It was a Saturday morning and it was raining. I usually got up and played golf with friends on Saturdays, weather permitting. This Saturday the weather was defiantly not permitting. A quick check of the Weather Channel told me it was going to rain hard all day.
Then I remembered it was Christmas morning. My usual foursome would be spending the day with their families. Me, I didn't have a family anymore. I was spending the day alone.
They had families who would love to have them hang around all day.
Well my wife had left me 10 years ago and I had no one to report to or share this special day with ... My kids were all of age and had drifted away over time. My son lived in another city making his fame and fortune in the business world. My daughter lived in the area with her husband and my three grandchildren.
I would usually have Saturday or Sunday dinner at her home, but today they were visiting her husband's parents in his old home town. So I was on my own. I sat there at the kitchen table pondering my fate, or in other words, I was trying to figure out what to do with myself this today.
I had a house keeper. So my house was always clean, the dishes washed, there were meals prepared for me to heat up for my dinners and all the washing and ironing was done. There was also the club if I wanted to eat out. But today it would be closing early so the employees could enjoy this day with their families.
As I sat there contemplating my life, a thought snuck into my mind. I guess it is time to clean out the bedroom closet. It has been ten years since my wife left me. I might as well pack up the stuff she had left there and give it to a women's shelter or something. It had been a duty I had been putting off for too many years.
I guess I was just avoiding the memories of her.
I took my breakfast dishes to the sink, rinsed them, and stacked them in the dishwasher. Then I headed upstairs to the master bedroom to start my long dreaded chore with all the memories it would invoke.
Once in the closet, I turned to her side. I started by taking everything off the shelf above her clothes because I knew that I'd break down if I started with her clothing first. There were just too many memories there, I'd pick up an outfit and remember what she looked like wearing it, and I'd remember where I had last seen her in it, and I'd start to cry, again.
I still missed her after all these years.
I guess that what love does to a person.
I took everything off the shelf and put it on the bed. It was in doing this that I spotted "the box".
Twenty years ago my wife and I took a trip to Los Angeles. Well actually it was an all expense trip won by yours truly for being the best sales manager in the company for the last five years.
My team met and exceeded all the challenges handed us by the CEO. We were his "go to" group. And we always came through.
My wife Ann loved the city. She dragged me to Rodeo Drive to "window shop" with the rich and famous. It was there that I talked her into going inside a very high end women's lingerie shop. After a lot of coaxing she entered and fell in love with the place.
I felt a little funny staring at all the ladies unmentionables. (You know sort of like a pervert) I was saved by a pretty "sales associate" who escorted me to a small men's lounge area. It was set up to give the husbands some place to hang out while their money was being extracted from their wives or girlfriends. There was a 60" flat screen on the wall that was tuned to sports talk, soft leather chairs and couches, magazines about cars or sports or golf or hunting or fishing. Everything needed to satisfy a man's interests except for that brass pole found in some bars or clubs.
There was a small bar stocked with snacks and coffee. A little exploring led me discover a refrigerator full of cold beer and other drinks. I grabbed a beer and got comfortable in one of the chairs watching the flat screen.
Two hours later the "sales associate" came to get me, "Your wife is ready to leave now." I was just slightly "shit faced". I guess I had a few too many beers. The store called us a cab and helped my wife put me in it. I was just as happy as a clam and my wife soon joined in those feelings.
I guess the shopping mellowed her.
The next morning I awoke with a really nasty hangover. My head hurt and my stomach couldn't hold anything. If I even thought of food, I was back in the bathroom. The package from the lingerie store was forgotten by me.
I stayed in bed all day and my wife went out and did whatever those things are that wives do in strange cities when their husbands are hung-over. When she came back to the hotel room that evening, she had no packages.
I asked, "Did you have fun today-" She just smiled and nodded.
I guess now is as good a time to tell you a little about my history. I was born the first child in the family. I guess my parents figured out what they were doing because before long I was the oldest of five children. My mother and father were loving parents. They were middle class and we lived in a middle class neighborhood. My Dad's father was a factory worker and his mother was a stay at home mom.
My Mother's parents owned a Bar and Grill. They were in a factory district bordering on a middle class residential area. They had the best of both worlds, factory workers eating their breakfast, lunch and dinner there during the week while the residential folks kept the weekend hopping.
I spent my early years growing up there, It all came to an end when my grandfather died of a heart attack and grandmother sold the bar. I guess her heart wasn't into operating it alone. My Dad added an "in-law" apartment to our house and grandma joined our happy family.
