Special Delivery

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On Sunday, February 28, 2010, it appeared that history was made at our house.

On that particular day, we were probably the only people in the United States to receive mail delivery. More specifically, I was the “chosen one” who was honored in that special way.

Not only did I discover an envelope addressed to me in my mailbox, but it was also opened and left unsealed. You couldn’t have begun to imagine how fortunate and blessed I felt that someone cared so much about me and wanted to make my life, my birthday and my weekend easier by previewing my mail and getting it ready for me.

After all, had my envelope been left alone, I could have received a nasty paper cut (or possibly much worse) when I went to retrieve the contents. Those days one couldn’t have been too careful. You never knew who could have sprinkled a little Antrax inside.

I should have thanked my lucky stars to have been the recipient of such attentive service.

If I were delusional, stupid or incompetent, I might have.

Instead, I was reeling over Dick’s latest shtick. Being my birthday weekend, he was going above and beyond his usual antics. Heavens forbid I should have a few days of peace and enjoy myself without him making my life a living hell.

Opening my mail, reading it and putting it back in the mailbox on a day when there was no mail delivery, was not only mean, irritating, childish and vengeful, it was a crime. Mail tampering was a federal offense. Dick needed to be stopped and finally put in his place.

The next day, Monday, March 1, 2010, there were more postal surprises to deal with. Our mail receptacle was a square wooden box affixed to the inside of our garage wall. An opening outside of the building was where incoming mail was deposited. If we were lucky, all the parcels landed in the box and not all over the garage floor. For the most part, the letters tossed in wound up somewhere in the middle of the bottom of the receptacle.

On that particular day, a few letters were neatly lined up flush against the far surface of the container. If one did not look carefully, they would have easily been missed. Now I can assure you, this was not the work of our friendly neighborhood mail person. The odds of all of those envelopes landing in the formation they were discovered in were probably infinity to one. As sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, that mail was strategically and methodically placed in that position.

It wouldn’t take too many guesses to figure out who carried out that feat. The question was, What would possess Dick to do something like that? And the appropriate follow-up question to this would have been, Didn’t he have anything better to do with himself?

At times like that, it was hard to believe that Dick was a doctor. You’d think he’d have been concentrating on saving lives (or at least in his case, making sure his patients feet were comfortable) instead of continuously scheming on how to destroy mine. Obviously, his priorities were a little skewed.

When I checked to see what was delivered, I was shocked at what I discovered. A bill from my credit card company was opened and resealed. In addition, a letter from our mediator addressed to me was tampered with and mail addressed to Ashley was already opened as well.

He had taken things way too far.

I called the post office, spoke with a manager and explained to him what I discovered. I didn’t mention that I thought Dick was doing this. While he was my primary suspect, I was only going on the assumption that he was the likely culprit. And the reality was, who else would want to get into my garage and mess with the mail.

I was told to save the envelopes as evidence and call the police to report this as a “suspicious occurrence.”

I was happy to oblige.

 

 

Party On…

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When it rained, it poured. On occasion, that was a good thing.

My birthday was turning out to be one of my best ones in years.

Another close friend of mine wanted to make me a special dinner, so she invited Ashley and me over for a little soiree on Saturday night.

As it turned out, Ashley was invited to a Sweet 16 party and had to take a pass. As it also turned out, she had to be at her affair at the same time I had to be at my friend’s house.

Like I said…when it rained, it poured.

Since Dick was home, Ashley asked him if he would pick her up at the end of the evening. Before Dick would commit, he expected to know the exact time when he needed to be there. Ashley couldn’t answer that question definitively because the party was going to end whenever everyone was ready to go home. This reply was not good enough for Dick. Being the anal kind of guy that he was, he made Ashley call the hostess to get a better answer. Not surprisingly, the response was still the same. Imagine that! That still wasn’t acceptable to Dick. I couldn’t understand how his brain operated. Somehow, he thought that if he asked the same question enough times, eventually he’d get the answer he wanted to hear.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t his lucky day. Nor was it Ashley’s. Dick told her he was going out and wouldn’t be available to pick her up. Imagine that! Like he didn’t know he had plans before he put Ashley through all that!

