Dinner

Anal

“DID I ASK YOU TO GET ME A SWEATER? It’s summer, or didn’t you think about that?” The venom dripped from her words. This was nothing new.

Cathy was at it again. Married 25 years and needed to be in control of the entire world. It was always her way, or she’d bitch and moan, manipulate or demean till she got it. Years ago I repeatedly tried to confront her on her behavior. I’ve tried every way I could, from easing into it all the way to yelling and screaming. It didn’t matter. Her defenses took charge and there would be no way to get her to see anything that she was frightened of.

She was always able to turn it around to make it my problem, not hers. It’s slowly gotten worse over the years. The last two months have been hell for me. Lately, our daughter Karen has learned to stay away from the house as much as possible.

Today, the five of us were together. First time for our entire family to be together in over a year. Karen our youngest was graduating with honors from high school and we were all going out to lunch to celebrate. The fact that restaurants over chilled in the summer had nothing to do with what was going on.

Cathy continued, “Don’t you think that I know what I need? You’re always getting in the way. You don’t do the things that I tell you to do. You only do the things that I don’t ask you. Now get my brown jacket from upstairs.”

My career as a plumber allowed us some comforts in life. The suburb we were in had a great school district and the kids did very well in it. The three of them took advantage of what it had to offer. Cathy demanded that they do their best, and these kids are being launched, launched successfully.

Karen our youngest got a half scholarship to Boston College and was going to start there in 3 months. She was going for Math. Mary our oldest was finishing up a Masters in Electrical Engineering on a full scholarship on the West Coast while John was in Chemistry at Purdue.

Cathy was damn good at getting her way. No one could stand up to her. She was half Italian, half southern Italian, half dirt-poor southern Italian, and from the wrong side of the tracks at that. She came from a family of gritty survivors. They fought for everything and held on to everything that they ever got. And they did not get much in life. The bootstrap help her family got was because they worked like hell. Now, it’s in the second generation, but the mindset is still dirt-poor.

We married 25 years ago. Mary was born at our two year anniversary, then came John 18 months later and then Karen. Karen will be 18 in a matter of weeks and starts college in three months. All the kids were high achievers, the best they could be. They got that from their mother. It always had to be their best, and they were capable. She wanted them to succeed. God help us all if any child was only average.

I made a choice those years ago. I’ve made a different one now while I walked up the stairs. It was not to get her coat but to pack my suitcase. I tried hard to protect my children from her bullying, her anger. I chose to stay these years because I could not abandon them to her and her destructiveness. I would not damage them. I’ve eaten shit over the years to protect them from her. They are now launched, or nearly so. Close enough. It’ll be better that we are all together when it happens. Mary, John and Karen will have each other nearby to process it with one another.

The counseling sessions I’ve gone to over my lunch hours over the past couple of months has helped me put my life into perspective. On one hand I feel like a failure because didn’t stand up to Cathy. On the other hand, my children have always been more important than me. I am responsible for them. One of the things I knew over the years what a divorce would do to everyone. The worse time for kids is when they are adolescents. In addition to the emotional upheaval, they wouldn’t be able to stay in the school district. Our school district gave them so many advantages in life. Even with all the yelling and silence, they had a stable home. Not a perfect one, but a stable, consistent one.

The kids learned how to live with their mother, how to get support from their father. I’ve put myself in very demeaning positions over the years. It was not from weakness, it was from love for them. I ran interference, I listened to them deal with her unreasonableness. I even explained to them that she sometimes demanded reasonable things from them. No one is completely wrong, or right. One day in the future I hope that they see that I did the best for them. I was a hell of a role model, I hope that they don’t hate me for that.

It was now time for me. It was my time to get my life back, my soul back, my self-respect back. I wanted a future for me. No, I needed a future for me. I was no longer going to be baby-sitting Cathy’s behavior any more. She was a grown woman, a soon to be single 52 year old grown woman and out on her own. No one to boss around. She was going to have to find somebody casino siteleri else in life to vent to, to vent on. I wonder how long she’ll be able to keep a job now. It hasn’t mattered for a while. She’d get fed up, quit, stay home for a couple of weeks. Then she’d find another one and start that cycle all over again. This time, I won’t have to listen to it, listen how she sabotaged her own life.

