Yesterday, Baby Girl turned 2.
A year ago yesterday, my husband came home from being away from home for 5 months. He’d been on the road working out of state on an overtime job to earn extra money for our growing family. We’d talked and texted every day he was gone. I longed for his return. I’d missed him. Plus, I was taking care of a 1 and 2 year old in a state where I knew only 2 other people, his elderly parents. I needed help. I needed my partner, even though his presence often meant more work for me. I’d had postpartum, and crippling physical pain. It was freezing and snowing all the time, and I’d never lived in snow before. I’d found a church, and the kids and I went every Sunday. I’d planned to join a small group, but I was struggling with so many things that I hadn’t pulled the trigger yet. For the first time in my adult life, I realized that I didn’t have clue one about how to make new friends. I was lonely.
We’d moved there a year and half before to live in his parent’s beautiful paid off home. They were getting older, and wanted their son and grandchildren to live nearby for once. They wanted to unburden themselves of this big house in order to downsize. It was too much for them to take care of anymore, they said. I missed my friends and family desperately, but I was making the sacrifice of moving away from the only place I’d ever lived for some very practical reasons. We took them up on their offer. It was very hard for me, on pretty much every level there is.
After 5 months of Honey being gone, AGAIN, I was at the end of my rope. Whatever reserves I’d drawn from to make it that far on my own in those conditions were all used up. I just needed my husband to come home.
And what a birthday gift for me and for baby girl! Daddy came home to us on her 1st birthday. I put on a little tiny party for her a couple days later, consisting of the four of us, and Honey’s parents. I noticed that in those 2 days, Honey barely connected with or played with the babies. He’d take them to the couch, plop them on his knee, and bury his face in his Iphone.
So much so that I noticed. ‘What could be more important than reconnecting with these children?’ I wondered.
Well, a stripper pining for his return that he was sending love sonnets to. That’s what. But of course, I had no clue at the time. Even though it made me mad to see him pay so much attention to that phone and not them, I just thought ‘this man has been on his own for so long that he’s just used to hopping on his phone to play a game or tune out, and he’s got to re-acclimate to being here with us as a family.’
Yep, that’s me. Giving him the benefit of the doubt at every turn. Thinking the best of him. Trusting in his inherent decency, as though to even presume anything else was unthinkable.
At the birthday party, which looked like a grenade had gone off inside a box of Tinkerbell decorations, he was taking ‘selfies’ with Baby Girl and Little Man. Strange, I thought. Never once seen this man take a selfy, let alone with his children. Maybe he’s sending them to his buddy he lived with out there, because I’m sure he’s been bragging about them to his roommates for all these months.
Nope. He was sending them to his mistress. Pictures of him posing them like a prop to show what a great daddy he is, and then plopping them right back down again in front of the TV. Sickening.
His roommate, in actuality, didn’t even know he had more than one child. He really knew nothing of us at all. That’s because he’d been told that Honey and I were separated. He’d seen Honey go after women like a person that is very much single. He didn’t know that a family, alive and well and totally in the dark, awaited his return, foolishly thinking that his commitment to us was unbreakable. That his vows meant that we were, of course, the only plan.
But Honey had already labeled us ‘plan B’, and just hadn’t gotten around to mentioning that. That plan involved treating me like I was a complete moron, and treating the babies like props for the Honey show, knowing full well he’d soon be leaving them to be raised without a father and leaving me to be a single mother. Manipulating the beautiful gift that is our trust to his perverse, selfish advantage.
He was home for 14 days before his plan fell apart, because I started to see some strange behavior that compelled me to force a conversation that didn’t quite turn out as he’d expected. Believe me, it wasn’t what I expected, either. He was leaving for plan A. The stripper with the heart of gold with two different kids by two different dads. He left the next day, never to come back.
Many readers know all of this, but I detail it because this is all relevant and such fun to recap when you juxtapose it against what happened in the 14 days he was home with us. Here’s the highlight reel.
- We had sex. Luckily it was only once. I later got tested for diseases, which was humiliating beyond words.
- I made every meal, every day, and shopped for, prepped for, and cleaned up for 98% of it myself. I cleaned the house, got the mail, paid the bills, as always. I got zero ‘break’ from my hard work since he’d been gone, only more of it.
- Honey got sick, and basically stayed in bed for three days. He was texting on his phone the whole time. I served him his food and drinks there. I now had 3 children to take care of. Not exactly what I was hoping for. I had the stomach flu twice while he was gone, and I didn’t get to stay in bed for three days. I got to change diapers and make lunches and give baths while intermittently running to the toilet to be sick.
- I went to the store and got him gatorades, popsicles, crackers, and anything else I thought might make him feel better.
