Dear Littlest Sister,
I wish, for so many reasons, that we were closer. It seems that all your life I’ve watched you hurting, and I’ve never been able to help you. Either it was out of my hands or you wouldn’t let me close enough to be any good.
I know I’m a disappointment to you, and that there are times you wish we didn’t share a name. I’m sorry. As difficult as our relationship has been, I have always been proud to call you my sister.
When you were five and our parents divorcing, I should have been more sensitive. I should have seen the Little Sister that needed reassurance.
Looking back, I don’t know why I minded it when you followed me around – you were so darn cute!
When you were playing softball, I wish I hadn’t been so wrapped up in my teenage-self. I wish I’d praised you for all your hard work; told you how great you were. Had I praised you, would you have felt shadowed by our middle sister’s spotlight? Would you still have given up sports?
Maybe it would have changed your future to hear how proud I was of you.
When you were experiencing your own depression, I wish I hadn’t been thousands of miles away. I’d have held you as you cried. Maybe then you wouldn’t have tried to overdose. If I’d been there to listen, would you have started cutting?
When you enlisted in the military, did I tell you how my heart swelled with pride? When you came back from your basic training and tech school I was, once again, wrapped up in my own stuff.
Did I tell you that I loved you?
Did I tell you that I missed you each day you were gone?
And now, when you’re hurting – when your life is spinning- the distance between us is more than the five-hour drive. I want to call you and listen to your tears. I want to to tell you that broken hearts hurt worse than childbirth, but that you’ll heal and be stronger.
I want to comfort you and give you the compassion and support that I know you won’t get from our mother or our middle sister.
It’s silly, really. We’re so much alike, you’d think we’d be closer. But, as I look back, I can see all the wedges I drove between us.
And so, I’ll write this letter to you; a letter you’ll never see. I’ll keep you in my thoughts as I wait to hear news of you. And I’ll pray that this isn’t the thing that causes you to hurt yourself again.
You are such a beautiful person.
You give so much of yourself to everyone. You, who never wanted children, are my son’s favorite aunt. He glows when he talks of his time with you and he tells anyone who will listen that he wants to join the military, just like his heroes. Do you know you’re one of his heroes?
Do you know you’re one of mine?
I love you to the depths of my soul. And no matter what, you will always be a part of me.
I am so infinitely proud of you.
Your Big Sister
We were married for 17 years, 6 months, and 2 days.
Up until day 6,217, when he told me he wanted a divorce, I thought we were the happiest married couple ever. I said those exact words to my best friend when she tearfully called me to tell me she was considering leaving her husband. I told her that she deserved to be happy.
So, when my dear husband told me the same thing shortly after, I knew he didn’t deserve anything less.
Up until the last day of our marriage (day number 6,394), I thought the divorce wouldn’t actually happen. I couldn’t process the concept that WE – my husband and I – were not going to be married.
Even then, when I was sad and broken-hearted and disbelieving, I nutshelled it all
. I do that sometimes when I have trouble recollecting events – I pare the story down to basic facts and repeat it until it sinks in. In this case, it made me realize what a shocking and kind of hilarious story it is.
This version is a little more than the nutshell – context is important – but it’s still hard to believe. Plus, some parts were left out for too long and it’s important that I’m honest about them.
So, right – back story.
I met him on my first day of junior college and we became inseparable. A year and half later, he enlisted in the Army while I was moving to continue my education. I couldn’t stand to be apart from him, so I broke up with him.
Kids are stupid.
He showed up out of the blue, all crazy and romantic, two weeks later. I agreed to get back together with him. Two weeks later, we got engaged over the phone. We planned a wedding for eight months later – that April.
Happy, happy day! Huge family event. It stayed a huge family event for more than 17 years. We had three kids, one failed business, somewhere around a dozen moves – including one cross-country and back.
This is where I leave out one part.
Well, where I used to leave out one part. After child number three, our beloved baby girl, things went south.
Meaning, The South wouldn’t rise again. He started having trouble getting it up.
