I am breaking this story up in several different posts to make it easier to read. If you want to read the whole thing that’s fine too. Note: There is no part thirteen.
Life does not play by the rules and sometimes life will hit you from behind with a sucker punch. Hey Ken, your wife is having an affair! I can still hear it ringing in my ears as I try to pull myself up by the ropes, knees still shaky from the blow. Afraid of risking another disappointment. Afraid of risking another broken heart. Afraid I might just throw in the towel.
Kenneth Gilbert, that’s me, was a skeptic about most things, especially spirituality and the supernatural. I was brought up in a strict southern Baptist home so my views on the afterlife were shaped at an early age. As an adult, I’m not so sure that training was accurate. I still believe in a higher power but just like I am not concerned we with individual ants on an anthill; I’m not convinced that a higher power would be concerned with individual human lives. I am more interested in what we leave behind, so I sell insurance. Much like a preacher, a successful insurance salesman must be able to convince people to buy into something they’re not convinced they need. In the end, anyone who reads this story should understand why I am no longer a skeptic. I experienced a few months ago was the biggest sucker punch of them all.
Five years ago, my wife Amy and I decided to call it quits after twenty years of marriage. In the end, we were both very unhappy. To cope, I crawled into a bottle of pain killers and Amy took refuge at the bottom of a vodka bottle. At first the breakup was amicable, both of us just seeking a release, then suddenly we started fighting over the smallest things. We fought over our things like we were children fighting over their favorite toys. Eventually, exhausted from the fight, I waved the white flag. I left my home with a single suitcase of clothes, my Jeep, a few favorite compact discs, and my faithful dog Tim.
I don’t know why, maybe it was because we were the only two males in the family, but it was clear from the start that Tim was my dog. If I was around, the golden retriever was sitting on the couch next to me or sleeping at my feet. When I left, Tim followed me out the door and into the Jeep without hesitation. The reality was, Tim thought we were going for a ride, and riding was one of Tim’s favorite things. Little did he know, he would never see Amy again.
Amy and I were blessed with two children, both girls. Heather the oldest by two years, and Jasmine the baby, are both in college. Both had decided to attend the University of Arkansas, in Fayetteville. Jasmine was a follower so it was easy enough to see why she had picked this college. Heather on the other hand had wanted to be a Razorback as long as I can remember. To this day, I don’t know how she got introduced to the Razorbacks, but Fayetteville was only a day’s drive for either Amy or Myself, so we heartily approved of her choice. The girls never expressed it but I think they were happy for Amy and me. They had seen the sadness creep up on us like a dark shadow. Unhappy people have a virus and tend to infect those around them. Thank god, the girls were immune to this disease. They were starting their own lives and I’m sure, like many children of dysfunction, they vowed to never be like their parents.
I might have left you wondering about the pain killers, so I offer this quick explanation. Fifteen years ago, while moving a sleeper sofa up the stairs of our new house, the sofa suddenly opened and knocked me over the railing and down to the first floor. The fall left me with an injured back, not broken, but still requiring surgery to correct the damage. I was never the same after that and was left with persistent pain in my lower back. I had been prescribed several different pain killers over the next fifteen years, finally I decided Vicodin worked the best. It did not take away the pain entirely, but it reduced the pain to a dull ache. During the last few months my marriage, I started taking more medication than prescribed. At first it was just a half of a pill, but with each new self-prescribed dose, I found it harder to get the same effect. Eventually, instead of one pill as needed, I was taking three to four pills every day. I was obviously abusing this drug but I had good insurance so my doctor never questioned me about it. Becoming an addict was the easiest thing I had ever done. For any problem, mind numbing relief was just a swallow away.
After a few short months, I had lost contact with most of our mutual friends. In the end, I was left with only a few lifelong friends. Friends I had known before Amy. I never told them, but these few remaining friends had caused the most damage. Each one, in their own time, eventually confessed that they had known about the affair long before the divorce. In their sad attempt at diplomacy, they had all decided to keep the truth from me. In my mind, this was the ultimate betrayal.
The whole event had left me with deep emotional scars and some wounds that would never heal. I had lost my faith in people. Tim was the only one I trusted. For the next few years I would measure my days by how many Vicodin I thought it would take to get through the day. Problems at work was a two-pill day, any interaction with Amy was a three-pill day, and so on. It was a four-pill day when I found Tim’s cold stiff body at the foot of my bed. Three days later, after the fog cleared, I started making plans.