Now it’s time to quickly pack. I was planning on leaving after Karen left for college. After these last two months, I knew that I can’t wait any more.

I was half way through my second suitcase when I heard Cathy bellowing “What are you doing up there? Honestly, it’s in my closet. My nice and neat closet. Not your cluttered one. Do I have to get it myself?”

“Sorry, I saw that my pants had a seam that was splitting and I needed to do something about that. I’ll be down in a minute. Sorry for keeping you waiting.” That’s when I clicked the lock on the second old Samsonite suitcase. I was ready to go. I knew where I was moving to for a couple of weeks before i got a place of my own. They were ready, and so was I. I closed my eyes and exhaled. I was going. With a sigh I picked up both suitcases and began walking down the stairs.

As I got to the landing I heard Karen start to call out, then she stopped cold. She saw the suitcases. Our eyes met and I could see the sorrow in her eyes. She knew, she knew I was leaving. There was more noise from behind her that also suddenly stopped as her brother and sister saw it too. The silence was deafening. As I put the suitcases down by the front door, my soon to be ex-wife Cathy showed up bitching about me being late. Then she saw the suitcases. The look on her face showed that she didn’t comprehend.

At that point, I removed my wedding ring and walked over to her. I held it for her to take. “I won’t be needing this anymore.” Cathy held it in her hand with a totally confused look. It was like she was watching a movie, the end of someone else’s marriage.

Then I turned to Karen and the other two. “I’m sorry, I tried to hold on as long as I could. Karen, you’ll only have three months to be here till school starts. I’m sorry, Karen, I’m so sorry.”

I opened the door when Karen began. “Dad?” I looked back at her and saw the sorrow and tears in her eyes, and the sorrow and tears in the eyes of my other two children. “Dad, thank you so much for the years you gave to us. We’ve never been able to survive or succeed without you.” She and the other two gave me the warmest group hug that we’d ever had.

Then Cathy bellowed up, “What is going on here? Why are you leaving? GET BACK IN HERE NOW.”

I turned to her. In a very soft voice I said. “Cathy, you are no longer in charge. What you say, what you demand doesn’t go any more. You’ve done little over the years to want me to stay. I won’t be verbally and emotionally abused by you anymore. It’s over.” I picked up the suitcases and looked in her eyes, “I’m done.”

“It’s not over till I say it’s over.” I heard as I started turning toward the open door. That’s when she came back with a taunt. “Aren’t even man enough to say why?” But the normal tone in her voice wasn’t the same. There was a cracking to it, there was a look on her face of confusion, of fear. I had an opening. It wasn’t going to change anything, but I could get something out. I hesitated a few seconds.

“Ok, sit down, all of you sit down at the table.” A new look of anger mixed with relief crossed her face. I placed the suitcases by the front door and then closed it as the others sat down at the dining room table.

“Cathy, you haven’t respected me for years, you’ve treated me and these kids like shit for years. Everybody annoyed you, it always had to be your way. If I made any choices you immediately found fault in what me or anybody else said or did.” I exhaled and it looked like she was going to start in on me.

I stared her down. “No fucking way. If I’m telling you why I’m leaving, YOU KEEP YOUR GOD DAMN MOUTH SHUT. Open it and I’m out the door in seconds. UNDERSTAND? You’re not in charge anymore.”

I received an angry silent look from her. The look was not daggers, it was napalm. But she remained quiet.

“Nobody could have any ideas, only yours counted. The only time I ever made any headway with you was when there was a witness. Then you changed what you said to make your words and attitudes sound so much more reasonable.”

“That’s not true.” she blurted out.

“Ok Cathy, how about this morning? What did you say, how did you treat me?”

“I was only showing you what you chose was not the best. It could be better. I didn’t treat you without respect. I told you that later.”

I started laughing and pulled out my phone. “Ok, let’s listen to you. I recorded it. I’ve got a witness.” I hit play, and her face showed fear, then terror.

