Tag Archives: marriage

Vacation at Myrtle Beach

October 4, 2004

Good morning, Sunshine [Greta]!

Well, we’re here in Myrtle Beach! It was a long trip. I hate riding in the car for 13 hours. My parents, Alex, and I visited our friends Steph and Pat in Winnsboro yesterday. According to people from their church, they thought it would take approximately two hours. Not exactly. Try three and a half!

Driving the back hills of South Carolina was beautiful. It was nothing but farmland and stately plantation homes. Exactly what you would picture the south to look like with its palm trees and cherry tree-lined driveways leading to the sprawling houses with their wraparound porches. Each porch was full of rocking chairs of all kinds. Wicker, white, wood, plastic. You could just imagine sitting there, rocking slowly while feeling the warm breeze on your neck, a dripping glass of southern sweet tea in your hand. We finally made it and had a pleasant time visiting them.

It poured all day yesterday, but it’s supposed to be sunny the rest of the week. Our condo sits on a golf course and our second floor balcony overlooks a green. Alex is in heaven! Although he didn’t bring his clubs, but they wouldn’t fit in the car with all our stuff. We don’t have a lot planned for the week. The only thing we’re definitely going to is the Dixie Stampede one night. Otherwise, it’s whatever we feel like doing! Which can get interesting with a family of indecisive people. You only get to experience it when I’m like that. Try all four of us! We all have our own opinion, but we don’t share it. Imagine that.

So how was your weekend at your mom’s house? Did you have a good time? Did she have a list of things for you to do? Did you tell her about your cancer?

Got anything exciting planned this week? How are you feeling? Are you getting any more sleep? I hope so. I worry about you, ya know.

Pray for me this week of vacation and that I hold my tongue and my temper. I’ve already struggled with it with my parents. Part of it was just being in the car too long. Everyone was a little snippy. But I’ve discovered why I sometimes eat the way I do…enter mom! She got on my case yesterday because I wasn’t eating everything on my plate. She always comments on whether I’m snacking (“You’ll ruin your dinner”) or if I don’t eat a lot at dinner (I never do). I’m not a big eater. I eat small portions, but I don’t eat everything on my plate, then something’s wrong and I’m not eating enough. Yet, I get comments because of my weight and eating too much! Anyways, I won’t go into all of this tonight.

Have a good day and don’t get into too much trouble. Ha ha.

Love,

Kat

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Slat by Slat, Nail by Nail, The White Picket Fence Was Coming Down

Greta told me once that she could never figure out where I went or what I was doing. She thought it odd that I didn’t want to socialize with my coworkers. She didn’t know that I was trying to be ‘invisible.’ If I avoided making friends or getting close to someone, I could avoid being hurt. Oh, the irony.

I called Alex in the afternoon at work to remind him that I was having dinner with Greta that night. There were quiet pauses in our conversations by this point, strains of uncomfortableness, lacking the words to fill the silence. It wasn’t so easy to talk as we used to. Too much pain, hurt, and resentment filled the void. I gently hung up the phone and sighed deep, trying to ease the tightness in my chest. I expected after five years that things would be different. That we would have children running around. That we would love each other even deeper than when we started. That our goals and dreams we thought we shared would soar. Yet, it was all crashing down and I didn’t know how to stop it.

Greta and I went to Applebee’s for the fateful lunch, as I like to think of it now. I often wonder where I’d be now if it wasn’t for that lunch.

“Kat, you need to talk. You need to get it out. I can see it in your eyes.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m fine. Everything’s fine.”

“Don’t give me that. I’m a counselor. I know pain when I see it. You never talk to anyone unless you have to. You avoid us all in the office. You just had a miscarriage and you haven’t said a word about it. You didn’t take time off. You haven’t shown any emotion at all! There’s no life in you. I’m really worried about you.”

“Really? You really see all that in me? I thought I hid it so well.”

And then the floodgates flew open. I poured out my heart and soul to Greta, someone I barely knew, but who could see past the steel wall in my eyes to the drowning pain beneath. It was in that moment that I began to be saved. Maybe that seems a bit melodramatic, but it truly felt as though someone had offered me a rope to climb out of a despairing pit. I told her of my failing marriage, how we argued all the time from the little things to the big things. I told her about my dwindling self-esteem, my lack of interest in sex, my anger and resentment toward Alex for treating me as though I was just an object. I complained of our money troubles and how Alex would rather talk with his father and gain his opinion instead of discussing it with me. In a broken voice, I shared about my desire to have children, that we had been trying for two years, started going to an infertility doctor, only to have a miscarriage and how I went alone to the doctor.

