So what do you do when you’ve been tossed out of the safety and security of the airplane seat you’ve occupied, its seatbelt securely holding you in place through any and all unexpected turbulence for 20 years, and into the open air…without a parachute?
I hope I never find out, literally, because I’m pretty sure I’d die. March 18, 2009, showed me I could use some work on quick reflex skills! I’d like to think I’d at least REACH for a non-existent rip cord. Fight against the eminent landing. SOMETHING. But that isn’t how I responded that day. (Hence my decision to NEVER sky dive for real.)
I sat there, like a deer caught in headlights, for a minute or two. Stunned. My brain ceased to function, my intelligence went out the window, I couldn’t even think. I couldn’t comprehend. I didn’t understand.
That was all the intelligence I could muster in a moment like that.
So He repeated what He had just said. And I was almost equally unintelligent the second time through.
“Is this a joke? You are kidding me. This is a joke. I know it is. It isn’t funny, I don’t get the punchline, but there is NO WAY you’re telling me the truth. This is NOT real. Am I being punked?”
Where was Asthon Kutcher?
But He wasn’t kidding. It was not a joke. It was a disaster of proportions I couldn’t comprehend. I still can’t.
Then my mind kicked in and my questions began.
“How can this be? What am I going to do? No job? No money? You’re going to PRISON? How will I raise our kids? How will I keep them alive? How am I going to pay for our food and utility bills? How will I pay our car insurance? What am I going to do?” (That fear I’d always had of being responsible to keep someone else alive, the responsibility of providing for someone else, returned. I was terrified for the physical survival of my children.)
He told me I still didn’t get it. There were no cars to drive anymore. There wasn’t a house to live in. And the man I’d turned to for almost 20 years, to solve problems and answer questions, didn’t have any answers anymore.
I knew I was headed, with my four kids, to live in a cardboard box on the street. Literally.
I was too stunned to understand a lot, in that moment, but suddenly I had a thought come to mind.
“Is that all?”
Nope. There was more. He said He was sorry, then started SOBBING like I’d never seen Him cry before. And that was when it hit me. This was not a joke. This was real.
And all I could do was continue to be what I’d always tried to be: polite, kind, and calm. I actually apologized to him! (What can I say? You never react the way you anticipate in moments like that. Of course, I’d never anticipated any moments like that!)
“I’m sorry, so sorry to leave you here like this, but I have to go. I have to get out of here.”
I got up from the table, got in my car, and drove away.
I didn’t know where I was headed, I just knew I had to get away from Him. But there was nowhere I could drive that would take me away from the disaster. I made it less than 1/3 of a mile before the shock and reality hit and the tears began like a flood. And the shaking. The shaking set in so immediately I doubted my ability to control a steering wheel. I quickly pulled over so I didn’t add to the disaster by hurting myself or someone else.
There I was, alone, unable to drive, TERRIFIED, with not a clue what to do. My panic was absolute, but indescribable. My every thought was for my children: how was I going to feed them? How was I going to keep them alive? WHAT was I going to do?
I picked up my cell phone and called my sister. Something wasn’t right with my fingers. I couldn’t get them to work. I couldn’t get them to dial the numbers on the phone correctly. Either that or she wasn’t home. I then tried my friend from college who had become like a sister to me over the years–we traveled together, spent holidays together, etc… It was a miracle. She was home.
I could hardly speak, but she finally understood what I was saying although she couldn’t comprehend it either. I remember asking, “What should I do? What do I do? Should I go to the bank and try to get ANY money so I can keep my kids alive?” My survival instinct had set in at that point, I guess.
“Yes, go to the bank and try to get some money,” she advised.
I didn’t know if I could, but I had to try.
I drove to the bank.
When we married, we’d brought our own checking accounts to our marriage and had never changed that. We’d never had a joint checking account. (Looking back, I’ve been told this might not have been normal. But I hadn’t been married before. I didn’t know what was normal. I had married a man capable of a lot more than anyone had ever realized.) I’d never had access to any of “his” accounts or money. I never needed it–I charged everything to a credit card, which he told me he paid off monthly, and that was how our household operated. Things that couldn’t be charged (like the house cleaner and school fees for our children), I paid for out of my small checking account that he replenished with small amounts of cash as needed because I was a stay-at-home mom. Unfortunately, I always waited until I was almost out of money to tell him I needed money. So my cash resource was small.
I got a little cash, but not all of it, so I could buy groceries for my children. It was all I had to begin a new life with. And then, not knowing what else to do, I returned “home.”
But it didn’t feel like my home any more.