Thanks to the Hip and Knee Doctor for editing assistance.
The last few months had been trying. My wife, Katherine, had been having an affair with a co-worker and it seems like everybody in the world knew about it, but nobody had enough guts to say anything. I was just as guilty as all the others. For some strange reason I was hoping that it would just end and everything would go back to normal. It was a fantasy of course, because it never goes back to the way it was.
We had been married for nineteen years and had three children. Rob was eighteen and a senior. Katherine was pregnant when we got married. A year later we had Donna and the next year, Darcy showed up and Dad got a vasectomy. They were good kids, and we never had any problems with them until recently. Needless to say, the problem with the kids was brought on by the extracurricular activities of their mother.
For the past three years, Katherine worked in the claims department for a large insurance company. When she started working overtime, several nights a week, the kids and I quickly noticed. She got a new hairstyle and joined a gym. Her underwear drawer got a little sexier, but I never got to enjoy it. Donna and Darcy saw her having lunch with her department head, at an upscale restaurant, but she never mentioned it.
In desperation, I decided to follow her like a lovesick puppy. Her trips to motels with her lover were frequent and brazen. Although I didn't see the need for it, I still documented the time and dates of several of their rendezvous.
As the affair lingered, the family started to fall apart. All of this happened without any conversation. The kids were mad at their mother for cheating. The kids were mad at me for not confronting their mother, and I was trying to hold everything together. I was too dense to realize that it was a lost cause.
The only time the family got together was for the evening meal. Even then, it was an ordeal. There was virtually no conversation and as each of the kids finished eating, they quietly disappeared, usually out of the house until bedtime.
"John, I am not going to be able to take this attitude from the kids for too much longer. If you don't do something to straighten them out, I will."
"I'll take care of it."
"You have been saying that for the last month now. I don't know what has gotten into them. Why did they start acting like little brats all of a sudden? If you have a solution, see if you can get a few answers too."
"Oh, that was no problem. The problem was how to straighten things out. I think we have everything worked out now."
"Are you going to let me in on it, or is it some big dark secret?"
"No secret. I am going to be moving back with my parents tomorrow."
Katherine was not pleased with this news. She stopped clearing the dinner table and sat back down, with a heavy determined plop. "What the hell are you talking about John? You can't commute to work from Frackville, and I can't take care of this place and the kids by myself. How is that going to solve anything?"
"Actually, Katherine, you won't have to worry about taking care of the kids. They will be going with me."
I was not looking forward to the furrowed brow and the stiff lower lip that I was rewarded with, but I fully expected it. With her elbows on the table my loving wife leaned forward and looked me in the eyes. "There is no way in hell you are leaving this house with my kids. What ever gave you the idea that you could get away with something that stupid?"
Katherine let out a sigh of exasperation, got up and started again to clear the table. She was muttering to herself, but I couldn't make anything out. After slamming the last of the china into the sink she turned. "Why? Why is this happening?"
"The best I can figure is that they are tired of being embarrassed."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Mostly, it is about your affair with Bryon Masterson. You have flaunted your infidelity to the point where the entire family is aware of it. You have shown no regard for your children or me."
"Are you going to deny it? Are you going to tell me you don't spend several days a week having sex at various motels? Are you going to tell me that I don't understand?"
I decided I didn't want to pursue this conversation any longer. It would have been easy to throw it all in her face, but I didn't have the guts. I pushed back my chair and walked out of the room. Katherine stood by the sink with one hand on her hip. I noticed a defiant look on her face, as if she was daring me to mention her infidelity. I got the feeling that she had been baiting me all along, so that she could have an excuse to stop carrying around the guilt. This was a lecture I was not going to be on the receiving end of tonight. I had no desire to hear that I had driven her to seek comfort elsewhere, because I was a mediocre husband and a poor lover. Of course I could accuse her of being a slut and a whore, but I would still end up getting the blame for everything. I knew Katherine, and I knew that she had planned everything she was going to say beforehand. My best play was to not play at all.
"What about your job?"
I heard her screaming my name as I walked out the door.
I had no idea where the kids were. All of their clothes and personal belongings were loaded into Rob's Subaru Outback. The wagon had over a hundred thousand miles on it, but I figured it still had another hundred thousand left in it. All of my clothing and personal papers were in the back of my Jeep. Katherine didn't notice any of this when she came home. We all agreed that whatever we couldn't get on the first trip, we could come back for later. I was sure that Katherine was checking the house out as I drove away. There was no going back at this point. I decided that I had to call Donna. Donna always seemed to be in control. Rob was the oldest and the male, but he had no problem letting Donna call most of the shots.
"Donna. It's Dad."
"Are you still at the house?"
"No. I am on my way to a motel right now. I had to tell your mother what was going on, but not why. I think it is best if you guys find some place to stay tonight. Can you contact Rob?"
"No problem. Darcy and I are going to stay with Betsy Cooper. I am not sure what Rob has planned, but I think I can get in touch with him."
"Okay. Meet me at the Waffle House on Lancaster Pike tomorrow morning at six. We can leave for Frackville from there."
"Dad. Was mom mad?"
"I think so. I'll tell you about it tomorrow. Oh, after you call Rob, it might be better to turn your phone off."
After checking into the Deska Motel, I turned off my cell phone.
I just finished taking a shower when there was a knock on the door. I opened it, expecting a furious Katherine, but instead found a smiling Rob. There weren't that many motels in town.
By seven o'clock the next morning we were on our way to the coal regions, and home.
Katherine and I never got around to discussing my work situation. It didn't matter, because I was now unemployed. The normal thing to do under these conditions is to stash away as much cash as possible without looking like you are doing it. If I filed for divorce, I would have to go through the process of declaring assets and coming up with a fair distribution. I figured, the hell with it. Nobody likes to see his credit go belly up, but under the circumstances it seemed like a good idea to me. If I wasn't working, the kids could qualify for lots of grants and other benefits when it came time for college. I would see to it that they got everything they needed, but it might not be aboveboard. Living with Mom and Dad would also cover a lot of other usual expenses.
I was pretty sure that Katherine wouldn't wait too long before filing divorce papers. I would probably go along with anything she demanded just to get out of the marriage. There wasn't much she could get, since I did not have a job and the kids would not go with her even if they were ordered to do so. All I could do now was sit back and wait. I had a basket of lemons and I was getting ready to make lemonade.
It was great being back in my hometown. The last time I actually lived there was just before I left for college. After graduation, the closest place I could get a half decent job was in Reading. Katherine was from Baltimore so she didn't mind being just a few hours from home. We had gotten married just before I started my last semester at Penn State. Katherine never finished because of her pregnancy. She never had any desire to return to school. I think she attended to get away from her parents and to find a husband. Somehow or other, I won the marriage lottery. My prize was three great kids and a bitch for a wife. I had regrets of course, but I was not one to live in the past. I did not know that my past was going to catch up with me so quickly.
Because I had lots of old friends in the area, getting an under-the-table job was not too difficult. I stashed away as much money as I could to keep it out of Katherine's hands. Things would be rough until she finally got the divorce started, if she did. All three of the kids pitched in without being asked. Under the circumstances, I think they felt sort of obligated. I didn't leave Katherine because they wanted me to, but they seemed to feel that way. Mom and Dad reluctantly took money from us, although I don't think it was necessary. They didn't want me to feel like a moocher.
.... There is more of this story ...