Alex and I bitterly argued the next several days about having children after the miscarriage. He demanded that I go back on birth control as though that would fix everything. He didn’t think it was the right time for us to have kids, we couldn’t afford them, that he had enough and wanted to stop trying. He blamed it all on me – that I was the one who pursued trying to get pregnant. He accused me of not telling him that I had stopped the birth control, even though we did have a conversation about it. I became the one with the problem. I was the one who failed at getting pregnant. I was the one who wanted to have a child to begin with and never took his feelings into consideration.

As the damning words piled on, my back bent under their weight. Yet, I stayed silent, bearing witness to his pain and anger. I was ashamed. I knew he was hurting, too, but neither of us knew how to reach out to the other. We were lost in our own worlds.

At that moment, we began to separate. Physically and emotionally. It was easier to distance ourselves from each other than it was to work through the anger, the hurt, the loss. It scared me. Instead, we struggled to bear our happy-go-lucky facades that we were known for. People didn’t press, didn’t push, didn’t ask, so it was easy to bury it. I told Greta that was when I realized Alex and I were broken, and I didn’t know how to fix us. My white picket fence dream was being destroyed slat by slat, nail by nail, until there would be nothing left but splintered wood forgotten on the ground.


The Beginning of a Friendship

I frowned at my dinosaur of a computer, unfocused and lost in thought. I rubbed my aching lower back as i stretched my feet out under the desk. How much longer do I have to deal with this pain, I wondered. It’s been almost a week already. I huffed. My blonde bangs fluttered from my breath. I leaned forward to continue working on the newsletter project for work. It was due by the end of the week, but I was exhausted, mentally, emotionally, and physically. As much as I tried to push through and ignore what happened, it kept creeping into the back of my mind like a nightmare. As I forced it from my mind, I pounded the keys on the dirty cream-colored keyboard, chipping a nail in the process. Damn it! I really need to get out of here. I can’t do this today. But this has to get done. I sighed, frustrated. All I needed was a faster computer and things would be better. I was almost done with the newsletter, but had to wait an eternity for the program to do its thing. It was like watching the sand through an hourglass, speck by speck – literally as the hourglass appeared on my computer as it whirred and chugged. I hung my head in my hands, bracing my elbows on the desk. My back and pelvis still ached, although I was glad it was mostly bearable now.

“Hello? Kat?”

“OW! Ouch! Crap!” I shouted as I bashed my knee on the corner of the desk, startled by the voice.

“Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry, Kat! I didn’t mean to startle you,” apologized Greta. She stood in the doorway, concern clear on her face. I rubbed my knee and smiled half-heartedly.

“It’s okay, Greta. I didn’t’ know you were there. I was in lost in thought, I guess. What’s up?” I spun in my chair to face Greta. We didn’t know each other well beyond being co-workers for the same Christian non-profit agency. I tended to avoid the people in our office as much as possible, which proved difficult since there were only four of us that worked full-time and it was a small office. Not that I didn’t like them, but I kept to myself, unsure and shy when faced with people I didn’t know well. Most days, I met my husband, Alex, for lunch instead of hanging around the office and left for the day as soon as it was time. I didn’t linger, as Alex would question where I was and who I was with. It was easier just to do what I needed to do to avoid the somewhat “polite interrogation” from Alex.

“I just wanted to check on you and make sure you’re okay. How are you feeling?” asked Greta.

“I’m fine,” I curtly replied. “Just tired and have a lot to do. I think I’m going to leave early today.” I avoided looking at Greta and began gathering my things. I didn’t want to face her inquisitive gaze. I couldn’t stand the pity. It was the last thing I wanted now. I already saw myself as a failure and didn’t need someone reminding me of it.

“Kat, do you think we could have dinner together one night? Just you and I? I need to talk to you about something.” Greta cleared her throat and stepped aside as I headed for the door. I paused, unsure of how to reply. Normally, I would say no since Alex didn’t like me to go out much without him, but I figured this probably has something to do with work. We had a stressful fundraising banquet coming up and I knew Greta was responsible for a large part of it. I tucked a curl behind my ear thoughtfully and cocked my head, looking at Greta.

