Was I really going to move to San Francisco without knowing anything about it? Without knowing anyone there?
Yes. If that’s how it had to be.
But so help me if I wasn’t going to TRY and figure some stuff out before I got there. That’s what the Internet is for, right? I figured I could go online and try to find friends -- guys, girls, anyone, SOMEONE I could get alone with, SOMEONE to know in the city.
I started by re-posting that personal ad I’d put up with David.
I just changed my City, State to be San Francisco, CA.
And you know? That was kind of exciting. It was the first step in making SF my home.
* * * * * *
On July 31, 2001 I sent a message to a quirky looking bald-headed man who seemed to be smart and funny and super casual. His ad had a sense about it that suggested he'd be okay with being just friends if that's how things played out.
God, I needed a friend.
I remember, among other things, that he claimed to like to take naps. Which is why his personals name was "SnoozeBoy."
You might know him better as El_Gallo.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Saturday, April 29, 2006
(had to look that one up. couldn't remember if the Romans had a symbol for 20. they don't.)
Just because we were adding anger to the mix didn’t mean that I was all gung-ho about, well, anything.
What do you do?
I was homeless.
My parents had lost the house I grew up in (let’s save that traumatic tale for another day, shall we?) and, rather than try and find something they could afford in Fairfield County, had decided to just get the hell out of Dodge. Stepford. Whatever.
So they moved to a huge, dilapidated farm house in New Hampshire that had tons of space and lots of quirks and could have, someday, with a lot of work, been kind of amazing.
But as-is, it was not amazing. And it was in New Hampshire, a state I hardly knew at all. And I had already been living with Dave when they moved there. So while my mom selected one of the rooms to be “Kiki and David’s Room” when we’d visit, it had no special history or value or memories for me.
Meaning I did not have the safety of “my old room” to go to. In fact, aside from my cousins, my grandfather was the only relative I’d had who still lived in Connecticut. Samantha was living in New Hampshire. Healy was living in Massachusetts. My friends were spread out.
I sort of had no ties to...anywhere.
Me. Completely without anchor. I’d grown up so close to my family, so close to Fairfield County, so resigned to always having roots there, that to suddenly not was just another piece of this puzzle that was impossible to believe was my life.
* * * * * *
What were my options?
I could stay in Connecticut. Yes, that would be the safest thing, because it was the only thing I knew. But really? Being single in Stepford? Wasn’t now my chance to get out, when I had no reason to stay?
It was. Of course it was.
Should I move to New Hampshire?
Oh my God, I don’t know how to do this.
I could have just up and moved to my parents’ house in New Hampshire and saved money and figured out what I was going to do while tending to my mom. Yes, that would be the nicest, most reasonable thing. But I felt like it would have killed me. NH was the opposite of my big-city dreams. The opposite of being free from all the domesticity that seemed to make me most unhappy.
If I moved to New Hampshire, I would be there waiting for her to die.
No, that is too sad. That is too morbid. That is not living. I cannot do that.
I did not do that.
I hope she forgave me.
I needed to go. I needed to just go. Somewhere far away where I could start my life again, where I could not feel constrained by history or expectations or anything. I had been yearning for a city...
Manhattan was too big and scary to start with.
Minneapolis? Chicago? I didn't want to be land-locked, and the thought of the cold winters...I had had enough of cold winters for the time being, thank you.
Seattle seemed too dark and rainy, too, and I thought LA always sounded so crazy.
Whereas San Francisco had always sounded so perfect.
Yeah, San Francisco. I knew it.
And literally just like that – without research, without having visited, without anything but the hope I’d been harboring for too long, for inexplicable reasons except some (could it be?) calling – I knew: if I could keep my job and move to San Francisco, I would.
I asked my bosses and they said yes.
And that was that.
* * * * * *
Telling people I was moving 3,000 miles away was hard.
At first I’m sure no one actually believed me. (This was maybe not the first time I’d decided I was going to move somewhere crazy where I then, um, didn’t.) But I knew it, felt it, that San Francisco held my future.
Part of the story is that the only person I knew out there was my cousin, Nate. He was living in Palo Alto (I had no idea what this meant, proximity-wise), and had been encouraging me and Dave to move to the Bay Area for years.
Nate had also been such a source of support (if, you know, in a tough love kind of way) throughout the whole mess. He’d been one of the guests over the Holidays From Hell and knew the Dave backstory and I was so excited to finally be able to tell him I was moving out there and moving on.
I remember calling and leaving a message on his answering machine that said, “Hey, I have big news. Call me back.” And he did call me back and I missed his call, but his message said, “Hey, I have news, too.”
Because of course I was calling to tell him I was finally moving to SF and he was calling to tell me he was finally moving back east.
I could not catch a break. Why is this NEVER like the Goddamned movies?
I think my sisters were stunned and sad and didn’t know what to do or say. They were not discouraging, though. They understood I had to do something. They would never have told me no.
My dad understood, too. He wanted me to come live with him and understood why I wouldn’t – or couldn’t.
I think in my family, when something makes us heartsick, we just don't talk about it. Because we don't need to. We all just know.
* * * * * *
I had to tell my mom.
My mom had been so ill that I hadn’t been able to tell her about David yet, let alone my new plan to move far away.
My husband left me, my husband, the man who had been my mate for almost six years left me, and my mom had been too sick to be told. Life was becoming almost permanently surreal.
I decided that breaking the news to my mom warranted a whole trip to New Hampshire in and of itself.
For that visit, she was at home, not at the hospital.
[“At home” would mean being in her own bed with a bevy of medical devices around her and the at-home nurses helping my dad care for her. She never left the bed except to go to the hospital.]She was more coherent than she’d been in a long time. She needed less morphine as her stomach wound (around the tube) was healing. She wasn't totally herself, but some of her spark was there.
Anyway, I don’t know how I said it exactly, but I told her as much as I could.
When I told her about David, she didn’t say much. I know she was hurt. I know she was angry. But mostly, I knew she understood. She basically said, “Eh, it was just a starter marriage.”
Starter marriage. Ha!
My mother -- always aware of more than you'd expect, and damn if she wasn't funny as hell.
But then I told her about San Francisco.
And you know, she did not say no or don’t or why or please stay. She probably wanted to. She must have wanted to.
She just said, “I’ll miss you.”
It got ugly.
My memory is off again, and I don’t know if it’s being selective or what, but things got very ugly.
David became a monster. Was he punishing me? Was he doing whatever he needed to do to move on? Was he just coming to terms with his own issues, issues he’d completely ignored and never given me an opportunity to address or change or fix?
Probably all of those things. And that is the last time you will hear me speak “evenly” about him.
* * * * * *
Suddenly I had rules. He knew I wanted to see him, he knew I took comfort in anything that resembled normalcy, so he started using that against me. He was living at his parents’ house and would not come to our house while I was there if I was going to try and talk about “us.” He would leave the house if I even hinted at it. He would scream at me if I said something he didn’t like. He would go days without contacting me.
He announced that financially we were just going to split everything down the middle and that he was being more than fair and we were going to use one lawyer – his uncle – and if I had a problem with that he would fight me tooth and nail and take everything.
He seemed only moderately interested in how things were going with my mother, and even in matters relating to her, he would lose patience with me if I cried.
* * * * * *
A couple things happened then, and I don’t know the order. It could have been much later in the summer, it could have been right then. But.
David had found out about Marcus. He’d accessed my email – I don’t know how; he gave me a story I’m not sure I believe – and knew all about it and never told me. I am absolutely certain that had something (everything?) to do with his suddenly cutting me, us off.
However. Turns out that David started dating some woman he used to work with the week he left me. The. Week. He. Left. Me.
How did that happen? How did he even get in touch with her? He, Mr. Anti-Social suddenly knew how to contact a woman whose name I’d never even heard, someone he’d worked with a year prior?
I will always wonder the timing of his contacting her. It absolutely could have been the same week he’d decided to leave. It is absolutely possible he found out about Marcus and I was immediately dead to him and he moved on to the first woman he could think of. And maybe he had every fucking right to do that.
I had always told him that if we ever ended it, I’d start dating immediately. That’s how I work. So he reminded me of that when he told me about her. I didn’t have a leg to stand on, he said, or something like that.
* * * * * *
And then it happened. My feeling miserable, responsible, completely at fault for ruining my marriage – that feeling changed.
He wasn’t giving me hope. He wasn’t willing to work on anything. He hadn’t given us an opportunity to work on his problems with me, ever. He snapped and shut off and said no and threw us away.
And you know what? I had brought it on, maybe. I had mostly fucked things up, maybe, but it takes two people to ruin a marriage. And given what I was going through with my family, with my mother...
...well, damn it. I got angry.
I was still damaged and broken and mostly empty, but let me tell you. I needed that anger. Anger is a powerful motivator. Anger is fuel. Anger allowed me to say fuck him when I needed to most.
I wasn’t ready to move on and I wouldn’t have chosen to. Hell, I DIDN’T choose to. He did. He gave me that.
(Oh, but do NOT think that I will ever say his leaving -- given when he did and how he did -- was a gift.)
But right, he gave me that. He gave me the opportunity to be mad at him. He made me not have to make the choice. He ended it in a way that gave me the "luxury" of saying this is not fair please don't.
So if nothing else, at least I could be angry at him and the asshole he'd become.
I was no longer trying to stay married to a generous, sweet, loving rock. I was suddenly married to a stone wall.
And I could do better than that.
I spent the first couple weeks just trying not to have a breakdown.
