It was the first newspaper of the year for my kids on
Wednesday and things were going slowly. The ad staff had failed to put color
ads on the color pages, thus everything needed to be reset. The sports editor
had locked up a bit and hadn’t started layout on his five pages until an hour
after we were supposed to be to press. No fewer than three kids who were trying
to push the paper out the door at 2 a.m. were slated to be in my 8 a.m. class
that next day.
I spent most of that time, however, in a fog, thanks to a
short email from The Missus. She wanted to know if our friend from Milwaukee
could come out for the weekend and bring her two kids. Her husband had been
having an affair for a year and she just found out. When told to choose, he chose
the other woman and moved out. She was looking for a weekend of emotional
Divorces, affairs and other problems in marriage happen
every day. It’s not a rarity that this happens and quite frankly, there are
plenty of people we know who we look at and say “Yeah. That’s so not going to
However, I would have imagined I’d see Bill O’Reilly doing
terrorist fist pounds with an imam at the freshly built Ground Zero mosque
before I’d see this one coming.
They were high school sweethearts when neither of them had
really matured into their current incarnation. With age came beauty and
strength, marriage and kids, a house and good careers. They were an eclectic
pair in the sense that she was an artsy freer spirit while he was a solid and
strong law enforcement official. They were fun and you could always see the
love in their eyes. It was like two puzzle pieces that perfectly aligned.
The Missus and I kind of fell into that same area. Different
and yet perfectly so. The text message announcement that people we perceived to
be among those who would “make it” had failed to do so was hard enough. Seeing
a reflective glimpse of your own archetype was crushing.
“I don’t know how to feel here,” I told her the other day.
“It’s like I feel I have to apologize for this for some reason. It’s weird. I
haven’t done it, but it’s like I feel…It’s just weird.”
“I know,” she said. Her voice never wavered, her eyes locked
into mine. “It’s like you want to understand what happened so you can see that
this isn’t a random kind of thing that can happen to anyone.”
I don’t think we’ll ever know what happened here, but I keep
finding myself coming back to the idea of “there but by the grace of God go I.”
I’ve spent much of my life not necessarily attempting to succeed, but trying to
avoid being a cautionary tale.
This concept was codified early in life for me, but the one
point in life that really sticks with me was when I was 18 and going off to
college. Instead of telling me not to drink, smoke or screw, Dad looked at me
and said, “Don’t bring shame on the family.”
Sometimes, that’s easier said than done. In other cases, one
person’s shame is another person’s salvation.
All I know is that I can’t get this out of my head.
And that I’ve made an extra effort to tell my wife how much
she means to me.