When I was younger, fifteen or so, I was present when my mom and dad had one hell of an argument which ended with my mom throwing an ashtray at dad and then stomping out of the room. That wasn't the first time that mom had gotten violent with dad and when she was out of the room I asked him why he put up with it. He thought for a minute and then he said:
"Life is full of ups and downs Rob. You have to learn to take the bad with the good and then hope that in the end the good outweighs the bad. Your momma can be a trial at times, but her good qualities outweigh her bad ones and that's the best I can hope for."
My life was indeed full of ups and downs, but I was forty-four before I got to where the good outweighed the bad.
I had gone to work for the XYZ Corporation right out of college and in fourteen years I had worked my way up the corporate ladder to become the Vice President of Production. Two months after starting at XYZ I met Lois at the company picnic. She was a secretary in the sales department and I took a shine to her and started pestering her for a date. She finally gave in, we clicked and six months later we were married.
The marriage was followed by two children, a boy and a girl, a three-bedroom house and two cars. In short, a typical middle class life. I had only been married to Lois a year before the truism that men tend to marry their mothers became apparent. Lois was insanely jealous and had a violent temper. If we were at the mall or in some store and some babe walked by and I even looked in her direction Lois would have a fit.
At company Christmas parties, where it was expected that you would do a courtesy dance with the other women at the table, Lois would rag on me because I danced too close with this one or seemed to chummy with that one. I would come back from the dance floor and sit down and she would kick my leg under the table and glare at me.
Once when I was dancing with the wife of the CEO she maneuvered me under the mistletoe and said:
"I told my husband I was going after a younger man tonight and he laughed at me" and then she kissed me.
I glanced over at our table and saw her husband grinning and Lois fuming. When I got back to the table Lois said she would like a breath of fresh air and so I walked her outside. As soon as the door closed behind us she turned and slapped my face and called me every name in the book for "What you did with that tramp."
At home an argument would usually end up with something thrown at me, usually not heavy, and she almost never hit me with the item. I never knew if it was because her aim was bad or if maybe it was exceptionally good.
The next to worst spot in our marriage was when she decided that I was having an affair with my secretary. Granted, Molly and I did spend a lot of time together, but it was because of the job. And yes, we did have lunch together a lot, but for the most part they were working lunches. Twice Molly went on overnight out of town business trips with me and both times we had separate rooms on different floors, but Lois was convinced I was bedding Molly.
I wouldn't have minded — Molly was a fox — but I just wasn't the type of guy who played around on his wife. Lois made snide remarks about Molly all the time and I got the third degree every time I came home from work late, which was a lot. Being a vice president was not a nine to five job. Many mornings I would be out of the house at six and a lot of evenings I didn't get home until eight or nine and I would be greeted with:
"You've been out with that bitch again, haven't you!"
She went through my pockets, I caught her going through my briefcase, and once I even saw her sniffing my clothes. It came to a head one day when I told Lois I would be working late that night.
"Yeah, and I bet I know just who you will be working on."
I just shook my head and said, "Grow up Lois, you need to get a grip on yourself."
At ten that morning one of the managers I know pretty well came into my office:
"Rob, you old dog you, where do you have your mistress stashed?"
"What the hell are you talking about John? That doesn't make any sense."
"Well it must be something like that. Why else would your wife be following you?"
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Lois is sitting across the street in the department store parking lot and she's watching this building. Obviously she plans on following you to your lunch time tryst."
I got up and went across the seventh floor to John's office and looked out the window and sure enough, there was Lois sitting in her sister's car watching our building.
"What are you going to do?" John asked.
"What I ought to do is go down there, pull her out of that car and put her across my knee and spank her, but I think what I will do is tweak her nose a little."
At eleven forty-five a man in an apron and wearing a shirt that had Aaron's Deli embroidered over the pocket walked up to the car and knocked on the window of the car Lois was sitting in. She rolled the window down and he handed her the bagged lunch that I had ordered. She said something and he pointed up at the window where I and several of my coworkers were watching. When Lois looked up I waved at her and then I went back to my office and got back to work. What I didn't know until later was that John had clued in a bunch of people and they were all standing in front of the building watching. After Lois had looked up at me and I had waved she had thrown the lunch to the ground, started up the car and began to pull out of the lot. She saw the crowd of people standing there waving at her and laughing and she burned rubber tearing off down the street.
That night when I got home I was greeted by a wine bottle being thrown at me that missed and smashed into the wall followed by:
"You bastard! How could you do that to me? Do you have any idea how much you embarrassed me?"
"Probably not nearly as much as I was when the people I work with came to me and told me you were spying on me."
Things were a bit cold around the house for several days after that. The question could be asked:
"Why do you put up with that shit?"
It all goes back to what my dad had said to me about having to take the bad with the good. Lois was a great cook, she kept a clean house, she did a fantastic job raising our kids and she was marvelous — absolutely marvelous — in bed. So, hands down, the good far outweighed the bad.
The worse thing to happen to our marriage occurred about six months after the spying incident. XYZ became the target of a hostile takeover and when the dust settled we were owned by Titan, a large conglomerate. Everybody knows what happens after a hostile takeover and almost all of us at XYZ were sweating our jobs. The big question on everyone's mind was who would they keep and who would they let go. First to go of course was the president and CEO and he was replaced by a woman who quickly gained the nickname, "Harriet, the Hatchet Lady." Empty desks began to appear all over the place as one by one people were called into Harriet's office only to leave looking dejected.
My turn to be summoned came two weeks after Harriet arrived. I came into her office and she motioned me toward a chair while she continued reading from a folder that I assumed was my personnel file. She put the folder down, looked at me and said:
"You have been with the company fifteen years?"
I nodded a yes.
"There isn't a bad report in the file on you. Nothing but "excellent" and "superior" on your performance reviews, and you have worked almost all the positions in the production department. You know it inside and out. How much trouble would it be for someone else to come in here and take your place?"
"They would have a rough go of it for three or four months. I'm not irreplaceable if that is what you are getting at."
She looked at me for several seconds and then said, "I expected you to try and tell me that the production department would quickly go to hell without you to run it."
"Why would I say that? You don't get to be in the position that you are in if you are stupid. You know the place ran find before I was made VP and it would have run fine after I left. Assuming of course that I broke in my replacement the way I was broken in. But as I said, throw an experienced production man in the job and give him three or four months and he'll be okay. I won't lie to you; in those three or four months production will go to hell, but it will eventually straighten out."
"So you are saying the place would go to hell without you."
"No, not at all. Unless I had the time to train my replacement and teach him what I know there would be disruptions. He, or she for that matter, would have no idea of what special relationships exist between us and our suppliers and customers. They would have no idea of who needs to be stroked or how. Not knowing those things could cause you to lose customers or have a supplier cut out his discounts to you. Every new man comes in thinking he can change things for the better, and maybe he can, but not knowing the men, the machinery or the process can cause him to make major blunders. Eventually you would recover, but for a while things would not go right and when production is off sales are impacted and it just snow balls from there."
.... There is more of this story ...