I would say I spent the days going through the motions, but there were hardly any motions to go through. I was still working reduced hours from home – say, 20 hours a week – but that leaves a whole lot of hours in a week to...to do what, exactly?
I had no other responsibilities. I had to keep the cats fed and I had to keep the house clean so that someone would want to buy it. And the rest of the time was...
...it was completely empty.
I imagine nowadays it would’ve been different. There’d have been blogging. I think of what I read Purl going through and I am envious because I didn’t find knitting and I didn’t find blogging.
If I had had blogging, I could give you something like the beautiful posts I see her write, about her going through her motions and then suddenly faltering because something unexpected sent her over the edge. That happened to me, too. But I couldn’t tell you about it because I don’t remember. That is precisely the stuff I didn’t commit to memory because it is something I just wanted to get through.
* * * * * *
It was like sitting on fault line before an earthquake you knew was coming.
I would sit on my sofa at night and put on the television and drink a cocktail and know that nothing was going to stay in its place. When all was said and done, the sofa, the TV, the cocktail shaker, I, were all going to land in a different place.
It was so quiet in the house at night. Even though the earthquake was coming.
* * * * * *
The first few weeks with David were civil. He was living with his parents. He would talk to me like a human being and he would come and we would have lunch and discuss logistics. How much we thought the house would sell for. What my living arrangements might be.
He even agreed to go to the movies with me a couple times. I was lonely and scared and I refused to believe it was happening. I wanted to feel some comfort, somewhere. I took comfort in denial.
But it didn’t last. Ignoring reality never does.
Friday, April 28, 2006
I could not tell you how many hours I spent saying that I was wrong. Saying that all of my shit was just that. It was bullshit because I had been indulged and spoiled and none of it mattered. I wanted us. It wasn’t David, it was me. I’d go to therapy. I’d do anything.
I was so wrong. Please, please. Please, do not go. Please do not leave me. I cannot live without you. I was wrong. I was awful what was I thinking I was horrible I won’t be like that anymore I promise. I didn’t think of you and I was so selfish and I’m sorry I love you so much. Please do not leave me. She is going to leave me. Please do not go, too. I will have nothing.
He did not listen. He ignored it all. He believed none of it.
I had never been repentant before. I had never been on my knees asking – begging – for forgiveness before. Ever. And here I was meaning every word I said.
Didn’t matter. Too late. No more.
* * * * * *
For months I had tortured him with my woes. He’d try and change and he was never enough. Everything he did was still wrong. I was unhappy at every turn.
I made him feel like a failure. I made him feel like he wasn’t doing a good job at being him.
He loved me a lot. I did not know it then but think I know now that he was more in love with me than I was with him. I think that will always be true of any couple – that you can’t have complete balance – but I don’t think it should be so obviously disproportionate.
I didn’t know it was, mind you. Not then.
I loved him, but I loved that he loved me more. I could throw tantrums and hate and scream and have fits and sound completely rational about the whole thing and he’d let me. He’d side with me. He’d work to change. He’d do whatever I’d bid.
I had no idea, none at all, that he had it in him to leave. Leaving me was the strongest thing I’d ever see him do.
I mean, I'd almost say it was sexy...if it weren't for the whole LEAVING ME thing.
* * * * * *
I was always upset that anything that we deemed “his responsibility” never got done, or got done poorly.
It was his job to pay the bills. Did you pay the bills? No, not yet. Will you pay them today? Yes. And then it would be later and he wouldn’t have and I’d come home to find the power had been shut off. Not because we couldn’t afford it but just because he’d just forgotten.
I’ll tell you, that’s what a broken relationship looks like. If he was so horrible at paying the bills, then why didn’t I just take over? They would’ve gotten done to my liking and the problem would’ve been solved.
But, right, the problem was bigger than that. It was bigger than us. He didn’t want to go to the party. I wanted him to be the kind of guy who wanted to be the head of the household, financially speaking. And he didn’t. He’d say okay, and then it wouldn’t get done.
What is that?
That’s what broken looks like. Want another taste? Here –
Before he was out of work, he clocked 60- to 100-hour weeks at the office.
Our “quality time” together was, understandably, diminished.
I tried to accept that that’s how it was going to be until we could afford differently. And mostly I did.
David liked to take these group weekend camping trips. They were organized trips he’d been taking for years, and involved two weekends in fall and two weekends in the spring and a whole lot of running around the woods mock-killing things. (Role players. Whatever.)
He would plan them and look forward to them all season. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.
Except you know? I do not begrudge anyone doing something they love. I thought it was awesome that he had a hobby.
But how was it that he could spend months planning a weekend away with his friends, and not manage to voluntarily plan a single dinner out with me?
He never proactively planned anything for the two of us. I’d ask. We would discuss. It would never happen.
Blah blah blah. Broken broken blah blah.
Does it seem stupid? Shallow? Maybe, but these are only snippets.
Plus here: There is a difference between “making it work” and “forcing it to work” and I am grateful to now know the difference.
And I swear I will never subject myself to that shit again.
* * * * * *
Fellas, I give you something to consider:
That shit you call a woman’s “baggage”? I would call it “knowing better.” And let me say, I would not want to have been the guy dating me before.
The after version is so much better.
* * * * * *
I will never know completely why he left me. But I have a pretty damn good idea, based on what he said then and what I’ve since figured out.
And here is what I think it comes down to, five years later. The thing he said to which I never had a good answer.
He said: “I do not want to stay with you and help you through this thing with your mom, only to have you leave me once it’s over.”
I think I made a lot of noise when he said it. But a tiny, barely audible voice from deep within the dark reaches of my collapsing mind thought, “Oh, I see. Fair enough.”
Still, in the real time of then, it was too much. I was still saying no, and it was easy not to listen to that tiny voice because a louder one was screaming and crying in pain.
So I begged and pleaded for David not to leave me all the same.
It was the worst time.
I spent the next few days at the hospital. I would go from watching my mother lay in agony to taking breaks to call my husband on a pay phone, where I’d spend anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours performing a sobbing, begging, pleading of song of please don’t leave me.
The hospital pay phone. Using my sister’s calling card because I had no money. To beg my husband not to leave me.
Yes, definitely the worst time.
I would come back to the room with red, wet eyes and my sister and mom would be annoyed with me for having been gone so long.
God, is she on the phone again?
Like I was 13 and talking to my girlfriends about the dance.
But what were they supposed to do? I told my dad that Dave had left me and he had zero idea how to handle it. Neither of us really wanted to talk about it. So we didn’t.
And really, my sisters were devastated and angry and hurt about Dave, but they were already devastated and angry and hurt. This was just another reason to cry.
* * * * * *
The next emotional hurdle would have killed me if I had had anything left to kill.
I have not made too great a mention of my family because I feel it’s intrusive, related or no.
I most certainly have not made great mention of my mom’s side of the family, not just because of intrusion but because we share a conflicted history and I do not want to fan those flames.
My mom had two sisters and a brother. My mom chose to move far away from her home state of Minnesota, and her parents and siblings did not. Why she moved, how that affected her relationship with her family, how they all got along – that’s all part of a complex history I don’t really know.
Family history. You know.
I do know there was a major falling out, though, because I had been present for it.
Seven years prior, my sisters and parents and I had gone to Minnesota to visit the family. It was a stressful visit and by the time we left, tempers were flaring, as what seemed like years of tension erupted in an argument to end all arguments.
My mother determined that she did not want to have anything to do with her sister, M, again. She then maintained civil but minimal contact with her parents; her brother cut off communications with her; and she remained close only with her sister, Jane. Me and my sisters followed suit. It was an incredibly emotional and painful subject that took years to adjust to.
Family history. You know.
So when my mom got sick, M started calling the house. I don’t know the chronology. I don’t know who had the conversations or how they went. It was going to be hard enough to have Jane visit – she was very close with my mom and hadn’t yet seen her, plus she couldn’t just be left alone in a strange house and strange state without company – but to have M and M’s daughters (my cousins) come? After seven years of?...and my mom not being able to talk about it?...how would she feel if she knew?...did she understand?
That visit in and of itself would have been enough to throw me into emotional turmoil even if my marriage was intact and my mom was perfectly healthy.
* * * * * *
So right. First Jane came. About three days after I discovered my husband was leaving me. Two weeks after my mom’s diagnosis. And because of how things shook out, I was the only one who could spend regular time with her. I loved my Aunt Jane tremendously (I’m Kiki Jane, by the way), but being her “tour guide” was going to be incredibly taxing. She was coming as a guest, more or less, and someone would have to take care of her, at least a little.
All I wanted to do was crawl under the covers and die. But I missed my Aunt Jane. Crazy Aunt Jane.
Still, it was so hard.
Late one evening, when I’d finally mustered the strength to call Hakuna to tell her what was going on, I called her from my parents’ living room. I was sitting on a chair with the phone to my ear and remember Jane coming downstairs to tell me that there was a bug in her room and she wasn’t sure what to do about it.
That is the kind of thing I still remember. That I had to end a gut-wrenching phone call about my divorce to go face down a bug. Because no one knew what to do anymore.
Life was not making a damn bit of sense.
* * * * * *
I remember taking Jane to see mom for the first time. I told her it would be hard, and to try and prepare. Calm face. I told Jane that I would think of an excuse to get her out of the room shortly after arriving so that she could cry.
It would go like this, using Jane as an example: It would take a second, but my mom would recognize Jane and be so happy to see her. Jane would try and look as normal as possible and as happy and chipper as ever. They’d say their hellos, their it's-so-good-to-see-yous, then Jane would put her purse down and take her coat off and I’d say, hey, Mom, I’m going to take Jane to get a cup of coffee, okay? We’ll be right back. And then we’d leave the room and break down completely.
