This is a continuation of the “My Story” series of my life experiences. From the sexual abuse as a child, through my college years, my affair with my boss who became my husband, our subsequent divorce, and now, his traumatic death.
Recounting these years are not easy for me; nor is it easy sharing the stories of my life with others. As the hubs has told me many times, however, this is my story, and I’m only telling the truth of what happened all those years ago.
To take you back a little bit, Gary and I were married on April 16, 1994. We divorced on June 24, 2002, at which time I was traded in for a younger model (four months younger, but still younger!). It was not an easy divorce between Gary and I, and looking from the outside, it was definitely not an easy relationship between Gary and his new wife.
The Months Between
The two years between 2002 and 2004 went by quickly as most days, weeks, months, and years do; they were filled with good times and bad, and with a great deal of adjustment.
Sadness engulfed me when I looked at my daughters, because those precious bundles of blessings from God, Little One and Baby Girl, had been abandoned by their father.
Little One dealt with it. Baby Girl didn’t yet. She wanted her daddy, but more often when she was tired.
But yet, it went back to, I wasn’t okay. My heart hurt. Inside me, my heart was black, burnt leather, and all of the life was sucked out of it. It was wilted, it was burned black as death.
How could anyone hurt another so badly and not care?! I didn’t think I would ever understand. I felt I let him off too easy, holding all of my emotions and feelings in, didn’t show him or anyone how I felt, and now it was all coming out, now that it was all over, said, and done.
Truth or Fiction
It almost seemed as if I didn’t have the past ten years. I thought back to when I first met Gary and it didn’t seem real anymore. Did he ever really love me? Was I just someone he needed to rescue? So many questions that I’ll never be able to get the answers to.
There was a hole, an empty spot where my love for Gary was. Was he really telling the truth about fate back in 1992? How will I ever know?
It was then that I learned the lesson that I would most likely never get the answers to my why questions. And I’ve let any why questions go by the wayside since.
My personal life was private. I never let on to anyone else about my personal life, ever. My personal life was my business and no one else’s, and I kept it that way at all times. There was still caring and worry about Gary, and about what was happening to him. I didn’t know why I cared, but I did. He had ruined himself and his business with his choices, and it was so sad to see him flush all of our hard work down the toilet.
It would hurt all over again when I was told about her picking out a wedding dress for their wedding they still planned to have; when Gary gave her a new diamond necklace; so on, and so forth. But I never let on that I was hurt. Everything still hurt. But I was so much better without him.
I had people telling me how much I had changed – I was happier, and not so worried about disappointing someone. I wondered if people never told me things about Gary, or just kept things from me. For example, later someone told me they had seen his Corvette parked in front of her place on Prairie Lane. Were people laughing behind my back, feeling sorry for me, pitying me, or did they feel that I got what I deserved? A little part of me still cared what other people thought about me.
During the sexual abuse investigation and trial, I had met with a counselor from Bellin Psychiatric. Her help was needed once again, so I scheduled the appointment after the divorce was finalized. She had helped me get through a lot of anger from the sexual abuse. I was hoping she could help me get over the anger with the divorce.
The counselor supported my thoughts that I didn’t deserve to be treated that way by Gary or Shelly, I didn’t need their disdain, their attacks, their harassment, and I wasn’t going to take it from anyone. Gary had alienated everyone in his life, and he had finally broken me as well. I needed the counselor’s help to get through the anger, and get over the feelings of low self-esteem.
None of the divorce was my fault, yet I was bearing the brunt of it all. The counselor told me that it was okay to think about Gary or look for him, because I spent a great deal of time with him – ten years, eight years being married. That was one-third of my life that I lost – no, that Gary took away from me. I will never get those years back, so I was going to live my life to the fullest now and have no regrets or pine for the past that was now gone.
Learning to Love Myself
It didn’t take me long though, to learn to love myself and who I was. Learning to love yourself is not selfish or conceited. It is the most mentally healthy thing we can do for ourselves. I was a strong, confident, intelligent person, and I loved myself.
The title company was what I loved doing, concentrating on real estate. No more legal work, no more income tax work. I had set my boundaries. There was a lot for me to prove because I was on my own, but I knew I could do it.
A New Beginning
September 28th, 2002. Four days earlier, I had turned thirty two years old. My staff and I were moving into our new building in Luxemburg. It was a beautiful building, standing tall, facing Gary at the law office, sending out the message that I was strong, and I was there to stay.
