|The not so pretty side of Steinthal
Standing by the large cement cover over the sewage holding tank next to the residence, I watch as an obese 35 year-old man, complete with cigarette in mouth, slowly drags a large, extra long green hose to the top of the hill in order to perform the mandatory and unglamorous ritual of pumping out the holding tanks. Required every three years by the county or face hefty fines, the ritual has become a relatively routine occurrence for those of us that live in the country. The pump man is someone I’ve met in the past, as he and I got the job done nearly 3 years ago to the date. While puffing on his cigarette, he tells me that since the last time we met he has had a coronary artery bypass at his young age and he recites the various degrees of stenoses of every artery in both of his legs, making it all the more difficult for him to haul that big sucker hose to its ultimate dark and lonely destination.
The situation seems even more ironic for me in that it was during this very time, while I was at this very same spot three years ago, that unbeknownst to me, my now ex-wife was off on a “bike ride” making love stops in the woods with another married man. The date is clear in my mind as it was the day after we returned from a U2 concert in Chicago; a surprise trip I planned for our 21st wedding anniversary. One day after returning she is off enjoying herself with another married man. I wondered why she was acting strange on our trip and who she was talking to on her cell phone while we were at the concert…. Discovering I had been exposed to an STD and having submit to the obligatory blood tests (one of the most humiliating experiences of my life getting the blood drawn while my children waited in the waiting room of the lab), reading the illicit journal entries to her affair partner about their profound love for each other as well as their delusions of getting married to each other after an 8 week fling and scheming on how to divorce their respective spouses so, one can understand why I lost 40 pounds in such a short period of time. Several months after the revelation weighing in at 125 pounds and wearing a newly purchased wardrobe with my 29 inch waist, parents from my children’s school would approach me smiling and completely oblivious saying things like, “Dan, you’ve lost so much weight! How is it you are able to do it so quickly?” At the time I just told them I was working out or watching my diet, never mentioning to them that the best way, at least in my case, to lose weight was to endure the affair of my former partner with another person’s husband.
He was eventually kicked out of his house by his wife who after the affair, became ill with cancer, telling me how lonely she was at home while getting chemotherapy while her husband was off having his fun with someone else’s wife and mother. She and I communicated with each other frequently. Praying with each other many times over the phone. She was a true saint for what she had to endure unfortunately going to her grave with the knowledge that her husband and the father of their three children had abandoned her. Despite our plans to meet face to face, I am saddened that I never had the opportunity to do so before her untimely death which ironically happened within a few days of Father’s Day.
I remember catching the two of them at the American Club Resort in Kohler one winter evening thinking I might be able to reason with them; that this was really a very bad idea for all that were being affected by their acts; that two families were being destroyed by their selfishness and that they needed to stop their affair now so that the healing process of both families could begin. Unfortunately, my pleas fell on deaf ears. They were too wrapped up in themselves and each other to consider what their acts might be doing to those around them. Marriage and family was supposed to be sacred and I was willing to sacrifice everything in order to save it. What would their behavior teach our children? I asked the man if he believed that God wanted this to be happening and I will never forget his reply as I relived it almost daily for many months afterwards. He told me, “I believe that God just wants your wife to be happy” and he felt that since she was with him now and she was happy, that God had somehow sanctioned their behavior. Never mind about the spouses, the children, the families and the friends. If it wasn’t for the pain that our families were enduring because of their selfish actions, I probably would have found that statement to be truly laughable while sitting across from him that afternoon. In retrospect, it is quite humorous. At the time it was a clear indication of the narcissistic ideals they both had and probably still do have today. In their eyes, it was OK by God for them to do whatever they pleased as long as it made them happy. A friend who I have known for years discussed their flawed logic with me after I recounted our previous meeting and she told me that “God just wants Michelle to be happy with Him.”
For an entire year I lived with the knowledge of the continuing affair while she continued to live with me; I read countless books on infidelity as my way of trying to “fix” the unfixable while she would be gone from the household doing unmentionable things with this other person. I was willing to do anything to stop what was transpiring; taking on the figurative crap of their journal writing (The “J+M=4EVER” within the large heart he wrote on one page) that went back and forth between them for months (reading it all…. big mistake) and even reading the first few chapters of her planned novel entitled “Loved Two Death”. I even endured being inadvertently called by his name in casual conversation with her. It was as if they were both in highschool again. The entire time was by far, the worst thing I have ever endured and I began to even question what was reality and what wasn’t. My family was able to constantly talk me through the events that were transpiring in such away that kept me from plummeting over the edge…
Not only was I literally wasting away day by day, sleepless night by sleepless night, but figuratively I felt that I had been completely flushed down the toilet drain like the waste material sitting in the holding tank, waiting to get sucked away for good. At times, I even wished I could experience the ultimate fate of his wife; but my children, family, coworkers and friends were able to pull me out of that seemingly eternally dark and lonely place in which I felt there was no escape. For their patience and love, I am forever indebted.
Moving on has been a struggle for me as I was constantly reminded about those past events and situations with certain sounds, places or activities triggering past hurtful situations that I wish had never happened, but the the past is behind me and I have forced myself to look forward once again trying my best not to let those past horrible memories seep into my head. The hurt has finally subsided and I have found that I am feeling happiness more often than sadness. Although I feel I am permanently scarred by what was experienced, not knowing if I can ever completely trust again, I was happy as I sat next to the cigarette smoking 35-year old vasculopath sucking crap out of a hole in the ground next to my home at a much healthier personal weight realizing that just like that hole in the ground is being sucked free of the debris and smelly waste, I too am working at ridding myself of that past hurtful debris and waste caused by the affair and everything else that occurred because of it. I am finally looking forward to filling myself with something far better. Love, Faith, Personal Growth and Happiness; for my family, friends and loved ones. It’s not the most elegant analogy, but it just felt appropriate at the time. I will always remember that “God just wants us to be happy with Him.“
I have become familiar with countless victims of infidelity over the last three years. I was able to find extreme comfort in knowing that I was not alone in my situation and without the support of others that endured infidelity, I seriously don’t know if I would have been here to type this. As I write this I have just today been made aware of yet another ridiculous affair that has destroyed two families. A local 45-year old professional married man, father of three beautiful young girls made the mistake of his life. His wife gets a call from a young man that explains that his 22-year old wife is having an affair with the her husband. The husband subsequently admits to the affair and states that he plans to marry the younger woman with no regard for his family or hers. Sounds all too familiar.
I never would have seen this hairpin turn happening in my life, but I am very fortunate indeed for the direction it has taken me.
In three more years, I hope to see my pumper friend again (assuming he can still walk) and I am nearly certain that the feelings of sadness and bitterness I have felt over the last three years will be nearly gone. It has been a tough uphill struggle, but I feel that the slate is for the most part clean and that I now have a fairly solid foundation to stand on and from which to rebuild my family’s life.