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October 3, 2017

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The line that a blogger needs to draw between the personal and the public is always somewhat tenuous. How much to tell, to what depth and level?

Added to just life itself. What’s “normal”? Is this getting better? Is this what typically happens? I mean, everyone says marriage is difficult; is this what everyone deals with?

I’ve never really known the answers to these questions in any kind of a clear, definitive way. Maybe nobody does.

But I know that for myself, I was exhausted by Mikey’s anger.

It was always simmering, ready to boil up and erupt, lash out at me or the kids through words or objects thrown. This had been going on for years.

Beef, Beans and Grief – this post – was of the last day we spent together as a family. I didn’t tell you in this post that I woke up that morning having had the same recurring dream of Mikey with another woman. I laughingly told him about it over coffee, “can you believe it?! I had the same dream again of you and that lady!” He was angry with me, “dammit Meriah, why are you doing this?” and stalked away.

Gaslighting: that’s when someone manipulates (someone else) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.

Mikey was a master at this. He would make me actually feel bad for questioning anything like recurring dreams I had, like catching him in lies, or asking why he was “busy” all the time.

Back to that day, that morning, that post. He was angry, angry with the kids for not moving fast enough, not getting their jackets, not doing something or other as they prepared to leave for Beef and Beans at the Grange. Micah was so used to Mikey yelling at him that he just tuned out, which made it worse.

Driving to the Grange, Mikey’s hands were tense on the steering wheel. I remember that so clearly – I can see it all in my mind’s eye. The day was gorgeous, the light dappling and streaming through the trees lining the road, the world on the hill road we were driving upon alight in late morning glory. Amongst all that light and green and beauty was Mikey driving tensely, angrily. I didn’t want to talk because I knew he’d get angry with me for something.

When we arrived at Beef and Beans, I showed you the photos of Mikey walking ahead, of the funny car sticker that I saw. I showed you the photos of the line and food. I told you about the woman at the next table who had known my brother Dana and how upset I was, overcome with sadness.

I didn’t tell you about the fact that Mikey was angry through the meal, sitting resentfully with the kids and I. That, as usual, my first photo of him was one like this:

I never posted those. I always asked him to smile or act like he loved me, so I’d get something like this:

On and off. He could turn on and off, with the shake of a camera.

I didn’t tell you that when I followed Moxie into the hall, he came eventually, angry that he had had to do something (what was it? pack up the leftovers or was it wash off the plates? I don’t remember). I was so tired, so absolutely drained by his anger, constant, constant, always there, always in the background, always ready to rise.

I didn’t tell you about that; I didn’t take a photo of Mikey glowering at me; I took one of Moxie dancing in the grange hall and showed you that.

We went home and as we drove, he started chastising me over something. I saw the kid’s faces in the rearview mirror and I saw that look on them, like ‘oh, again‘ and I tried to stay quiet. Out of the blue came a memory of my Grandpa Jack talking about my Grandma, how they couldn’t ever go someplace and have a good time; she just had to fight. I looked at Mikey and knew he was cut from that cloth.

Mikey got home, yelled at us about the messy house, stomped off to the barn to smoke some pot and calm down, returning later. I put the kids to bed and slept curled on my side away from him, as I always did.

The next morning he was full of apologies, he always was the day after an anger eruption.

I was tired. I was leaving with the kids to go to Eureka to check on a dog, cats and house that I was going to care for a friend of a friend. I couldn’t wait to get away from him and just be able to be happy with the kids, have space without anger.

I didn’t tell you any of that on this blog.

I didn’t know how to tell you. Or I am so hopeful, I don’t know which. Or perhaps I am just very good at focusing on some bright light that makes me happy. Maybe it’s all a combination.

I didn’t tell you that Mikey broke my foot by shoving me off the camper in Mexico.

I didn’t tell you what I was thinking as I lay there with the bones of my right foot broken. I didn’t know what to do – just like I didn’t tell you that when he threw things, he threw them at me, only they were never directly at me so there was always this margin for doubt – did he really mean to do that? Was that an accident? Do normal people do that?

I didn’t tell you that Mikey never gave me gifts, not even when I made lists for him and posted them on this blog sort of half-joking.

It hurt, but I felt like maybe that was just him, and I should learn to be okay with it, because he was different from me, and I shouldn’t mold someone into me, right?

I didn’t tell you that we’d come home early from traveling so that he would do things that he had promised me he would do like set up fences to protect the kids from wild animals out there, like cut the tick-laden grass so that the kids could play outside. Like build the playground that I had purchased from money that my Grandpa Jack had left me. But instead, he would disappear, be “busy” and I’d be left in the house with the kids again, up there, isolated, with no-one around, and with it unsafe to go and play outside. When I’d ask him about why he was “busy” and couldn’t do these things for us, he’d gaslight me into apologizing to him for asking about anything at all.