My next historical event was college. This event proved to be the event that shaped my future. I love the place. In high school I was a pretty good student. Not good enough to win scholarships or things, but good enough to graduate in the top 1/3 of the class. Grandma and my Dad came up with the money to get me in the door. The rest was up to me.
I took to the business courses like a fish to water. I was fascinated by the whole process even Economics, my least favorite course. It seems as if we spent weeks studying some concept and when I finally got it down, the professor started teaching up the exact opposite concept the next week. Whew, talked about a screwed up subject. It's no wonder that economists can never agree on a thing.
It was in my senior year that I met Ann; she was a freshman also studying business but having trouble with Accounting. I was a wonder boy with accounting so one of my Profs asked me to tutor her. Ann and I just seemed to hit it off at the beginning. She never really did learn Accounting so she switched to Law.
I, on the other hand, learned that Ann was perfect for me. So I applied for the MBA program, was accepted, and stayed. Ann and I soon became un-separable. It was in her third year that I moved off campus into a small furnished apartment so I could gain the quiet that an MBA candidate required.
Ann moved in two weeks later. We both learned about sex together.
When graduation day finally arrived, I received my MBA and a few job offers. Ann was accepted at a law school. We moved to the city were her law school was located. She registered and I got a job. Together we got an apartment.
The company I got a job with was an old established firm in the equipment business. I worked hard to succeed there, but it was not to be. The management of the company was old school. They were not open to new ideas. If it had succeeded for them for 50 years, why change a thing-
My years of study and my MBA were useless to their management. They just didn't want to change. I was watching the company slowly decrease in value as I worked there. It was years later when I was working for my current employer that I noticed their bankruptcy notice in a business journal.
Ann threw herself into the study of the Law. She would try out various concepts on me and I slowly learned a lot about the law. Because of my business background, I grabbed the concepts of business law and torts easily. Ann, on the other hand, found family law up her alley. Between the two of us, she graduated.
With her graduation came the offers from small to medium sized law firms to join as a paralegal. Ann graduated fairly high in her class and was invited to join some nice firms. I guess they had a need for people specializing in family law. It could be that the divorce rate in the country was on the way up and specialists in that field were needed.
We sat together many nights researching the cities, the firms, and my chances of getting a job in that area. We finally decided on Tampa Florida. The law firm was an up and comer specializing in the same areas that Ann had studied and liked. For me, that area of Florida had a lot of startups that needed (my thoughts) my skills.
We both started making applications for me in the area. Ann was a little upset that I was snatched up by a company after only one interview while it took her three interviews before receiving her offer. She was more than a little miffed when she saw our pay scales; mine was about 25% higher than hers, so much for equal opportunity.
I started in sales (so much for my MBA), but I loved the whole aspect of the job. I worked with really great people. None of the sales personal were cut throat, or back stabbers. We all managed to work as a team helping each other whenever necessary.
The customers were fun people to work with. Oh they were typical customers; they wanted the best quality at the cheapest price. And of course they wanted it yesterday. It was fun working with them.
Ann, on the other hand, found out that being on the lowest rung of the legal ladder was not the glamour she thought it would be. As the old saying goes, "Sh ... t flows downhill" could not be more appropriate where she was working. Many the nights when she returned home, she was really upset with one or another of the partners or senior members of the firm. She started studying harder and harder towards her Bar Examine; she passed on her first try.
When her firm did nothing toward elevating her status, she quit. She had already been offered a job with another firm. That firm was just starting out, but it was a Woman led business and had taken off with a bang.
Ann came onboard with all the benefits of a junior partner. She worked long hours and brought work home with her. She had her mind made up that she would succeed. And succeed she did. It took two years but she was a recognized leader in the divorce field in the area. Most of the opposing male lawyer's referred to her as "The Bitch". While she never admitted it to me, I knew she just loved the title.
My career moved along rapidly. I not only sold, but I was put on assignments that used my skills as an MBA. It was time to take our lives to the next step. We bought a lovely home on the bay. We started throwing parties, joined the country club and basically became yuppies.
Then it happened. Somehow Ann became pregnant. At first she wasn't sure if mother hood was going to be her thing. But she loved decorating the baby's room, the showers, and all the other things that went with child raising.
She started interviewing Nannies because she was planning on returning to work as soon as she was able. Well no matter how hard she planned, life got in the way. Oh the pregnancy was problem free if you discount the water weight, the swollen feet, the multiple trips to the bathroom to pee, the heart burn and of course those months of morning sickness.
The baby developed normally. The various tests were all perfect and of course the birth was problem free. Ann had a normal labor and delivery. There were no complications or problems. But as I said life got in the way. It was a little life wrapped in a blanket and placed at Ann's breast by a nurse.
