We all have things from our past that haunt us. Traumatic events from our childhood, bad adolescent decisions, soured relationships, things we would change if someone would ever invent a time machine. For me, there were a lot of things I would like a do-over on. However, what haunts me most isn’t something I did, but something I had no choice but to endure.
In the early to mid 90’s I was a young mother and wife. Things weren’t always easy, but I didn’t think we were miserable. My sons were two and four and quite the handful. I spent most of my days trying to keep up with my very active toddlers. They were sweet and I loved being their mom.
My husband came home from work one morning to confess that he had done something irresponsible at work and was probably going to lose his job. We cried together and promised that whatever happened, we would get through it together. In the days and weeks that followed, I thought we were doing just that. I found a part time job to try to make up for the cut in pay he had to take when he found another job. He worked long hours and traveled to other cities, and sometimes even other states, to take as much work as he could. It was a lonely time, but I convinced myself that we were a team and were working hard to provide for our family. Little did I know that he had met another woman at work. It wasn’t long until that woman became his mistress. Those long hours became even longer. I had no idea that they weren’t all spent working.
There were signs that I probably refused to see. Who wants to think that their husband and children’s father is cheating on them? He would come home in the wee hours of the morning. He would leave the room when taking phone calls. I would even answer the phone when she called and hand it to him because . . . well, it was about work. I felt so stupid when her husband finally called me to tell me the truth.
You are probably thinking, “While this is really sad, it isn’t uncommon. People cheat and get divorced all the time.” I want to tell you that my marriage falling apart isn’t what haunts me. It isn’t the feeling of helplessness, or abandonment, or humiliation, or shame that haunts me. It isn’t the hours of holding a crying child when he doesn’t understand why Daddy won’t come home and trying to convince him it isn’t because he’s been bad. It isn’t the rejection or the betrayal or the financial struggle that followed.
This particular woman who participated in the dissolution of my marriage was particularly cruel. Late at night, after holding my sons as they cried themselves to sleep, she would call me. I would jump to answer the phone before my boys would wake up and I had to start all over again. Why would she call me, you might wonder? To taunt me. Apparently it wasn’t enough that she had my husband’s attention. She wanted mine too. She would laugh and tell me how much she enjoyed my husband, in every sense of the word. This would happen several times a week. Sometimes the phone would wake me up and I wondered if it was real or just another nightmare because I would hear her voice in those too.
Her voice is what haunts me. I was never afraid of her. I didn’t think that she would ever hurt me or my children. Her voice haunts me because before I experienced this, I never thought one human being could ever be that cruel to another. It was as though she thoroughly enjoyed twisting the knife in my already broken heart. It haunts me to think that people like this exist.
Now, you must be thinking I hate her. I certainly have every reason to despise this woman. Maybe I did at one time, but I don’t now. Hatred and bitterness only serve to destroy yourself. My revenge was a life well lived. My sons grew up to be successful, educated men who married lovely young women. I remarried and had four more children. My current husband treats me like a queen, (most of the time, hahaha) I have a career now that my youngest are in high school. Life if good, but every once in a while that nightmare reappears when things are stressful and her voice tells me that I’m not good enough, not pretty enough, not enough to keep my family together.
The past is in the past, but if I could ever gather the courage to talk to her, I would want her to know how I feel now. First, I would offer forgiveness. We all do stupid thing when we are young and none of us deserve to carry that around forever. I would also tell her I hope she has changed. Being cruel and spiteful is no way to live. I’m sure when she made those calls, she had no idea that I would carry it around for 25 years, that her voice would haunt my nightmares to this day. Today, if she is the woman I hope she is, she probably feels terrible about that. Guilt isn’t any more enjoyable for her than terror is for me. I would also hope that she’s taught her children to be kind and to avoid making the same mistakes she made. Making others feel small doesn’t make us any bigger.
Ladies, we need to hold each other up, not tear each other down. Let us never make another woman feel the way I did all those years ago when I picked up that phone. We need to make an effort to support each other, encourage each other, improve each other’s lives. Our world can only be better if we are. Let’s not haunt each other.