It was not new for the kids, they’d heard it all before. But having a recording was different. She could güvenilir casino no longer bully her way through things. With the recording and 4 people listening to it, she was toast. Her powers of denial could not hold up to hearing herself actually speak. She was as abusive, demeaning and self-centered as she always was, in fact much worse than when all the kids were at home. These past two months have been hell. She cringed at hearing her own words, their power, their venom. The dis-taste, the anger that flowed from her mouth. She’s always been a frightened little girl. The problem was that she learned growing up to be outwardly tough. It damned her, it damned her marriage.

“I was just having a bad day. I’m not like that always.”

“Cathy, we’ve got time. I’ve got 6 months of our interactions recorded. How many bad days does it take to see that you’re a very destructive person, a destructive wife? How many? Let me bring out one from last week and …” She hid her face in her hands. She lost, and was lost.

Mary broke the silence. “Mom, you stopped listening to Dad years ago. Nobody could get through to you. You blustered and bullied to get your way. It’s always been your way or the highway.”

Cathy’s eyes were filling with tears. “You abused him, verbally and emotionally for years. He ran interference for all of us. I know that he did this all to keep us safe, keep our family together. We’ve never spoken about it to him, but we all watched over him and how he was doing. You’ve been worse the past two months.”

Now Karen started to cry, cry out with rage and anger and hurt. “He cared what we thought, what we felt. He protected us from you and your anger. Everybody in the fucking world annoys you. You’ll never get it. You don’t control the world. You don’t control him anymore. Why don’t you think about why he’s leaving? He’s done with you. The way you’ve treated him and us shows everything. What you have done shows us all you wanted your marriage to be over. You’ve finally got what you’ve been working for.”

John joined in, “He kept explaining away your anger for years. Helping us see who you are, that part of you that’s weak. Weak just like the rest of us. He tried to help us understand you. That was his love for us, that was his love for you. Acceptance. You never changed and you’ve gotten worse.”

John pounded his fist on the table. “WHY THE HELL ARE THE THREE OF US GOING TO SCHOOLS MILES AWAY FROM YOU? We’ve all run away. We all know your limitations. Three days here and it goes south immediately. Dad no long has to protect us from your anger.”

Karen looked at me. “Dad, I want to come with you. No, I have to come with you. Don’t abandon me to her. Please don’t do that to me.” She held her face in her hands, tears dripping through her fingers.

John reached over and hugged his little sister, “There are sublets by the school that we can get for the summer. I’ve got a part time job set up. You can stay with me till your start in Boston.”

I looked at my soon to be ex-wife and asked her a question. “When was the last time we made love?” She was a little shocked at my question, and I repeated it. “When?”

“It was about two weeks ago. You …”

“Wrong. Try 8 years ago. I said made love, not have sex. The last time we had sex was over 2 months ago. You haven’t been invested in that part of our lives for years. The more angry you became, the more distant you became. You walked away emotionally years ago.”

I exhaled loudly, “Why?” A quiet bomb went off.

Cathy was shocked into silence. All the color drained from her face. She was hit with the proverbial ton of bricks. I don’t think that she ever looked at that, looked at her lack of emotions.

I continued, “Cathy, you walked away emotionally years ago. Every time I tried to build up our relationship, you found a way to negate what I did. You didn’t have my back all these years, you were on my back all these years. That’s not a marriage.

“I listened to you when you came home from work and complained how the world was not going your way. I gave you that freedom to try to grow. I never pushed, not that I’d be successful anyway. But I always had your god-damn back.”

I hit home. There was not anger, there was sorrow. I didn’t plan on this. I was going to walk away after my youngest went to school. Even today, I was only going to leave, confrontation was going to be a lose-lose. With witnesses, with the support of my children, I was going to be able to leave after her hearing what I felt these years. Cathy sat there in shock.

Mary, John and Karen stood up and began to leave the table. John was talking about getting boxes from the basement when they heard something out of their mother. No one really paid any attention to her, only me. As I stood up I quietly replied to her, “You’re no longer in charge. Good bye.” As I pushed the chair back into the table, I stopped cold.

Sitting there was not an angry woman, a piece canlı casino of exploding dynamite. There was a woman who had tears in her eyes, unsuccessfully attempting to mouth words that were not escaping.