How’s THAT for fucking Routine?
* * * * * *
At some point, David made the drive to New Hampshire for some reason. I cannot remember what, but it had to do with cats. Had I had them with me and did I then want him to take them? Why? Why was he there?
He stayed for all of 15 minutes. He met my aunts. He hugged my sister.
* * * * * *
It had been hard but good but weird and completely overwhelming to try and get my emotional arms around seeing previously "written-off" family. And when that trip was over, and the fam had flown home and I could finally have time to myself, I drove the five hours back to my for-sale house in Connecticut.
And wondered what the fuck I was going to do with the rest of my life.
* * * * * *
You know what I remember most about Mass General?
The gift shop.
For some inexplicable reason, the Mass General gift shop is one of the coolest little (well, not so little, even) stores I’ve ever seen. In addition to the regular hospital gift shop fare (mylar balloons and Tylenol), they had house stuff and games and decorative items and jewelry and hair trinkets and all sorts of neato things.
I remember being sad about the plates or placemats or lampshades or something like that. Sad because they were so funky and cute and would have been perfect for a funky little apartment in a city somewhere. I would never have that, and it made me wistful.
But I had bigger issues. There was a greater good.
* * * * * *
Finally she was well enough to go back to New Hampshire. She was stable enough, even with all the tubes and everything, to stay in the hospital there and not be too great a strain on their resources.
So after a few days (weeks?) of being in Connecticut and showing the house to prospective buyers, we made the trek back to New Hampshire.
There was nothing good. There was no way to make it okay in my head. I didn’t have any experience with this sort of thing. Everything wasn’t, actually, going to be okay.
I half started regretting selling the house. I sort of wanted something safe and stable now. I needed something comforting. I was grateful for my rock of a husband, who kept taking my moodiness, my unhappiness in stride and pushed on through anyway. He was willing to do what it took to make it work.
My mother was not really any better. Still on a lot of morphine, still not totally aware of what was going on. And the lucid moments were worse. She’d complain, she’d be in pain, she’d need constant care and tending and yet nothing made her feel better.
It was officially summer and it was officially, grossly hot. Humid. Disgusting.
[People say they leave the Northeast because of the winter weather. Not for me. If I never have to live with the Northeast’s suffocating blanket of impossible humidity again, that’d be swell.]
Staying in my parents’ house was not a joyous thing. The house was old and crumbling and dirty. My parents’ dogs were old and incontinent and my father did not have it in him to be housekeeper. None of the rest of us did, either. I didn’t want to clean the house – my mom’s house. My mom’s stuff. My mom’s responsibility. Fucking hell.
Where is she? She should be doing this. I have my own God damned house to keep spotless so that asshole strangers can roam through it. I can’t deal with this mess, too.
Everything! Go back to how you are supposed to be! Right now!
God, so much crying. So much to be unhappy about. My whole world was shifting. How could I not have a mother? You've got to be kidding me.
* * * * * *
David and I fought in New Hampshire. I don’t even know about what. Everything? Nothing?
Dave had to get back to Connecticut to look for work or do some consulting or something (I was able to do my work wherever I was), and I was going to stay another week. We agreed it would be a good idea, and maybe I should do some thinking about us. The house-selling didn’t seem to do the trick overnight. I was still really unhappy. I couldn’t tell why, but was pretty sure I was taking my anxiety over my mother out on my husband. It happens.
I know the night before he returned to Connecticut had been tearful. I drank a lot. It was too hot. David found some washcloths and dipped them in cool water and patted me down with them. He rested one over my eyes and a couple over my wrists. I remember the dampness from the washcloth mixing with my warm tears and making me feel better.
That was the last night I’d ever spend in bed with my husband, and I had no idea.
* * * * * *
Was it a day later? Two? Three? I’d spent the day at the hospital and the evening at the bar. The day had been very bad. My mom was as uncomfortable and fussy as I had ever seen her, and I literally felt my heart break as I continued to watch her from the shore.
Later that night, David called. Or I called him. We were on the phone and almost immediately and accusingly he asked if I had spent any time thinking about us. I said no, I hadn’t, my heart and mind had been otherwise occupied.
And for once, rather than understand, he got angry. I was shocked at his insensitivity. Where did it come from?
And then he told me it was over.
Just like that.
I told him no.
He said yes.
I said no.
I cried, screamed, and sat dumbstruck and in complete shock and disbelief and sobbed and screamed and sobbed some more and kept saying no.
This was not. No. It could not be. No. This man, this rock, this guy who just…No. He never ever ever suggested ever ever in a million years that he might go. That he was considering leaving. No.
I begged and pleaded with him for a couple hours until he shut me off. I stayed up until I heaved myself to sleep. I woke up early and sat in my parents’ empty living room.
All I could hear myself saying in my head, over and over, was:
My mother is dying and my husband left me over the phone. No. This cannot be happening. Just, no.
Ish has a joke about how if you don’t like the weather, wait 20 minutes; then you’ll realize how good you had it 20 minutes ago.
I eventually stopped announcing I was having the worst day of my life. I realized I was just tempting fate.
* * * * * *
My mother was transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital.It is roughly the size of an airport and has every high-tech luxury you could ever want. Maybe God is in technology?
Between my mother being in New Hampshire and her being hauled to Boston, David and I returned to our own home full of sadness. We were aiming to have the house on the market by Memorial Day.
I remember absolutely nothing about being home with David at this time. I know I was devastated. I know I was scared. I know I was confused. I know I kept checking my email to see if Marcus The Wonder Man of Make-Believe had written.
He had. And those emails made me inordinately happy.
* * * * * *
We went to Boston and we stayed with Healy and Brian. I do not recall but I think that David came on the weekends and I stayed for the week (weeks?) or something. It was awful.
The first few days she was in Boston, she was in the ICU and I did not see her then. Healy visited her regularly, going to the hospital on her lunch breaks, before work, after work, all the time. Healy was not sure she would make it out of ICU.
By the time we got ourselves to Boston, she had been moved to a more regular room. She had regained mobility and consciousness but was on tons of morphine and acted much like a very fussy child. She kept pulling at her gowns trying to take them off. She’d say things and ask questions that made no sense. She would come into lucidity, as much as a very drunk person might, and that was worse than anything. She would cry. She would ask what had happened to her. Sometimes she’d ask if she was going to die.
We tried to make it peaceful. Here, let’s watch some tv.
* * * * * *
At one point, my mom had to be taken down to the x-ray facility to have some body scan done so they could know, once and for all, what on earth was going on inside her. This was no easy feat.
Following her operation, she had a tube put into her stomach. A plastic tube that led to a plastic bag held on with some gauze and medical tape. That was my mom’s new digestive system.
She was also hooked up to catheters and a morphine drip. Which meant that my mother had a whole series of new appendages to maneuver and no awareness with which to maneuver them. Imagine trying to explain to a belligerent, scared drunk person that they had to get up from their (sort of) comfy bed and get on a stretcher and get hauled to a tunnel to have tests. And that they had to be careful not to move too much.
Healy and I agreed to help. There were two nurses running the x-ray/scanning facility who were large and ugly and horrible. They treated our mother like chattel and were Healy and I not there...I don’t even know.
They knocked her stretcher into poles, they almost disconnected her from her machines. (The tube from her stomach led to a bag that hung from a wheeled apparatus. If you move my mom but not the wheeled thing, the tube would come out of her stomach. Can you imagine?)
My mom didn’t understand what was going on and they almost couldn’t get the scans done, because in order to get a good read, the patient has to be still. My mom would start shaking and crying because she didn’t understand and the women were getting angry – angry! – at her.
Healy eventually managed to calm Mom enough by telling her some fantastic made-up story about what was going on. Healy and my mom speak the same language.
David was there, too. It was all he could do not to punch the horrible nurses. We’d forever call them Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.
* * * * * *
It was on June 5th that they had the results. Stage IV lung cancer.
Cancer can sometimes crop up in other forms first. The cancer had fucked with her digestive system completely, before the spots were visible on her lungs. But, right, they were visible now.
They told us they wouldn’t be able to give her chemo or radiation until her system healed from the operation. You can’t have a tube for a stomach and go through cancer treatments.
With treatment, they gave her nine months at best. They were being optimistic.
* * * * * *
Obviously things hadn’t been going well, but we still hoped. We were going to hope until someone told us we couldn’t. And then we hoped anyway. Better days had to lie ahead.
Maybe you've been through this, and so maybe you know. I did not know and I am not happy I learned.
You go to the doctors and you put life in their hands and you look at them and wait. And you want them to say this is what's wrong, and this is how we fix it.
And that is never, ever what they say.
They say maybe. They say we don't know. They say we have to do more tests.
Because it is not a broken bone, with one diagnostic and one course of action and one path to recovery and a time when healing is done.
It is something complex and inside. We can't begin to understand.
* * * * * *
At some point, I believe she was still recovering from the peritonitis but I cannot say for sure, my mother's bowel burst into her insides.
They opened her up and they did all they could do.
The procedure was dire, and her recovery was...
* * * * * *
We went to the hospital in New Hampshire so we could be there when they were done. David and I and Healy and Brian and Samantha and Wes and my father. They let us see her.
It was the scariest sight I have ever seen.
