Rashamon Syndrome

I have taken some time off from writing to work, commute and run after three kids and a puppy. Isabelle is doing remarkably well and is walking all over the place. She has learned that standing still is not a good plan if the puppy is around because he sees it as an opportunity to give her lots of love. She doesn’t particularly enjoy this love, especially since he tends to knock her down and frantically lick her face. I wonder what goes through her mind when he does this. It must be terrifying and exciting at the same time. Needless to say I have had her on my hip while he is out of the crate. I haven’t had a dog since 1982 and am thrilled with having him with us until he finds a spot on the rug.

Last week was surreal. While I was working from home I received a phone call from my mother telling me that my second husband, Sean, had died. Of course I didn’t believe it until I saw his picture staring back at me with his name and dates listed. I saw that he had lost a great deal of his family already, including a sister who was very fond of Elizabeth. There were no clues to how he died in the obit but I had a pretty good guess on what happened.

People were funny. Some apologized as if I had lost a friend. Others commented on how mixed my emotions must be. Lots of speculation and putting pieces together, and I did genuinely feel bad for those who felt that they lost a friend. I know there were people who felt close to him and whom he enjoyed being around. I hadn’t been around him in years. And how did I feel, exactly? I didn’t really have a finger on it until I went to yoga Sunday night. Up until then I went along with what everyone was saying about how hard he tried to stay sober and how talented he was.

And then there were the Facebook posts. The comments saying what a good guy he was. How tragic this was.

And it hit me. I’m not sad, I am furious. Furious at this image that people seem to have of this person. That they got to have a ‘nice’ version of him while I was given a very different one. Furious that what my daughter and I went through meant nothing. Furious at how much we suffered and how much I had lost. We were together for five years and it was rocky to say the least. Before he had a gig his stress would lash out at me and it got so bad I would dread his show dates. I would spend more time trying to calm him down and getting verbally abused than enjoying the music. It wasn’t all bad and I have thought of some of the nice moments we had, but they are blackened with his anger at the world. I suffered because he never had a chance-and what really made this tragic – was that he knew it. I suffered because he was miserable. It hurt me and it hurt my daughter. She will never be the same and I know i am responsible for part of it. For staying. For believing a lie. So when people start with the “He was a great guy” I want to say- “Really? Was he a great guy when he called me a see you next Tuesday on a regular basis? Was he a great guy to terrorize my young daughter who adored him even though he never deserved it? Was he a great guy who continually lied about everything to me and when I would try to get the truth he would come close to actually hitting me? Great guy. Sure. Broken man? Unhappy in ways I couldn’t fix? Definitely. I was so bitter after we split I would wish that horrible things would happen to him. Losing the life he had wasn’t enough for me.

Here are a few memories that have circulated in my slide viewer:

1. the 14 days when my name was “See You Next Tuesday” because I thought he should try to get a job with benefits.

2. The feeling of my bedroom wall against my back as I looked downward over my right shoulder holding a laundry basket, trying to protect myself as he screamed in my face.

3. Holding his hands on our wedding day and wondering why he was shaking and sweating so much.

4. Wanting a first dance and being told as we went across the dance floor that I needed to leave him the fuck alone.

5. Him screaming at Elizabeth and calling her a liar. Her calling me one night, in tears, hiding in a closet when I was on the Kingston train trying to get home.

Most of these memories are when he was sober. Or at least when he said he was sober. It’s funny how people have different views of the same situation. It’s called the Rashamon syndrome, after the classic movie of the same name. The movie shows the story of a murder and a series of events told by three witnesses all telling very different stories. After talking with a few different people about him and heard various opinions. I used to wonder why I stayed with him for so long. Funny thing is when you are stuck telling yourself lies such as “If I just hang in there….he will be the man I need him to be,” it’s hard to leave the lie. When I saw him for who and what he really was, I realized that there was no way I could stay. Not only was it just unhealthy, but I was trying to make him into someone he couldn’t be. I know he wanted to be that person, probably more than anything at one time. But heroin won that fight and I knew I had no choice. Asking him to change that much wasn’t fair to anyone, most of all him.

I mourned the end of my relationship with him years ago. He hasn’t been the man he was when I knew him in a long time. His death didn’t shock me. I feel terribly for his remaining siblings. I did not attend the services. It wasn’t appropriate for me to be there and I didn’t want to be. I thought back to our wedding night and how happy I was that we finally took that step and the naive hope I had for us to have a happy life.

Tonight after my usual Friday night gathering, I thought of how lucky I am to have the life I have now. I have a wonderful husband who has never sworn at me. We have three beautiful children and a home in North Plymouth. I am where I am supposed to be.

I hope that this soul comes back for another round and that this time, it finds a place with a family who truly wants it. I hope the family showers that soul with attention and love that it desperately needed. I hope it never wants for anything and is always surrounded by joy. I can reach a place of forgiveness, because I have found it is easier to forgive than to hold onto the bitterness. And I can stay there until someone says to me what a great guy they thought he was. I wish I could say he was that way to me. I was his wife, he should have been.

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