An open house was advertised in the local paper, and we had a steady stream of people that came through for tours, appetizers, and mingling. There were people that showed up that I didn’t even know! Everyone seemed so amazed at what I had done and continued to do, but I’m not amazed at myself – it’s just me being me. Taking care of what needs to be taken care of.
Fall Turns to Winter
That fall seemed to fly by. Winter came, and I bought a white Chevy pickup truck and had a plow put on, so I could plow snow. Gary had always had a plow on his trucks and plowed snow in the driveway, and I wasn’t going to pay someone to do what I knew I could do myself.
Sleep didn’t come easy to me anyway, so I would get up a three in the morning and plow my driveway, as well as a couple of the neighbor’s driveways. I might as well be up doing something instead of just lying in bed doing nothing. And heaven knows, I already thought too much, I didn’t need to think about things even more.
The girls would get on the bus to go to school, and I would go to my office and plow the parking lot. It was a great way to get out frustrations, scraping and banging into a pile of snow at the end of the parking lot.
Father, or Dad
Early in December, the teacher at daycare told me that Baby Girl said that her dad died, and that’s why she didn’t see him anymore. I made a point of never saying anything derogatory about their father, no matter how much he had hurt me. I don’t know where her statement ever came from, but for a child, it is understandable when you no longer see your father, and he is no longer a part of your life.
Gary hadn’t been paying the two thousand dollars a month in child support that had been ordered by the court at our divorce hearing. I didn’t understand why he couldn’t pay the child support, when I did absolutely everything for the girls. He had absolutely no responsibility whatsoever. But I never brought it up to him, I figured I would let the county child support office handle it with him.
Throughout this time, the personal attacks continued from Gary, phone calls, voice mail messages, and emails, all about that one paragraph in our divorce settlement that Shelly’s boys could not be left alone at any time with Little One and Baby Girl.
The holidays came around, and I just wanted to be left alone. I still thought of Gary often, and it hurt. Dreams of Gary would come often, just about every night, and I would tell him in my dreams that I still loved him and I always would love him.
Christmas Day was spent lying in bed with Little One and Baby Girl, watching cartoons. That was the best Christmas I believe I have ever had in my life.
Resolutions for the New Year
As I usually did between Christmas and New Year’s, I took stock in myself and my life as it currently stood. My thoughts turned to proposing to Gary that he could start taking the girls more often, as long as the personal attacks against me came to an end. Trusting that God would protect the girls, I would just have to let the girls go with him every once in a while.
I resolved that I needed to have God in my life more, and I needed to trust Him more and leave my fears behind.
“Dear Lord, please guide me to being happy and healthy in the new year. Help me to concentrate on taking care of myself as well as my children to the best of my ability. Shed a light that Gary can see as a father. Help him to seek your light and guidance and be more of a man. Please strike down Satan in my life, and help me to be an upstanding Christian. Let my life be a shining example of good. Let me be a godly person. Please Lord, please guide a special man to me that will love me and my children, no matter good or bad. Please help me to be loving and kind, gentle and prayerful. I believe you can enhance my life, if I only turn more of my life, my worries, my strife, my sorrow, and my fears over to you Lord.”
The next day, Gary called, and he was civil, if not outright friendly. He was the Gary I used to know. Prayers do work, but not normally that quickly. I wondered what was going on.
I started reading a book about money. It said to be generous, pay others well, support several charities, give back, and watch what happens. Don’t worry about a thing, give it away. If you are worried about having enough, you never will!
Ever since reading that book, I have been as generous as I am able to be, whether I had the money to be generous or not, and I have learned that I always ended up being well rewarded.
What a year of change, I believed for the better. I came out of my cocoon as a beautiful butterfly, learning new things about myself every day.
Being a single mother was really hard, the responsibilities day in and day out, but I knew I wasn’t the only one in the world who did it on a daily basis. I told myself that a lot to get me through the days.
New Year’s Eve arrived, and it was finally the last day of a wild, rollercoaster year. Despite everything, it had been a good year, mostly because I became free and learned who I really was. I was a thoughtful, caring person who was capable of loving and being loved.
The next day, I heard the news.
Goin’ to the Chapel, and we’re gonna get married…
It was New Year’s Day that I heard the rumor that Gary had married Shelly two days earlier in Las Vegas. Since I was a title examiner, I was good at finding out information through online records, and marriage license records in Las Vegas are open for public viewing. I confirmed the rumor, and they had married. Just six days beyond the six months from our divorce date.
His mother told me that had called his parents that night, right after he and Shelly had been married, waking his parents from their sleep, saying “guess what I did?” Even after his father had begged him, with tears running down his cheeks, to not get married again.
