The email popped onto the screen unexpectedly. My eyes nearly popped out of their sockets too! The sender was my ex-husband of twenty-one years ago. Curiosity got the better of me. Although I was at work, I had peeped into my personal inbox. Do I read it immediately or wait until I get home? Yes, you are right. I looked.
What a strange reaction, I suffered a panic attack as I read it, the palpitations, the rapid breathing the whole shebang. My commonsense mind looked on in wonder, what is all this about? You walked out on him all those years ago. That act made you free of the bullying, tight-fisted charade called a marriage. I had to do that for the sake of my son and quite honestly for my mental health.
This email was begging me to write back. I had saved his life, given him a new start in life. He did not acknowledge the high cost to me, physically, emotionally and yes financially. Should I forgive him for the way he treated me? This was a difficult dilemma to resolve.
After I left him, I had to start all over again. That is so easy to say, but think about it. His reckless way of running a business meant I lost my house, my savings and my eldest children who decided to live with their dad was a better option. In hindsight, they were the wise ones.
It was a second marriage for both of us. He had smart answers about why he could not sell his house to fund a move to another city to start a business and provide a home. His parents, very wealthy lawyers, had tied the house to provide an inheritance for his kids, so it had to be my beautiful big house and garden that would pay for our new venture. How much more gullible could I be? Well, I loved him and he had such a tough start in life. I felt I owed it to him to do the best I could to make a better life for him.
That meant this move. It meant us taking over a health shop and moving into a small house. Quickly he grew bored. The only thing he liked was cashing up at the end of the day’s trading and gloating about the money. I ran the shop, talked to the customers, dished out advice, then had to order the new stock and restock the shelves and don’t forget all the cleaning that goes with the shop too.
There was a room at the back of the shop, which he converted into a therapy room. Yes, you guessed, I am the trained therapist too! He planned to look after the shop and I would do the treatments. No, that was too boring for him, so he made friends with the group who taught first-aid and CPR.
Next thing he was away all day while I ran between clients and customers. The other outfit paid him, but he kept that for his ‘expenses,’ the shop and my therapies had to supply enough to cover everything else. It didn’t.
He sold our house to cover a portion of the debts and we moved into his parents one bedroomed holiday flat. We being the two of us, his youngest son and my young son. There was a covered part of the balcony, which became a bedroom for the boys. None of us had any privacy as there was only a half wall between it and our room. The shower became a store. I hated every minute of living there. Most folks thought how wonderful it would be to live right on the beachfront. I didn’t. No peace, no quiet, no plants!
The cost of the business was more than it brought in; however hard I worked. After he sold it, I found work at a local hospital. The boys went to school nearby and my husband, a teacher, went back to teaching at a school on the other side of town. He, therefore, needed the car. The rest of us could bus or walk to work and school.
In some respects, it was livable. But what I did not realise, until too late, was the medications my husband needed made him very aggressive. Not all the time. It seemed to come and go. While out working, he was fine. Living in our cramped quarters was not fine. I became the target of his aggression. If I were even a few minutes late home, that would be the start of a litany of complaints. If I was stupid enough to defend myself verbally, that escalated the situation. At first, he threw things around, usually my stuff. Then, in tears, I would beg him to stop, but no, now he was on a roll and punches were thrown instead. Mostly at me. If my son were there, he would try to protect me. My husband would belt him out of the way and off he would go again until suddenly the rage evaporated. He marched out of the flat to walk for hours on the beach. Coming back, ashamed, begging for forgiveness. Fool that I was, I forgave.
Then came the day he announced he and his son were going away to visit friends during the school holidays. I could come if I wanted, but not my son. I refused to go. They left about five in the morning as it was a long way for them to drive. To make sure I was uncomfortable, he pulled the duvet off and took it with him. The headlights were hardly out of sight before my son and I were up getting everything ready. Sharp at eight, there was a knock on the door. The removals truck was waiting.
By the time my husband stopped at services on the highway for breakfast, the loaded truck had moved off to put our few possessions into the new flat I had found. Not in a swanky suburb, but right near the hospital where I worked. They were good employers. We were always short-staffed. They were happy to allow me to work extra hours so my income would cover the costs of the flat and food if we lived carefully.
My husband came back to find the wife he thought was his economic slave had flown the coop. Life was tough, but thank goodness I had paid into an endowment policy from before I married him. Two tough years of working long hours scrimping and saving and my son studying hard. Then there was light at the end. The lad passed all his exams and decided to move back to stay with his dad and go to university. I used the endowment to clear all the debts with a little leftover.
All my sons approved of my moving overseas, back to the country of my birth. That little extra money covered the airfare, but that was all. More hard work, more long hours this time to pay off another mortgage for my own small house. Things were coming right. I had a secure job with the NHS. Yes, not great pay, but they would be a small pension in time, all hard-won now, this email asking for a second chance.
I answered the email and after a time, I did not have a shock reaction seeing his surname. Then I agreed to let him have my phone number. I never phoned him, but he phoned regularly. Strangely, all this happened after his third wife walked out on him as well! Now I listen to him tell me all about the life he had after I left. He forgets and says things about that time without realising. I learn he had told me lies. He had two properties, the house which he said was the children’s inheritance but another in the country he intended to return to on retirement. There were funds held by his parents. As soon as I left, he bought a new house and a car.
All this came at a high cost to me, not to yell or respond angrily or even have that panic attack like I had in the beginning. He thought we were getting on fine. We were, so long as he stayed a continent away from me. Then he got sicker and sicker. I’m sure there is a thing called karma. Now he phones almost daily. It’s like water off a duck's back. I have paid off my mortgage and retired. My pension is small, but then I managed on very little before, so it's not a new situation. My sons are all grown, married men with children of their own. By scrimping and with a little help from them, I get to visit them and see my grandchildren. I have a little dog as my constant, loyal, faithful companion.
Meanwhile, his regular phone calls chart a man with constant pain, slowly losing his mobility and now in pecuniary difficulties. The lesson I learned was we each have to make our own life choices and live with the consequences. I walked out but gained freedom. He lied and cheated and gained a wheelchair. It was not my responsibility to make him happy or make up for the hardships he had as a child. It was my responsibility to give my children opportunities, education and belief in themselves as a way to a fulfilled life.
Giving him a second chance to connect with me gave me freedom from the guilt of walking out, from the anger at the difficult situation then, but to revel in the simple rewards, I now enjoy.
Second chances are wonderful