The next morning I was out of the house by 6:00 AM because I was determined to find out where he was. Grabbing my car keys and getting into my car I went to go find his truck.  I was careless, I was reckless, I was a mess. I didn’t care. Nothing mattered besides my kids at that moment, but I knew that I was going off the deep end and I also knew that I had to be at least half sane to be a mother to my children. Lighting a cigarette, I rolled down the window and I started to drive down the road. As I drove past his mothers house I saw his truck in the driveway. I immediately pulled into a road and backed up and pulled into his mothers driveway. I got out of my car, not remembering opening the car door and walked into the house without knocking. All was quite. I walked through the kitchen, through the dining room and into my mother-in-law’s living room to find my husband on the couch sleeping. I was so hurt but at the same time I was so relieved that he was there and I hated myself for feeling relieved because I wanted to hate him so much. I wanted to ask him, what did I do that would make you do this to me? Was I not a good wife, was I not a good mother, was I not a good friend? Why did you do this to me for, but I didn’t ask him any of those questions. I looked into his eyes and I went to hug him, not understanding why I was doing that. He looked at me confused and tried to back away. I looked at him and I had such pain in my being because I didn’t understand why was he backing away from me when I did nothing to him. I walked towards him with confused and compassionate eyes. “Why are you backing away for me Joey?”, I asked. I began crying because I didn’t understand. Joey looked at me and said, “Let’s go home. “ He grabbed his keys off of his mothers table and we walked outside.

I never shut my car door and my car was still running. I backed out of his mothers driveway and drove home. I could see his truck in the rear-view mirror. Pulling into our home, the kids were still sleeping upstairs and I knew that they would be up soon for school. I didn’t want them to know what was going on so I got them dressed for school, made breakfast and smiled as I kissed them goodbye and prayed over them silently, asking God to please watch over them.

Joey was sitting in the living room on the couch, just staring at the wall. He looked a mess. He had new clothes on that he just purchased at the Dartmouth Mall I learned. I sat in the recliner across from him and there was total silence. I could hear the clock hand ticking. I looked over to the photo that I had been staring at the night before. Who were those two people in that frame? Because that sure was not me and that sure was not him in that picture, that was my false interpretation of what I thought our life was.

I looked around the living room, remembering us putting down those wood floors, installing the new windows, celebrating our home. We purchased our home when we were in our early 20s. We were hard workers and were planning on paying our home off in only 15 years. That was the one thing about Joey though, you know, I still to this day, have never known a harder-working man than my husband. He worked and still works hard, always doing side jobs, working overtime, we never went without because we were both determined to never have a life like what either one of us had had as a child, always a struggle. We didn’t want our children to have to face that. Every generation that comes is supposed to get better and you don’t see that much in life, but from a very early age, I was determined to make sure that if I had ever had kids and got married, that I wasn’t going to be like my parents, no way. Yet, there I was, at the 13 year mark, just like my mother was when she had decided that she had had enough of my father’s infidelity. I couldn’t believe I was sitting in my living room, at that moment, dealing with the same situation that my mother did at the same exact point in her marriage. It was like I was in a nightmare. It was like I was looking at somebody else’s life. It was like I had put on the TV and I was watching a movie of somebody else’s reality, but it wasn’t somebody else’s reality, it was my reality and I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to know that my husband was sitting across from me and I knowing that he had been with another woman. My own demeanor began to confuse me. Because at that moment, I did not know where the woman was that said, “not my marriage. ”

I wanted to yell at him, I wanted to hurt him as much as I was hurting in that moment. I wanted him to show some kind of emotion that he was a human being and that he had hurt another human being, but he didn’t have any reaction he just sat there. I felt like I was in one of those carnival houses where there was mirrors everywhere and I felt like it didn’t matter where I was going I couldn’t find my way out and I kept walking into my own grief. There was no escape and I didn’t want God. No, I was done. I had been strong for so long, for too long. I was 30 years old, feeling as washed up as the pulled away sand from the shore.