Then, it didn’t come up at all.
I thought we were strong. We were best friends. I really thought we’d be together forever. I even had his name tattooed on my ankle in a big flaming heart. (It’s covered up now. No worries.)
If we talked about our intimacy issues, he just told me I didn’t do something enough. I didn’t initiate enough. I wasn’t there for HIM enough. I wasn’t enough. We tried Viagra; it didn’t work. We had sex a total of four times during the last seven years of our marriage. I gave up.
I’ll skip ahead to tell you how this turned out.
Between leaving me and marrying her, he visited a doctor. For her.
It turns out that years of untreated diabetes shredded certain blood vessels. He had liquid Viagra injected into his penis (OUCH!) and it still didn’t work. He’ll never have another erection without surgery. I have no idea if he got it or if he intends to.
But bottom line there is, it wasn’t – and never was – my fault. I never told ANYONE about his situation downstairs until I had to.
That brings us to Year 16; two months shy of our 17th anniversary.
In February, he found his high school girlfriend on Facebook. She requested him as a friend. He was perplexed and flustered; he asked me a million questions.
Should he add her?
Was she still mad at him for breaking up with her?
Could they be friends?
I was calm. “Honey,” I said. “Oh honey. We’ve been married almost 17 years. We have three kids. We live two states away. She’s married. It’ll be fine. Be friends.”
See how funny this story is already?
The emails, texts, and phone calls started immediately. At one point, I asked him to stop texting her. Emails were fine, stay friends on Facebook – just don’t text.
But I wasn’t built to be the text police.
So, you want to text? Fine. I trust you.
April was our 17th anniversary. We talked about having more anniversaries, staying married. I pushed for a quick answer; he said he wanted to stay together.
In May, there came a day he couldn’t stop pacing. Over and over I asked what was wrong. He couldn’t give me a clear answer.
I kept at it until he said the words, “I want a divorce.”
We both cried.
He moved out of the bedroom to the couch downstairs.
I cried. I howled. I screamed. At one particularly low moment, I was on my knees, sobbing, before him on the floor, while that stupid Sugarland song, “Stay,” was on the television.
He told me to stop; Just get up.
He didn’t want to talk. He didn’t want counseling. He was just done. Wanted his Facebook girlfriend.
At that point, he said she was still married; they were just friends. She “helped” him through this rough time.
In June, he took trips to meet her, the first in the city where we had our honeymoon because it was “more convenient.”
In July, I saw he’d been tagged in photos from a high school friend. We were still friends on Facebook. (I told you this story was funny.)
These photos were for his birthday party, to which I wasn’t invited, but there they were, arms around each other. Someone commented what a cute couple they were.
About that time, SURPRISE, I started dating. I’ll admit, I wasn’t just dating; I was down to fuck. After only having sex four times in seven years, I wanted some.
And I got some.
Never anywhere near my house – no one came over. He was still sleeping downstairs on the couch. He moved out in August.
At one point before our divorce, after he followed me to a park and took pictures of me partially naked and in an obviously sexual embrace with another man, he said, “You’ve got your get out of jail free card.”
At the time, I didn’t feel like our marriage had been a jail.
Of course, now I see that it was – we were both unhappy for a long time. Now, I’m thankful he gave me the card. When his business failed, we had to start over again and I didn’t see him the same way.
I lost respect for him, loving him a little less each day thereafter. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him.
Our divorce was final in October.
At Thanksgiving, which our divorce decree states is always his holiday with the children, he took his girlfriend, her kid and our kids to his family’s holiday feast and announced their engagement.
They got married in January on the beach with our children in attendance. I made arrangements for him to take them out of state for the event. I bought clothes for them to wear. I spent hours convincing our eldest, then 16, to go with them. I thought I was helping our kids through the transition by accepting the situation and being positive about their relationship.
They’re still together. I don’t say negative things about them, not around the kids. Of course, I hate them.
If I could explode people with my brain, they’d be first on the list. Clearly.