“I suppose we could,” I replied hesitantly. “I would have to check with Alex, but I think it would be okay. When?”

“How about tomorrow night at Applebee’s? We can go right after work.”

“Okay. That sounds good. I’ll let you know tomorrow.” I slowly walked out the door, letting it bang shut behind me, as I headed to the car. I was meeting Alex at my parents’ house for dinner and then home. We often went to my parents’ house for dinner as they lived nearby and enjoyed spending time with them. Plus it saved us money as we didn’t have to pay for the food. I wasn’t sure how Alex would respond to me going to dinner with Greta, but I guessed it would be okay. It depended on what kind of mood he was in at the time. Hoping for a good one, I got in my black Saturn and went on my way.

Dinner was good – melt-in-your-mouth roast beef, creamy mashed potatoes, and tangy homemade applesauce, my favorite. My mouth still waters remembering it. That night, I hopped in the shower to get ready for bed. Normally, Alex showered with me at night, but he was too busy playing his new X-Box game. Sometimes, he was like a big kid. We had only been married for four years, but it felt like I had known him forever. Sure, there were problems, but what marriage didn’t have them? I hummed to myself as I scrubbed, letting the warm water pour over me. Alex had agreed to me have dinner with Greta tomorrow night.

I was pretty pleased that I got to have a “night out,” even if it was only dinner most likely about work. I gently washed my stomach and my hand stilled, remembering what could have been. I closed my eyes and leaned back against the shower wall, cradling my stomach. My forehead creased as a tear meandered down my soft cheek. I tried so hard to hold the sorrow in, willing it to stay buried underneath my fragile façade. Stop it, Kat! There’s no point in dwelling on it. Get over it! Alex did and you can, too – I would often mentally berate myself. I dried off, and crawled into my bed, letting the blankets envelop me like a warm hug.


Miscarriage and Macaroni and Cheese

The front door banged. I startled from my nap and realized Alex was finally home from an exhausting day at work. He was a shipping and receiving manager for an innovative healthcare technology company. The days were long and weary, but I couldn’t complain about his decent wages and health benefits. I gathered my strength and pushed myself from bed, shuffling out to the living room to greet Alex and share the news.

“Hey honey. How was your day?” I asked as I leaned against the oak door jamb in the cozy living room.

“I’m okay,” sighed Alex, “It was a rough day, but otherwise good. What’s for dinner?” I frowned slightly at Alex, but stuffed my emotions down. Alex had a hard day and didn’t deserve my complaining.

“I hadn’t started dinner yet. I just woke up from a nap. Can we order out since I’m not feeling well?”

“Oh, that’s right. You went to the doctor’s today. How’d it go?” Alex plopped on the hot pink couch from Ikea and flipped on the tube. He wanted to catch the score of his beloved Penn State football team.

“Well, it wasn’t that great. Alex…can you mute the TV? I have something serious to tell you.” I sat on the couch next to Alex, hoping to get his attention. He muted the television and turned slightly to face me, a questioning look in his eyes.

“What happened, honey?”

“I went to see Dr. Lee. She said that I’m having a miscarriage. The baby was only a few days old.” I paused, unsure what else to say. Alex gently cradled my soft small hands in his rough ones, smoothing my knuckles with his thumb. He stared at the floor a moment, quiet, our breathing the only sounds. He lifted his head to gaze into my eyes and caressed my cheek with his hand.

“I’m so, so sorry, Kat. I know how much you wanted this baby,” Alex spoke softly. “We can always try again. What else did the doctor say?”

My eyes filled with unshed tears at his tender words. I bit my trembling lip, unable to stop the tears from falling. Alex gathered me in his arms, rubbing her my in slow circles.

“Shhhh…it’s okay, Kat. Don’t worry. We can try again. It’ll be okay.” I sobbed anew as the grief ripped through me.

“I’m so sorry, Alex! I don’t know what happened!” I cried. I blamed myself for losing the baby, blamed my body for betraying them.

“It wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t anything you did. You know that.” Alex rocked me gently as my crying subsided into sniffles.