For years as a child, I needed to find a reason why my mother had abused me so bad. As a child, I needed to find a reason as to how my dad could have just walked out on his only daughter for another woman and to be with his buddies, just like my husband did. I had to try to find out what is it, that I did, that made this come to pass. I grew up with a tattoo in my brain that I was the reason why my parents got a divorce. I was the reason why my mother was so angry all the time, I was the reason why my dad didn’t want to come and see me. In that moment, I was every age within a one minute period. I felt the grief, the hardships, the self blaming and then I found myself in that same minute, saying how could anybody ever love me? I was nothing because everybody in my life that ever said they were supposed to care about me, hurt me. Every time I tried to put my trust in someone, they would hurt me. There comes a point in your life when you feel that you really are nothing. You really are not a good person because if you were, how is it that people can continue to be abusive?

“What’s going on?”, I asked. He would not look at me. “Where were you last night? “, I asked. After a long silence, he answered me “I was at my friends bachelor party. They had it at a pub.” I looked at him not saying a word and knowing that I wasn’t getting the whole story. The pain was too much in that moment that I couldn’t ask him if he was with another woman because I knew he would lie to me. I knew that I could have sat there and asked him continuously but I also knew that that ran a risk of him leaving, and instead of me thinking that I had done something wrong, I was afraid of that. I remember kneeling in front of him and wanting to hug him. I just put my head down and he grabbed me underneath my arms and pulled me up to him onto his lap. I began to cry, but I was so happy at the same time because I loved him so much, he was my everything. I had never loved a man in my life like that. Joey was my true and only love. I used to picture us growing old, taking walks together, having early dinners together and playing with our grandchildren. He looked into my eyes and said to me, “I’m just going through some stuff right now Melissa. But I love you and I have to get ready for work, please go eat some thing because you’re getting thinner.”

I was getting thinner because my stress levels were out-of-control. There were times when I would just drink tea and coffee trying to get through eating one package of peanut butter crackers a day. I was so sick to my stomach that eating became a cross for me.

To this day, even as I sit here and write this, I’m not sure why my reaction was what it was – not being angry with Joey. I was joyful that he was still there, that he didn’t leave and I don’t know if it’s because I thought that he was choosing me over her and in my ignorance and being naïve, I accepted that truth because I really believed that truth – that he chose me over her and I could live with that, I told myself, even if that was a lie.

The Summer was coming to a close and Autumn was on the horizon. My favorite season. In my neighborhood, I was known as the lady who decorated her home for every single occasion and the Autumn was the time that I went completely out, even more than Christmas, because the Autumn would bring several months of celebrations. I would celebrate from September 1 through November. I always ordered craft kits for the months of September, October and November because every single Sunday we would sit down as a family and we would do autumn decorations and crafts. I always made a special dessert on Sundays during the Autumn and a special dinner because I loved family and because I hadn’t had this kind of a family life as a child, I was family oriented as a mom and as a wife. There was no greater joy than sitting down with my children and doing crafts and having a beautiful Sunday dinner. I established something when the kids were young that was called ‘Family Sunday Night’ and we would set aside 2 to 3 hours on a Sunday. We would have a family meeting where we would all go around the room and talk about the past week, the goals, the trials, and we each shared some thing with one another that we were thankful for from each other. I would read from the Bible passage and then we would talk about the passage and what each one of us thought the passage meant and how can we attribute it to our lives. After that, we would hold hands together as a family and we would each say a prayer and we thanked God for His goodness. I lived for Sundays because it was so beautiful to be together as a family. That year, Joey was not around for much of the Family Sunday nights and when he was present, he was absent.

The next few weeks were difficult. Many inconsistencies with Joey’s schedules, missing hours from his paycheck that he said he was going to find out what happened because he had worked those hours, to him coming home late from playing soccer and me not saying anything because I didn’t want him to leave, and I thought as long as I didn’t ask him where he was and I believed everything that he said, he would stay. I learned to not question where he was because it would make him upset and I didn’t want to make him upset.