Sometimes I look around this house we shared – our last home together – and it’s hard for me to think that he’s not here, that he’ll never set foot in this house again. That loss has left a scar on my heart. A sensitive one.
I’m still shocked. I don’t know that I’ll ever get completely over it. I’m taking a break from it right now, but I have happily dated A LOT.
Four guys I’ve dated have left me for their high school girlfriends. I started asking men if they were still in touch with their high school squeezes because if they were, they’d soon find those bitches irresistible.
I laugh about it – to hide my pain.
I’m broken, yeah. I’m working on doing better, on being better.
But now, I’m the one who’s laughing.
We at The Band do understand that a lot of our subject matter can be very dark and dense. This, however, is not a story of sadness, but of rebirth, finding a place in the world, and knowing just how valuable you are.
This is her incredible journey:
13 has always been my happy number.
Today is no different.
13 years ago today I left my first, abusive marriage. I didn’t know where I was going, what I was doing, or how I was going to survive or take care of my two boys (and their sister who was due in five months. But I did know this: the best place for all of us was NOT with their father.
Leaving was the first hard decision I’ve made as an adult, the first time I felt like an adult, the first time I ever felt like I had the ABILITY to make a decision for myself or my children.
Life after his abuse was not an easy time. it was easily one of the three hardest times I’ve ever experienced in my life.
I am so thankful that a support system came out of the woodwork when I needed it and helped us get through the transition and helped me feel secure enough in my choice to leave that I didn’t end up going back.
I can’t imagine where my children or I would be today if we hadn’t had that.
Mike and I met shortly after that fateful day, in a chatroom. Two years later on August 20th we found out we were having a baby! Baby Eliza blessed us with her presence on April 21st.
I know that it’s no coincidence that today would also have been my father-in-law’s birthday, may he rest in peace. I wish I’d had the chance to meet him.
Today has so many memories, meanings and significance for all of us. This is truly a day we will all cherish forever.
13 happy years of freedom, 12 years knowing my true love, and so many other memories. Amazing memories.
Before, After, and Between.
Today is a good day every year, and always will be.
How about you? Do YOU have a happy or lucky number or thing?
Is Mommy coming back?”
He was not quite six years old when he asked me that question about our mother. I didn’t know the answer then. I was only nine. I knew he needed me. I knew he was sad and worried and really, really scared. I told him the first thing that came to mind.
“Yes. She’ll be back.”
It took a few years, and in that time, he and I grew very close. I helped him with his homework, did his laundry, and beat up his bullies. I tucked him in at night, made his grilled cheese sandwiches with ketchup, and wiped away his tears.
Now, he’s thirty and I’m thirty-four. We’re both parents. Both have been divorced. Both wounded. But I will always be the big sister.
His fatigues are packed for the war zone, again: for the fourth time. Fuck.
I left him a message. And then he left me one. And then finally today, we talked.
“Am I coming home, Sis?”
“Yes. Yes, you are coming home.”
“With my tags on my toes?”
“NO. Not with your tags on your toes. You’re coming home to kiss your son.”
“Take care of my wife & son, Sis.”
“You’re the best sister and mom I’ve ever had. I love you.”
(I catch my breath.) “Watch your ass, baby boy. I love you too.”
Oh dear God, please watch over my baby brother. Keep this 6’4″ soldier safe and bring him home where he is loved most: where he has a son who needs his father; a wife who needs her husband and a sister who wants to keep a promise that he is coming home safely.
I am an only child – an accident. My parents were married, but my mom never hid the fact that she’d never wanted kids. She said she was glad she had me; I was the best thing that ever happened to her, but that she never wanted kids.
I guess when you’re young, you say things you shouldn’t.
My mom got married at 17, had me at 19. She says it wasn’t young at the time, but yeah, it was.
She got married to get out of her mom and step-dad’s house. Married a guy hoping another guy she had “loved” before would come rescue her.
She didn’t plan on staying married. But then I came along; she tried to make it work.
