Even before I became part of the divorced crew I had a low opinion of adulterers. I remember back in the early 80's, reading my mom's People Magazine about Michael Landon leaving his wife of umpteen years for someone new and thinking, "Nice, Pa." It's such a cliche', the old starter wife theory, that it's almost funny. Until you go through that particular shit storm yourself.
Friends often ask me if I suspected, even for a second, that there was another woman involved with my marital woes. And I answer, honestly, no. When Big Daddy started acting differently I thought it was the result of either alcohol or depression, or a wicked combination of the two. He had always been one of the Good Guys. The guy who ushered at church, the guy who spent hours on warm summer nights going up and down the sidewalk with a shaky kid learning to ride a bike, the guy who always did The Right Thing.
There was no sudden interest in working out, no weird phone calls, no new silk boxers turning up in the wash. He did begin withdrawing from the kids and I, though. Slowly at first...a few happy hours here and there, a night out with co-workers at a Timberwolves, Vikings or Wild game. When he started at the company that gave him his big break, he latched on to a few mentor-types almost immediately. Most of the men he worked with were a good deal older than him, and all but a couple had been divorced. These guys liked to drink, golf and stay out late, usually in the same day. Which probably explained the divorces.
Then he began going into the office on weekends. Weekends had previously been reserved for two things: my little part time job (I worked at a children's consignment store on Sundays) and Daddy time with the kids. He started golfing. A lot. He'd always been a casual golfer, a few days a month when in season, but it really started picking up. Almost every Saturday became Daddy's Golf Day. Remember, now, that we had four kids already. The oldest was in first grade, the youngest was still nursing. That's a lot of childhood to handle by yourself, and I started feeling a wee bit overwhelmed and a little more than a wee bit resentful.
All the ingredients for Divorce Stew were there.
One early evening, we were all outside. Big Daddy was shooting hoops with #1 kid, Charlie, the middles (Molly and Henry) were tooling around in the Cozy Coupe and I was trying to get Baby William to realize that he could leave Mama's arms for a bit and he'd survive. Big Daddy leaned up against the hood of one of our cars and said, "Hey, have you ever heard of a Jewish Divorce?" Again, most women would probably hear some sort of alarm at this point but I guess the sands of Denial River were clogging my ears. I grew up with many Jewish friends and could quite honestly say that no, I had never heard of a Jewish Divorce. He explained to me that it was when a couple stayed married on paper but lived separate lives. Thus saving the mess and expense of an official divorce. (side note here: I have since asked some of my friends who happen to be Jewish if they have, in their lives, ever heard of one of these divorces. No one answered yes). "What's the significance of this?" I remember asking him. I clearly remember him shooting the basketball up and through the hoop as he said, "Oh, a guy at work has done it. Just wondering if you've heard of it." He shoots, he scores. I would later realize that this was his own special idiot way of "talking" about our relationship.
This was over a year before he made his big announcement that he was leaving. There was still a year left of normal for the kids and I, but it was all going to change. Big Daddy had started falling in love with a girl from work, a girl who spent her time on her tan, her nails and according to some of their former co-workers, casting a line into the pool of men in the office. Don't know what bait she was using, but she caught the Big Daddy.