The kids were doing good in school, they were happy and in afterschool sports. Andrew was playing soccer and Ryan was working. I was working quite a bit and happy. But there was always this incomplete feeling inside. I was left with a forced truth that my husband was not cheating on me and I had to accept that truth because in reality, there was no hard-core evidence, even though I knew different.

I would go on to make sure to have his clothes out every night, to making sure that he had ironed clothes for work the next day, to having his dinner ready for him as soon as he walked through the door on the table with something to drink and I thought if I just kept doing all of those things, I would be perfect in every way and I did do these things while I was working, taking care of the kids, taking care of the home, taking care of the bills, taking care of everything that had to be taken care of and during that time I also ran myself into the ground with my health.

I was in the busy season at my job and I was working 13 to 14 hour days, having just enough time to get home with takeout. Sitting with the kids and doing their homework and then having to clean my home to making school lunches for the kids I would have just enough energy to wash my kitchen floor at 10 o’clock at night because I was not going to allow my home to get out of control and to know that I could have a few things in control, like being able to keep on my home schedules, that was important to me.

I remember as a child, my mother was always meticulously clean. Our home was always in order and there was never a dirty dish in the sink. The floors were always beautifully clean. Mom put baby powder in our sneakers at night so they would be fresh for us in the morning. That was the interesting thing about Mom, that was that while she was savagely abusive, she also kept our home beautiful. But along with that clean home came ways that were very unhealthy. When I was 10 years old and living in Walpole Massachusetts mom would have some really bad days and sometimes things were just not clean enough for her. 

Mom sent me to my bedroom to go clean it one day and I always loved to clean my bedroom. It was something that brought me great joy and happiness because I really liked everything that I had in my bedroom. I had my ponies and my Strawberry shortcake dolls, my Cabbage Patch kid dolls and accessories. I enjoyed my unicorns and just keeping my room in a nice clean order. 

I never knew when mom was going to have a really bad day and I remember on that day, she didn’t seem to be too upset but I could tell that she was agitated about something and so when she sent me to my room I was happy because I didn’t have to be in her presence because I just never knew when the tide was going to turn with her. Mom could be very sweet to me one moment and then in the very next moment she would change. I would see that look in her eye. She would be good to me for a day or two and then the next 3 to 4 days would be horrific and she would always change very quick and I understood that this was part of her having severe bipolar which back in the day was called Manic Depressive.

I cleaned my bedroom as I always did, making sure that everything was nice and neat and in order. I didn’t check inside of my bureau drawers because they generally were kept nice and neat. I knew what mom liked and what was important to her and I wanted to make sure that I could please her. Taking a quick look at my bedroom and making sure that everything looked nice, I looked at my white walls with the unicorn posters and my white bedspread with the rainbows on it. My furniture was white and I really liked my bedroom. I thought it was pretty. I was very proud of my bedroom. Feeling confident, I went out into the hallway and looked for mom, she wasn’t there so I went downstairs into the kitchen. Mom was standing by the stove cooking and I’ll never forget the song that she was listening to, “Holding Onto The Years” by Simply Red. “Hey mom, my room is all set for inspection.” I looked at her and said. She didn’t turn around. She just kept stirring whatever was in the pot. “Mom?”, I asked in a hushed tone. Oh no, I thought.

Mom would not turn around to look at me, she just kept stirring whatever was in the pot. I looked at her back and just put my head down and walked away into my bedroom. I was not expecting mom to go into my bedroom that day to come and check on my room, but she did about 10 minutes later. 

“Hi mom. “, I said smiling. I looked to her face. She was not smiling. I remembered swallowing hard but there was nothing there to swallow because my mouth was so dry from anxiety. I looked around my bedroom really quick to make sure that there was nothing even showing from underneath my bed. I knew there wasn’t because I inspected every inch of my bedroom because I knew what was to come if my bedroom was not clean. I was very proud and very sure that she was going to be happy with me and my bedroom. I even cleaned my door knob on the way out with Windex and a paper towel to make sure that it was very shiny. “What’s this Melissa?”, Mom asked me. I looked to her hand to see where she was pointing and she was pointing at my pink backpack with the black straps that was sitting in the middle of a chair in my room. I looked at it and I said, “I’m sorry mom, I’ll put that into the closet now. “

I walked past mom hoping that she was not going to hit me, because usually she would take a strike but she didn’t do that this time and I thought maybe she was happy with me. The last bedroom inspection went pretty good.