I wrote in my journal. Good for them, woop de do!!! Now I knew he wouldn’t come crawling back to me, but yet, in a way, I was sad because he was being so rash, and in my opinion, stupid.
I had dealt with everything: laundry, dishes, school, CCD, feeding, cleaning, care, teaching, disciplining, absolutely everything by myself, alone, for ten months.
As soon as Gary returned from his Las Vegas trip where he was newly married, he sent over the paperwork that I had expected – a Stipulation to reduce child support. Why would I reduce the child support when I did everything? He did nothing. No responsibility. Nothing.
I ignored him and his Stipulation.
Title Company vs. Law Office
My personal life was starting to affect my business again, and I couldn’t let that happen. I just wished that Gary would leave me and my business alone. Part of our separation agreement included that Gary wouldn’t handle real estate transactions, and I wouldn’t handle legal or income tax work.
Gary sent me a letter that he would no longer be referring clients to me to handle real estate transactions, that he would handle them himself. So he was competing with me. I figured he must have been desperate for the work and the money.
Monday, January 13, 2003. It was on Baby Girl’s fourth birthday, and a Monday, no less, that everything blew up. The bank called to let me know that a wire had come in and they didn’t know which account to put it in. Names that the bank mentioned were not familiar and weren’t for a real estate transaction I was handling, and the person calling from the bank then told me that she was sorry, it was a transaction that Gary was handling.
I knew I should let the bank handle calling Gary, but I called Gary to let him know that his wire had come in. My calling him was more of a “haha, I still know what is going on in your business” type call. He yelled at me to stay out of his business.
Since it was Baby Girl’s birthday, Gary had emailed me earlier in the day to ask if he could pick the girls up from daycare, and take them to Village Kitchen. I agreed, so at least the girls could see him.
After he returned the girls to daycare, my phone was ringing with him continuing to yell at me to stay out of his business, and threats that he would take all of my business away from me. The phone calls with him yelling and threatening continued until 8:00 p.m. that evening.
The next day, I emailed Gary and stated that I would accept no further phone calls from him, that we would only correspond by email.
Gary had only paid one month of child support since July, 2002, and he was six months in arrears. So in the same email, I proposed to him that I would give up the two thousand dollars a month child support and forgive the child support arrears if he would give me sole custody of the girls.
Sadly, he readily agreed to that arrangement. I prepared the necessary paperwork, which he immediately signed, and I drove to Kewaunee to file the paperwork with the court. Sadness engulfed me, but I finally felt that I could breathe.
Building a new life
Tuesday, January 21, 2003. Gary sent me paperwork to release a parcel of the farmland from the mortgage I held as part of our divorce settlement, so he and Shelly could build a new home. He informed me he was working with Van’s Lumber on the home design, and he and Shelly wanted the parcel of land that was high enough and looked over the bay.
I refused to sign the paperwork, drew a large ‘X’ through it, and faxed it back to his office. I was absolutely shaking, just waiting for him to do something more to harass me.
Friday, January 24, 2003. My phone was ringing and rumors were flying about Gary being suicidal, holding a gun to his head, writing a suicide note, and then telling his parents that they were the cause. He had taken a gun to the office, and Shelly had called the police to intervene. He claimed he was just getting the gun out of the house.
I wished he would come to his senses and realize what the real problem was. No longer did I have the love a wife would have for a husband, but I still cared for him as a person. The rumors would ruin his business and his life.
I received several phone calls, asking if I was okay. Those phone calls made me realize how much support I really had from the community.
That same afternoon I received a phone call from a client of Gary’s, asking if she should find another attorney. I told her was that was her choice, it wasn’t for me to tell her or make a decision for her. During that call, I had the sinking feeling that Gary was going to yell at me again to stay out of his business, even though I hadn’t done anything.
Fortunately, the harassment calmed down for a little bit, and we went about our lives, but not for long.
Back to Prayers
February was one year since our separation, and I was tired of talking about Gary again and again, rehashing old memories.
Again I told myself I needed to get back to God, and asking for His loving touch and guidance, not just when I was in desperation, but continually, just like my daily exercise. God would help soothe my fears and insecurities, help guide me to the right man in my life. I just needed to let God take over in my life again.
Gary started again to continuously harass me about removing the paragraph from our divorce settlement about the girls never being left alone with Shelly’s sons. By this time, Gary had adopted the two youngest sons of her four children, Michael and Chris, so they now also had the last name of Dalebroux.
The rumors started all over again. Shelly was pregnant; I forced Gary to give up the girls; Gary wasn’t paying child support (which he wasn’t); Shelly’s oldest son didn’t like Gary; Gary just didn’t want the responsibility of kids.