So, in the middle of the afternoon, Ashley made frantic calls to all of her friends who were going to the party to try to arrange a carpool. It should have come as no surprise that at that late time, mostly everyone had already made plans. Finally she was able to set up something with one of her friends who was in a debate tournament that afternoon but unfortunately wouldn’t be able to leave her house until 6:00 pm. Coincidentally, that was the time the Sweet 16 was called for and also when I was supposed to be at my friend’s house. Imagine that! However, it was what it was and at least Ashley was able to get a ride home and I could stay at my friend’s house as late as I wanted. And of course, Dick was not inconvenienced at all. I never could figure out how this guy did it. Without fail, he was always able to screw things up for everyone else while not being affected at all.

Nevertheless, we worked things out the best we could. Unfortunately, there was no way the girls were going to make it to the party on time. Also, I had to call my friend and explain why I would be late as I had to pick up Ashley’s friend and drop the girls off at the party. She and her husband were not surprised.

Things were not starting out the way I had hoped. My nerves were completely shot and I was very riled up over the whole situation.

However, once I finally got to my destination, I started to mellow out. The bottle of wine I brought helped out tremendously. My friend, who was a phenomenal cook, prepared an amazing meal. Again, I ate way too much! After dinner, she surprised me with a spectacular birthday present— a beautiful, hot pink purse. I needed a new bag very badly. She realized that and wanted me to have something colorful to cheer me up. She also mentioned that “hot pink” was one of the hottest colors for spring. So not only did I get something that I loved, I was going to be hip, happening and styling too! Then she and her husband sang “Happy Birthday” to me and we devoured the homemade birthday cake and candies she made. Too full to move, the three of us played a word association game.  We laughed the night away. When I looked up at the clock , I was shocked to see that it was 2:00 am. It was hard to believe that the hours flew by so quickly.  I was so happy, touched and elated. Was I really the same person who started out the evening totally flipped out and a complete wreck? I was floating on Cloud 9. There was absolutely, positively nothing that would bring me down from the high that I was on. That’s how amazing I felt.

That was until I came home.

Since Josh went back to school, I took up residence in his room. When I left the house earlier in the day, I locked his bedroom door and took the cheap, generic key that could be used to open any number of doors with me. When I returned home, Dick and Ashley were sound asleep. Standing outside my temporary sleeping quarters, with key in hand, I was shocked to see that the door was already opened.

So much for privacy!

While the door could easily be opened with a straightened paperclip, I didn’t think that Dick would be so brazen as to unlock the door and leave it wide open.

That cocky, arrogant jerk was sending me a message loud and clear that he could do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted and no one was going to stop him…especially me.

 

My Birthday

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Since Dick was not in Scottsdale like he had planned to be and because he had already taken off of work and wouldn’t be going to the office, not only was he home all morning, but he wouldn’t get out of bed.

This was going to be a problem.

I needed to take a shower and get dressed. One of my friends was taking me out to lunch and I had to meet her at noon. My bathroom was in my bedroom,  which Dick refused to vacate. We had been sharing the lavatory. When he felt like being cooperative, he’d leave the room so I could have privacy to bathe and dress.

However, on that particular morning, he made it clear that he wasn’t going anywhere. I knew he was looking to start an argument. Before I answered him, the strangest image popped into my head. I saw myself dribbling a basketball at half court, watching the time run out on the clock.  At that moment I realized I was in control of the situation. I just needed to take my time and not react immediately.

So, instead of responding to him, which is what I knew he was hoping I would do, I started humming a medley of Jason Mraz’s songs while I gathered my towel, soap, shampoo, hair dryer, makeup and clothes. Appearing totally upbeat and jovial, I exited the room with a dance in my step and my belongings in my arms.

Being completely inconvenienced, on my birthday no less, I took a shower in my kids bathroom and dressed in Josh’s room. However, it was worth the hassle because I had the satisfaction of not letting Dick suck me into an argument with him. He was looking for a way to drag me down to his level and made sure he spoiled the anniversary of the day I was born. I didn’t let him. Not only was I getting older, I was getting a little wiser as well!

I was happy to leave that bitter, angry, pitiful man behind to marinate his thoughts in the poison he concocted.

I was also looking forward to starting my birthday celebration with a positive frame of mind.

One of my closest friends was taking me out to eat at Lovell’s of Lake Forest. This elegant restaurant in Lake Forest, Illinois, owned by James Lovell (the Apollo 13 astronaut) and his family has always been a great place to celebrate a special occasion. I was definitely ready to do that.

