Project 52, Week 40, Part Two — Heartbreak

It’s time for Project 52, Week 40!

40 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 40 — June 14, 2004, to June 14, 2005.

Last time, I covered the start of that year, right up until the time that my husband started having an affair.

No, I didn’t know it was an affair. I found out in August 2006 — so a year and a half later.

Anyway, the previous November, I’d found out about an SCBWI Writers’ Retreat in Paris. I so wanted to go! But it was expensive. So my husband generously offered to give me this gift. The one catch was we’d have to put off the family ski trip we were planning for over Thanksgiving.

Steve really wanted to go on a ski trip. He grew up in upstate New York and loved to ski. Me? Not so much. So as it approached, he said we couldn’t really afford a family trip. Why shouldn’t he just go alone? After all, I was going on the Writers’ Retreat myself. It made sense to me.

But that week, Steve was terribly sick with the flu. Here’s my journal entry from Thursday, February 10, 2005:

Steve’s going skiing this weekend. He wanted to feel that he has interests and activities and a life outside work. The only trouble is — He’s terribly sick with the flu. Since Tuesday, he’s had a bad sore throat and earache and a fever. He’s gone to work anyway, though his co-workers say he looks terrible. I guess he figures if he can work while he’s sick, he can certainly ski while he’s sick!

His train leaves at 5 am tomorrow for Innsbruck, Austria. He’ll get back at midnight on Sunday.

Make no mistake about it, I urged him to put off the ski trip, since he was so sick. But he was adamant. However, I really worried about him. It didn’t help that he didn’t call until Sunday. I didn’t have the phone number at his hotel. He’d said he’d just find a place once he got there.

From my Quiet Time journal on Saturday:

Lord, watch over Steve on his ski trip. Draw him to You. Call his name. Let him have time to think about the life You have for him.

On Sunday, I was in Psalm 91. This was before he called.

Father, I know from Psalm 91 that You are watching over Steve.

So I refuse to worry about him or let my imagination think up things that could go wrong.

Lord, I ask that You watch over Steve on his trip. Let him get a chance to call me. Speak to Steve, Father. Get his attention. Help him to be the man You made him to be.

Let Steve be energized and invigorated, with new excitement about his life.

Thank You that You hear my prayer and answer.

Let our Valentine’s Day be a beautiful time of growing closer together.

Truth check: Much later, Steve told me this was when their affair started. I’m afraid it gave me a certain satisfaction to realize that when they started out, he was sniffling and coughing and very sick.

Anyway, Monday was Valentine’s Day. I see we went out to dinner and a movie, but I don’t remember what movie. There was a USAFE Awards Lunch that day, and Steve the award of Senior NCO of the Year!

We had some more beautiful snow that month.

2005_02_22 1 Snow

2005_02_22 2 Snow

On March 5, I was excited because I booked us a vacation in Rome over Spring Break. That year, Josh’s AP Art History class was taking a field trip to Florence at the start of Spring Break. (Coolest field trip EVER!) Our plan was to meet Josh in Florence when that trip ended and take a train to Rome, then Pisa, then back to Florence, finishing out Spring Break.

That same day, Saturday, March 5, Steve started a week-long trip to England. I think it was just the Brass Quintet. I’m pretty sure his co-worker Amy was not on that trip.

They were due to leave in the afternoon, at 3:00. So when Steve said he had to go to work early (He was Director of Operations.) and left around 10 am, I stooped to begging that he could stay home a little longer to be with us. He gave a funny little smile (which still haunts me) and said No, he had a lot of work to do.

After he left, I discovered he’d left his credit card at home. I was willing to bring it to work. I called him two or three times at work, but got no answer. Around 2:00, someone else answered, but they said he wasn’t there. I left a message that his credit card was at home, but he didn’t get the message in time to pick it up. It was odd.

I asked him about it on the trip, and he said he’d done some shopping for food for the trip. That didn’t explain being gone from the office four hours, but I didn’t argue. Just figured I’d missed him somehow.

That week, it turned out my Dad was going to be coming through Germany again! We made plans to pick him up at the airport in Frankfurt on Friday and bring him back to the airport on Sunday

Steve was due to get back from his trip on Saturday at midnight. I didn’t get to talk with him a lot on that trip. (It was always hard on trips going through the hotel operator.) When we talked on Wednesday or so, he said he was going to have to do some work at the office after he got home on Saturday night, so don’t wait up for him. I started stewing about that. I was going to ask him to come home right away, since we’d be driving my Dad to the airport the next day. But I didn’t get a chance to talk with Steve again before he got back.

We had a quiet weekend. After I picked up my Dad, that was the night of the Parent-Teen Brain Bowl competition. The families of the Brain Bowl team come and compete with the kids, for practice for the big upcoming tournament. On Saturday, I think we just walked around the lovely fields. There may have still been snow on the ground.