My mom, my beautiful strong loving mother, was tiny and frail and looked about 90 years old and. She was so uncomfortable and on so much medication that she would yank at her tubes and try to pull them out, so they had to strap her arms to the bed. She had a tube coming out of her nose, a tube coming out of her mouth, a tube coming out of her stomach, tubes coming out from her gown. The fluids they were giving her made her bloated, and because of that her hands, while strapped to the bed, were freakishly large and round and without signs of age. She had the appearance of something ghostly and garish and awful.
We walked into the room and tried to take the whole thing in.
She was conscious.
She had no idea what was going on, of course, but she was awake and when we entered she looked at us all, and we looked back and fought with everything we had not to appear visibly shaken.
Not to appear visibly shaken.
God! I wanted to scream! In horror!
To scream and heave sobs at the shocking, horrible sight.
No! No! No! This is not my mother! Where is my mommy?
But no. We stood beside her as bravely as we could and put on calm faces that said everything was going to be okay. We're here, Mom. The worst is over now.
She tried to speak but couldn’t because of the tube down her mouth and she couldn’t understand why. So much morphine.
We could see the confusion and pain in her eyes as she looked to us. She was pleading for us to help her. Pleading with her eyes and her strapped-down hands. And all I could do was stand there and feel sad and guilty and utterly useless. We were standing on the shore and she was in the water right in front of us and she was drowning and she could not understand why we were not rescuing her.
She couldn’t even make a sound. But tears started falling from her eyes.
* * * * * *
The doctor pulled us into some special family room, where I suppose too many families have heard too much bad news. And now it was my family. Somehow, it was happening to us. How could that be?
We sat there stunned and awed and without any idea what to do. We looked to the man in the white coat with all our hope, begging him to be something other than a human being.
Doctor, please be God. Please make it so that it’s all better right now. Do not tell us you don’t know. Have all the wisdom of modern medical science and wave your wand and save our mother. Save us all.
But he was not God.
He spoke plainly about the situation and said that our mother was in grave danger.
First he explained what had happened by drawing a picture on a piece of paper, labeling “bowel” and other body parts. We took in as much as we could. He was making sense and speaking simply and we were grateful to be told anything definitive.
But he went on to say that his hospital is small, and he is the only one experienced enough to tend to our mother if she should need emergency services. Thus, if something happened to her while he was in surgery...
She could not stay. She would have to be moved to a bigger facility. He would not take the risk.
You know, he was not God, but he was a very good man.
* * * * * *
We eventually left the hospital and went and played NTN.
It was Mother’s Day.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Fuck it all. Something had to be fixed.
I did not like living in a haze. I did not like feeling sad all the time. I did not want to abandon my husband for some guy. I had to fix the problems.
* * * * * *
My arguments with David, to the best of my recollection, went something along these lines:
Me: I felt very angry/upset/hurt/sad when you did/said/didn’t do/didn’t say ______.
David: I am sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel that way.
Me: I know you didn’t. Maybe what’s really upsetting me is all the pressure, you know? Maybe in the future you could just _______.
David: I will try. I love you.
Me: I love you, too.
Except there was a lot more screaming and crying and insistence on my part. And a lot more apologizing on his part. We’d try and compromise, but you know.
* * * * * *
So clearly we were at a point where something big had to be done. We both knew it.
I did not ovulate in April, and we decided that instead of continuing on the hormonal route, we would put off having kids until we were in a better place.
And then we got to the heart of the issue.
David hadn’t found work yet and god. The house was such a force. I mean, on the surface, the financial drain of the house was a big issue. But below the surface was my resentment. I just wasn’t ready to be 25 and saying this is the one place I want to live for the rest of my life.
I just wanted to back up. Could we just back up a bit? To before I started freaking out?
Yes, let’s just realize that we did too much too soon and took on way too much grown-up-ness too early because we happened to get lucky.
So we did.
We mutually agreed that we would sell the house. Wham.
We would buy something smaller and easier (like a condo) and trendier and younger. We would start saving money again. (I wouldn’t have to go to Home Depot again, I could just call someone when something didn’t work.)
But...what about the dogs? What if the new place doesn’t take dogs? We’d have a lot more living options if we didn’t have the dogs.
Too much too soon.
We mutually agreed that we would find homes for the dogs. Wham.
It is all for the best.
* * * * * *
We called the breeder who gave us Basker and explained to her that our suburban dreams didn’t quite go as planned.
After nine months of pouring my energy and time and money and so much love into the training of the cutest dog that’s ever lived, he still hadn’t developed a strong bond with me. He still liked playing with other dogs (and my poor cats) better. I’d never seen anything like it.
When Gail came to pick up my beloved baby, I had pages of instructions. An entire legal page (front and back) of vocabulary words he knew. Boxes of toys.
He happily bounded into her van and she drove him back to her farm. He went to go live on a huge farm with five or so other dogs.
We called to check up on him regularly. He was fabulous, she said. He was perfectly happy.
I never cry about David anymore. But I cry about my dog.
* * * * * *
We’d only had Scarlet for three months, and while she was sweet and adorable and loving and had bonded with us, it still felt pretty new. I told the people at our vet’s office that we were looking to find her a home.
I got a call from the receptionist who said that she and her husband felt that maybe their 9-year-old daughter, Kristin, was ready for another pet. She had cerebral palsy, and had taken the loss of their first dog (two years before) very hard. But recently Kristin had taken to naming worms in the front yard, so they thought she might be keen on something with fur.
One evening, they came over just to meet Scarlet, so that they could see how Kristin would interact with a growing puppy. The plan was that they would come meet her and see how it went; if afterwards Kristin continued to speak about Scarlet, they would consider adopting her.
Inevitably, they left that night with my darling girl.
Of course, we called to check up on her, too. Scarlet and Kristin had become very good friends, and even though they had a strict, no-dog-on-beds rule, apparently Scarlet would sneak into Kristin’s room at night and sleep curled up at the foot of her bed.
Yep. Still cry about the dogs.
* * * * * *
We were going to sell the house. We were child-free. We had a plan that was sad in many ways (wow, this feels like a whole lot of failure), but for the best.
Let’s get back to when it was just about us.
Yes, that will work. It has to. Right?
Next Tuesday, my company is having a big outing. I will be in San Francisco enjoying the sunshine with my dotcom colleagues. I will probably go do an open mic afterwards.
* * * * * *
Marcus was leaving for his global holiday on May 2. David’s birthday.
All the stuff that lead up to that seems, as I’ve written, to have happened in April while I was leading a completely split, completely double life.
There was the one in my head.
In my head, there was this alternate future for me. One where I would have Marcus’ life. I liked thinking about it. I liked believing it possible.
In no way did I make any plans on how to get there. Let’s be clear: there was no “escape plan.” Fantasy doesn’t work like that.
Fantasy is frivolity and escapism. I sent Marcus a care package. I went out and bought all these things and made all these things to send him on his way with. Because I’m sweet, right? Oh, and crazy.
And there was the one that was actually happening.
David and I took a trip to Denver to visit Em and Nick.* * * * * *
My best friend, Emily met Nick in college. They moved separately to Denver after graduating in ’97. I’d never gone to visit them out there, but when they announced they were getting married and moving back to the New York Area, David and I HAD to go visit them before we couldn’t anymore.
I remember the trip well. I remember being, among other things, jealous of their apartment. It was not too big, and it was chock full of stuff. It looked like the kind of place people in their 20s live in. (Not like, say, our house.) I also remember wondering how it was that they could ever want to live out there. Not that Denver wasn’t cool, but why live so far away from home?
See, deep down, I couldn’t understand why anyone would ever really want to leave the New York Metro area. My reality was that I liked a lot about where I lived.
My fantasy was only that.
I was dreading David’s birthday, the day Marcus would leave.
Marcus would go and then I would have even less of a fantasy to hold on to. You know? So that if I was actually going to leave my life, I’d have to do it of my own volition. Because I wanted to, not because some guy was going to save me.
And I didn’t want to go.
* * * * * *
On the night of Dave’s birthday, I feel like we had people over. His parents? My sister? I don’t know. Someone was there.
My dad called me crying. My mom was out of the coma but still in the hospital and it wasn’t looking good and they were going to do more scans for cancer. They’d done preliminary ones earlier and not seen anything, but, well, just look at her.
It was the first time my dad had uttered the “C” word. It was the first time I’d heard him crying because of my mom’s health.
Naturally, it wouldn’t be the last.
* * * * * *
And then you hang up the phone and you go back to your guests and get another huge glass of wine and you look around at everything and have zero ability to know anything. You love this home you’ve built. You have a home! It’s yours and it’s here and it’s stable and strong and you can stay here because that emotional mountain you’re about to climb is going to require a solid base camp. Maybe Mom will be fine, maybe it’s just something else that isn’t as bad as cancer. Enjoy tonight. Who cares that some invisible man is on vacation? David loves you and he will pour you into bed tonight and touch your skin and make you feel better.
Everything will be fine.
In my mental calendar, April of 2001 lasted at least three months.
* * * * * *
My sister Healy had moved in with her boyfriend, Brian. And they had bought to a new condo in Boston and it was gorgeous and they seemed to be getting serious.
(I know they were getting serious because when I visited them for the first time, I saw that my sister had stuck a magazine ad for a diamond engagement ring to the refrigerator. We Sammis girls sure are subtle.)
Healy was in a local, Boston equivalent of off-Broadway production of a musical called Baby. She played the part of a young newlywed who was having trouble getting pregnant.
Because sometimes art imitates life.
David and I took a weekend trip to Boston to see her new place and her performance. I practically sobbed all the way through it.
