I find it hard to imagine the innocence and the uncertainty of being a child bride. Both times I got married I had that horrible sense of what the hell am I getting into and both times my instinct was right. I should have ran both times.
Granted, ball and chain #2 was an improvement over #1 but not by much. Jerry was an alcoholic. Admittedly he was functional, and could be a great guy- when he wasn’t butt drunk. Most of the time when he wasn’t at work he was butt drunk. Then the games began. He could be destructive, verbally abusive and I did way too much enabling and covering the consequences of his drinking and irrational behavior connected with it. To make it more awkward and regrettable, Jerry spent the last four years of his life terminally ill, which didn’t do much for his outlook, his behavior, or for me wanting to be around him. He was unpleasant, demanding, clingy, and often nasty before he got sick, and the sicker he got the nastier and more clingy he got.
It sounds cruel but it got creepier and creepier being around him. He wheezed and coughed constantly and gagged all the time- the unfortunate side effect of pulmonary fibrosis. What breath he could get he spent barking orders at me. Sometimes he was downright cruel and went on and on calling me bitch and other foul epithets. Toward the end he couldn’t drive anymore. Just going to the bathroom or showering was a major accomplishment for him.
The sucking sound of the oxygen box was creepy- I didn’t have the heart to turn it off even when I knew he was dead. I asked the paramedic to do it. The room smelled like an unwashed old man. I sort of felt like the little kid in Stephen King’s short story “Gramma” where Gramma died when the kid was alone with her, and Gramma was demon possessed.
One fine morning – like I knew I would-I wandered in his room and found a corpse. The worst part of that is I didn’t know how I would react when that happened. I didn’t want to touch him out of fear of…well I read way too much Stephen King in high school… but my major irrational fear was that the cops would think somehow I killed him. Sins of commission? Omission? Should I have called the squad the night before when he wanted to come home from the Moose early? I sort of anticipated it, and something had told me his time was short that night, but it was still surreal at 5AM just dialing 911 and telling the dispatcher, “I think my husband’s dead.” That is a bizarre thing to do.
I never felt so alone. Usually I am fine with solitude and prefer it, but not in the same space with a corpse. Waiting on cops and paramedics. Because paramedics are the Ones Who Know Dead. They even have special equipment to verify death. Who knew? Who wanted to know?
Do I guilt over sighing a huge sigh of relief that it’s finally over? Sometimes I do. Not much so far. I wonder long term if I will handle it the way I usually handle things emotional- with a 20 year delay?
In a lot of ways I feel guilty because I stayed with him long after the love had gone- and his illness (over which of course he had no control) made being around him even more repulsive. I do feel bad about that. I went through the motions. I tried to do the right things for him but it was sort of like when little kids hold their noses when forced to eat things they find to be gross. I served him from a sense of inward duress. Love is indeed a choice but when love is gone only duty and guilt remain.
I think he knew I was only there for him out of pity and duty. I was, and I feel bad about that.
Mourning is a weird thing. It seems pathetically selfish of me to mourn the 20+ years I spent with a man who loved me- albeit in a twisted and sadistic way at times. Yes I mourn wasting the better part of 20 years being treated like trash and living in fear of the next tirade. And I feel guilty for admitting it.
All this comes back to faith. Did I fail? Yes I did. Was I perfect or even good? No. I have no right to complain and every obligation to confess my sins and lack of love to God. I can only thank God for His mercy.
By faith I know God forgives me. The scars remain. The fear persists. Even though I know I am forgiven I still have anxiety. I still believe…but I call on God constantly to help my unbelief.
Sometimes I feel guilty because my life is better now. As if I should want to put on a hair shirt and attempt to do useless penance.
Is there beauty on the other side? Yes. Am I still cynical and scared? Yes. I am still learning that what I once thought was normal is anything but.
It’s been almost two years and I am still getting past the trauma. I am still trying to rediscover life.
God have mercy.