT ALL. Back to that particular night when I went back to talk to my ex, and then stayed, it was with the promise that we would both try to make it work. I should have known, though, just like it was through our whole relationship, it was her usual “I will, I will, I’m gonna,” and it just never happened.”
So. I went back to my solitary life with renewed determination to Get Over Him Already. I tried harder not to just sit by the phone and wait for his call. I tried harder to hang out with my friends. I tried harder to distance myself from my very heart. Calvin and I remained friends. We continued to keep each other filled in on what was going on in our lives.
A couple of more months went by, and by this time things had reached a crescendo between Calvin and his wife. There was just absolutely NO fixing things, and come to find out in the midst of all the drama, Calvin’s wife had been carrying on an affair herself for an undetermined and undisclosed period of time… and there had been more than one, throughout their relationship. Calvin finally (FINALLY) decided enough was enough. They were hurting each other, they were hurting the kids, and most obviously everyone would be better off if he and his wife were no longer together.
He filed for divorce. He told me he decided, finally and irrevocably, to be with me. I took the news with just about as much joy and suspicion as you might imagine. He said he decided not to move in with me right away, but to try to finalize things with his divorce first, stay in the house (possession is 9/10 of the law when it comes to community property states), and make things as calm and as positive for the kids as he possibly could.
His wife, though, had other ideas.
One evening, the same week that Calvin filed, he and I went out to eat and went to the comedy club (neither one of us can remember who we saw). I felt positively high, I was so giddy and happy to be with him. We had the best time, the most wonderful night, and the feeling of relief was just immense. We walked along the street and held frickin’ hands for all the world and anyone who happened to drive by to see. We made plans and we talked. We discussed how to re-introduce the kids to me, and what parts of the whole story we should share with them. We wanted to be truthful without being inappropriate for their sensibilities and ages. We talked about simple things like what we should do with my house, and fun things like stuff to do on the weekends and places to take the kids. I told him how I wanted him to go to Maine with me in the near future to meet my family (I’d been corresponding a LOT about what had been happening with my sister, and nearly nothing at ALL about what had been happening with my grandmother).
Anyway, we had this grand and wonderful night, after which Calvin planned to drive me home and drop me off, then head back home to his own house. When we pulled into my driveway, though, we saw just piles and piles of… stuff… sitting by my front door. It appeared that while Calvin and I were out, Calvin’s wife gathered nearly all of his belongings, drove them over to my house, and dumped them at the door. Including, we were shocked and angered to find, a couple of LOADED guns from his collection, just sitting out there in the open for anyone (any CHILD) to happen upon.
We hauled all of the stuff inside, during which activity Calvin discovered that she had neglected to include a few belongings. Since he didn’t want to just give up his house without a fight, and especially since he didn’t know how much the kids were being impacted at that moment by his wife’s anger, he decided to go back over to his house. Just to talk, to gather a few items, and come right back.
I’ll be succinct about this, since it’s essentially a simple story. He drove over there, saw she had broken the key off in the door lock so he couldn’t get in, and she wouldn’t open the door when he knocked, then pounded. He kicked the door in, she called the cops, he yelled while she was on the phone that he was leaving (“I just came for my TOOTHBRUSH and UNDERWEAR!”) and that he just wanted to check on his kids. She said that he had guns (?!?), and that was all she wrote. Calvin had left and was driving down the street when the police passed him going the other way. So he turned around and went BACK to the house (I know, huh?) so he could talk to the police and diffuse the situation. They cuffed him and hauled him to jail for his pains. They said that they cited Calvin’s wife, too, and they were both being cited for messing with community property (the key broken off in the door, said door being kicked in), and since someone had to stay with the children, they were taking Calvin instead of his wife.
All of this I learned during Calvin’s “One Phone Call”, which reached me at about 2:30 in the morning. You can imagine all the things I was thinking and wondering and worrying about, from the time he left until the time he called. Yes, even the thought that he may have decided, AGAIN, to try to work things out with his wife. But no, he was just in jail.
I’m going to bold this, because I think it’s a fun coincidence. You’d think I timed it this way on purpose, but really I didn’t. See today, dear readers, is the 10th anniversary of the day that Calvin went to jail. Tomorrow is the 10th anniversary of the day we permanently moved in together. The latter date we celebrate, the former not so much.
