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Just Another Pleasant Valley Sunday?


D-Day

It was 10 a.m. on Sunday. My husband stood combing his hair in front of the bathroom mirror. He called me from an adjacent room,

“Hey, you wanna go poke around?”
“Sure!” I replied with a grin.

The two of us made up the term ‘poke around.’ It meant going out with no plan and not being on anyone’s schedule.

Whenever we spent the day ‘poking around,’ we’d hang out as sweethearts, run our errands, and visit our favorite date place: Lowe’s.

We knew how mundane it might seem to others, but we looked forward to our trips to Lowe’s together. We browsed the aisles and got inspired to renovate and upgrade, forever adding to our ‘someday I’ll’ list.

We enjoyed pricing new cabinets, picking out blinds, debating light fixtures, and voting on the selection of doors, decking materials, etc. — for projects we knew we’d never start.

It was a relaxing diversion for two people who worked more hours than they should.

Unexpected turn of events

Our trip to Lowe’s that Sunday was like any other — until. Until the love of my life pulled the car into a grocery store parking lot, turned the engine off, and went into hysterics.

I had no idea what was causing what looked like a complete mental breakdown. He’d been fine until that point.

I wanted to show my respect and allow him time to collect himself, so I sat there and said nothing. I touched his neck and patted him lovingly between his shoulder blades. An explanation was not forthcoming, so I sweetly asked what was troubling him.

He wailed some more and admitted, “I just don’t know if anything will ever make me happy.”

My first reaction was that he might have slipped into a depression; his employer was closing their brick-and-mortar operations and moving to an online presence. This meant he would soon be part of the downsizing. But to scream and cry like that? I proceeded with caution.

Again, I caressed him, telling him, “Honey, whatever it is, we’ll get through it together. You know that I’m always here for you.”

Boarding the crazy train

All my life experiences had not prepared me for what happened next. Rather than my words comforting him as I expected, it triggered him, sending him off the reservation, or so it seemed.

He cried even louder as if a loved one had died. Finally, he calmed himself enough to muster a response. He was snubbing like a baby, left to cry until exhausted.

Through snubbing, he dramatically enunciated his short, angry message — one word at a time: “Your. Love. For. Me. Is. Not. ENOUGH!”

Wait? What did he say?!

Flabbergasted, I stopped patting his back and folded my hands in my lap. I’d seen a lot of stressful situations in my life, but I didn’t know what to make of that out-of-the-blue display of hysteria and angst.

Doctor Jekyll, meet Mr. Hyde

Then — as if lightning had struck him — he twittered his head and batted his eyes as a person does when snapped out of a hypnotic trance.

He looked stunned — even surprised — like he didn’t know what happened. Then, as if someone pushed The Happy Button, he cocked his head to the side, looked at me, smiled, and in a giddy, playful tone, said: “I’m hungry. Are you hungry? Cause I’m thinking salmon!”

I knew he’d asked me a question, and I knew he expected an answer, but I was still trying to comprehend what was happening here. I nodded and mustered a short “Yes, that sounds good.”

He responded in an upbeat tone of voice, “Okay. You stay here. I’ll run in and get it.”

Alternate reality or a parallel universe?

With that, he pushed the car door open, got out, and walked with a bounce into the grocery store. As I watched the automatic doors closing behind him, I asked myself, “What in the world was that about?!”

Soon, he returned to the car with fresh salmon and a package of romaine lettuce for our Caesar salad. He handed me the items and started the car.

We drove home — in silence.

Back to normal

Back at the house, I placed the items on the kitchen table, and he began rummaging through the cabinets to find the broiler pan.

As was our custom, he preheated the oven and started preparing the salmon with garlic butter seasonings. As usual, I washed and cut the lettuce and prepared the salad.

We sat at the kitchen table together and ate (still in silence) when we completed the meal prep.

My husband finished his meal first. He walked to the sink, rinsed his plate and utensils, and placed them in the empty dishwasher. He then turned and walked upstairs to his man cave without a word.

Just ask the question

After eating, I straightened up the kitchen, deep in thought. I bent over, put my plate in the dishwasher, and asked myself, “What is happening here?!”

I found no answer, so I closed the dishwasher door, dried my hands, hung the towel on the stove handle, and set out to investigate more. As I ascended the stairs, I could see him watching football with the door not entirely closed. He was sitting with his computer on his lap.

“Honey, would you like me to sit and watch the game with you?” I asked.

“Suit yourself,” he replied, never looking up from his laptop. The curtness of his tone was like a kick in the gut.