Mom opened up my bureau drawers and in that moment I knew I was going to be in trouble because one of my draws was not exactly as it should’ve been, the way that she wanted it to be and I remember that it was the drawer that my pajamas was in. I always had a hard time folding my long pajamas because they were long and so I would traditionally roll them after I tried to fold them to fit everything into my drawer but I knew that mom didn’t like that.  I was afraid because I saw the look in her eyes and I knew that it was not going to be good, whatever was going to happen. So I prepared myself to get hit but mom didn’t hit me this time. Instead, mom would open up each one of my bureau draws and she would throw all of my nice neatly folded clothes out of my draws and into the middle of the floor, she did this with all six of my draws. I watched her as she threw all my clothes on the floor aggressively in a pile. Then I watched her take my nightstand apart and she dumped what was in my nightstand into the pile and then I watched her take all of the sheets off of my bed and my blankets and she threw that into the pile that was on the floor. I watched her open my closet and she took everything out of my closet and then she took all my toys that I had fixed so nice and my ponies and she threw them all into the pile that was in the middle of my floor. “Now young lady, get this room cleaned the way that it supposed to be cleaned. “, She said and she slammed the door behind her. I stood by my bed and looked at the pile that was literally as tall as I was and I stood there as tears rolled down my eyes and I started at the top of the pile and began to hang my clothes back up on the hanger but this time I had to make sure that they were just perfectly right because I was so scared of her coming in and saying that maybe my shirt was crooked to the point that I almost wanted to get out my ruler to make sure that all sides were even so she would be happy. I painfully put everything back, twice as neat as I did the first time when I cleaned my room and the whole thing took me four hours to do. The last thing that I did was to finish making my bed and I walked around my bed several times to make sure that everything was nice and neat and that I made the hospital corners just right on my bed. I looked around my room, even more perfect and I was very proud of it, but I had been proud of it before. I opened up my bedroom door and I walked out. I remember I was shaking and I was nervous. I walked up to my mother and I told her that my bedroom was done and did she want to come in and inspect it. She looked at me and followed me into the bedroom. I was waiting for her to find some thing wrong but praying that she would be happy with my room. I waited for her to go check inside of my drawers and the closet remembering that it was my bureau drawers that made her upset. Mom didn’t look inside the closets. She never saw how neatly that I hung every shirt and every pair of pants. She never saw how I straightened my shoes just perfectly in the bottom of the closet. She never saw how each of my stuffed animals was sitting neatly – even the bunny rabbit ears were nice and sticking up. She never looked into my draws. She never looked under my bed. She never complemented about how nice that the bed looked. She didn’t say anything she just said that it looked okay and she walked out of the bedroom. When she left, I just remember sitting down to play with my ponies but this time I couldn’t really play with them, so instead I held them very close to my face and I remember crying into my ponies mane and the silky hair was absorbing my tears because I needed somebody to hold me and to comfort me and I had my ponies and I had my dolls and I grabbed them and I laid in the middle of my floor in a fetal position making sure to not make any noise but I cried so much that afternoon I cried without making any noise but I cried to the point that I fell sleep on my floor. I just could never get anything right it seemed, no matter how hard I tried, and there I was, years later, with my husband, trying to make everything perfect and I didn’t get it because what was I doing wrong? How come I couldn’t get anything right? That would go on for years with the way I felt with never being able to be good enough for anybody. 

Christmas was coming and I was sure that everything was going to be perfect and our marriage was getting better I said.

…. December 31, 2005 would prove to be the worst nightmare of my life…. to be continued

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