And these rumors were why I kept my personal life private, and didn’t talk to anyone but my best friend, Lynne.
When anyone asked about my personal life, I commented back with “my dating life is like my cell phone plan – nights and weekends are free!”
Goin’ to the Chapel, and we’re gonna get married, Part Two
Saturday, May 10, 2003. Gary and Shelly had a couples shower on the Foxy Lady boat. I understood that no one from his family attended.
Gary and Shelly did have another wedding ceremony in Door County in June, 2003, which I called the pathetic little “look at us in love” wedding.
Later on in 2004, Gary told me he had called this their “fake wedding”, and went on to tell me that later that day they had gotten in a fight and he threw her bouquet out the window of the truck along Interstate 43.
Every day I looked for his obituary in the paper, because I was sure that she would kill him or he would kill himself. Yes, I said that. In my journal entry on Sunday, June 1st, 2003.
Sunday Bay Beach Day
Sunday, June 29, 2003. Gary called me at 9:20 a.m. and asked to see the girls. He had not seen the girls since Baby Girl’s fourth birthday on January 13th, 2003.
I drove the girls to meet Gary at the McDonald’s on Webster Avenue in Green Bay at 10:30 a.m. He took the girls to Bay Beach and finally spent some time with them.
He then called me at 1:00 p.m. to tell me he was taking the girls to McDonalds. The Gary I used to know seemed to be back.
When he called me back at 2:10 p.m., I knew he had been talking with Shelly. His attitude was cold. Stone-cold. He asked me to pick the girls up because he had to go home.
We put the girls into my truck, closed the doors, and I got his full attention, at which time I told him that I loved him.
Little One told me on the way home that Gary had been on the phone with Shelly the whole time they were together.
Gary called me later that evening to apologize to the girls for spending two thirds of their time together on the phone. He told me that Shelly had threatened to dump all of his clothes on my front lawn, just for seeing the girls.
He was a lost sheep. But he continued blaming me for his marital problems. Always going back to the language in the divorce papers. I told him, “you can’t go back, you can only go forward.”
On my own
I often questioned why I stayed in the area. There was no one from my family that lived close by, the closest one being my oldest brother who lived three hours away.
No one from Gary’s family would ever stop over to see me or the girls unless it was a birthday celebration. No one would offer to help me by taking the girls for a few hours or overnight.
When I was about to break down and needed a break, I always had to call and seem like the desperate one to drop the girls off for a few hours or overnight.
I settled for always having to pay a sitter for those few hours to myself, for those few hours to be someone other than mom.
Rumors, Part Three
Then the rumors started again.
Small towns are not easy to live in when rumors fly around. Rumors were flying around again about the cops being at his house. That he was having another affair. I had to keep telling myself that the right people knew the truth.
That summer of 2003, the girls had attended vacation bible school at Country Bible Church in Casco. When I drove by the law office shortly before noon on my way to pick the girls up, I made note of the fact that Shelly’s vehicle wasn’t at the office.
I picked the girls up from vacation bible school, and on my way back to Luxemburg, I called Gary and offered that the girls could stop in and say hello. He agreed, and said he would like to see them.
As I pulled into the law office parking lot, Shelly pulled in immediately behind me. I kept the truck in gear and started driving out of the parking lot, as she drove right on the back end of my truck following me, with a mean-spirited look on her face.
Had I slammed on the brakes while I was driving out of the parking lot, she would have slammed into the back of my truck where Baby Girl was in her car seat. That woman was psychotic.
I called Gary and told him that I would no longer be offering for him to see the girls while his wife continued to try her best to kill us.
First Day of School
The first day of school always seemed like a new beginning, just like the first of every year. I had only expected Gary to call the girls the morning, since he hadn’t seen them since the end of June, but he actually showed up at our house in Champion. Little One was starting second grade that year.
After seeing the girls off to school, that brought the total time that Gary had spent with the girls to 6-1/2 hours in 383 days. It was my attorney that helped with our divorce that told me to keep track.
My direct phone line at my office rang and again, it was Gary calling me at work, during business hours, demanding once again that I remove what he called “that paragraph” from our divorce settlement. That paragraph being the one stating that the girls could not be left alone with Shelly’s sons. This was due to my sexual abuse history, and I felt that I was well within my rights as a mother to try and protect my daughters to the best of my ability. He went on to demand that I needed to apologize to Michael and Chris, his sons, since he had adopted them, for putting that paragraph in our divorce settlement.