“I need a tissue,” I mumbled into Alex’s plaid shirt. “I think I got snot all over your shirt.” Alex chuckled and reached over to the end table, grabbed a tissue, and handed it to me. He watched me as I sat up, attempted to smooth my hair and dab at my eyes. Smiling wryly, I reached out and lightly touched a wet spot on the front of his shirt.

“Don’t worry, Kat. It’ll all work out and be okay. We’ll figure it out. Do you want me to make something for dinner so you can rest?” Alex slid a tendril of my curly blonde hair behind my ear.

“That would be nice,” I sniffled. “I don’t think I feel up to doing much yet.” Alex stood, patted me gently on the shoulder, and headed to the kitchen to scrounge up something to eat. Most likely it would be macaroni and cheese since it was Alex’s favorite food. Every time we ate it, I remembered when we were dating how Alex would stock up on the boxes of macaroni and cheese. He ate it for almost every meal, claiming it was cheap and easy for a bachelor. I remembered that at one time, he had almost 100 boxes stashed in cupboards from a sale they had at the grocery store. I shook my head ruefully and smiled. It was nice to have the old Alex back. I hoped this was sign of better things to come in our relationship.

I hated fighting with Alex. It tore at my heart. The last year had been particularly difficult. It seemed all we ever did was argue about everything. It didn’t matter what the topic – money, friends, not enough time together, even what to eat for dinner. Most of the time, I would just go along with whatever Alex had decided or said, but occasionally I would fight back. We ate dinner, relaxed and watched TV on the couch together, and turned in early for the night, both drained from the day’s events.


Healing After Miscarriage

As a side bar into this story, I want to offer some insight and advice about miscarriages and how to deal with the effects – physically, emotionally, and mentally. I remember what I went through and the lack of resources I had regarding the emotional fallout of the miscarriage. I don’t want the same to happen to another woman.

Suffering from a miscarriage or stillbirth can be very traumatic. Not only is it taxing on you physically, but emotionally as well. While a woman’s body can heal and recover relatively quickly from a miscarriage, emotionally, the healing process can take much longer. Although many women do not want to deal with their feelings after a pregnancy loss, facing them can help you pull through and emerge a stronger person.

As with any loss, it is normal for couples to feel grief after a miscarriage. Unfortunately, far too often, outwardly displaying signs of grief is seen as a sign of weakness, causing some to be tempted to bottle up this emotion (I did). Though you may want to appear emotionally strong to those around you, it is important to keep in mind that entering a grieving period after a significant loss is a perfectly normal human emotion.

There is no specific amount of time that a couple is expected to grieve after a pregnancy loss. How long a woman and her partner mourn for will vary from couple to couple and is not dictated by the length of a pregnancy. Whether you had an early miscarriage or stillbirth, the pain can be equally acute. Only you will know how long you need to grieve for.

Moving Past the Grief

Grief is not the only emotion associated with miscarriages. Other typical emotions reported by woman who have lost a pregnancy include depression, loneliness and isolation. Although these feelings are perfectly normal, if you are having troubles coping day to day because of your emotions, you may want to make an appointment with your health care provider. When your emotions begin to interfere with your daily activities, it can be a sign of major depression, a health issue that requires professional attention.

Another common emotional response to a spontaneous abortion is self-blame. Many women often feel that if only they had done something differently, if only they hadn’t had that glass of wine before they found out they were pregnant, they wouldn’t have miscarried. These thoughts can ring in your mind for weeks, making it even harder to get over your loss.

Miscarriage can also cause a woman to feel intense anger and jealousy towards other women, even friends, who are pregnant. While these emotions can be appalling, they will eventually pass and fade.

The Male Side

Miscarriages can make men nervous to talk to their partners. Not only are they upset about the loss, but also they are grieving for their partner. As a result, you may find that your partner is reluctant to broach the topic, fearful that he may upset you. Be honest with your partner; if you are not ready to openly discuss the loss with him, say so. But don’t forget to also let him know when you do want to talk.

After a miscarriage, a couple’s relationship can become noticeably strained. Dealing with such a significant loss can cause individuals to turn inwards and away from each. Yet, this is when you each need each other the most, for support and for a shoulder to cry on. Discussing your feelings after a miscarriage is often difficult for couples, but it is necessary. If you find that there is too much stress on your relationship right now, seeking out couples counseling can help you work through your grief as well as improve the communication between you and your partner.

