It was a Friday afternoon. I picked up one from school and the other from daycare. It was 3:30 and it was time to make that phone call. I dialed and let it ring over a dozen times. Maybe he's still in the hallway for his walk. Maybe the doctor is in there talking to him and he can't answer the phone. Maybe, maybe, maybe…
The phone kept ringing and I eventually hung up. I sighed and told the girls, "Well, we'll try him again in just a bit, okay?" They nodded an affirmative and proceeded to take off their shoes and get comfortable.
My husband was in the hospital, after a severe heart attack. The closest Veterans Affairs hospital was three hours away in Houston, so I couldn't stay with him and be at home for the girls, too. Neither of his adult children was able to stay with him for longer than a day at a time, either. They had their lives to lead.
I put the phone down and turned on the television. Half an hour later, I dialed the number a second time. The phone rang five times before a lady answered the phone.
"Uh, hello? I'm looking for my husband, Tim."
"Oh, ma'am. I'm so sorry…"
She trailed off. Or I had thought she trailed off. My mind went blank. He had just passed away. He went into cardiac arrest and they were unable to revive him. Just like that. He was fifty-two years old.
I put down the phone a second time that day and realized I had a lot of phone calls to make. I had to call his kids. They all decided to meet me at his storage shed Saturday to "discuss" his affairs.
The discussion did not go very well. I handed the key over to them and let them duke it out themselves. I had to go to the funeral home to make arrangements, my small kids in tow.
The funeral was Monday. It was a small and quiet funeral. Because he was a veteran, he received an honorable funeral, complete with a flag being laid over his coffin and a twenty one gun salute, with Taps playing.
After Monday, it rained for seventeen days straight. I remember his daughter telling me, "Oh, its daddy crying from Heaven."
Later that week, I remember talking with my mom. I distinctly remember sitting at the counter, leaning forward on my crossed arms. She told me I look relieved. It's because I was relieved.
Let me explain. I met Tim in an AA meeting. When we married, he was fifty, I was twenty-five. His kids were my age, and I had a small child of my own.
When we moved in together, we married quietly. I quickly learned a lot of things I never knew about myself. I learned that I was a stupid girl. I learned that when I have a miscarriage, it's my fault. I learned that when dinner was not on the table when he came home from a construction job, that I would have a lot to answer for. I also learned that verbal abuse will eventually turn into physical abuse.
Later down the road of life, I also learned something else about this man who terrorized my life. He also hurt my daughter. Yes… in that way.
It has taken me years, years, to be okay with these things. Let's just say some days are better than others. It's strange being in a healthy relationship with a man. I still flinch when he reaches over to stroke my cheek. I gasp when I'm in the middle of washing dishes and he puts his arms around me. It took me three years before I trusted him alone with my children.
There are people in AA who come to me occasionally who remember Tim. They don't know him like I knew him. He would take the shirt off his back to help another human being. Then he'd come home and beat his wife.
So, why am I writing this? It's something that I need to put out there. Very few people have seen my bruises and scars. Not even all of my family knows about most of what I've been through with him. His own family was never told any of this. I don't talk to his family anymore; they're all sucking on crack pipes and beating their own children. No, I'm not kidding. I wish I were.
I have learned new things about myself. While I am far from being a genius, I know I'm not stupid. I know that my miscarriages were not my fault. And I know that not all men are assholes.