* * * * * *
I took two weeks to go to New Hampshire and sort through my head. And heart.
I remember obsessing over Marcus. Hoping he would call or email.
Perhaps interestingly, perhaps perfectly, I (virtually) met Marcus just before he was leaving for a four month trip overseas. Partly in Europe, mostly in Africa. Four months. Without any sort of guaranteed contact.
I thought that was a very good thing, though. Probably my infatuation with him had nothing to do with him. Probably his going away would allow me to work my stuff out with clarity. And then, by the time he’d return in September, I would know what I was doing.
It was the first time I thought, I just need to get to the other side of summer.
* * * * * *
Oh, but I was infatuated.
That first week in New Hampshire I filled my head with thoughts of a new life with a new me and a new man.
I knowingly, willfully ignored the impossibility, the ridiculousness, the unlikelihood and just let myself feel excited about something.
I totally understand why people have affairs. I totally understand how you can ignore and shut off everything you need to so that you can feel that base enjoyment.
Oh hey look, I am still alive.
I told Marcus that I loved him. I do not know that I ever believed it. I know that I wanted to. I wanted to believe that something amazing was happening.
You know, emotional infidelity isn’t really that amazing.
* * * * * *
Ignoring the impossibility and ridiculousness, I just - tra la la - started picturing a pretend, glamorous city life.
And I knew that no matter what, whether I'd be with a David or a Marcus or nobody, I needed to lose weight. That was definite. If I was ever going to change anything, be somewhere else or someone else, I needed to be thinner. Duh.
Yeah, so I remember spending that first week in New Hampshire jogging.
Well, hey -- everything seemed fucked up and out of place. What was I doing jogging? In New Hampshire? Why was it sunny and warm while the streets were lined with four-feet high snow banks? Why was my mom not getting out of bed? What was going on?
It was all so abnormal. I clearly remember the jogging path I would take around my parents’ neighborhood, in the warming sun of spring with the bizarre snow around me, while listening to a workout mix on this cool new thing called an "MP3 player" (it held a whopping 16 songs) and musing about the tra la la future I would someday have in the land of make-believe.
* * * * * *
But I was not delusional. Reality was right there and I knew it and tasted it and returned to it regularly.
My mom weighed so little. She seemed so sick. She couldn’t eat.
So when it came time to take a long trek to go see the specialist, none of us had a good feeling about it. And I didn’t want to be by myself.
I loved my husband. He was a rock. He was my rock. Maybe he, it, our life was a bit dull, but he was an anchor.
And he was not make-believe, he was real.
I called him and asked him to come be with me.
I didn’t need a second week alone.
* * * * * *
My parents and David and I went to Dartmouth to see the specialist. She took one look at my mother and asked why we had waited so long between visits. We explained that this was the first available appointment and also we didn’t know what another visit would be for, exactly.
The beautiful, young Indian doctor was the first to ask if we’d explored the possibility of cancer.
* * * * * *
Sometime around now -- because, again, everything seems to have happened in my memory's April -- my father developed his own Routine.
He'd been with my mom for 25 years and they were each other's world.
Now, for the record, "each other's world" was not, as that phrase might conjure, a world of love with roses and rainbows and lollipops and sunshine. My parents had an unbelievably turbulent marriage. Love and passion were always at the base of it, and there were roses and plenty of sunshine, but they could fight like you wouldn't believe.
My dad was somewhat suddenly left with a household to run, meals to cook himself, laundry that wouldn't do itself. He managed the best he could, but this was neither his forte, nor something he wanted to have to do.
Routine. My father made himself a cheeseburger every single night.
Also, that NTN game that Hakuna and I would go to the sports bar to play? That had been something my parents played, too, back when we all lived in Connecticut. Right when my mom got too weak to leave the house was the time my dad discovered a bar offering the game, practically down the street from them.
Routine. Every day at 5 o'clock, my dad would go to Jerry's to play NTN. He'd stay for one, two, or three games (each a half-hour long).
Every day. We all needed some escape.
* * * * * *
On April 19, my sister Samantha awoke to ambulances at my parents’ house where she and her boyfriend were living. It was her 19th birthday. My mother had been in extreme pain and finally gave in and called emergency services.
[I know some dates, but mostly I cannot tell you the chronology of my mother’s trips to the hospital. She was in and out of them regularly for the rest of her life.]Peritonitis. Following her inability to completely recover from her Christmastime surgeries, she’d developed peritonitis. They had to put her under and operate.
For those of you fortunate enough to not know what peritonitis is, it’s essentially poisoning of the stomach. People die from it, and my understanding is that it hurts like a motherfucker.
Interesting word choice, huh?
In the end, they pretty much got it all, but it was bad. My mom would be in a medically induced coma for at least a week.
That I remember.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
There was other stuff.
Stuff that doesn't quite fit into the narrative so far because I don't know where it goes. Or I don't remember where it happened. But it was there, moving the story along. Or if not moving it, was at least along for the ride.
* * * * *
There were lunches with Hakuna. Every so often, we’d get together at a sports bar about halfway between our homes. We’d go there to play NTN (satellite trivia), and sit for hours, through the working lunch rush. We had fun, drinking gallons of iced tea (no lemon) and diet coke, playing scratch cards, chatting, and performing none-too-shabbily at trivia.
The lunches were somewhat therapeutic for me.
Hakuna had met my mother years before, when they were both pregnant and living in the same apartment building in Manhattan. They became friends. And when Emily and I were born, we became best friends, too.
God, there is so much beautiful, funny, unadulterated happiness that I associate with having Hakuna and Emily and the rest of their clan in my life I could not possibly begin to express it.
But getting together with Hakuna always made me feel safe. She wasn’t my mom, but she was a mom, my best friend’s mom, and she knew and loved my mom, so it was pretty close to the same thing. And I could be scared about my mom’s health with her because she was, too.
I confided in her as much as I could anyone.
* * * * *
I didn’t talk to anyone about everything. For one thing, I hardly had any friends at all. For another, I was afraid to talk about it. What would I even say? What was I even thinking? That everything was wrong? That everything was a mistake? No, no. Shameful.
Oh, hey, you know? So I’ve been thinking I might, oh, I dunno, run off to California with some random Internet man because I’m kinda bored. Whaddya think?
* * * * *
There were pets.
I was so very excited to start working from home at a HOUSE with a YARD because it meant I could finally get a dog. I LOVE dogs. LOVE DOGS. LOVE. DOGS.
And so, after extensive research and hours and days and weeks of careful deliberation, I determined I wanted an Australian Shepherd. And so I found a breeder and went through what can only be described as a full-on adoption process. We were interviewed. There was paperwork. There was the meeting of the puppies a few weeks after they were born. We were told which one we would be allowed to have. We paid an ungodly sum for him. And finally we were able to bring him home. I was overjoyed.
But oh. My. God. He was a nutcase.
Now, David was fond of dogs as well, but was always more of a cat person. He’d been the instigator in the “let’s get a cat” decision of March, 1999 when we were living in an apartment building that didn’t allow them.
It had been my assigned duty, after not too much coaxing, to go to the pet store (which had just received home-grown kittens) and pick one up.
I liked longer-haired cats, and very much wanted the one in the litter with the long gray fur and sweet face. But it’s hard not to take home the kitten that jumps on your head. Which is how we acquired Sherlock.
But when Sherlock spent the entire next day howling at the top of his lungs – NOT a good thing when we’re supposed to be hiding his existence – we determined I needed to go back to the pet store and get one of his brothers. Which is how we acquired Moriarty.
(Yes, it stopped Sherlock from howling. No, they never got along.)
So then anyway. In October of 2001 we got a puppy and named him Basker (Hound of the Baskervilles? Get it?). And he was a ton of work and we hired a trainer and I was at home with him all day and worked with him and taught him a ton of stuff and still could not keep up with him.
He was the kind of dog who loved other dogs more than his mommy. I had never seen this behavior in a dog before, and it made me sad. And exhausted.
And the cats hated him. See, Basker, short of having another dog to play with, found that cats would do. My poor kitties would hide from him anywhere they could. But still I’d find them with sopping wet heads from having been the recipient of Basker’s play-with-me-drool-drool-lick-lick fests.
Sometime after the horrible holidays, at my wit’s end, I did the only reasonable thing I could think of.
I got another dog.
This time, there was no deliberation, there was no adoption fee, there was no breeder screening process. I just drove myself to a shelter and picked out the sweetest-faced little girl I’d ever seen.
Which is how Scarlet (A Study In? Anyone?) was added to the menagerie.
* * * * *
Walks through the dog park. Taking Basker to the beach. Later taking Basker and Scarlet through the park.
I know I did that during some of the days. When?
* * * * *
I had never felt less attractive in my entire life.
I was huge. I don’t know how much I weighed exactly, but it was the heaviest I’d ever been. I assume I gained just slowly, over time. Since marriage? Since the house? I don’t know.
But I remember, as plainly as ever, that I felt like what I looked like didn’t matter at all. I could be a complete mess, as plump as I was, and David’s attraction to me didn’t waver in the slightest.
I wanted to lose weight and care about how I looked for myself, but I couldn’t figure out what that meant. “For myself?” So that what? I would be more confident? So that what? I mean, barring health reasons, my friends and family didn’t care about my aesthetic.
The only reason I had ever wanted to be thin before was to attract men. Easy enough. But that was no longer a factor. It didn’t matter if other men were attracted to me. So why was it important to be thin?
Why? I didn’t know. I couldn’t motivate. I felt awful, but I couldn’t motivate.
