As I turned down my street, in the distance I saw the bright U-HAUL truck in my neighbor’s yard.  I wondered why they hadn’t told me they were moving as I’d just seen them out front a couple of days prior.  As I approached my house the realization suddenly hit me that the U-HAUL truck was in my driveway and four unfamiliar Navy Seals were carrying furniture and boxes out of my house in unison.  I parked out front and ran in the house to find my husband on the phone solidifying plans of some sort.  The blood drained from his face when he saw me. Clearly he wasn’t expecting me to come home at that time.  He hung up the phone and I stared at him waiting for something to come out of his mouth.  In my peripheral vision, I could see only a few items remaining, which were imminently on the way out as well.  He didn’t know what to say and blurted out “it’s over”, as he turned and left.  I stood there dumbfounded and betrayed.  I had no feeling, I was numb.  That was 11 years ago today.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  I’d been betrayed by someone I loved, and to me there is no lower form of deceit than betrayal.  It’s something you never get over.

9/11 had taken a toll on the entire country and my husband’s Naval Command was no different.  They all responded to the terror and for my husband it brought back horrible memories of a plane wreck his command was in charge of recovering years earlier in the Atlantic Ocean.  Before my husband found the black box of that wreck, he told me he had found several baby pajamas and clothing floating in the dark waters, but the babies had presumably been eaten by sharks.  At the time, his daughter was a toddler and he and his wife were split.  He had custody of his daughter and the comparison of the baby pajamas and his toddler daughter were too much for him to bear.  He had a breakdown and would spend the next five years in therapy while he struggled with nightmares and internal turmoil.  This all happened before we met, but he relived it when telling me about it.  I could see the beads of nervous sweat on his face, the clenched fists and pursed lips brought it all back to life for him.  After all this time, he still hadn’t gotten over it.  I think the events of 9/11 triggered a spiral of events, past and present, and leaving was his way of coping.

Our short marriage had been strained from the start.  We each had difficult ex’s and a child.  Our children were only a year apart and they seemed to get along fine.  Neither of them were difficult, just product’s of divorced parents trying to raise them right, to the best of our ability.  We were pulled in many directions but seemed to fare through it all because we deeply loved each other.  Against all odds, we married and that’s when our real troubles began.  His ex-wife was threatened and made it a point to make our lives miserable every day.  In the process, she was filling her daughter with false hopes and promises and we were left to pick up the pieces when things didn’t fall into place as her mom had said they would.  It was heartbreaking, to say the least.  If that wasn’t bad enough, my ex-husband decided to go for full custody of our son during all of this.  Of course, he lost in court as well.

Just a few shorts weeks after we married I learned something was drastically wrong with my dad.  My brother had picked up on it years earlier, but it was random and I didn’t see it.  I started making regular trips to Texas to find out what was going on.  Although my husband supported and encouraged the trips, he was left to tend to the house, the kids, the homework, the sporting events, the practices, the animals and his Naval career by himself while I was away.  It was a lot on his plate, but he knew this was important to me and accepted the challenge without resistance.  His drinking got worse and I realized what I’d been denying all along.

The strain of my dad’s illness, his ex-wife, my ex-husband and 9/11 all came to a boil the morning we headed to child custody court where we were going head-to-head with his ex-wife who was fighting for sole custody of his daughter.  We hadn’t said anything to his daughter as we didn’t want to upset her.  His ex-wife, however, had told her to pack her bags as she would undoubtedly be going home with her to live full-time after court.  We won and retained custody and my step-daughter was reduced to gut-wrenching tears and tantrum shock.  She always wanted to live with her mom who had painted such a pretty picture of how life would be.  My step-daughter never knew that in a drug induced state, her mom abandoned her when she was six months old and would never get custody of her.  My husband’s heart broke with his daughter’s sadness.  He waffled, folded and finally cracked.  I would pay the price by having my life turned upside down and inside out.  My rock would be my son, and although down, we would rise again, only stronger and better.  A few months later my dad died.

Every year I hang my head in a moment of silence while the whole world remembers the tragedies, the heroes and the upsets of 9/11.   I take an additional moment of silence and remember the fairy-tale marriage, and how it played out.  Even with the heartbreaking end, my son and I were lucky to be part of it.  That experience would prove a priceless lesson in years to come…

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