I wondered if the harassment would ever end. I was nice to him, as I always was, while we were discussing the fact that I still would not be removing “that paragraph” no matter how many times he harassed me about it.
Gary also wanted to set up a regular visitation schedule with Little One and Baby Girl.
As I was listening to his proposal about a regular visitation schedule, all of the sudden in the background of his call, I could hear Shelly’s voice. She had been listening to the entire conversation through his cellphone, and she started calling me names and swearing at me. “I don’t deserve this”, and I hung up.
Protecting Myself and My Girls
The next day, I typed and faxed a formal letter to Gary stating that there would be no more phone calls to my office to disrupt my day. Any and every conversation between us from that point on would have to be in writing. Soon after the fax was sent, I received an email from him picking up from where our phone conversation the previous day had left off, with a proposal for a regular visitation schedule with the girls. My response was that I was not allowing visitation at that point in time.
In my mind, I thought that he gave up too easily. I had stood up to him, now I had to watch to see how he would get me back for that. I knew I had to keep my guard up at all times, whether at work or at home, or anywhere I may go. In order to protect myself and the girls, I went to Lee’s Sports and purchased a 20-gauge shotgun.
A Family Wedding
That year, I turned thirty-three years old, and the weekend following my birthday was Kim’s wedding. The time coming up to the wedding was highly stressful for me, because who knew what Gary and Shelly would do. Kim had the girls stand up for the wedding, so we went through the preparation of having their dresses fitted and sewn. The dresses served a dual purpose for both girls, as they were also used as their First Communion dresses.
After dinner, the girls wanted to go by Gary, who was seated at another table. I allowed the girls to go see him while I kept an eye on them. I watched as Shelly got up out of her chair in a huff when the girls arrived at their table. Gary told her to sit back down, which she did, and the girls immediately were shuffled back to me at our table.
I was so uncomfortable that the girls I left as soon as dinner was done. Baby Girl threw up in the car on the way home. I understood how she felt. Finally, all of the apprehension, nervousness, tension, pomp and circumstance was over, and we were safe again back in our home.
My Truth Comes Out
Life was not perfect for me during this time. Thanksgiving came around, and I spilled my guts to Momma Marilyn and Papa Thor. Business wasn’t going well, and I was broke and tired. “You aren’t as tough as you seem to be girl. You are just a softie with a tough, thick exterior,” said Momma Marilyn.
I was having a weak period at that time, where bad news was becoming an everyday experience. Internally I felt weak, unhappy, jealous of others and their happy lives, and argumentative about every little thing.
I wanted to ask Gary for child support, but I was too damn proud to ask for anything. I also didn’t want to stir up any temptations for Gary to be mean and nasty to me, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle dealing with him when I wasn’t in a good place.
Was I coming close to a breakdown? Not a nervous breakdown, but an emotional, physical, and financial breakdown. What would happen if I just broke? Would anyone notice? Would anyone care?
Merry Christmas, 2003
At first when I saw the email come through from Gary on Wednesday, December 17th, I started to shake. It had been so long since I had heard anything from him, three months in fact. Thankfully, he was only asking for gift suggestions for the girls for Christmas. I breathed a sigh of relief. It was then I realized that I was learning to live with everything the way it was.
A short visit three days prior to Christmas between Gary and the girls went well, after he had not seen them the past three and a half months. He did spend his time alone with the girls to give them their Christmas gifts, which was more than I could have asked for. I wondered what it cost him at home to have that time; but it wasn’t my business.
It was a new year, and with it came new beginnings, or so I hoped. I emailed Gary and offered him visitation with Little One and Baby Girl, perhaps an every other weekend arrangement that I believed most divorced couples did. There was no response.
Baby Girl’s birthday came around, and I prayed it wouldn’t be the same as last year with all of the phone calls and yelling. No child deserved what happened last year, and I would not allow it to happen again. I was determined that I would not put up with a ruined birthday. Gary and I had been separated for almost two years, he and Shelly had been married for one year. They needed to move on, just as I had moved on.
I told myself that we would live our days without fear and without being nervous or scared. I wasn’t going to live my life being scared of her. She couldn’t take my daughters away from me. I wasn’t going to be afraid that she would attempt to take my life away from me. She took away my husband… and she took away the father of my children. But she couldn’t take away ME. She couldn’t take away who I was, and what I was meant to be. God would watch over me and the girls. All day, every day.
About a month later, Gary picked up the girls and took them for about an hour and a half for dinner at Village Kitchen in Casco. As he left, he handed me one hundred dollars as child support. He hadn’t paid any child support since September of 2002, and I had forgone child support in exchange for sole custody of the girls to keep them from such a hostile environment with his wife.
