I'm trying to hold fast to my promise to take the most dignified path possible out of my marriage. Say nothing publicly, ruin no friendships, leave Jeff every chance possible to make a good life for himself once I am gone. I got a taste yesterday, though, of just how angry I am, and just how easy it would be to scorch the earth behind me. How tempting.
I believe Jeff is a person capable of good and caring things. In the past year, though, I've seen him make choices that the pre-accident Jeff would never make, and the end result could well be a person that I never want to hear from or speak with again. I know that he's admitted to at least one friend that he's chosen to do things (sadly, unspecified) solely for the reason to make me angry or provoke a response from me. I'm grateful to the friend who immediately called him on it, but this is a Pandora's box. If he's had the thought, and acted on it, how many times has it happened? I have no way of knowing.
I know that when I returned home from a 10-day trip this past week, I had no mail waiting on me. At all. When I asked Jeff where it was, he said I didn't have any. I have been working to get catalogs and extraneous mail stopped, but this is an ongoing process and isn't complete yet. I was instantly somewhat skeptical of the lack of mail, increasingly so when I realized there was, indeed, something I was expecting: a new copy of my credit card.
I called my bank. My bank confirmed that the physical card has indeed been mailed. The absolute drop-dead date for the card to arrive is Tuesday. (Monday is a federal holiday.) If the card doesn't arrive in Tuesday's mail, I need to assume that the card has been misplaced or trashed, and call to receive a new one.
I thought about this situation a lot last night while sitting in the living room. My mom, and her husband Paul, are visiting this weekend. It's their first visit in many many months, and they both know that Jeff and I are splitting up. I'd tried to prepare Mom last night for what she was likely to see when she was in the living room for a while, and I think maybe she didn't believe me. He's going to sit in the living room. He will have his iPad in his lap, and be engrossed in it for hours. He'll speak to you if you ask a direct question, but his response will be factual and short. He will not initiate conversation with you, and he will not pay attention to any conversation we have. He will remain absorbed in the iPad for hours. That will be all he does.
Sadly? I nailed it. We returned from touring Cathedral Caverns, and Jeff was on the iPad. He said hello to my mother after she prompted him, then went back to the iPad. He stayed on it while we talked, and while we made a light dinner. We turned on the television because Paul wanted to watch the Alabama-LSU game.
- Would you like something to drink? "Water, please."
- Would you like some of the guacamole? "Sure."
- Do you want some of the grapes? "Sure."
That, plus acknowledging the initial hello, was the sum total of his communication over five hours last night. Never mind that Mom and Paul had driven hours to see us. Or that we see them maybe twice a year, tops. Or that my mother and I were discussing things like coping with the changes in my grandmother since her dementia has become advanced. Not even a goodbye at the end of the evening.
Watching Jeff's behavior leaves me with a combination of sadness and rage. I can't tell if the root cause is intellectual inability to relate to others, emotional inability to relate to others, inability to follow conversation, inability to control impulsive behavior making it impossible to tear himself away from the iPad, or poor decision-making capabilities causing him to think that making me uncomfortable was the best choice.
As I waved goodbye to my mom last night, I had one thought: if she had any questions today about why I'm leaving, Jeff just presented a five-hour thesis defense on why I need to get the hell out of Dodge sooner rather than later. Even though she's never asked, she'll never dream of asking now.
I know why I'm still here. Holding out, especially when I'm traveling so much, means that I'm not spending money on a place I wouldn't see, or on moving my possessions twice. It means I get more two-income-no-mortgage paychecks to put toward feathering my nest in a way that I will be grateful of for years to come. I'm to the point of gritting my teeth and reciting the litany of items purchased with the most recent paycheck, or the ones I'm about to get with the next one, as a reminder of why to stick out the day.**
Deep down, though, I just want to fucking shake him. My mom cares about Jeff, and would love to talk with him. He's been in her life for eighteen years, and she wants to know how he's doing. She's always genuinely liked Jeff and respected him, and I wish I had some way of getting through to him that this is someone he should be kind to, take an interest in, at least acknowledge in token conversation.
Days like yesterday force me to see in brutal, stark terms the person I've lost. I know Jeff spends hours every day composing emails, though I don't know who they're to; I find myself wondering, do the recipients of those emails see what's happening here? I can't tell. I don't know, and I'm not staying to find out. I'm in Alabama for sixteen more days, then gone to a combination of Atlanta and Portland for 19 days. I'll be back in Huntsville for 11 more days after that, and then in Australia and New Zealand for 67 days before returning back to Alabama one last time to finish packing and drive west for good.
I find myself wanting to apologize to my mother for what she saw. She cheered so hard for his survival. Maybe we should've been more specific.
**Last paycheck bought cookware. This one buys speakers and the last of the kitchen equipment.