I’ve seen this from her before. It was at times she would finally hit the wall. Times when her denials and blustering broke down. She was no longer in-your-face angry. The mask, the defenses were broken, temporarily, but broken apart. These were rare times, but times where her inner soul came out.

I’ve never been a mean person. I’ve been on the wrong side of mean more times that I ever care to imagine. I can’t do that to another person. This doesn’t mean it would change my plans going forward. Rubbing salt into wounds, kicking someone when they’re down, pressing for the utmost revenge…not me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten real enjoyment over planning retribution. But in the end, I knew that I would never carry it out. Planning revenge was an escape valve. But no matter how hard I want the feeling of power and inflicting pain to the level I’ve lived through. It is not me to do it.

“Everybody, please stop and sit back down.” They continued to walk away. I couldn’t blame them. They each had seen this once or twice in their lives. It was always with the hope that it was the start of things getting better. Those hopes had been dashed in the past, they had no hope for the future.

“I SAID, EVERYBODY PLEASE SIT BACK DOWN. NOW.”

The three of them were shocked. They looked at their mother and then me. I’ve made few requests of them over the years. I continued softly, “Please return to your seats.” They sat back down, very puzzled and slightly defensive.

Cathy held her face in her hands, sobbing. What she was sobbing for could be anyone’s guess. The loss of her marriage, the confrontation of the truth, her being exposed, her being abandoned by her family. Who knows? We waited, we silently waited.

She was not even looking at us when she held up a finger to signal she needed a minute to gather herself. We looked at each other and nodded. With no anger in his voice, in fact, in a calming voice John replied “Take your time. We’ll wait.” From a woman who spent her entire life being strong and rolling over any opposition, this was difficult. I think that we all knew that this gathering broke something in her. Only that our family was broken too.

Several minutes passed, and this gave us all time to look into ourselves. The die was cast, the glass was broken, and there was no going back. There were only choices in going forward.

She was still going to be their mother. She was still going to be my ex-wife.

Finally, she pulled her purse out and brought out a piece of paper and put it on the table. Mary picked it up and began to read it to herself.

Cathy began, “You all know my weaknesses, my …”

Mary broke in, “THIS IS TWO MONTHS OLD. YOUR MAMMOGRAM RESULTS CAME BACK POSITIVE AND YOU’VE DONE NOTHING ABOUT IT?”

Cathy replied in a voice just above a whisper, “I’ve been frightened. I didn’t know what to do. I can’t be weak.” and her voice dribbled off into inaudible noises, then silence.

My world, no, our world stopped. Cathy was honest with us. We knew she was a normal human person. She could never admit it, never share it, never own it, never live it. All of us hoped to hear these words one day. I’m sure we may have heard them in our dreams along with other fantasies. We would never have actually thought it would happen. We all knew who she was and she finally said it.

This changes everything, and nothing. Months and years of dealing with my own issues with her, and we all find out that she couldn’t deal with this? We were shocked into silence. I needed to process this, process this away from everybody.

“John and Karen, could you make something for us to eat. There are some frozen hamburgers in the freezer. If you want to order out, there are takeout menus in the drawer by the light switch.” They were nodding so I tossed them my wallet.

John picked up the wallet and handed it right back to me. “We’ll handle this.” He and Karen went into the kitchen, opening up the freezer.

I looked at Mary then Cathy. “I need to go out for a walk and think things out.” Cathy’s face became pale. I’m sure she thought I was going to run away.

I passed my keys to Mary. “Hold these till I come back. I won’t be needing them for a while.” The four of them all relaxed a bit. “I’m going for a long walk. I’ll be back in an hour. If I’ll be longer, I’ll call in 45 minutes to tell you that.”

The suitcases stayed by the front door. I went out the rear door heading to the alley. No one would be able to see which direction I went that way. I needed time away. I also needed time to put my thoughts into words. And I needed a drink, a stiff one. It’s two blocks to my friend Mike’s house. A quick phone call behind the garage and I was all set.

He and Carol have been my pressure relief for this marriage for years. That was where I was going to move to till I found a place of my own. With them, no need to have to explain things out.

I got there and they saw my face. Carol asked “Tell us what happened. Is it finally over? Where are your suitcases?”

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