Asking for Help
The third Saturday in February was an emotionally wrenching day for me. I finally called Gary and asked him for some financial support. I cried on the phone for half an hour, explaining that the business wasn’t doing well, I felt I had no support, emotionally or financially, and I needed help.
Gary agreed to provide child support, one hundred dollars a week. My entire self felt like a failure. I was scared that I was going to lose everything, including my mind. I also felt that I had sold my soul to the devil by asking for Gary’s help.
The burdens of life were weighing down on me. The real estate world was declining because of the state of the economy, and I was responsible for the title company business being able to support eight employees. I was also solely and completely responsible for Little One and Baby Girl. Gary had seen the girls for a total of seven hours in the two years since we had divorced.
Keeping the Faith
It was mid-May and I was deciding if I wanted to go back to court for child support. Gary had bought Shelly a new Cadillac, he was remodeling his office, he was supporting her sons that he had adopted, and not supporting his own flesh and blood, biological daughters.
Something was holding me back. What was I scared of? His wife could get very angry, as I had seen several times previously. I was scared of losing my girls and having to allow visitation into a hostile environment. My decision was made that I would not do anything to rock the boat, and I knew I could figure everything out somehow, with God’s help.
Happy Birthday Little One
Little One’s eighth birthday was coming up, and she made it clear to me that she didn’t want to see Gary at all for her birthday. She told me that he could just drop off any presents at my office, and I could give them to her.
He had finally done it; alienated his own daughters.
I told Gary what Little One had told me, and though he may have been hurt, he dropped of her birthday present at my office. He did call later that day to wish her a happy birthday.
And Then….The World Turned ‘Round, ‘Round, Upside Down
It was the end of July when the world seemed to turn upside down.
I was told that the cops were called to Gary’s house in Dyckesville. Gary called me and asked if he could store some furniture in my garage, and also asked if he could borrow my kitchen table and chairs that were in my basement kitchen for the apartment that he had rented in Green Bay.
I wrote in my journal as I did every night, listing the events of the day and my feelings. That night, I wrote: “My prediction: Either (1) he’ll go back to her; (2) he’ll give up everything and move; (3) he’ll commit suicide.”
I may have no longer loved him as a wife would love her husband, but I still knew him.
One of the last days of July, being Thursday, July 29th, 2004, Gary called and asked if he could take Little One and Baby Girl out for supper after work. I agreed, so he picked the girls up from my office, and took them to Pizza Hut for supper.
Then he called me again. He called me to meet him and girls at Bay Beach. Wait. I’m sorry, what did you say?
I met them at Bay Beach, and we went on rides together. After an hour, he asked if we would come and take a look at his new apartment off of University Avenue.
Gary explained that he and Shelly had split, they had vacated their home in Dyckesville with him renting an apartment in Green Bay, and she had rented a duplex in Sheboygan to be near her sister.
The following Saturday, Gary and I, and the girls, went out to dinner at Perkins. It was a strange time…
Gary began to call me on a daily basis. We would discuss business, the girls, and child support. He was the Gary I used to know. He informed me that he had filed for divorce, and he proposed to pay child support of $800 a month. I was grateful to him, and very appreciative. The child support would help, and it was a reasonable amount for him to pay on a monthly basis.
It was now the beginning of August, 2004. We continued talking on the phone on a daily basis, and we would do things together as a family, such as going out to dinner, going to the movies, having supper at our house. One weeknight, the four of us went out to dinner. After dinner, Gary drove us to WG&R so the girls could choose a set a bunk beds that he could purchase for his apartment, as he was planning on having the girls stay over more often.
I had to say that Gary threw my life out of its rut, but I didn’t really like it. We could never go back. We would never be a couple again, I knew that, as I wouldn’t allow it to happen. Every once in a while he would still blame me for things that were wrong in his life and with his marriage to Shelly. And I had to be careful that I didn’t let on too much about what was going on in my life, since I tried my best to keep my personal life as private as possible.
A Family Again?
The second week of August came along, and the daily phone calls and time spent together as a family continued. That weekend, the four of us and Daughter Kim went out to eat supper together. During supper, Gary nonchalantly asked if I would be a pallbearer at his funeral. Kim immediately jumped into the conversation after I emphatically said “NO” and asked if we could talk about something a little less morbid.