I was blessed. Two weeks later, she met, and we moved in with, the man who would become my step-dad – the only dad I’ve really known.
Life was good. I was loved. There were fights, but they stuck it out.
When I hit 5th grade, my mom started talking up boarding school. Started looking at different schools for me. Figuring out how to afford it. I didn’t understand, but I was young and it sounded like an adventure.
Talk of it fizzled out. Life continued.
One of my chores around the house was the dusting, which included moving all books and magazines to clean under them. One day, I found a spiral bound notebook with a green cover.
I flipped it open. It was my mom’s handwriting, full of information about boarding schools:
“I want to find a Christian boarding school for Charity so when I kill myself she will be with people who can take care of her.”
My world changed that day. And I couldn’t tell a soul.
I’d been snooping. I’d read my mom’s journal. But now I knew there were dark things in my mom’s life.
Honestly, I’d known that as long as I could remember. I don’t even know how young I was when she told me about trying to kill herself as a teenager.
But that was then…this was now. I had to take care of my mom, but keep our family secret. What would people in our Church think, at my small Christian school, how could I tell anyone without confessing that I had read my mom’s journal?
The years went on. I thought about it sometimes, but shoved it down. I graduated from school, went off to a small Christian college. Found out other families were messed up too. Maybe mine was pretty good.
I got a summer job at the same place my mom worked between during summer break. I hated it, but it was a job.
My mom wasn’t in good shape. She was sleeping and crying – a lot. She wasn’t eating much. I got her up for work in the morning, ate lunch with her to make sure she ate. She went to bed as soon as we got home.
I took care of the house, then would head off to bed until I heard my dad come in late at night. I would get back up and talk to him. I figured somebody in the family should be talking to each other, they obviously weren’t, so I decided I better.
A bright spot of that summer was dreaming about going to graduate school.
The end of the summer came; I went back to college. I went early to get settled in and start working. My dad drove down to help build my loft and get my stuff set up.
He had said he wasn’t coming; he didn’t see a point in going to college, I was old enough to do it myself (um, old enough, but definitely not big enough to build that loft).
The only thing I remember my folks talking about that summer was fighting about whether or not he would help me move back to college.
To be honest, I felt guilty, but free to be going back to school.
Then, I couldn’t get reach my mom. No matter what time I called, she never answered.
I tried other family members – no one answered, until my cousin did on Monday night. When she said, “Hi Charity,” I heard my uncle yell in the background, “whatever she needs, tell her we will help.”
That seemed weird, I didn’t need anything, I just wanted to ask my mom a question about my car insurance.
“Your mom is in the hospital. She’s in a coma. They pumped her stomach. I found her in the chair. She had taken 150 pills after I told her I was leaving her Sunday night.”
I said I’d drive home.
“No, just stay at college, there is nothing you can do.”
By the time I got off the phone there was nothing I could do. I just sat there.
Thankfully, my roommate talked me through getting dressed, each step. I missed my first class. All I could see was my mom sitting in that chair, taking those pills.
I couldn’t tell a soul. What would everyone think?
I went to class, I went to work. My roommate kept my secret.
Three days later I told a friend. In class. In a written note.
The demon of depression was alive and well in my family and now people knew my life wasn’t perfect.
She came out of the coma. She was in the hospital a few days. My dad tried to stick it out for a few months. I told him I would come home at the end of the semester to take care of her.
He didn’t make it through the end of the semester. She moved out.
When I asked him why he gave up, when I begged him to stay until I finished that semester, he said, “but you’d been talking about graduate school. I was afraid you wouldn’t come home and I couldn’t bear the thought of staying in the marriage that long.”
I worried about my mom. I cried, I didn’t sleep because every time I closed my eyes I saw her taking those pills.
Slowly, she got her feet under her. They divorced. She started dating and met her now husband. It seemed like third time was the charm.
I got married and had three kids. Developed severe postpartum depression and anxiety.