Finding Support

Coping emotionally after a miscarriage is not easy and your friends and family are one of your best sources to find the support you need during this difficult time. Unfortunately, sometimes those that you want the most support from are the ones that make the situation worse by ignoring it. Though this can lead to feelings of hurt and anger, perhaps even causing you to withdraw from those closest to you, try to keep in mind that perhaps they are avoiding the topic for fear of upsetting you. Like your partner, it is important to be honest with your friends and family, letting them know when you do and when you don’t want to talk about your miscarriage.

Another great place to turn to after a miscarriage is a support group. Talking with other women and couples who are also dealing with the aftermath of a miscarriage can breakdown those feelings of isolation and loneliness. Alternatively, speaking with a professional therapist one-on-one can help you come to terms with your loss.

Coping Tips

Here are some tips that may be useful in helping you deal with your miscarriage:

  • Write it Down: Journal writing is an excellent method for people to air out their emotions. Because a journal is private, you can be honest with yourself and your thoughts, allowing yourself to reflect on just what it is that you are feeling. Furthermore, studies have found that writing in a journal can actually speed up the recovery period during sad times.
  • Set Some Rules: It can be difficult for your friends and family to know whether you feel comfortable hearing about other women’s pregnancies and pregnancy losses. To help yourself and those around you feel better and more at ease, make it clear which topics, if any, are off limits with you.
  • Go Away: If you don’t feel ready to face the world right after your miscarriage, then don’t. Take some time off of work to focus on yourself. If you can, arrange for your partner to also have some free time so you can be together.
  • Remember: Finding a special way to commemorate your child can turn a negative situation into a positive one, helping you to let go of your grief. Some parents choose to hold a memorial service while others decide to plant a tree in a local park or their backyard. Some even choose to write about their experience or create a website in order to help others.

Pregnancy loss can cause severe depression for many women. A support group or professional counseling may be useful if there is depression.

While some people may not understand her grief or expect that a woman should just “get over it”, the reality is that a child has been lost and it may take a long time to recover.  Taking whatever time is necessary to heal is so important.  While the impact remains, hopefully over time and with support, and with the memories of the baby, you can cope with your loss.


Maybe This is How It Is Between Husband and Wife

Alex went in the bedroom to get dressed, pulling on jeans and a button-down plaid shirt. It didn’t take him long to get ready as he had no hair to contend with and showers were only five minutes tops. He was a roll-out-of-bed and go kind of guy and he was quite content with it. Shaving was the only concession he usually made since he would end up a wooly mammoth in two days if he didn’t keep it under control. It was bad enough he had to shave his back and chest hair so it didn’t pop out of his shirt. He glanced back at the bed. I was still curled up in a ball. He shook his head, wondering if he should even bother me.

“Alex? I don’t feel so well,” I mumbled. I looked at him through pain glazed eyes. Alex walked over and put his hand on my forehead.

“You don’t feel like you have a fever. What’s wrong?” Alex brushed my bangs aside gently as he felt my forehead.

“My lower back and stomach are killing me. I can barely move my legs and I’m bleeding like a stuck pig,” I whimpered as I cradled my stomach. “I think there’s something wrong.”

“Maybe you should go to the doctor?” Alex eyed me skeptically.

“I probably should. Will you call and schedule the appointment with Dr. Lee? Can you take me? I don’t think I can drive.” I attempted to push myself up in bed, but another gut-wrenching convulsion sliced through my lower back. “Ooohhhhhh!” I cried as I fell back in bed.

“Can’t your mom or dad take you? Is there someone else you can call? I have to work. You know how important it is that I be there. I can’t afford another day off to go to the doctor with you.” Alex huffed and straightened up. He knew there was no way he was missing another day of work to go the doctor again. He had already missed a few days because of the fertility tests and consultations. I would just have to do it without him.

“Come on, Kat. Maybe you’re just having a bad period. It can’t be as bad as you’re acting. I’ve got to go. You’re going to have to do this without me.” Alex rolled his eyes and went out to the kitchen, packed his lunch and got ready to leave for work.

I laid there, silent tears leaving a silver trail down my cheeks, feeling incredibly alone. I couldn’t believe that Alex would just walk away like that from me. Didn’t he love me anymore? Didn’t he care? Couldn’t he see I was in so much pain? I heard the front door slam shut and the car drive away, leaving me abandoned on the bed.