That night, the girls were excited to stay overnight at Gary’s apartment in the new bunkbeds. They went to bed and were sleeping, while Gary and I sat outside on the deck of his apartment and talked. He told me that he had purchased a timeshare in Orlando, and the ten thousand dollar payment was due at the end of the month. He asked my opinion, as he didn’t have the money to make the payment, and I told him to just let it go; it wasn’t something he needed, and if he didn’t have the money, why try to keep it. It was then that he told me he missed being able to talk with me about anything and everything.
He Didn’t Want to be Alone
Gary then asked if I would stay overnight, and I agreed. We went to bed and started watching a movie, Hidalgo. Gary started getting intimate, and we had sex. Afterwards, I immediately knew that what we had done was wrong. I quickly got dressed and left, apologizing and telling Gary that I couldn’t stay. I cried all the way home.
Gary called me at 4:00 a.m., apologized, and asked me to come back to his apartment before the girls were up. I was at his apartment at 6:00 a.m., I cooked breakfast, and he and the girls went on the paddleboat on the lake that was part of the apartment complex.
Little One asked Gary if he would chaperone a daycare field trip on August 25th, and he said he would go; he also said that the girls could stay overnight again the following weekend.
Things seemed to be going well for Gary. He had even gone so far as to apologize and reconcile with his parents, as well as his first wife. He seemed to be himself, he seemed to be, dare I to have said it, happy.
The following weekend arrived, and Gary picked up the girls for lunch at Joe Rouer’s in Duvall. He broke it to the girls that they couldn’t stay overnight that night because he wasn’t done disking the fields. I could tell that he was just telling them a story. I denounced his actions, that he was disappointing the girls after leading them on for the past month that we were being a family again.
After that weekend, the daily phone calls stopped, and I knew.
The Phone is now Silent
Mid-August; the time when summer is winding down, the weather is hot and humid, everyone seems to be getting in their late summer vacations.
Gary’s life had become a battle to survive; Shelly was abusive to him both emotionally and physically. When they fought, he always called on me, his friend. He could never be alone, he always needed reassurance, someone to build him up. I wasn’t the only one he called on, there was another woman. When he couldn’t sleep at night, he called on her. His constant neediness had started to wear on me, as I also had the girls and my own business to take care of.
Then, Gary was no longer calling me on a daily basis. The lack of phone calls meant that he was most likely doing something that he believed I would disapprove of.
Like getting back together with Shelly.
I sure didn’t want the girls to get hurt again. I didn’t care about myself, because I wasn’t letting my heart out of its cage, or letting my emotions go.
That weekend that he told the girls that they couldn’t stay overnight, Baby Girl had an accident during the night. I blamed Gary. I blamed him for everything. He had hurt the girls all over again, and I had allowed it to happen. He was doing it all over again, making excuses as to why he couldn’t see the girls. I was angry, and disgusted.
Gary called me to ask if he could pick up his furniture out of my garage. He pulled in with a U-Haul trailer, and backed up to the third garage door. He walked into the garage, and immediately I saw them – hickeys on his neck. I shook my head at his childishness.
Finally, I had had enough of him. “I don’t want you as an example for my daughters,” I said. As I turned and walked back into the house, I heard a quiet “I’m sorry”. I slammed the door shut.
A New School Year
Little One was moving up to the Intermediate School and starting third grade. Baby Girl was starting Kindergarten at the Primary School. We were getting together all of the necessary school supplies, school clothes and shoes. School was going to be starting the last week of August, and I looked forward to getting back onto a schedule.
I figured I would have to deal with Gary this week, on the first day of school. I prayed,
God, please guide me and give me strength and courage to deal with him. Please. I’m so angry with him, my heart just boils over with anger and hurt. Guide me in the right direction, help me search my soul to find the right path to follow.”
As I always did, I took pictures of the girls for the first day of school. Gary didn’t call or show up before they got onto the bus. I was relieved.
I went to my office, and emailed a picture of each one of the girls to Gary. He immediately replied, “They are beautiful girls.”
Labor Day Weekend
Labor Day weekend arrived. We had no plans, but I looked forward to a long weekend working around the house, and swimming in our pool with Little One and Baby Girl. Those girls brought the most sunshine to my life, and made me realize that everything would always be all right as long as we had each other.
The doorbell rang late in the afternoon. My sister-in-law, Terri, was the one who came to tell me.
She asked me to step outside, and Terri’s daughter Jenny went inside to stay with Little One and Baby Girl.
“We think Gary is dead.”
Terri knew little information, other than both Gary and Shelly had been shot, and they were both dead.
My world spun.
“Stay with the girls,” I said, and I got into my truck and drove to his parent’s home.
