Has it only been five days since a sink-hole opened and swallowed my home? Everything has changed. I have changed. If I didn’t know I was strong before, I do now. Diamonds are created under immense pressure. For years, he has told friends how he worries about me, as though I were made of porcelain. Deflection at its best. I am not scattered. I don’t disappear. I watched a musical with my girl and several friends Saturday. I couldn’t tell you anything about it, as I was bone-shatteringly exhausted. I kept bumping into friends, dear people who asked how we were. We were assembled to be shown to our seats. Does one say “my husband disappeared and I don’t know what the hell is going on?” Once home, the mask collapsed. He was there. I had nothing to say. I was so tired by this point. I changed, grabbed my little girl, and on the way out the door, noticed his bandaged hand. “Mummy is taking you to the carnival, just as I promised,” I said breezily. As I entered the showground and the swarm of people, my head was thumping. It grew worse in the searing sun, despite the painkillers I had taken. I didn’t want to meet familiar faces. I was too spent for conversation, and too exhausted for a fake façade of togetherness. By a miracle, I ran into an authentic family. A family who loves unconditionally and does real. Hallelujah! I told the sorry tale to the couple as Lizzie played with their daughter. I got to hang around them throughout the night. My friends sat with me, and understood my introversion. This was kindness. We watched the fireworks, then I went home. Hubby was in and out of the house. I didn’t speak to him. I was too spent.
The next morning, we had a christening to attend. Our dear friends are moving to England and I was not going to miss the opportunity to meet their baby, and bid them farewell. My spine was excruciating and I had to ask hubby to drive. I read the Sunday papers, and he said nothing. Our daughter watched DVDs in the back. “What happened? How could you do this?” I finally asked as she slept on the long journey. “I messed up,” he shrugged. “I didn’t know if you were dead or alive!” I cried. Back to silence. I am so tired. We enter the church in the Southern Highlands, and a grown woman, who has intellectual challenges, greeted me. She held my hand upon my entrance, and sat with me. I had on a black coat, and she nuzzled into its softness. “I feel sad,” she whispered. I looked around at all the folks gathered, and said. “There are a lot of people here, more than you are probably used to. I feel afraid sometimes too.” We hugged, two child/women connecting in their fragility. It was special, raw and honest. My friend came over with her new baby, and my daughter kissed his head. How I wished I could give her a sibling. A lady spoke an obscure Bible verse and my jaw dropped open. It was the verse I had selected to open my book! My husband sat beside me, unaware.
Afterward, outside in the glorious sun, I met a music teacher who lives in the same area as I, and formed a new friendship. My daughter was playing, and my husband had extricated himself. We went to find him when it was time to go back to the house. I searched the vast grounds, then rang his phone. We found him in the car, staring into space, the seat in recliner position. Wanting to bring some food to the house, I asked that we stop at a market. There were complaints that I spent money on bread and chips, and on a little bracelet for a friend’s birthday. How much does a six-pack cost? I wondered. “Please slow down, it’s hurting my back,” I winced as he sped down the bumpy rural road. He wasn’t listening. We missed their house in his haste and had to turn around. As Lizzie played and I chatted to our friends, he paced outside. Disconnected. My friend watched him pace up and down the patio. I confided in her, told her how he hadn’t come home Friday night. She had bi-polar running through her family, and understood. Her father-in-law pulled me aside and said my husband looked gravely unwell. He was concerned about him.
Back home, I did what parents do; fed my child dinner and prepared for school the next day. In the shower Monday morning, I wept, soul-wracking tears. I felt raw, exposed, going up to school. I told a few close friends and they weren’t surprised that my husband was an alcoholic with mental health issues. They had suspected as much. I went to the gym, and did the circuit of the damned, attempting to exorcise a demon. I figured at least I wasn’t drinking, or dying. A friend shouted me a coffee and confided that she and her husband had the experience of seeing my husband come to their door with a fresh beer and our daughter in hand. Horrified, beyond belief. He had been drinking at ten am in the morning. Shame and humiliation, anger. He came home and I asked that he give me the key to his car. He wouldn’t. I looked in. Empty cigarette packets, brown paper scrunched up, empty bottles and fast food wrappers. Bills and envelopes. Chaos and filth. I wanted to smash the window. In the spare wardrobe in the garage, I found a demand letter addressed to me from a company hired to collect payment for Centrelink. I had been receiving a family payment years before, and when I had broken my back again, my husband took over the finances. He made some huge errors, and now I found I had relationship-acquired debt in my name. I wasn’t even privy to my own affairs, my own life! The madness saw me tearing through every jacket pocket, trying to find evidence and hoping to find none.
The past fell into place in a devastating manner. Why, when he was working interstate, I uncovered that despite receiving a living away allowance, he was sleeping by the side of the road in his car. He was spending hundreds each week on booze and heaven knows what else. He was a master of deception, made easier due to the long hours he worked. I hardly saw him. People have been kind, though I have been asked many times in the past five days, “what are you going to do? Are you getting him to see a doctor, into treatment, into AA”? Healers have been suggested, or offered their services. Somehow it all falls on me. I tell you, I am a mum, and a writer, trying to earn a living. I barely sleep and I need spinal surgery. I have no more energy. I have invested thousands in therapy, in alternatives, in resources for him since he began to fall apart. Why am I then asked, what I am doing about the situation? I didn’t create it! I have no power over it. I can control my life, and keep my daughter’s life orderly. I can’t control his. He has to make the appointments, and put in the work. I can’t do it for him. I will die in the attempt.
He went to AA last night, and I sat up until midnight covering books and doing all that is necessary to lead a manageable life. I am doing it solo. At the moment, it seems an unfair equation I can’t believe that this is where we have ended up. I have shown people a picture of him from before we were married. He glowed. He was handsome, charismatic, and healthy. He was a vegetarian who didn’t drink. I can’t believe the man whose eyes are dead and whom never smiles in photos now, is the same man. Where have you gone? The past six years have been excruciating. Anxiety every time I log on to pay bills, tension every time you disappear at a dinner party. You have become a phantom. I miss you. I hold on because I love you. I know you are in there. I am not angry, not really. Just very sad.