- When he was feeling better, I spent hours shopping for, prepping for and cooking a big pot of home-made cheesy baked potato soup so he could have something warm and comforting. Of course, I did this all while also taking care of the kids 100%. I served it to him and then insisted he go to the couch and relax so I could clean up after him, the kids and myself.
- He sat and talked to me as I hand-painted a tree on the wall of our son’s room. It had forest animals and horses running around it, with a big fence and a barn nearby. It took many hours over the course of several days.
- We sat on the couch and talked about how expensive Disneyland was, but that if we saved x amount per month, we could take the kids next year.
- We lied in bed and talked about how our 10 year anniversary was coming up, and how we’d love to get away together. We’d not had a vacation or trip alone in years because of babies. I suggested something like a getaway to a hotel in the mountains, and he thought that sounded awesome. He said he could get his mom to watch the babies for us here at our house with no problems.
- He sat with me as I set up our tax appointment, our dental and doctor’s appointments, and those of the babies. I also set Little Man up for soccer shots, which would be the first sport he’d ever played.
- We went to Chuck E Cheese as a family, the FIRST TIME we’d been able to even do anything like that since Baby Girl had been born. As we sat and ate, I got choked up. This is what it feels like to be a family! Finally! I’ve wanted this for so long. Then, as we went to play games, he kept taking Little Man away to go do games and leaving us standing there. Finally, after about the 10th time of that, I said ‘Ok, well, Baby Girl and I are just going to go over here since we aren’t invited to where you’re going, apparently.’ He just smiled and kept going. This was one of the things that prompted me to have the talk that lead to the ‘night of 1,000 horrors’.
- I asked him on Valentine’s day (our Christmas celebration) if everything was ok with us. He said ‘Yes, babygirl, we’re fine! I love you.’ We talked about it some, and at the end of the conversation, he kissed and hugged me. And typical me, KIDDING, I say ‘Ok, Honey! Just needed to be sure. You haven’t seemed yourself. Just wanted to make sure you didn’t have some secret family stashed away somewhere!’, smiling. He replies ‘Ah ha! No. Nope, no secret family.’ We laughed as I left the room. (Spoiler alert: Yep. He had a secret family.)
So here’s my point to all of this. What kind of fruitbat, sicko, psychopathic bastard would stand by and watch me paint a tree on the wall of his son’s nursery, knowing full well that his son would not even be living there in a matter of days or weeks?
What kind of asshat would lie in our marital bed and describe the kind of hotel he’d like to stay in for our anniversary when he knew we would never go there?
And what kind of selfish, cruel monster would prop their child up for a selfy glamour shot, knowing he’s about to rip apart their world and remove the foundation right out from under them?
How could he so cruelly watch my relief and excitement about having our family together, and smile as though he intended to remain a part of it?
And lastly, what kind of sickening pig would sleep with me, tell me that we’re fine, tell me that he loves me, plan trips with me, let me make appointments and sports commitments we’d never keep, and let me baby him and take care of his every need when he already had the knife sharpened, ready to plunge right in between my shoulder blades???
When I asked these questions to Honey by phone a couple weeks after he abandoned us and we’d driven back to my home state, he said nothing. But as I continued to ask ‘how could you’ questions about these very things over and over, it was clear he was getting…agitated. Annoyed. Frustrated that I’d point out, in such glaring detail, his thoughtless cruelties. As I was mid-sentence asking something about a tree and a nursery room wall, he blurted out ‘BECAUSE I HADN’T PLANNED ON TELLING YOU, ALRIGHT??’
To which I replied ‘Wait. Let me make sure I’m hearing you right. Do you mean to say that you would have just lived a double life with both of us until you felt like leaving or you got caught?’
He was silent.
I said ‘Answer me. I deserve an answer to this. Look, the bomb’s gone off. Our life is exploded in pieces all around us. Just tell me.’
I’m sure he realized his mistake, and was considering how he could possibly swindle, lie or cheat his way out of this one. But he either couldn’t think of a lie quick enough, or knew no answer would be taken in the affirmative, so after a moment of static on the line, I heard the unmistakable sound of my nightmares coming to life.
‘Yes’, he said.
I was crestfallen and humiliated. The implications began to spiral out of control in my mind. This wasn’t thoughtless idiocy. This was premeditated monstrousness.
So. Which would have been worse? The version of this man that would let me do those things knowing it was all coming to an end within days, or the version of this man that would have simply let me do those things……forever?
Which monster do I prefer? Doesn’t matter in the end. Either way, he made a fool of me on top of making a fool of me. And this is probably why, a year later, it still feels like it happened yesterday.