Monday, March 16, 2009

Confessions - Part One

Maybe this is why I am able to “let go” a bit earlier than some other widows. You can tell me…

Like many marriages, ours was not perfect. This was my second marriage and I was 37, and Greg was 34 and had never been married. He had been a musician before I met him – played with a country-western band for about 10 years and really, really loved drumming. He went into the business world after that, starting by selling computers with a retail organization and then moving into corporate sales after that. We had some lucrative years, where we kinda-sorta had money to burn. We had tackled that “should we have kids or not?” question right away – since I was already 37 - and had a mutual agreement that we could enjoy the nephews (four between us) and one niece and spoil ‘em a bit. Did you ever have an aunt or uncle that was single or didn’t have kids? We both had experienced that and we wanted to be that kind of uncle/aunt.

We met at the holidays of ’83, and we were both definite partiers. We ran with a group who seemed to find any excuse to party (read: drink), and that December we held a traditional gathering to celebrate the birthdays of a coupla guys in the group. We had this in Roseville (a St. Paul suburb) at a Mexican-themed chain restaurant, El Torito's, noted for their champagne brunches. Lots of free-flowing (poorer quality) champagne. There were a couple of faces that I did not know in the group (overlapping crowds – younger brothers and so on, of guys that were in my age bracket), and Greg’s was one of them. He was funny (always an important criteria for me – gotta have a GOOD sense of humor!). And when he started pouring champagne with a towel draped over his arm, I found that very funny (maybe the consumption of champagne helped, there). And even more so, when he returned wearing an apron of one of the waitresses AND her name tag, Nikki. I started chanting that Toni Basil song, “Hey Mickey”, substituting Nikki for Mickey. It turned out that this was Nikki’s last day, and Greg bought the name tag and apron from her. I think he gave me his phone number (probably on a business card) and I never followed up on it. I should mention that my on-and-off-again boyfriend, J, was there, too. But we were not “on” at that time.

Next time I saw Greg was in the spring, at the wedding of a couple that I knew through J. The guys (J and the groom, among them) played on a softball team called the Brew-Ha’s (what does that say about them?). I was not with J, but he decided that a seat beside me was where he wanted to sit. And I got up and moved – a couple of times, as I recall. I think Greg had a date. No big deal. Just noted that we had met each other a few months back.

And the culmination of all of this was my girlfriend’s wedding that summer. J (yes, another J!) and I had been friends since elementary school. This was her second wedding, and she wanted that “wedding of a lifetime” thing. Her worst decision was the choice of groom (as though MY choices for a love life have been that stellar). But it was a fun time, and the bridesmaids wore dresses that would have been right at home, if we had been extras in “Gone with the Wind”. Greg was there, and we started talking. Did some dancing, too. And eventually decided to leave together, although we did try to do so without LOOKING like either of us was leaving with the other. A then-friend of mine ruined that by shouting at me (I was THAT close to a clean get-away), “Jessi, who are you leaving with?!”

We went back to his place – me wearing that bridesmaid dress! – and then I realized that I probably shouldn’t have made that choice. So, yes, I “shut him down” and he was quite the gentleman, even giving me a t-shirt to sleep in. The next morning was even more awkward, as he drove me back to the street where my girlfriend lives and where I had left my car parked. Her parents (who knew me well) had overnighted there, so I slunk back into my car - wearing that dress! - and drove home (only a few short miles from there).

Anyway, one thing led to another, we continued dating, blah, blah, blah. Engaged just before we moved to Houston, and we drove into this city on New Year’s Eve day of 1984. We married in October of 1985.

We had come to Houston via a job transfer for Greg. Unfortunately, we moved here when oil prices were tumbling and businesses and public entities were curbing their spending. So the insurance he was supposed to sell, went nowhere. His target group was school districts. He was laid off, and went back to selling computers for a retail chain. And that led to working for a reseller (back before we all could buy our pc’s online and so on), and the money started to get much better. We had several lucrative years, until the online market drew away his bigger corporate clients.

We socialized with the co-workers from his employer, and from management on down, they were relatively young and hearty partiers. We were right at home with this crowd. I didn't know how easily Greg fit into ALL of this, at that time.