When our daughter started nursing, Ann just stared at her.
It took about 5 minutes before Ann spoke, "Would you call my office and tell them about Ella's birth. And also tell them I won't be returning. I now have more important things to do." Three years later our son Christopher joined the three of us. Ella was thrilled that she had a sibling. Ann was now the perfect mother. Ann and I had many discussions about having more children. She wanted a large family but I wanted to stop at the two we already had. Ann tried all her "lawyer" tricks on me, but evidentially I prevailed.
I had a vasectomy to prevent accidents.
We were the perfect little family.
I looked back down at the package on the bed. She had never put the outfit on for me. She said, "I'm saving it for a special occasion." I sat there on the edge of the bed and started crying.
I guess that that occasion would never happen now.
As I sat there I thought," Never save something for as Special Occasion. Every day in your life is a special occasion." I still think those words changed my life.
"Now I read more and clean less." "I sit on the porch without worrying about anything." "I spend more time with my family and less at work." "I understand that life should be a source of experience to be lived up to, not survived through." My thoughts drifted back to those years long past.
The years since my children's birth seemed to rush past. I worked hard at succeeding in my profession. There were long days and even longer nights were I chose my job over my family.
When my children were small I missed their first steps, I missed their first words. It seemed that there was always a crisis at work. It might have been a problem with a sale or a delivery that required me to put in a few extra hours. Then there were the more serious ones the problems that required me to board a plane and rush to the customer's location.
Ann understood. She didn't yell and shout. She just said, "Hurry back we miss you when you're gone. Oh and yes, I still love you." I missed birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions at the kid's school over the years. My Ann was still there for me. She knew that even though I was absent, I still missed her and loved her. My kids just thought, "Well that's just Dad." To soon my kids were in high school and Ann began making noises that she wanted to return to the work place. Her reasoning was that they no longer needed her in their lives. She was bored sitting in the house hour after hour, waiting for the phone to ring.
One day as I was getting ready to leave for my office, I noticed that Ann was dressed in one of her professional outfits. I smiled at her and complemented her on her appearance.
"Thank you," was her only reply.
I guessed that she had an appointment and promptly went back to my own thoughts about my job.
I didn't pay any more attention to her mode of dress. I didn't even notice that there were some nights I beat her home or that dinner was more take out than home made. I guess that one day it was something said by one of the kids that woke me up.
"So Mom, how did it go in court today-" "I won the case." Was all she said, but it was said with a smile and a proud expression on her face. It was an expression that I had not seen on her face in many years.
From that point on she left for work proud of her skills and accomplishments. She and the kids enjoyed their lives together. Me- I was an outsider looking in.
Ann was always there for the kids. She attended school plays, award ceremonies, and of course their graduations. With me it was hit or miss. Sometimes I would make the event, other times work would prevail. My kids had hardened to my absents over the years that there were no hurt feelings or sad looks. It was like they expected my excuses and were not expecting my attendance anyway.
I guess my wake up moment came when Ella and her current boyfriend pulled up in front of the house with a U-Haul truck. He was helping her to move into her college dorm. Not only was I not asked to help, I didn't even know what college she had selected.
Ann and I helped load the truck and while holding hands, we watched them drive away. Ann promised to give me Ella's new address and phone number. It took two weeks but one morning I found a note in Ann's handwriting. It consisted of an address and phone number. No further comments were written on that piece of note paper.
That year was the one where I was promoted to Senior Vice President and given a seat on the Board of Directors. Ann was in the middle of a very large contract dispute and was out of town when my promotion party was held. Both my kids were also away. I sat at the head table next to an empty chair that was reserved for Ann. I listened to all the speakers speak my praise. I missed my wife.
With my new job came hour and hours of extra time spent in my office, trips to distant company sites to facilitate disputes or inspect operations. I saw less and less of my family. One day I noticed that I had not seen my son lately. Ann informed me that he had left for college a month ago while I was on an inspection tour.
"I didn't bother to give you his new address and phone number since you never used Ella's." That year I was determined to make up for all my many absentness's to my family over the Christmas holidays. I put all the work on my secretary. She bought everyone gifts, arranged to have the house, both inside and outside, decorated in holiday fare.
I spent that Christmas alone. The kids had arranged to spend the holiday at friend's parent's homes, and Ann decided to work on something in New York because she didn't want to spend the holidays alone.
It was the worst Christmas of my life. I just sat there and drank myself into a stupor.
I spent the remainder of the holiday taking down decorations, tossing out the tree, and giving the presents to a battered woman's shelter. It was during those days that I made a resolution to turn my life around and try to reconnect with my family.