Lunch was wonderful. It was so nice to sit, relax, talk and enjoy a delicious meal as if I didn’t have a care in the world or a miserable man waiting to torment me when I got home. The hours passed by as if they were minutes. When we finally left the restaurant, it was time to start getting ready for dinner. That old saying really is true—”Time flies when you are having fun.”

I was getting into the birthday spirit so I decided to stop at the local grocery store and treat myself to a birthday cake. As I was checking out, I mentioned to the cashier that it was my birthday and I for the first time in my life, I had to buy myself my own cake. All of a sudden, she and her bagger assistant started singing me “Happy Birthday.” I was so touched. Complete strangers were doing everything in their power to make me feel special on my special day.

I took Ashley out for my birthday dinner to a cute little Italian restaurant. Of course, we ate too much and were completely stuffed. However, in honor of that special occasion, our waiter brought out the most amazing homemade cannolis. We couldn’t refuse them. It would have been rude! So we forced ourselves to indulge. Ashley encouraged me to make a wish before I blew out the candle. I must have sat there for several minutes with my eyes closed as I prayed for a long list of things I would have loved to come into my life .

After dinner, we went to the movie theater and saw Dear John. I’ve always been a sucker for a sappy love story. However, after watching that film, it just reinforced to me what I didn’t have in my life and how much I craved having a special guy to celebrate my special day with me.

When we came home, we were still filled to the brim from what we ate earlier. While we couldn’t stomach the thought of eating another morsel, Ashley put candles in my cake and sang me “Happy Birthday.” Once again I closed my eyes, stood there for way too long as the wax from the illuminated flames effortlessly dripped down onto the frosting, wished for everything that’s been missing from my life for far too long and blew out the candles in one swift breath. We put the cake back into the fridge, knowing that the next day it would be consumed and enjoyed.

All in all, it was a spectacular day. In addition to all the celebrating I did throughout the day, I was showered with phone calls, birthday cards, e mails and an outpouring of birthday wishes on Facebook.

It was the best birthday I had in a long, long time. I went to sleep happy, content and feeling very lucky to have so many caring, loving people in my life.

It seemed like my wishes were starting to come true.

Pre-Birthday Jitters

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On Thursday, February 25, 2010, Dick left for a long weekend to visit Juanita.

His timing was actually perfect. I was ecstatic.

M birthday was the next day, Friday, February 26th. With him going away, Dick unknowingly was giving me the best birthday gift of all— leaving me alone and being as far away from me as possible! Never in my wildest dreams could I ever have imagined that this would have been the best present I could have possibly received for my birthday.

Finally, something was going my way!!! I looked up to the sky and mouthed “Thank you.”

By mid-morning I was starting to relax and unwind. By the late afternoon I was nearly floating on air.

That was until Ashley came home from school and hit me with a bombshell. She told me that Dick texted her and said that his flight was canceled. If he couldn’t reschedule to one taking off later that afternoon, he’d be home by 10:30 that evening.

NOOOOOOOOOO, I screamed silently in my head.

I quickly got on my computer and checked American Airlines flight status. There were no canceled flights headed to the Valley of the Sun.  The plane Dick was supposed to be on not only took off on time, it landed early. Something was fishy. All I could hope for was that somehow he re-booked on another airline.

My excitement was short-lived. At 10:00 PM, Dick came home…but his luggage didn’t.

The only thing that could have happened was that in between the time Dick got to the airport and before he was supposed to board the plane, he and Juanita got into a humongous argument and she told him not to bother coming to see her. Most likely he checked his bag when he got to the airport and his luggage went out to Arizona without him. I deduced that was why he returned empty-handed.

With Dick home, it was a given that he would do everything he could think of to ruin my birthday.

Welcome Home!

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When I walked through the door, my family room looked exactly like it did before I left for Indiana.

Ashley’s Sweet 16 gifts were scattered all over the floor. It was nearly impossible to walk without tripping over something.

Don’t get me wrong: I love Ashley dearly. However, my daughter has always been a procrastinating slob.  Unfortunately, she could have cared less. I’m sure her attitude had everything to do with all of the friction and tension in our home. This was her way of dealing with the “mess” that all of our lives had become.

Surprisingly, Dick, being the obsessive-compulsive neat freak that he was,  didn’t make Ashley straighten up while I was gone. Actually, the more I thought about it, he was probably waiting for me to return so he could constantly badger me about getting on Ashley’s case about her “disorderly conduct.”

Ashley greeted me with,  “What are you making for dinner?”