We had airline tickets and plans to go to the wedding of my oldest nephew that summer. I remember the date, for their marriage was scheduled for July 22nd, which is also my sister's birthday. It was just a bit before that date, in 1995, and I found Greg in what I thought was a comatose state, maybe even dead. I could not rouse him, could not even tell if he was breathing. I called 911 and they were able to get him "awake" and then informed me that he was passed out. I was shocked - why and what had made him do this? We ended up putting him in a couple-days detox program, and that made me have to cancel the plans for the MN wedding. I made some sorry excuse about him being hospitalized for stress or whatever. And I was seething, burning that his actions had deprived me of the chance of seeing my nephew, my godson, getting married.

And for me, the cat was out of the bag... I was married to an alcoholic, and never, EVER had had a clue that he just couldn't have a drink or several, then stop. For me, it had never been that big a deal. Did I enjoy a drink or more? Yeah, sure - but when it was appropriate, and not as in, "I had a bad day, I need a drink." Or, "I had a GREAT day, I'll have a drink to celebrate." Which should have been red flags to me, but somehow I was blind to all of that. Worse yet, I covered for him, as he wished, so that his family and mine did not know. And that left a helluva burden on my shoulders, as I would eventually come to find out.

Well, faithful reader(s), I will close this and try to find time to continue it at a later time. I feel better already, sharing this. Isn't that weird?


The Retired One said...

Unfortunately, because of the distance, I never remember meeting Greg but once, for a few minutes. I am so sorry to hear that you had all of this burden without being able to share it with anyone at the time. Were you able to go to any Al-Anon meetings or anything for support at the time in Tx.?
I would probably not have, as I find the 12-step program kind of lame if you aren't real religious, but other women have told me it served as a rock for them.
I am glad you are able to talk about it now, though, because talking and sharing burdens makes it easier to provide closure to what was yesterday.

txmomx6 said...

Thanks for sharing, Jessica ..... I'm so glad that it feels good to you ..... like a load lifted, maybe?
That's good ..... we have so many other loads to carry that it's always healthy to get rid of some.
This is only the beginning of your story, but I can see that your comment about "letting go easier" makes sense.
Thanks again, for opening up your heart to us.

jessica said...

Yeah, I went to a few Al-Anon meetings. I felt like there was this little "clique" of women, and I never felt welcome. And the only thing I maybe picked up from that program was that things will happen (or NOT happen, as the case may be) whether you worry and fuss about them, or not. The hardest thing to do was to let go - to NOT try to police him. It probably would have killed me, in the long run, if I had tried that. My next installation(s) will kinda give more info in those areas.

He was good to me, and on several occasions begged me not to leave him. How do you deal with a plea like that? Many things have contributed to what I am and where I am today. And after he died, I got SO tired of hearing about how strong I was (because I did NOT feel that strong) - but now I really, truly believe that I am that strong person.

jessica said...

Janine - the first comment/reply was directed to my cousin's comment. But as to yours (my sister in this no-choice-of-ours situation): I did grieve. The shock, the unexpected death, was beyond what I would ever have expected to go thru in my lifetime. But then in the fall, my mood, my attitude picked up. I was getting "my self" back, sort of the pre-Greg me (okay - a LOT older now...) And I wanted to write about this, yet I don't want to muddy the poor man's life in so many eyes. I do know that none of his family (one brother, many cousins) do not know of this blog. So I feel like I can pour my heart out and share with the friends I have made thru blogging. And they will understand, I believe.

And you - you have been thru so many more trials than I have, and I know how dearly and truly you miss Jim. I feel bad that my grieving is not as deep as yours, but I know that now you can understand why that is.

Ramblin Mama said...

You asked how I found your blog. You are listed on the blog list on The Retirement Chronicles and I must say it was the name of your blog that caught my attention first. I spent a good while reading your past posts too and enjoy your candor and writing style. I. too, have always found writing to be therapeutic - a way to wrap my head around whatever life is dealing. I look forward to the next part of your story.

Anonymous said...

I always feel better after writing in my blog... even if I decide to delete the posts later... which I have done. I still felt better. I have known alcoholics before. That is pretty tough. Even though I know people meant it well, I used to hate them saying I was strong too when my husband died.

Johanna said...

Although my ex was not an alcoholic, I, too, covered for his shortcomings. I made up stories to cover for his lack of responsibility and failure to follow through on promises and contracts. I understand your blogging, and the relief you can feel after the "cat is out of the bag". I remembered initially being so embarrassed when someone outside my close circle realized how he really was.....but that was followed with relief..that i no longer had hide it and compensate for it.