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Monday, February 23, 2009

HOM: Lyn

Subtitle: My marriage. I've been debating if it is better to to do this in chronological order, or just dump the load here. Since there is a lot of pain wrapped in all those old memories, I think I'd rather haul the worst of them out here into the light and get it over with. This is a list of facts, not suppositions or conclusions or accusations. This is going to be no more fun to read than it is to write, so skip it if you want. The marriage was bad from the beginning. It got worse as time went by. There were some good times but they were rare. Those first years, I hung in there because I had made the serious commitment, for better or worse, and that is not a commitment I take lightly. Too, I kept feeling like part of the problems were my fault or my failure, and I kept working at trying to please Lyn and make things better. After Becky was born, it got much worse, but then Becky was the hostage Lyn held that kept me in the relationship. In those days it was automatic that custody went to the mother, and spousal abuse & child abuse issues were pretty much ignored unless someone died. I did not want Lyn to have Becky, I knew she would destroy her if she did. Money was always a problem. Lyn seemed convinced she could buy happiness. Her buying happiness kept me broke. I will never forget a conversation we had once, when she said "I am so fed up with the person I am. I need to change, I need to improve. I need to be a better person . . . I need to get a new hairdo or new makeup!" I was thrilled by the first part of what she said, and disappointed by the last. I don't think she ever did learn that happiness comes from inside & doesn't have a dollars-and-cents price tag. Money. I gave her the first paycheck from my first job after we were married and told her to deposit most of it in a savings account we had started. She bought clothes with it instead. She would buy nice things, then either give them away, throw them away, or destroy them, then go buy more new things. She opened accounts in both our names at every store she was interested in. When I would try to close them, the stores wouldn't let me because her name was on them too. My credit died. I talked to a lawyer, but in those days the law backed up the policy of the stores, and my hands were tied. After Becky was born, Lyn became hypoglycemic. She was addicted to sugar, and that made for a wicked combination, sugar highs going into lows that were characterized by rage & violence. When a doctor told her she was hypoglycemic, she called him a liar and walked out. She wanted to learn to sew, so I bought her a little Singer Genie portable sewing machine. I came home one day to find it in pieces, and a massive dent in the side of the refrigerator. She told me the Genie fell off the table. She broke a carpet sweeper over my back when she was mad. She threw and broke a lot of things. When Becky was an infant and was in her baby seat crying in the back of the car, Lyn, who was mad at me, swung around and slapped her full force across the face. I walked into the living room in the middle of one of her tantrums, got hit in the face by a metal doll stand that cut my forehead open. I was brought up to NEVER hit a woman, no matter what. This may have been a handicap. Lyn got mad at Becky about something in Bec's room. When I walked in she had Bec by the hair and was slapping her. I slapped Lyn across the butt to get her to stop, so she turned on me. It did not help Becky in the long run. Anytime I took Bec with me or interfered, Lyn stored it up and things were worse for Bec when she was alone with her again. For Bec, it was Damned if I did interfere, Damned if I didn't. For both of us, actually. I had gotten Lyn a BIG mixing bowl. She was throwing things around the kitchen and picked it up -- I told her if she threw it I'd spank her. She did, & I did, like she was a misbehaving little kid, over my knee. When I turned her loose, I asked her if she'd behave. She punched me in the mouth. I slapped her. I am not proud of doing that. She called her parents, told them I had beaten her. She told other folks the same thing. She said I'd hit her as hard as I could. I told her I hadn't, and if she wanted me to, I could prove it. She stopped making that accusation. She stopped hitting me after I slapped her, so maybe it was a good thing, but she still took her rages out on Becky. I was afraid to leave them alone together and Becky was afraid to be with her alone. Leaving her there when I went to work broke my heart. I took Bec with me as often as I dared, and missed a lot of work. Lyn was throwing a temper tantrum in the kitchen, and when I walked in she grabbed a knife out of the sink and threatened me with it. When I told her if she did not put it down I would hurt her, she did. Becky needed an operation as an infant. Lyn did not want her to have it, it would be an admission that she had a defective