I was terrified of becoming like my mom, but at least she had beat the depression.
Fast forward 15 years.
I am battling my own depression, but unlike my parents, I am getting help. I am fighting. If my mom could beat it without help, I should be able to with help, right?
Just after Christmas, my phone rang. It was my mom. Her husband wanted her to tell me she’d been really depressed again. Crying all the time. Doctors wanted to put her in an intensive outpatient program, but insurance wouldn’t cover it.
My world crashed. Thoughts of reading those words in her journal came back.
Images of her taking those pills invaded my mind. She hadn’t tried to commit suicide – yet – but I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.
When will the phone ring again?
How do I protect my girls when that day comes?
I’ve lived in fear of my mom deciding I wasn’t worth living for as long as I can remember. I have lived knowing that I have to protect her.
I don’t want my girls to worry about me like that. I don’t want them to feel like they have to take care of me. I fight every day to change myself for them.
Tell me, Band, how do I rewrite my girls’ future when my past is coming back to haunt me?
I believe in love. I believe in forever.
But I chose to walk away.
Unlike many other stories here on The Band, my ex-husband didn’t beat me or abuse me, but I during my marriage, I started to lose my sense of self.
I went to a therapist a few years into our marriage for some issues that were mine, and in therapy, I came to realize that he had some issues, too. I had some issues with depression which I worked through with medication and my therapist.
My ex used to give me grief for going and working out – complaining that I “never spent any time with him,” although he spent hours a day glued to online computer games. He also had anxiety and some Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, but never wanted to admit it.
When our son was born, I did more than 95% of the parenting. I was a single parent who happened to be married.
He installed the security system for our son’s daycare, and, three weeks later, it was broken into. So he was called in the middle of the night to go to the daycare and make a DVD copy of the security video for the cops. This event apparently triggered flashbacks of the trauma that occurred several years earlier, when he walked in on someone burglarizing our house.
A month after the daycare break-in, he had a huge breakdown. We’d gotten a baby sitter and gone out to have a few drinks – nothing really crazy. That night was spent with him curled in a ball on the bathroom floor as I tried to calm him down. Eventually, he agreed to allow me take him to the emergency room for help. He was agitated, irritated, and anxious. They sent us home, advising us it was a panic attack, and told him to see his regular doctor.
He promised he would see the regular doctor and he did…but he refused all types of treatment – no drugs or therapist for him. He told me he knew his triggers – he had it under control. But I began to notice his behaviors getting worse – he didn’t like being out at night. He didn’t sleep well. He didn’t like being home at night when I wasn’t there, if I had a work function to attend.
He complained that we didn’t have sex enough. I worked a full-time stressful job outside of the home and came home every night to perform the majority of childcare and the house.
He liked the money I made, but never let me vent about my job, like a partner is supposed to do. I spoke to my OB/GYN about medication to help to increase my sex drive. My OB told me that I also needed to have consistent time to myself every week to recharge – just an hour or two would do. So I told him that. He told me our schedules didn’t allow for that, even though for years he had gone to a foreign language class once a week and, at one time, also had two evenings each week to himself to play online games.
That was the last straw for me.
I began to sleep more. I stopped taking care of myself. So I called my OB and resumed my medication. I told my friends what I needed to do and they hashed through all the good, bad, and ugly issues with me, strengthening my purpose and resolve.
We tried marriage counseling, and the counselor affirmed my concerns regarding his anxiety issues. She helped give me the courage to walk away.
I did not want to be a statistic. I got married believing it was forever. I loathed the thought of letting go of that dream, breaking up my family. However, I knew that my son deserved to know his mom was happy and healthy.
And I am. I’m off my medications for anxiety or depression, though I wouldn’t hesitate to call someone if I needed it. I have a great support network of family and friends who all helped me through the rough transition.
My divorce was final on December 14. I walked down those steps outside the courthouse and wasn’t sure how to feel. It wasn’t exactly something to celebrate, and part of me mourns what I lost, but I know that I can move forward now.