For crying out loud, I just returned from a whirlwind weekend visiting Josh. I was drained from all of the driving and this was all she could say to me???

I asked her if her father was going to take her out to eat. She told me that she didn’t feel like going anywhere. I guess I should have felt honored that my daughter wanted to spend time with me. Looking through the pantry for something quick to make, I decided that mac and cheese and left over Sweet 16 cake were the perfect comfort foods for a cold, dreary night.

Hearing that Ashley was staying home, Dick left the house to grab some grub. Before I finished cooking, he was back.  He placed his paper cup filled with pop from the fast food joint he just dined at on the kitchen table at the spot he usually sat at. Was he actually going to sit down at the table and join us while we ate?

Yep, that’s exactly what he did. He’s always been such a control freak. It bothered him to no end if I spent any time with our kids without him hovering over us.

While we were eating, Ashley shared with me some of the responses she would give to possible interview questions she might be asked at school the next day. She was hoping to be selected as a member of the group chosen to mentor freshmen students. The competition was fierce. Ashley spent a ridiculous amount of time rehearsing her answers. She went over several of her choices with me. They all sounded great until she said if she could be any Disney character (this was actually a potential question!) she would be Goofy. I asked her why she picked Goofy.

All of a sudden, Dick started yelling at me, “Why don’t you mind your own business. Nobody wants to hear your opinion. You think you know everything but you don’t know anything. All you know how to do is give advice.”

It became clear to me that he told her to be Goofy. As calmly as I could, I told Dick that Ashley were having a discussion and not to interrupt.

I turned to Ashley and said, “You are giving our best shot to be picked for a leadership position. Why would you say that you want to be Goofy? When I pictured him,  I could hear him guffawing and acting silly.”

With that, Dick started up again. With a sarcastic snicker on his face, he continued,” Why don’t you get a job like everyone else and start making money instead of spending all of mine? You’re totally worthless. All you know how to do is write checks. I work and all you do is spend my money. Boy, are you in for a rude awakening. I have a big surprise for you. You will be living in poverty very soon.” I looked at him and said, “Whatever.”

At that moment, Ashley left the table and said she lost her appetite. My stomach was doing cartwheels, flips and acrobatic somersaults. I was afraid that my dinner would be recycled all over the kitchen walls within seconds.

After that wonderful meal, Ashley and I went down to the basement to talk privately. She wanted to know which Disney character I would be.

I asked her if she had heard of Randy Pausch. She hadn’t.  I told her that he was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, who, while he was dying from pancreatic cancer, gave a touching last lecture to his students about what was important in life.  His speech was so powerful and moving, it was posted on You Tube and immediately became a world-wide sensation. Before he died, he chronicled his experiences in a book that went on to become a best-seller.

I explained to Ashley that Randy Pausch said in life you can either choose to be a fun-loving Tigger or a sad-sack Eeyore.  He chose to be a Tigger even though his life was ending at way too young an age and he wouldn’t be able to see his kids grow up.  I said, “Like Randy, I would also choose a character that focused on the positive.

We had a finished basement. Along one wall was a built-in unit. On several shelves were knickknacks, pictures and the decoration that adorned the top of my wedding cake. As I was telling Ashley about Randy Pausch and his book, I walked over to find my copy.

What I saw made me gasp.

Every picture that I was in was turned face down and the wedding topper was hidden behind a pile of books. I asked Ashley what was going on there. “I didn’t do it,” she swiftly answered. “I’m sure you didn’t,” I responded.  Without saying another word, I put the pictures back up and retrieved the missing bride and groom.

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who the culprit was. However, I couldn’t believe how low Dick could stoop.

In reality, while he inhabited the body of a grown man, mentally and emotionally he still had the maturity level of a young child. Whenever he didn’t get his way, he threw a temper tantrum.

I knew that Dick was fuming because I went to visit Josh. He thought he could keep me grounded by not giving me the money for the trip. He was angry and retaliated because I left.

His behavior was typical of a young child who was upset when his mommy and daddy went away. Not typical of a grown adult.

Besides that, we were in the process of getting divorced. He should have been happy that I was out of the house.

Nausea swept over me (again!).  I wasn’t sure how much of it came from all of the commotion during dinner or because I was sick to my stomach from the realization that for over 26 years I never had a husband, but instead I was playing the role of “mommy” to an over-grown, spoiled-brat baby.

The visualization of this image made me want to puke.