Saturday night, I couldn’t sleep, waiting for Steve. I was anxious to see him after a week away. I tried calling the office two or three times, but never got an answer. I thought about driving to the band building to find him, but didn’t want to leave the house with everyone sleeping.

I finally went to sleep around 2:30 am. I woke up when Steve came to bed and checked the clock. It was 3 am.

We skipped church the next day, and took my Dad to the airport around noon, while the kids stayed home. On the way back from the airport, I told Steve, “If it were a novel, and a husband wasn’t where he said he’d be multiple times, that would be a sure sign it was an affair.”

He asked, “What do you mean?”

I explained that multiple times I’d called his work and he wasn’t there. (I was also thinking of the day he’d left for the trip, which still hadn’t been explained adequately, but mostly the night before.)

Steve looked me in the eye, and he said, “I’m not having an affair.”

I explained that I knew that, but I’d sure think a character in a novel was dumb if she didn’t suspect an affair in my situation.

Steve said he’d been really sick to his stomach the night before, so had spent a lot of time in the restroom. (Hmmm. Thinking about it now, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was very true.) That didn’t begin to explain how many many times I’d tried to call him. And it didn’t clear up my frustration that I’d never gotten to ask him not to work late that night. I was really missing my husband after his week away. But I didn’t want to complain about having such a hard-working husband….

That day, all my calendar says is “Nap.”

The next day, Monday, was March 14, 2005. I had a day off (still working 20 hours per week at the base library). The kids were at school and Steve was at work.

When I made my bed, I noticed a whole lot of white hairs on the bedspread. Those were Dalmatian hairs.

[Edited to add: Over Christmas break, while Amy was out of town, Steve had offered to walk her Dalmatians, and did it with me. (I think there was no point in hiding this, and he may have still been hoping I’d be willing to get a dog. I was happy to have the outing with him.) That was when I’d learned that Dalmatian hair — little short white hairs — gets all over EVERYTHING.]

But I’d vacuumed while Steve was on his trip. (Yes, it was a month after Christmas break! Don’t judge!) These were new Dalmatian hairs. On my bed.

Calm down, Sondy. If he’d been with Amy the night before, there’d be Dalmatian hairs on his coat.

I checked. There were Dalmatian hairs. But only a few. Probably still leftover from before?

But I then looked at the laundry he had in a basket downstairs from his trip. (He’d started doing his own laundry after trips. Some time or other I’d complained about having lots of laundry to do when he got back.) Well, in the basket underneath some other clothes were a pair of socks — completely covered in Dalmatian hair.

To say I was devastated is putting it mildly.

My husband was having an affair!

No! There must be some mistake! This wasn’t possible! We loved each other! He was committed to me!

Well, I called Steve at work and said, “We need to talk!” There was urgency in my voice.

He promised to come right home at lunchtime. I had an hour where I was sure my husband was having an affair.

I’d ALWAYS thought if my husband had an affair, I’d divorce him in a heartbeat. In fact, in the 90s, I’d despised Hillary Clinton because she hadn’t divorced her husband. I thought surely she only stayed with him because she was power hungry.

But when it came down to it, I was far too bewildered to want divorce. I didn’t believe it could be true. Steve must not understand that I loved him! No, we could fix this!

When Steve walked in the door, I showed him the socks and cried.

He looked me in the eye and said, “I’m not having an affair….”

[Dear Reader, everything I did and said in the next year and a half was filtered through the fact that I BELIEVED my husband would not look me in the eye and lie to me.

I was wrong.]

He continued, “… but I am living a double life.”

He said that he’d continued walking dogs with Amy, and he’d started going to her house and watching movies. That night, they’d watched the movie Mulan.

[Yes, Dear Reader, I believed my husband when he said he was at a young woman’s house from midnight to 3 am and they only watched a movie. This trust also has the effect of making me feel pretty darn stupid.]

He said he needed a friend because I hadn’t been there for him.

I was catching a bad cold that day already. I learned that doing lots of crying feels pretty much the same as having a bad cold. Also, a broken heart actually physically hurts. Who knew?

Here’s what I wrote in my Quiet Time journal on March 14:

“Light is shed upon the righteous
and joy on the upright in heart.”

Father, I need some light and some joy.

Today I found out that Steve has been lying to me in order to spend time with Amy. He apologized; I forgave him. But I feel cut to the quick, heartbroken and worthless. I feel like this means that even my husband can’t love me.

Father, Steve says he does love me. Steve says that partly he lied to me because it seemed like our relationship was getting better. But that was a lie, too.

Oh, Father, please help us! Please let my husband love me. Please help us to be best friends again. Father, You made me. Help me to remember that I do have value to You.

Lord, give me love and forgiveness toward Steve. Help me to be there for him. Help him to turn to me.

Lord, Steve is hurting so much. Please, please draw him to You.

You see, Steve said that he’d really needed a friend and I hadn’t been there for him. What I heard is this: Steve needed me! And I wasn’t there for him! Oh, I was so ready to make up for that!

And I need to get to work, so that’s going to be it for this installment.

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