Maybe I deserved it. Maybe this was how it was supposed to be between a husband and wife. I scrabbled for the cell phone on the end table, knocking off a book in the process. Nittany, the three-year-old grey tiger cat, took off running from the bedroom, startled by the loud thud. I made an appointment with Dr. Lee at 2:00pm. I dropped the phone over the side of the bed, curled up into a ball, and tried to fall back asleep. I hoped the crushing pain would ease as I sobbed quietly into the pillow.


The M.R.S. Degree

The pressures to marry and raise a family can be enormous — to the extent that women who are unable to do those things can feel as though something must be deeply wrong with them or sorely lacking in their lives. Men are not pressured in the same way to become fathers or to marry. And many men are brought up to repress their feelings or at least keep them to themselves.

I used to think something was wrong with me because I dated so little in high school. Never mind that my limited choices were farmers or military kids, neither of which interested me at the time. It didn’t help that my father was a pastor as well as a substitute teacher. And yes, he substitute taught some of my classes. I remember one young guy who I flirted with incessantly, but I could never get to go on a date with me said, “I can’t date you! God would strike me dead with lightning because of your dad!” And they meant it.

Another time, two girl friends of mine were sitting next to me in a floral design class (one of those easy electives to get out of actually working in school). We were chit-chatting, mindless banter, when they got quiet and looked at each other. I’ll never forget her long silky dune-colored hair that curtained her face when she leaned over to me and asked, “Are you gay?”

The color drained from my face and my mouth gaped open. “What? Why are you asking me that? Absolutely not!” She apologized, but wanted to know why I wasn’t dating anyone in high school and that she had never seen me with a boyfriend. “None of your business, that’s why. I can’t believe you asked me that. Besides, there’s no one here I want to date.” I brushed it off with the supposed nonchalance of youth, but the barb stung deep. The social stigma never truly faded. It was always an undercurrent when people talked to me, noticed me in the hallways, reached out from the silence as I walked by. It reminded me that I was a failure when it came to boys and dating.

College considerably expanded the dating realm, but it became a competition. Some women went to college for a very different type of degree – their MRS, earned by finding their future husband in the hallowed halls of a university.   The logic was simple – if a woman had no particular career aspirations but wanted to get married, she could meet scores of smart and successful men on a college campus. So to college she went, flirting with boys in her classes and dating as many men as possible, all to have a ring on her finger by graduation.

Christian colleges have been notorious for “pushing” marriage and family, suggestively or outright. I felt like I would be a failure if I didn’t find a man to marry while attending a Christian college. Of all places, I should be able to find a good man here, right? I dated a few, but never “the one.” As my roommates and friends, one by one paired off, I sunk lower and lower into a self-pity party – “No one wants me! I’m going to be all alone! Oh woe is me!” It was pretty pathetic looking back at it now.

Then I met Alex…well, sort of. The first time we met, we didn’t meet face to face. He was at the bottom of the stairs in my apartment, I was at the top of the stairs hidden from view. I was sick with bronchitis and he had stopped by to visit some of my roommates who were old friends of his. We half-shouted back and forth, introducing ourselves. Unbeknownst to me, my friends were gleefully rubbing their hands together and appreciating their scheming minds. They gave him a picture of me, my phone number, and my e-mail address and told him to contact me for a date. Yes, you heard me…my friends were setting me up.

That night, Alex didn’t hesitate and e-mailed me right away. He told me about the picture, thought I was beautiful, and wanted to take me on a date. A what? Seriously? I thought he was moving too fast. But then I decided, what the hell have I got to lose, and took him up on his offer. We e-mailed several times more – long, mushy, tell-all missives that could have filled a book. Technically, our first date was a blind date considering we hadn’t actually met face to face, yet. It was all that I had imagined falling in love would be like and more. I was  like a leaf cavorting on a caressing breeze, smitten and floating in wonder.

Feverishly, we dated – always together to the point of avoiding our friends. Every waking moment was either spent talking to each other, thinking about each other, or being with each other. There was no room for anyone or anything else. We believed it was true love. He had just left another relationship where he had proposed to the girl and she said no, but he said that he was ready to date again and find “Mrs. Right.” Somewhere in the back of my mind, I acknowledged that it can’t be this easy, but who ever heeds the little voice in the back of their head? I shoved it aside because life was too much fun and I insisted I knew what I was doing. I finally was going to achieve my M.R.S. degree and fulfill one of my goals.