child. We fought, but because it was literally life or death, I made sure the operation took place. My dog was an outside dog that lived under the porch. I came home one day to find its nose & muzzled badly burned. Lyn had poured hot grease on him, but said it was an accident. Gordon, the ex-cop, watched the escalating violence and told my folks that unless something changed someone was going to die. Mom told me this after Lyn left. Lyn had gone over to Mom's & Dad's while they were out camping -- she'd asked me for their key so she could go clean the house for Mom as a surprise. When Mom got back, she found a wad of money she had stashed was gone. I learned this also from Mom after Lyn left. Once the marriage ended a lot of my friends unburdened themselves to me about their feelings and reactions to Lyn. It was kind of eye opening. When anyone gave Bec nice clothes or gifts, Lyn would take them away from her and put them up, usually until Bec had outgrown them, then either throw them away or give them away. The old definition of an unbreakable object is one you use to smash everything else. That held true in our house. Broken dishes, broken windows, shattered furniture, broken hearts. Dented frying pans. It ended when Becky was twelve and Lyn filed for divorce. Lyn & her family were convinced she would be happier back in Boston than in Montana and they aided & encouraged her in the divorce. She turned 35 on a Sunday at the end of September. The next day she she filed the papers. I did not contest the divorce, and the only stipulation I made was that I was going to keep Becky & the store, no matter what. That was, bar none, the worst time of my life. I felt like I was a total failure as a husband and totally worthless as a human being. I remember walking at night down aimless roads. I remember doing things that I am still ashamed of. I remember crying. I quit eating -- which gave me the one laugh of the whole period. Lyn was going through her clothes, and dumped a bunch of jeans she had outgrown. I picked up a pair and looked at them, and she said to go ahead and try them on, she could use a good laugh. I put them on and they fit fine, and she didn't laugh. I did, but it was rueful. Becky was the Angel that kept me going. I was devastated but she was relieved. She mothered me, made me eat. I owe her a lot. Every time Lyn & I reached an agreement about a settlement, she would phone her folks and they would talk her into changing her mind and the battles would start again. I lost my temper. Rather than hit her, I hit a book. I broke my hand, moved the knuckle at the base of my little finger back a bit less than an inch. With help, I taped it to a book to immobilize it and went to the doctor for a reassembly and a cast. My lawyer told me he was glad it was the book I hit. I wasn't sure. At Becky's age, the courts were willing to give the child some choice in their custodial parent and she said she preferred being with me. It was kind of a bitter battle, but Mom & Dad kicked in some extra money on the divorce settlement to encourage Lyn to give up her claim on Bec. We finally got her. Mom always said she felt like Lyn sold Bec to us. It was finalized November 11th, and Lyn went back to live with her folks. I kept Bec and the store, I lost a big chunk of everything else. I spent Christmas with Mom & Dad while Bec flew back to Boston for the holidays, a condition of the divorce. I spent New Year's Day with Conrad Gerega, an old bachelor friend, out at the old house. A few weeks later, I went down to Les Bauska's shop and had him cut the cast off of my hand and arm. I trusted friends and gunsmiths more than I did doctors. Still do. A year later Lyn came back to Kalispell for a visit and wanted to stay. She said she'd made a horrible mistake, still loved me and missed me. Bob, my cynical friend, said she only wanted to come back so she could get the stuff she'd missed on the first go-round. I guess I'm not that cynical, but I still said no to her. I was done. I had gone through the Crazy Time and come out the other side and was healing. I did not want to go back into Hell again. That marriage had been the biggest failure of my life, and I didn't think I'd do any better at it a second time around with her. And Bob might have been right . . . TBC (Me) (Blacktail Books)


Jean&Vic said...

I have to say that was a sobering post. I had no idea you had such a time in marriage, but now understand why you are so skeptical of it (not completely, but I have a lot better of a clue now).
I do have to say that there was more than one good thing that came from it though (one of these days I am going to find a way to bottle that optimist and sell it ;-). You got a loving daughter, the experience and wisdom never to try that again, and you found who your friends were. I am sorry you had a time in life like you did, but I would not trade you for anyone. I like you the way you are.
Take care, I will hopefully see you some time this coming week.