On the way, I called my parents, who were in a hurricane shelter in Florida, waiting for the hurricane to hit land. “Gary is dead” I screamed into the phone. “What?,” Momma Marilyn answered back. “Gary is dead!” I screamed again.
The Truth Came Out
The story came out later that night. Gary had shot Shelly, and then shot himself.
The medical examiner called me. “Do you have any questions for me?” he said after he explained what had happened. Half-jokingly, and half-seriously, I questioned “How do I tell my daughters?”
I can’t imagine that moment he was in that brought on the murder and the suicide. Then I envisioned him lying on a cold slab by himself – alone. I cried.
I believe, to this day, that he took her life to protect me and the girls.
Telling the Girls
I sat down on the living room floor, Little One in the chair, and Baby Girl on the floor next to me.
I swallowed hard, strengthened my resolve, and as millions of thoughts were running through my head, I said, “Your father is dead, and so is Shelly.”
Little One, at the age of eight, understood, and her tears streamed down her face immediately.
Baby Girl was too young at the age of five to take it all in, but in her childish way, excitedly said, “Can we get a new daddy now?”
The tears flowed, and the hugs didn’t stop for a long time afterwards.
Everything in the future was an unknown, but I knew our lives had to go on and move forward.
It had been a long week with Gary’s wake and funeral. My parents made it just half an hour prior to the funeral, after driving day and night after a hurricane had gone through Florida, with gas stations and restaurants closed, and a curfew in effect.
After the burial, we all went home. I couldn’t just sit there, so I called my best friend Lynne and told her to meet me at Highland Howie’s. We each did a shot for Gary.
The suicide part hadn’t sunk in yet. Neither had the murder. Gary had dismissed the divorce filing for him and Shelly, which surprised me, but yet I guess it didn’t.
I prayed to God, please, please, please, God, let Gary leave something for the girls. Please.
It was part of our divorce settlement that any estate planning documents for either of us had to provide for Little One and Baby Girl.
Gary’s 53rd Birthday
Ten days after his death, it was Gary’s fifty-third birthday. The girls made birthday cards and we went to the cemetery and sang happy birthday. So deeply it hurt.
This month – this year, had gone by completely too fast. And it’s all been a blur.
Now… Gary’s will had been found.
Shelly’s family was in complete control of everything and nothing was left to his biological children. Nothing.
The Will specifically stated “It is my intention to exclude all of my children under the terms of this paragraph whether born before or after this Will is executed.” The knife sliced through my heart.
My emotions volleyed between anger and resignation. Little One and Baby Girl, they deserved something!
Whoever believed I was capable of raising two children by myself?!
Now, Gary was gone for good. I’d never, ever have him for backup again, even though he really wasn’t a backup. He was still their father. He was still at least around.
I felt indifferent. No part of me was happy about all of this, I was still somewhat angry.
I wasn’t angry about the estate, that was more disappointment and hurt.
After discussing everything with Troy and Kim, we decided that I wouldn’t contest the Will. We would just let everything go. Then we could be done with Gary and his sickness, his mental illness, and his wrong, wrong, totally wrong choices. I was tired of talking about him and his choices. No longer did I want to be distracted at work with it all. I wanted our lives to return to normal, as normal as they could be anyway.
Gary’s estate took six years to finalize and close. Shelly’s estate sued his estate for wrongful death. Made sense.
I have two beautiful, precious daughters that have been given to me by God and Gary.
Those girls, I wouldn’t give them up for anything, and the love I have for them is indescribable.
To the best of my ability, I have raised them, and I can’t worry about how they turn out – I did the best I could.
I do want them to be as loving, caring, and thoughtful as their mother, strong, independent, and to not ever be as hurt as their mother was in her life.
First the sexual abuse, then the deception and betrayal in my marriage. I still wrestle in my mind with how I could have let the abuse continue on so long when I was of an age to better understand, but then my mind overrides and tells me it wasn’t my fault.
And my marriage. I could explain it all away, but it all comes down to the fact I did love him. And it wasn’t that my love wasn’t strong enough; Gary’s love for himself and others wasn’t strong enough.
I’ve learned so much and grown so much throughout these years.
I’ve grown in my faith, I’ve grown being a mother, I’ve grown being me.
Though I may not know for days, months, or years what it is, there is a reason for everything.
As the years have gone by, I told myself the same mantra over and over again: I can live with lonely, as long as my girls are safe.
In my dreams, my prince will come, he will love me, care for me, care for Little One and Baby Girl, and tolerate the cats.
Seven years later, there would be a three hour argument about that dream…
Love to you all! ~Erika~.
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