I Thought We Were Happy

I sensed Alex had been restless lately, but I had no idea it was this bad. I thought we were happy. That he was happy.

“I don’t ever get to see you anymore. You’re always doing something with the church,” Alex whined. He grumpily crossed his arms over his chest.”I don’t want you doing Caravan anymore. I’m tired of the people in the church. I don’t want your father as our pastor. Why can’t you understand that?” he repeated to me.

I sighed, as he tried my patience, but I was beginning to think he was losing his mind.

“Alex, we have close friends there who we always do things with. Why would you want to leave that? You don’t want them as friends anymore? I don’t understand.” I leaned closer into Alex, trying to get a sense of what he was thinking and feeling, but failing miserably.

“You don’t get it, Kat. I don’t like it and I don’t like that you’re never home. You’re always off doing something with the church and never pay any attention to me. I’m sick and tired of it. You’re never home to cook dinner. You don’t clean the house. You don’t do things with me anymore. What about me? Where do I fit into all this?” Alex abruptly stood up and paced the living room. He rubbed his goatee with his hand, which meant I knew he was really peeved. I was stunned by his words. I guess I never realized how much my involvement in the church bothered him. I didn’t know he was “missing me.” He never said anything until now. But that didn’t mean we had to give up everything to change that, did we?

“I’m sorry you aren’t happy, Alex. I had no idea! I wish you had told me sooner. But do you think going to another church is really the answer? We’re just going to get involved as much there, too. It’s what we do. Why don’t you like where we’re at?” I leaned back into the couch and waited, hoping he could give me concrete answers that I could work with. This wasn’t like him to abruptly want to change something that was a big part of our marriage.

“I’m ready for a change. I want to do something different and find a church that has more young people like us. I want to play in a praise band and make new friends. I don’t like our praise band. I’m tired of the fights of trying to do things at this church!” Alex stomped around the living room, emphasizing his point. “I’ve had it, Kat. And you’re either coming with me or you’re not.”

“What? Excuse me, but I don’t think that’s the answer. And who are you to give me ultimatums like that? So what, if I don’t want to go, you’ll go without me? What kind of thing is that in a marriage? That’s stupid, Alex. You’re being ridiculous.” I huffed and stood up. I wasn’t going to put up with his idiocy. Those small, stinging barbs against my parents church and my father hurt. I calmly gazed at him, holding in my feelings. I didn’t want to say anything spiteful just because I was annoyed. “Alex, I think we really need to think about this and talk about it some more before we make a decision.”

“I’ve already made a decision, Kat. I’m the head of this household and the leader of this family spiritually. This is what I’ve decided and it’s what we’re going to do and that’s final.” Alex turned and left the room. I stood there trembling, hurt and angry, but submissive. I was his wife after all. I could only say so much.

 


The Wedding Premonition

We married young. He was 20 and I was 21, both still wet behind the ears, yet thought we knew it all. How often do I wince when I hear of people rushing into marriage regardless of age or saying ‘I do’ when they’re barely out of their teenage years. We thought we knew what we were doing. We told everyone who questioned our sanity that we were meant to be, why wait? To our parents we smiled and laughed at their supposed silliness when they asked us to push off the wedding. Wait another year, they said. Or at least a few more months. I had fun telling people once we married that our one year dating anniversary was two days after our wedding anniversary. The looks of astonishment always filled me with a smug pride thinking we knew what we were doing getting married so young and fast.

We were supposed to marry in January of 2000, but our friends and family were concerned about the Y2K hoopla at the time. We thought it was no big deal. Do you see a pattern here? How all-knowing and wise we professed to be? Our parents asked us to change the wedding date to be safe. It could snow. We could lose power. The world could end. So, we did move it. Earlier. To October 1999. Not quite what they had in mind, to say the least. They were hoping we would push it further in 2000, even longer if they could. We surprised them all, announced our new date, and frantically threw ourselves into wedding planning. It was rushed – every last bit of it.

I was finishing my junior year in college in Ohio. The wedding was to take place in Pennsylvania at my parent’s church. We planned it for the Fall break, a short three-day weekend. The plan was go home, get married, and go back to Ohio to school. No honeymoon, no vacation, no nothing. Just everyday living. I remember it like it was yesterday.