I wanted to feel attractive. And the fact that I didn’t feel attractive in any way was a constant downer. It came out in all my fits of crying. It came out in all my anger at Dave. It came out in my every day sadness.
I cannot stress enough how greatly I was affected by my weight and my appearance. And I cannot say why (I have no idea) I couldn’t seem to do anything about it.
* * * * *
I don’t know when in this mess it was. I think it was before Marcus. But anyway. Here’s something I’d forgotten until recently.
So right. I was online a lot. Eventually, I got so sad about not feeling attractive that I put up a personal ad. I wanted men to find me interesting. I wanted men to want to date me. I didn’t want to cheat on my husband.
No, really. David knew about my ad. He didn’t feel good about it, but he knew about it. I told him why I was doing it. That it was just up there for attention. I was so lonely. I was so bored. I had no outlets and no confidence in the real world. I let him in on all the responses I got.
Eventually, I had the great idea that he should put up an ad also. That way, he could respond to my ad and it would be like we were just meeting, just dating for the first time again. It would be fun, wouldn't it?
Stop waving that red flag around. I see it.
no, writing this, FINALLY writing this, has been exhilarating. and it's peaceful, too. there is something incredibly assuring in learning that i can piece this history together and tell it in a way that makes some sense and not, you know, totally lose my shit. or sound wounded. or like i need healing. being able to write this makes me feel...well, i don't know exactly, but it's something like joy.
heh. blogging. i highly recommend it.
anyway, floodgates or whatever, i am having a tough time concentrating on anything but finishing these entries. (to my friends and family who haven't had a return email from me in a few days: my apologies. i'll be right with you. can't talk, blogging.)
and so i will. finish, i mean, and soon. Ish is away this weekend and i have set aside most of my time to getting the rest of the story out.
i will restate, it's so strange to me that this is of interest to anyone, you know? but thank you again for all the positive feedback. and for reading.
and for the hugs.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
I am sure that some of my failing memory has to do with the ways in which I was voluntarily applying the numb.
You know, the numb.* Finding ways to ignore the growing badness.
The numb: It's not so bad. David and I have good days, too. As much as there are moments related to dry-wall and uncomfortable footwear, there are moments of peace. Of hope. Of light at the end of the tunnel. You know, spring. Maybe David will land an amazing job and I will get pregnant and we’ll regain momentum. Maybe I will find that voice and start writing something real. Maybe Mom really is just tired. Maybe this is just a rough patch.
The numb was going to Home Depot with my mother-in-law and coming home and believing that it was just me and my bad attitude making the weekend hard. It was dealing with my angst by carefully recreating the day and deciding the real reason I was upset was because David didn’t serve as a great enough buffer between me and his parents. And then drinking wine and explaining to Dave how he had failed to keep me happy. Again.
The numb was telling myself that my mother would be FINE because she had to be. Period. Fine. And after getting off the phone with my mom who hadn’t left her bed in two weeks, I’d go watch TV. Or eat. Or log on to the computer to play some stupid game.
*Today, I might call “the numb” “denial,” but that’s hindsight. Now I can say “denial” because I know how it turned out. But then, I didn’t know. Then, it was just numbing the bad feelings, wishing they would go away, and believing they would.
* * * * * *
I was online playing a stupid trivia game when I met him.
Oh? Did you not see that coming? Yes, well.
I played trivia in a chat room on and off for several years, and one day, this guy was playing and he was good at it and we started chatting privately and it changed my life forever.
Yep, just like that. So simple. I met someone who told me about his life and oh, how that life rested upon greener grass. His mere existence made me feel like...like "getting out" was possible.
But don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t that I wanted him instead of David. I wanted him instead of me.
Of course I found myself attracted to Marcus -- that's how these stories go, right? But God. I wanted to BE him every bit as much as I imagined being WITH him.
Suddenly, clear as day, a man I didn’t know had everything I knew I wanted. All so poetic.
[In the version of my life where this is a novel, we would call Marcus a device. Deus ex Marcus-ina. Heh.]
He was European and had resided in several different countries. He spoke four languages. He loved travel. He had a graduate degree. He was brilliant about worldly things – politics and novels and film and cuisine. He was a go-getter and he was social and he was always out doing something or going somewhere or meeting people. Always off to a bar or club. Or a trip around the globe.
His world wasn’t so small as the county he grew up in.
And for the time being, he was living in San Francisco.
* * * * * * *
How could it be that that’s what I wanted?
How could travel and worldliness and singledom and bar-hopping and clubbing and San Francisco-ing be what I longed for?
Hadn’t I wanted a marriage? A house? A family? Wasn’t I in love with my husband?
Greener grass isn’t the same thing as being in love, Kiki. Being bored isn’t the same thing as not being in love. You love your husband. You worked hard to get here. There is no way to go from here to there. It doesn’t work like that. You can dream about it but you do not have the strength to do it and you know it. There are no guarantees over there. You think you can just give all this up? And then what? This man, this Marcus whom you’ve never met? He’s just going to take you away from it all, is he? Save you? You can’t even save you from yourself.
Don't be ridiculous. This is what you signed up for. It’s all going to be okay. You are just being irrational because of the stress of your mom and the house and the money and the unemployment and the potential baby. What if you are pregnant? You just have pregnancy cold feet. You know you want a baby.
I did want a baby. But what if I can't have one? What if after all this I can't actually conceive? Then what? What if you can't even do that right?
I was scared. I wanted to run from everything. San Francisco sounded like a damn good destination.
Every day I spoke with Marcus – and I cannot remember how often it was; once a day? A couple emails a week? A few IM sessions? Stolen phone moments? How many? Not many. I don’t remember, but the contact was minimal – was a day I thought about how different my life could be. How different I WANTED my life to be. And my husband.
* * * * * *
My fuse with David got as short as it could get. All the winter tensions were worsened by my new infatuation and I was never, ever happy with anything. I got distant.
I see in movies how cheating spouses behave and that’s what I was doing. I was irrational and moody and scared and distant and angry. Because of some guy I’d never met and barely spoke to. (Well, sort of. Sort of not because of him at all.)
And my mom wasn’t ever getting out of bed anymore. She had no energy because she still couldn’t really digest anything. We needed answers we just weren’t getting.
She was going to see another expert. Maybe I should go, too.
Maybe I should take some time to sort out just what the fuck I think I’m thinking, even.
David, I want some time. I need some time. I need to take a couple weeks. Two weeks. I will go to New Hampshire and take the dog and spend time with my mom and think about us and why it is we’ve been having such a rough time.
Or something. I don’t know what I said exactly. I know he was devastated. I seemed serious, like I could actually be contemplating a real separation.
And you want to know the truth? I wasn’t. I couldn't. I didn't have it in me.
You know what I’d like to be able to do? I’d like to be able to tell you now what it was like living with David through that winter. Because I know we fought all the time. All the time.
I want to be able to write with such agility that you feel the tension. That you sense the pressure. That you find the strain palpable.
But I can’t remember.
That’s right. We argued so much and so often – usually at my instigation – that the fighting has become part of the Routine I can’t distinguish in my memory. Not a single argument stands out.
I bet you can fill in the blanks, though.
Consider the recipe:
Take two people living in the same house, day after day, through a cold and ugly winter. To him, add being freaked out about not having a job; give him solace only in the staid safety of the home he’s established with his wife and in the promise of starting a family. Her ingredients include general freaking out about her mother’s ailing health; hormonal upswings; and trying desperately to figure out what she wants the rest of her life to look like because she’s bored out of her skull. Combine with no excess money for spending on going places or doing things unless or until he finds a job.
I can’t remember how it was that I spent night after night in tearful agony. I know now it was a grander unhappiness than I was aware of then. Then, it was just day after day of little things being wrong.
But God, the tension was mounting and something had to give.
Perfectly enough, it was the ceiling.
Monday, April 24, 2006
We had had guests for a month straight. And then…nothing.
* * * * * *
I am sure that the months then were bleak, like the gray of a winter that's stayed too long. Yeah, gray. The winter and my memory, all mottled gray.
What did I do?
Sometimes I think of that expression, about putting two scorpions in a jar. Do you know it? Maybe if we weren't in the jar, we would have just attacked each other slowly. Over years. Over time. Or not at all – maybe we'd have been too busy. Maybe that's what happens to other couples. They think they’re fine, or fine enough, because they’re too busy to dwell on all that isn’t working.
But not us. We were in a jar, and the jar got shaken.
* * * * * *
David was spending his days at home, looking for work. He tried not to let it get to him, but of course it was. Dotcoms were folding like houses of cards. All of a sudden, solid tech work was hard to find.
And, well, have you ever lived with an unemployed man? Shake, shake.
And I? I was spending my days at home, too. I was working reduced hours and – in theory – spending the rest of my time doing "productive" things. But I didn't know what those things could be. I had to stop spending money because we had to save in case Dave didn't find work for a while. I wanted to write but had no discipline or creative energy. I spent time training our puppy. I was online a lot.
But God, what else was there to do? Tick tock. More snow. Another day. Friends is on tonight. Try not to think about Mom.
* * * * * *
It was just this low-level hum. Somewhere in the background of my every day was this nagging knowing. My mom still wasn't feeling well. She wasn't digesting food right, her body was all screwed up, and no one knew exactly what was wrong. Was it a weird virus? Was it her stomach? She got tired a lot. She had a lot of doctor and specialist appointments, but mostly there were inconclusive tests and a whole lot of hoping that whatever it was would pass.
Let's just go on like it's fine. Let me just live my life. My life as a scorpion.