Meriah’s crazy, Meriah’s depressed, Meriah must be bi-polar, Meriah’s got stuff wrong with her, mentally. Right? Why is Meriah asking about these things, damn, doesn’t she trust her husband? Look, he made bread for his family from yeast he collected from the fricking air! 

I didn’t tell you how I ended up calling on my brother Dana for everything.

Dana came to build the kid’s playground. Dana drove 2 hours to come and mow the grass for me so his niece and nephews could play outside. Dana built the fences. And then when Dana died, there was no-one to help me.

Mikey was gone always gone, “busy”.

Confused, sometimes I’d ask why he was “busy” when all of the other farmers in the valley would be at community events with their wives and families, but I was almost always alone with the kids. Why did Mikey “have to” work and they didn’t, when we were all growing the same crop in the same way, with the same conditions? I didn’t understand.

You don’t appreciate what I do for you and the kids, Meriah, how can you even be asking that of me? My shoulders hurt so much, can you please just rub them for me? 

I didn’t tell you how Mikey remained “busy” after Dana was shot, how I was with the kids and my brother was in the coma for 3 weeks, how Mikey came to help me only for one night, staying with the kids so I could sit and hold my brother’s hand through the night.

I didn’t tell you how my nephew’s wife took care of my kids while we removed the life support from my brother.

I didn’t tell you how what it felt like to be dealing with my brother’s body needing to go back to the Humboldt County sheriff’s office to get the bullets taken out of it, and how we were in Shasta County, and swimming in thick currents of grief, while dealing with this and tending to 3 small children, alone.

I lost the person I loved most, whom I was closest to in the world, and my partner did nothing to support me.

My partner was “busy” – and left me to care for three kids by myself while my mother and I dealt with the details of things that made me throw up, like what casket to bury my brother, her son, in.

I didn’t tell you any of that.

Or rather, I just focused hard on things that I could, things that brought me a measure of joy or things that felt like real things that were huger than any other – like the grief I have been walking through during this past year.

*****

Back to Beef and Beans.

The day after Beef and Beans, I went with the kids to Eureka to check on the animals that I was caring for, and I was, as I said, just happy to be outside of Mikey’s anger.

I wanted to get the iPhone 7 (the camera! the water-resistance!) and stopped off at the Verizon store. They got the phone all arranged for me, and it suddenly came to me that I should give Mikey my iPhone 6! Wow, he’d like it!

The 10th year anniversary of when we first got together was coming up; that would be perfect! So I swapped his number over to the iPhone – I was leaving to go back to the Lost Coast that afternoon, after doing some grocery shopping.

Within half an hour of swapping the number out, I received a text on my old phone (- his new phone). The text was a sexy photo of a young woman with a sexy message.

I felt that brain explosion – that tingling, like, ‘holy shit, this is going to change my life’.

I wrote back to her, asking who she was, saying who I was. No response. I wrote to Mikey’s other number (forwarding the photo and text of course), asking who she was, saying it would be kind to be honest.

He said they had exchanged numbers in June.

My brain exploded again in that tingle, and I nosed the car back to the house that I was sitting, deeply grateful to have space away from Mikey for the next few weeks to figure things out.

When Mikey didn’t come forth and try and save anything about our marriage, I filed for divorce.

He still did nothing.

I moved to Blue Lake, to Dana’s house, to live with my mom, with the kids, he did nothing.

He didn’t come to see the kids, he didn’t call them, he didn’t FaceTime them, he did absolutely nothing.

Or rather, he did a lot, as I found out through his girlfriend posting a photo of them on Facebook and foolishly tagging him.

He had been busy with her in my house, busy with her in my yurt on the hill of the Lost Coast.

She had gleefully reported all aspects of their love on Instagram, easily found through her linked Facebook account. She had loaded her account with photos of my home, her having coffee (drinking from my mug) on the deck that my brother had built for me.

Photos of my Buddha.

Photos of Mikey, a photo of her playfully wearing Mikey’s glasses, photos of the gifts he gave her for her birthday.

She just turned 23 years old.

So, Mikey had been “busy” – and two and a half months later, he still hasn’t seen the kids nor contributed a penny towards their care.

I didn’t tell you any of that, no, I didn’t.

But with the final pieces of the divorce are in place. I have been awarded full physical and legal custody of my children.

It’s all over.

It’s all beginning.