It was my wedding day. The smell of wood burning and the tingling scent heralding the coming winter was in the air. I was sitting on a mustard yellow vinyl cushioned chair with brass colored legs in the basement of the church. It went well with the 70s era room – brown industrial carpeting, brown paneled walls, a non-working dirty brick fireplace. It all melded together in a sea of brown, punctuated in color only by the plastic yellow and orange plant, and my white wedding dress. Twenty minutes before it was time to line up for the processional down the aisle, I sat alone. My bridesmaids had all run off for final touch-ups in the bathroom mirror, adjusting their duck tape bras (their dresses were cut so low in the back, only duck tape was strong enough to hold up the D cup girls).

The scent of barbecued chicken wafted down the hall and through the doorway as the caterer started preparing the reception food. It was being held in the bright blue gym of the church which we tried to make look as romantic and unlike a gym as possible with yards and yards of white tulle and red roses. As I waited for the girls to come back to head up to the church sanctuary, I realized I felt…nothing. Empty. It worried me as I thought how brides say their full of butterflies before the wedding, full of excitement and anxiety. I tried to conjure up the anticipation, but all I could summon was the sensation of having to pee. Not quite what I was going for. Was something wrong with me? Am I really this cold-hearted that I feel nothing on my wedding day? Am I doing the right thing? I could hear the giggles of the girls as they flitted about, making sure everything was in its place.

My father and I didn’t have the traditional father/daughter moments before the wedding as he was officiating the wedding. Instead, my brother, Andy, was going to walk me down the aisle and hand me off to my future husband. He poked his head in, very unsure and nervous, and asked if I was okay. I forced a smile and said I was fine, excited, and can’t wait. He gave me a half-smile and looked like he was going to puke. I reassured him that he would be okay, it’s only a short walk and he doesn’t have to say much. He nodded and left quietly. My brother wasn’t much for being in the limelight. Neither was I, for that matter, so how could I be so calm? I reasoned that it was because of the flurry of preparations to get ready for this day, that I was worn out from it all. I’m sure that was it.

Someone snapped a photo of me sitting alone in the yellow chair in the brown room. I still have it tucked away with my wedding album, collecting dust. Looking at it now, I see the deer-in-headlights and the grimacing smile. I feel the ghost of emptiness as I stare into her eyes in the photo. Sadness envelopes me as I remember the innocence of that moment. If only she knew what life would become – a controlling husband, a miscarriage, an affair, and ultimately a divorce seven years later. I wish I could have saved her on that wedding day.


I Was The Good Wife

I was the “good wife.” The one who did everything her husband wanted just to please him. My sole desire in life was to make him happy, regardless of myself. Many would say that goes against being a liberated woman, that I was lost and controlled by him. What they don’t seem to remember is that I chose this life. I wanted his love and protection, the way he took care of everyday things satisfied my need to be cared for. When his muscular arms embraced me and he placed gentle butterfly kisses on my forehead, I felt safe. Cherished. He paid the bills and managed the money. Between Alex and his father, they made our financial decisions. Some say he controlled me, but I saw it as he cared for me and loved me. He wouldn’t act this way if he didn’t care, right?

We were on the same page about everything. Occasionally, it rankled deep in my bowels when he would make a decree, but then I would smoothly talk to myself and tell my innards to settle down. It was the misbehaving rebellion streak in me that liked to rock the boat at times. I worked hard to silence that voice so it wouldn’t seep into our marriage. We married young; I was 21 and he was 20. I was often teased for “robbing the cradle,” but he was only a year younger than me. I think the mischief in my heart was propelled by ignorant youth. That had to be it. If I learned to squelch it, we would live happily ever after with a white picket fence and the 2.5 kids. Actually, there was no fence where we lived. Instead it was shutters and a screen porch the color purple like a fading sunset. But you get the idea.

When we married, Alex helped me see in his infinite wisdom that my friends from college weren’t good enough for me. He taught me to see their failures and attempts to lure me into the world of drugs and alcohol. He thought that I would become a wild feral animal if I continued my association with them. Sometimes, I looked really hard to find those sinful behaviors, but I trusted his wisdom. The friends he chose were better for me. They were all couples, male and female, one for him and one for me. It never occurred to me that friends could be anything but heterosexual couples.  We became known as Alex and his wife. It seemed fitting at the time.