* * * * * *
Was it February? I finally went to the doctor because I was still spotting and had been for six, maybe eight weeks.
There were tests. There was the in-utero ultrasound. There was the spot.
I didn't say much about the spot, the potential cyst, the probably-nothing lump to my family because they – we – were already plenty occupied with doctors and tests.
More wine, please.
And it turned out the spot was nothing anyway. Except the tests showed I wasn't ovulating.
What? Not ovulating? How is this possible? Me? This has to be some sort of joke. God did not give me this body so that I could be infertile. There's got to be some cosmic misunderstanding here.
Ah, but anovulation doesn’t have to mean anything scary, it can be common, the doctor said. Women can stop ovulating for lots of reasons and it’s not necessarily permanent. Sometimes stress can do it.
Have you been under a lot of stress lately? Ha. Yes, Doctor, there has been some recent stress.
So what do we do?
My doctor told me there were two options to help me regulate myself. One, I could go on birth control. I'd never been before and, well, it can often help regulate a woman's cycle.
Um. But maybe starting birth control isn't the best option if you are perhaps trying to conceive.
Are you trying to conceive? my male – my Catholic, male* – doctor asked me.
And I said yes, because we kind of were. At least, we were more than we weren't.
And then the next thing I knew, I was given pamphlets and guidebooks and websites and was monitoring my basal body temperature and watching the calendar and making charts. Without a lot of thought, our casual, "we're sort of trying" became a full-on battle.
And so to help with my cycle and fertility, the doctor put me on hormones.
Me. On hormones.
More like scorpion venom. Shake, shake.
*I don't know if this mattered. I didn't think anything of it at the time, but in hindsight, something doesn't sit well with me. Like somehow, somewhere my doctor really wanted me to get knocked up.
* * * * * *
Bottled up. Still cold outside. No job for David. A second dog. Still no ovulation, not this month. More hormones. Mom’s going to see another specialist. Another day. No thaw. Cabin fever.
* * * * * *
What is going on? What am I doing with my life? Is this IT? I am not happy. No, I am miserable. We never have fun. We never do anything fun. My friends are out living in different places and trying new things. Everyone’s somewhere. Healy’s auditioning and Em and Nick are living in Denver and Nate’s still out in California and Deb’s applying to grad school. And what am I doing? I am married and have a house and am actively looking forward to the good primetime TV shows. I am 25, not 85. I feel chained to this life. What did I give up to get here so early?
It's called "settling down" because you went out and did something first that you needed to settle down from. Did I do that? I thought I had, but now I'm not so sure. It's just...Certainly there are more fun things to be doing?
I wonder what they are.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
My mom wasn't feeling well and she wasn't going to be able to make it to my house early for Christmas. Not the 15th? What about the 16th? Next week? No, the x-rays came back and she had to have an operation. No one is sure about the timing. Maybe by Christmas Eve?
I don't remember which came first, if it was the appendix or the gall bladder but whichever it was, she ended up in the operating room on Christmas day and it was the first time I'd ever not been with my parents on Christmas. None of us knew what to do, my husband, my sisters, my aunt, my cousins, our friends. I had a house full of family and in-laws and I didn't want to be making dinner and tending to guests because I was not ready. My mom was supposed to be helping me.
But still. It will be okay. It is only her appendix. It is only the gall bladder. It is only something small. Probably. They thought. We hoped. We didn't know. They didn't know. But my parents were at the hospital, five hours away, on Christmas day and we decided that my sister would leave to go be with them and I would stay put and make things as warm as possible for the rest of us, despite the big scary elephant sitting in the living room under the Christmas tree alongside the pile of unopened gifts.
Christmas had always been our family’s strongest glue, and was coming undone.
But no, there’s hope. We did what we could. We had a piano and singing anyway, like the Whos down in Whoville, and we put my mom on the phone so she could hear our childhood friend Kyle sing her favorite song, even though she was on so much morphine she didn’t seem to know what she’d heard.
It would be fine. It was just bad timing. It was nothing to worry about, not really. The operations went fine and my mom felt loads better. See? So we would just wait until my mom was out of the hospital and could drive down to Connecticut and we’d do a big gift exchange then. So what if we all had to extend our Christmas vacation calendars by a few days? It was worth it for us to all be together.
It would just be a few days.
* * * * * *
Some time before Christmas, David and I had decided we might start trying to get pregnant. We weren't going to make a big effort yet, but at least we'd stop actively trying NOT to get pregnant. A fine idea, except that I noticed my body wasn’t really on board with this plan. I had started spotting erratically, and my cycle was all off. There was no weird cramping, but hmmm. And you know, I would have had it looked at but the last thing I felt like doing was going to a doctor’s office.
* * * * * *
Some time before Christmas, David left his most recent job – another in a string of dotcom failures. It was the way of things, then. We had enough money to be stable for a while, so we weren’t too concerned. Frankly, I was happy to have him home with me, manning headquarters.
* * * * * *
When my grandfather died on New Year's Eve, everything got a whole lot blurrier and there was a lot more crying.
Who was going to stay where? Who was making the arrangements? Plan. Routine. What should we make for dinner? Do we want to go to a movie? More guest towels. It’s going to snow again I think. Of course another week would be fine. What’s that you’re reading? I’m going to get some more wine.
My grandfather's passing was monumental and sad and I was so mad at myself for thinking that maybe it was better now, finally, he had been so uncomfortable. He could barely breathe.
I wanted to help with the arrangements but I couldn’t focus. My mom had finally made it to Connecticut and it was the first time we’d seen her since Thanksgiving and she had lost maybe 30 lbs. She was not overweight to begin with and she was only 5'6". She had no color and she looked very sick. None of us believed she was out of the woods.
The funeral service was grand and stately and hundreds of people came. My grandfather had been a great man.
And…so much more happened that I can’t properly distill. I remember the stupid stuff, like my parents' old, awful neighbors who had come and no one knew why, and after the service the wife patted my chubby tummy and asked if I was expecting. I didn't have the strength to tell her to go fuck herself. I just said, "We hope so."
There was a reception after the funeral and I know it was warm and so many family friends were there and the piano played and I can’t remember anything else. It started to snow and we needed to get back to my house because it was kind of far and dangerous to drive and – I can’t remember why – I am pretty sure it was that night we finally had our gift exchange.
* * * * * *
When The Holidays were over, my parents and youngest sister, Sam, had returned to New Hampshire, exhausted. Healy returned to her life in Boston.
And David and I were left alone with a suddenly empty house, and nothing but each other and the long, cold winter ahead of us.
it is how you get from point a to point b.
so for months, as everything got weirder and harder, there was a whole lot of routine going on. there were lots of normal days. time passed, just as it always does.
the thing about routine, though, is that it makes my memory fuzzy. too much routine makes the days blend together. and then when i try and remember the non-routine things, they stand out but i can't put them in any real order.
well, no, that's not true. i could put them in a very tidy order and say, see, this is how it went. a-ha! here is where it broke down! so, see, this and then that, so that this and then that and now? here. it all makes sense, doesn’t it?
except i don't feel it that way. i can put it into rational perspective all i want now. god and my friends and my therapist know i have, a thousand times over.
but that's not how life actually ever happens. and when i am alone in my head and i let myself think about it, that's not really how i really remember that year at all.
but all the sites we've found so far are annoying. we're not into role-playing games, we're just looking for fun trivia games and the like. it seems like there's got to be a place where you can pick your opponents and compete in real time, probably with other people as well, right?
[ex. i love playing yahoo graffiti -- that set-up would be ideal.]
any ideas or secret online locales i'm missing? i know of yahoo games and uproar and pogo and have tried all the basic google searching...surely there must be something?
thanks in advance!
Friday, April 21, 2006
we are SO interrupting out regularly scheduled programming to bring you THE BEST IDEA EVER, i SWEAR!!!
ready? okay: i think we should all have a wedding!
no, of COURSE no one would actually get MARRIED. we'd just skip that part. but we could all come and dress up and get a band and have a big ole' wedding reception! we could even bring a gift and give it to someone there.
my thoughts on this are thus:
- for those readers who've not yet gotten married, this takes the pressure off in lots of ways. you can tell your friends and family you are having a wedding, and leave the rest to mystery. or invite them, whatever. the point is, you can have your first wedding and then don't have to get all confused later, trying to figure out whether you're more excited for the event than the marriage itself. by the time you actually get married, you will have already had the excitement of the wedding taken care of.
- for those readers in my boat -- married, but now single and dating -- it takes all the pressure off of hoping for another ring, you know? plus, for those of us who may be ever-so-slightly jaded, along the lines of "i'm never doing THAT again" (wedding, not marriage), well, now you can! but you won't have all the pressure of being a bride! you'll just have the opportunity to reap the benefits of the party.
- for those who ARE married, whatever! weddings are the new monogamy. or something. (work with me here.)
- we all need to get together and celebrate anyway. i mean, look, if i said, "i'm having a party" most of you would not be able to trek to san francisco to come to it. no one travels THAT far for a party, especially not for someone they only know in the invisible sense, right? but a wedding? and what if it's YOUR wedding? you'd HAVE to go. work will understand.
bridal gowns will be optional, as will be tuxedos...but can't you just see it now? 500 invisible internet friends come together for the first time, ALL in full wedding regalia? all of us wandering around a reception hall in wedding gowns? HAHAHAHAHAHA.
so yep. let's pick a place convenient to all of us (or none of us, such as mexico), and plan it right now!