Beware when only one person is talking

He only talked briefly throughout our marriage, and I never pressed him to communicate. I always assumed he would share when he felt like it. Today, I thought that strategy wasn’t working so well for me.

Perhaps it was arrogant, but I assumed he appreciated this about me. I thought he knew it was my way of showing him respect. In hindsight, I was wrong about this — and many other things.

He’d always been a man of few words — but his lack of communication on this day was different.

That still, small voice has a name: intuition

As I walked away, I felt an undeniable knot in my gut. I knew there was more to this story. I had to know what it was.

Disturbed by the remark, “Your love is not enough for me” made in the car — and now the curt “Suit yourself!” here at home — I nixed any further hesitation.

Halfway down the stairs, I turned around. I went back up to re-open that door. He heard me make that abrupt U-turn on the stairway and looked up from his laptop.

Don’t ask me how I knew, but I asked the fateful question: “Honey, you’re wanting to leave, don’t you?”

Re-queue the crazy

He again flipped on the hysterics. “Yes! Yes! Yes!” he said as he flung his laptop onto the couch and immediately jumped to his feet.

Within seconds, he’d grabbed his duffel bag and was packing.

He sped around the house like a frightened animal. In a blur of frantic motion, he yanked clothing from the closet so hard that hangers flew everywhere. He snatched random things from dresser drawers, scooped things off shelves, and dragged things out from under our bed.

One of those things was a metal suitcase where he kept his stash of gold coins he’d been accumulating.

More gaslighting

His motives were open now, so there was no need to mince words or waste time. He opened his briefcase and activated his series of launch codes. His next order of business was to destabilize my emotions and devalue the life we’d built together.

He was desperate but not original. He hit me with the age-old, intelligence-insulting cliche, “I love you, but I am not ‘in love’ with you anymore.”

All I heard was, “I don’t love you anymore.”

Those words flipped my vision and perception of movement into slow motion. My thought process was unaffected, so my survival instincts took over. At warp speed, my memory replayed every conversation from recent years — looking for clues I may have missed. I could find none.

I braced myself for what might come next. (The announcement of another woman, perhaps?)

Not adding up

How could this be? I wondered. There had been no perceptible warning signs, no arguments, no disagreements of any significance. Nothing had signaled his discontent or telegraphed a man unhappy in his marriage.

He still showered me with anniversary gifts a week earlier and told me he loved me!

The Machiavellian element of surprise made everything surreal. Perhaps this was just a dream, and I’d wake up, I told myself. I opened and closed my eyes several times, hoping to clear my visual field. If lucky, I’d see anything other than what was happening.

It didn’t work.

Have I had someone drop me onto the set of a twisted, sick psychodrama in production? I thought. If so, I was still waiting for someone to provide me with the script.

I assured myself that nothing this strange could be happening in real life. But it was happening — and it was happening to me.

For the good old times

Once my husband concluded his abbreviated packing frenzy, he gaslit me again.

The man who’d slept beside me for 10,592 days, with whom I’d never had a significant disagreement, walked over, hugged me, and muttered, “Wow. I know I must be crazy. I can’t believe I’m doing this to someone who is the nicest person in the world.”

Who says that when they’re leaving someone?!

With that admission, he turned and walked down the sidewalk to his awaiting car — remotely started for ease of getaway.

As he reached the vehicle, he placed his hand on the door handle and looked back at me one last time. He smiled, nodded like they do in the movies, got into his vehicle, and pulled away.

Annihilation

I was shocked and numb — as if someone had electrocuted me — yet, looking down at my hands, I could see I was still alive. I could think — but I couldn’t verbalize or cry. I couldn’t move, speak, or even take a deep breath.

I could only watch in stunned silence as his car exited the subdivision.

Only when the faintest trail of red tail lights disappeared from my sight was I able to move. I turned and looked around the house silently, hoping to understand what had just happened.

How could it be?

My life with my husband for 29 years vaporized in under an hour — yet inanimate objects remained intact. Our once-loving home had been imploded — yet it looked exactly like it did before. Something catastrophic had occurred here — yet ESPN still blared in the adjacent room as before.

Something evil

A powerful, vacuum-like sensation left an uncomfortable chill in all the rooms. All the energy and life force had been instantly sucked out of what had once been a loving home.

I struggled to comprehend how the physical structure and contents of the house could remain unchanged and intact after such a cataclysm.

Then it hit me: I had just witnessed a detonation of a neutron bomb.

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