Calvin’s going to kill me for this, but I just have to say that after spending the night in jail, he smelled to high heaven.
Sorry, baby, but you did.
(At this point Calvin would like me to let you all know that it wasn’t his fault that he smelled. Jails are less than sanitary places, especially if you’re thrown into a “tank” with a bunch of drunks.)
Anyway, Calvin got stuck with eight weeks of anger management classes for kicking in that door, and his wife got absolutely nothing. I brought him back home, he showered (heh), and we started in on the business of being together. There was a while of getting used to living together, with each other’s foibles and idiosyncrasies. There was a period of re-introducing the kids into my life, and me into theirs. We took things very slowly and were very honest about all of our feelings.
Calvin’s divorce was long, drawn out, and in the end he got shafted in a BIG, BIG way. Calvin’s ex turned out to be mean, vindictive, bent on revenge, and would do anything – even use the kids – to get what she wanted. We fought for the kids (by this time Marie was coming up on eleven and Michael was fifteen) to have a week-on/week-off living schedule between the two households, which they had decided upon for themselves. Calvin’s ex was afraid of what this split schedule would do for her child support amount (essentially, it rendered it unnecessary because they were sharing equal time), so she fought (against the kids expressed wishes) for full custody. More money was spent on court-ordered psychologists to make the call. In the end he decreed that the original week-on/week-off schedule was best for all involved.
But by this time Calvin’s ex was drawing the kids more and more into the negativity. According to what they described to us later, she would bad-mouth Calvin to the kids. She would say that they couldn’t love her if they loved me and Calvin. She moved her parents in with her, and they were telling the kids the same thing. There were times that the negativity was so bad in the house that one or the other of the kids would want to call Calvin to come get them, and Calvin’s ex would physically prevent them from doing so, and even take the phone away. One day Michael had to walk across the street to a neighbor’s to use their phone to call Calvin, and Calvin’s ex called the neighbors ahead of him and forbid them from allowing him to use their phone. Marie would call, crying, and then hurriedly try to pretend that nothing was wrong if her mother came into the room.
It was just awful, and we tried to shelter the kids as best we could. We took to dropping by Calvin’s ex’s on the weeks it was her time with the kids, to bring them some ice cream or just to say hi. Just to make sure they were okay, and especially if they weren’t answering the phone or seemed stilted and unnatural when we talked to them. Not surprisingly, within a year after Calvin moved in with me, Michael decided to live with us full time. Not long after, Marie decided to live with us full time as well. Calvin’s ex fought it, but it was clear that the kids were old enough to make their own decision in the matter. Both kids said that they realized, after Calvin had moved out (or, heh, had been moved out), that he was the primary parent they had always relied upon. They didn’t realize how little mothering they got from their actual mother until they no longer had their father there to buffer it.
I can imagine how that made Calvin’s ex feel, losing her husband AND kids in the course of a year, but in the end it was her own behavior that drove the kids away, and continues at times still today to drive them away. By this time, Michael and Marie have established their own relationships with their mother, based in adulthood on their own terms. She missed out on so, SO much by driving them away as she did.
For a couple of YEARS we dealt with her anger, her legal machinations, and her manipulations. She would show up at our house and shriek and yell in the front yard, causing the neighbors to be quite curious indeed. But after a while, after everything was finalized and settled (and she got the house without having to buy Calvin out AND all the belongings AND half of Calvin’s retirement AND half of his severance when he got laid off from AcronymCo AND stuck him (us!) with all the debt), we started hearing less and less from her. Nowadays, with the kids grown, we have no interaction with her at all. She’s re-married, and the kids say that she seems happy with her new husband.
So, this mostly brings thing up to date between the time that Calvin and I met and the beginning of this on-line journal, which has of course been primarily about my life with Calvin and the kids. I will epilogue this whole story soon, as there is (still!) more. As always I welcome any thoughts, questions, or feedback you all may have. You guys have been awesome in light of the hard truths and the fact is you could have been very, VERY judgmental. The fact that you guys have been, as ever, so mightily supportive, just further convinces me that I have the Best Readers On The Planet.