Thursday, April 20, 2006
we moved into our house two days after christmas in 1999. we'd closed on it while we were on our honeymoon. it was a nice honeymoon.
the first time i met my next-door neighbors, i had been out shopping and it was very cold and wet. i returned to the house to discover my husband out back talking to people i'd never seen before, along with my cousin, M and his wife, T and daughter (who lived nearby). there were a bunch of young boys running around my backyard.
when i approached the scene, Connie came over to me and proceeded to make me not like her a whole lot.
- she introduced herself as my neighbor and pointed out her two boys and some other neighbor kid who were busy running amuck in my yard.
- she started off saying that i looked young, and she'd mistaken M and T as the new neighbors.
- she told me how upset her family was that the neighbors had had to move, since they had kids the same age as hers.
- she asked me, "So what does your husband do for a living?" without a thought, and BEFORE asking me what i might do for a living.
- she asked if we had kids. when i said no, she asked if we were planning to. and before i had time to get over thinking THAT was a rather personal question, she explained to me that her 12-year-old, Brittany, is really interested in babysitting. hint, hint.
- she finished her visit by half-asking me, half-telling me IN FRONT OF HER BOYS, that she hopes it will be okay with me if her boys continue to be allowed to play in my yard, since it runs right into HER hard and that gives them a lot more room to play and that's what they're used to.
i agreed, and when she left and my cousins and i returned to the house, T looked at me and said, "that was so rude of her. now you can never walk around naked in your livingroom since you'll never know when those kids might run on by." and while i had never planned on walking around naked in my livingroom, i understood her point.
* * * * *
by october of 2000, i made a decision: i did not want to be a business person. i was good at my job, but it wasn't my passion. the hours were long, the commute was painful, and i wasn't making enough money to justify it, really. so i cut back my hours and started working from home. i determined that i was -- forevermore -- going to spend my time making our house a home. learning to cook. training our puppy. FINALLY writing my book. oh, and getting pregnant.
[alright, so, here it is: you're welcome to jump ship right now if you want to because i have no idea how the rest of the story or installments or memories are going to come out. i don't know what this will feel like or how it'll go. but in the movie of my life, george is about to meet clarance (if you know what i mean) and there won't be any finding of zuzu's petals for a long time.]
[ENTER K'S MOM, STAGE LEFT.]
my mom, having heard of this plan, offered to come down to my house (from where she and my father had moved to in new hampshire) for a couple weeks to help. i happily accepted. my mom and i had had our differences -- oh, how mothers and daughters can feud -- but they'd long been resolved for the most part. as much as they ever would be.
for two weeks we pulled up carpet, hung drapes, and painted almost every room in the house. the results were quite lovely.
on halloween, we decorated the entranceway with cobwebs and spooky music and gave away too much candy to the neighborhood kids. kids who called me "Mrs." because they didn't know i was only a pretend grown-up. i remember a couple girls coming to the door and looking in at my freshly painted and re-decorated livingroom and saying, "wow, your house is really pretty." and i stood there, proud as could be, having my recent life's work validated by nine year olds.
* * * * * * *
the last thing i remember about my mom's trip that year was that she went back to new hampshire right after it was determined that we, as a country, had no idea who was lawfully the president of the united states.
and also, that we had agreed that christmas would be at our house. no, it wasn't that convenient, proximity-wise, for the rest of the family, but the house was in much greater working order than my parents'. and also it was near to where my very ill grandfather lived. and it would be so less a burden on my parents -- my mom could finally just enjoy the holiday without having to worry about things like clean sheets for the masses.
passing the Christmas House torch to me was not easy for my mom, and it made her feel old and useless. at least, that's what i learned from her over email in the following weeks. but i explained that that's not at all how i felt, and that i would never be able to pull it off without her help anyway.
and once we cleared the air, we set about painstakingly planning christmas.
* * * * * *
you know, my mother was a prolific emailer. she'd sip her morning coffee while dashing off seemingly endless streams-of-consciousness that i often found difficult to wade through. they were funny and a little bit crazy, but sometimes it was hard to know exactly what she was trying to say. and so even though they were peppered with pearls of wit and wisdom, i found them kind of annoying.
i loved that i had a mom who was hip enough to start emails with "yo, yo, whazzup!" and end with the words "heart M" (since she couldn't draw a little heart as she did on notes to us around the house). but still, they were long and i'd delete them. because i didn't know.
as thanksgiving approached, the emails became longer and more detailed. we discussed who was arriving when, menus, shopping lists, decorating ideas, pet arrangements, cd mixes.
but after we spent thanksgiving in new hampshire at my parents' house, the emails started getting shorter.
and then they stopped.
I'll confess. It is a lot easier to write about this all from waaaaaaay over here, five years and 3,000 miles away. And also to write about inklings and overall lessons, and isn't it so great how I've grown and matured, and gosh, I sure am happy now.
Well, yes. I am happy now.
But the end of my marriage was a complete and utter nightmare. It was ugly and cruel and it is nearly impossible for me not to think that "I was bad but he was worse," even though I know that "who was worse" has probably nothing to do with anything.
Regardless of my perspective on why and how it ended, though, it's almost harder to go back and think of the good stuff.
I mean, the end was so bad, it cast a huge black cloud over everything that went before. And as I said, it's easy now to look back and say it was "never going to fit" but there was a time I believed (or wanted to believe) it would. Or that it did. Or that shutup, I'm getting married.
* * * * * *
I was 20 years old when I met David, and I had always been precocious, relationship-wise. He was four years older than I and seemed to have a good head on his shoulders. We met in school. We sparked. We practically – instantly – read each other's minds. We had plenty in common. And we wanted the exact same things out of life.
[Right, not so much with the wanting the same things. We purported to want the exact same things out of life, but one of us wasn't maybe so clear on what she actually wanted for reasons that have since become evident but were then unclear. 20/20, remember?]
Our first date was February 27. We were engaged on June 1.
I was completely in love with him. He was so smart and funny. Quiet and sarcastic. Strong. He could read several books in one day. He loved games. He was a black belt. And he was very, very good to me. He genuinely wanted to make me happy.
There are so many little stories, too. Things Shared that I don't ever take the time to recall anymore. The first kiss, and how I hated it.* The first "time" and how it was amazingly special. The surprise weekend away. The time he made dinner for me that I ended up throwing up. His insistence that we get cats and name them Sherlock and Moriarty.
I love soft touches on my back, the way maybe other women love chocolate. And knowing this, David instituted what he called "quiet time." In bed, he would hold a book with one hand and trace his fingers around my back with the other until I fell asleep.
I got to enjoy falling asleep to "quiet time" every single night we were together.
*should've known right then and there.
* * * * * *
From the moment we were engaged, I treated my relationship with David as though I were married to him. He asked me to be his wife, and I said yes and I put on the ring and I was committed.
I point this out because Having A Wedding had nothing to do with why I got engaged.
I mean, we weren't completely stupid kids. We knew we were young. I still had a year of college left and we had no money and only vague ideas of what our careers would look like. We didn't want to officially get married until we could afford it, until we were living on our own, and until we had established ourselves on career paths.
So to me, as soon as I put the ring on I was as good as married; we ended up waiting three-and-a-half years to actually have a wedding.
The wedding itself, actually Getting Married didn't change our relationship at all. But in those three-plus years, a LOT happened (un-wedding-related) really quickly.
And as much as it saddens me to say, I don't remember much of it anymore.
* * * * * *
One of the things I found buried in my closet was a book that I started as "my wedding journal." Here's the first page:
I only had the interest to open up this minefield recently. And what I found was shocking and maybe a little heartbreaking.
My. Entire. World. Was about being married. I called preparing for marriage "the most exciting time of my life." I couldn't imagine anything beyond.
It was as though somewhere along the way I had decided – without even meaning to – that the ONLY thing I could EVER want out of life was To Be Successful, Fairfield County Style.
[NOT that there is anything wrong with that. I do not begrudge anyone such a lifestyle -- there is a lot to be said for it. I just never took the time to examine WHY I wanted that lifestyle, you know?. (And God, THAT is a whole entry in itself.) But then? I just plowed ahead and never looked back.]
I didn't, however, expect it to happen so damn quickly. As evidenced by my having no idea what to do when I got there.
* * * * * *
We both graduated, he in 1996 and me in 1997. We both worked a few entry-level jobs with false starts.
By 1998 I landed at a cool, smart, and incredibly demanding consulting firm. I was always stressed out, and often worked 50 or 60 hour weeks. It took me a while to get my professional groove on, but I did. I had a good job with a good company. And I was proud of myself. I was definitely delivering on Part One of How to Be Successful, Fairfield County Style.
David, meanwhile, used one of his "false starts" to say, "Hey, I think I like this computer stuff." Which wasn't a bad thing to decide in 1998. So he switched jobs completely and went to work as a lowly entry-level computer guy at a not-so-lowly company.
Before we knew it, we became a dotcom boom statistic (without ever having stepped foot in Silicon Valley, though that was how I first had my interest in San Francisco piqued). Which meant that by the time we finally got married in 1999, his stock options allowed us to pay for the wedding ourselves. And also my car. And our house.
*SNAP* Just like that, the two of us went from being recently graduated, recently engaged, broke ex-college kids living in a tiny one-bedroom apartment with entry-level jobs...to being married and living in a four-bedroom house with two careers, two cars, two dogs, and two cats. I believe that was Parts Two, Three, and Four of How to Be Successful, Fairfield County Style.
I said earlier that it was too much too soon. But probably if it hadn't been, it all wouldn't have gone down so swiftly, either.