The many red, orange, fuschia, whatever-coloured flags I missed or was missing or kept ignoring altogether being one ginormous ball of wrong notwithstanding, the apex was more than I could stand and more than I was willing to process.
I still haven't properly assessed all that went wrong in my marriage, for many reasons, but that same lacking sense of being able to categorize even the least of whose responsibilities were whose added just as much to the panic then as it does to the empty, unanswered-for heartache after. For as long as I could remember, life consisted of dealing only with each moment in that exact moment even after cancer faded further into the background but joints were taking over. I tried to quit putting life on hold while life was, indeed, on hold - doing crafts and activities with the girls while they were still little to redirect their attention from the pain their dad was in, taking lunches to his work at the school with them in tow because he was getting intravenous antibiotics pumped into him, picking crab apples, having makeover parties, having them help me pick dandelions from the front yard, planning birthday parties... Appearance. Always appearances. But there was always the pain. His pain. His excruciating, walking on crumbled-to-dust joints at a whopping 6-foot, 6-inch frame pain.
It was always existent.
I never noticed the deterioration between us until K came home from his last, his fourth, joint replacement. If memory serves correctly, we were sitting in the girls' new blow-up pool we'd set up for the youngest's birthday party, just him and me. I thought he'd finally be happy. Relieved. Pain free. I theorized that everything would all fall into place with the last of his joint installments. After all, he'd been more than apologetic for his perma-grump demeanor for the three years preceding the first replacement (a shoulder). I had driven all eight hours south with the girls to pick him up from the hospital just post-op in our new van as he gingerly propped himself in, where not even seconds later he turned to the girls and smiled and immediately apologized to them for being so grumpy. He seemed more like himself and explained that the pain felt different, better. A healing pain, he had said. I was so relieved for him. For us. Think what this would mean. If one joint could produce that much relief, how much more would four of them? Two crumbling hips and two crumbling shoulders replaced with brand new, shiny metal ones?
I don't know what I was expecting. Truth be told, I'm sure I added to K's stress and misery. Ask anyone who really knew me then - it was hard to make up my mind or know where I stood but especially difficult to see a consistent reaction from me. But there would be no more apologies. There would be no more connection. And, for each medical appointment that the girls and I sat inside the tiny airport for, to watch the workers use a massive mobile lift to raise and lower his wheelchair, there wasn't even a smile for me.
I don't know. I've considered lots that maybe K was just so beaten down by the cards he was dealt that he lost the person I met. I've also quite realized from the way my current relationship has helped me heal and grow that I am a very hard person to read and very hard to get close to. I think a combination of those things are to blame. I figure an indescretion that I had once, which I had confessed to Kyle in utter shame and guilt, with the brother of one of his friends, drove a wedge between us. Even though I had thought a huge sign way back then for us to talk and for K to dump me on my ass, or understand it, even though I still made it my resolve to expiate my sin and show my devotion, even though I felt like shit for... well... I still do, I somehow still felt that we were moving past it. But maybe we weren't. We never talked about that indescretion. I just held it in silence for a year until I couldn't hold it in anymore and was crying and when I blubbered it out, expecting a sharp, negative reaction, he just held me and told me could understand how it could have happened. Something that had been torturing me for a year and the next day, after my scene, it was like nothing happened.
So there we were, sitting in the pool in the middle of the day. And I heard it. I heard my voice. Nagging. Whatever was bothering me, it was coming out of my face and I hated it. I wasn't supposed to be nagging. Nagging was wrong.
I wanted to cry so hard but I only got angry. What was wrong with me? Why was I feeling so... blank? It was disappointment and unfulfillment, I would only begin to label many, many years after. And panic.
I don't remember the words I harped shortly after snapping, but I knew I couldn't believe it. I knew I didn't want to live waiting like I had been. In my Hispanic flair and drama that spat finality into everything, somewhere in there was a question, "what do you want to do" and a few "I dunno"s, but then the "d" word. Divorce. Just like that. Enter inner screaming stage right. Floods of thoughts about waiting, waiting, forever waiting to start our marriage, about that indescretion, about all the times I had mistreated him, all the memories that I would cling to for dear life of our very short dating period when he was sick in the hospital, the days and days (even amidst ALL of my terrible mistakes) of sitting at the hospital with him, asking the doctors questions, learning t-cell counts and stem cell procedures, feeling as lost as a transient expat could possibly feel in strange, unfamiliar surroundings, people, life-threatening diseases, and two small baby girls to care for. All of it. All of the injustices I thought would be healed because we were together. All the hope I had for the future. Robbed. Just like that. Even worse, I felt that it was all my fault.
There was something so intrinsically wrong that I could not 'straighten' myself up or find resolve or another solution to manipulate the picture in my mind's eye to something more pleasant, like I had been doing for all the years up to that point. I realized I had been doing the redirect thing for yeeeeears. Clinging onto memories of the two or three real dates we went on, the time he read me poems by the river, the hours-long coffee we discovered each other, going to our first party as a couple, even memories that weren't ours together but that made me think of him - the jazz fest the year I graduated where he sang and I listened, the Ernie skit he did in the talent show and everyone booed because he didn't win. All of the things that I had left to feel good about. Gone. Today was here right now and those things couldn't hold me anymore. I remember standing over the ironing board at work the next day, ironing quilt patches like a zombie, praying that no one would notice or ask me if something was wrong. I didn't talk. Much. I couldn't believe it was happening. I couldn't believe that neither of us rejected the idea. I wished I hadn't brought it up. I wished he'd have vehemently objected. And the biggest gut-churn, for me, was where do you even start. How do you drop that bomb after having looked like the couple that could survive the husband's trio of cancer diagnoses and joints?
Because, and this is what bothers me most about this, even now as I write, to me it appeared as though K didn't seem interested in saving the relationship at all. Be it a combination of my bullheaded temper, the freakouts I would sometimes have, his trepidation toward me because of that, all of the pain meds taking their toll, or what, I just think he left it up to me. I was a pretty unhappy person, too, even though I tried to fake it, but I was never unhappy about marrying him. The most excruciating part of my divorce and grief was trying to reconcile being on statistic side of the fence while still holding and standing by the decision I made to marry him - I have never, not even to this day, regretted that decision. I probably took his peace-making, sometimes withdrawn, ways with me as disinterest. I'll probably never know. Maybe he did somewhere earnestly want to make it work but didn't know where to start. But the cycle was never stopped. I ended up having a clumsy, bungled, botched up affair and before that could happen again with M, I hightailed it to Quebec.
But I got my comeuppance.