In 1999, Gabbie and I had our third kid, Rose. She was conceived with the same lucky eye dropper as her brothers. Rose is our last kid. In 2001 Gabbie had a partial hysterectomy.
John and Rose were less than two years apart, which meant that if Gabbie worked a traditional job, she'd have to make a lot of money just to cover day care costs. Instead she preferred to stay at home with the kids.
To help pay our bills, Gabbie decided to open an in-home infant nursery. For about four years she took care of a rotating contingent of four infants. She cared for the babies all day, all by herself.
Gabbie always had a very strong work ethic. And she needed it. Time after time, and against my wishes, she insisted that we buy houses we couldn't afford. Her mother, the real estate maven, used her many connections to make the purchases happen. Within two years of each purchase, the obvious became clear and Gabbie had no choice but to agree with my wishes to cut expenses and move.
The house we waited in line for three days to buy was no exception. It was the third time in 10 years that we over-bought. To keep from having to leave her much-loved house, Gabbie was very motivated to earn as much money as she could. That was why she took care of four infants alone for four years.
Eventually, the stress of working solo and catering to an endless supply of needy babies got to her. The housing bubble was clearly inflating and I told her that we would be smart to sell and move. Gabbie couldn't keep the nursery full and was too burnt out to care about the house anymore. At the very end of 2004 we sold.
I wanted to ride out the bubble by renting a house. But Gabbie and her mother thought I was an idiot for insisting there even was a bubble. Her mother repeatedly told me, "House prices have never - NEVER - gone down more than one year in a row. And even in those rare bad years, prices went way higher right after."
Gabbie blamed our long history of housing woes on me - I didn't make enough money - and I blamed them on her - she kept buying places we couldn't afford. With the house sold, we decided to declare a truce on the subject. Part of the terms of the truce were that Gabbie would make our future housing choices and she alone was responsible for the consequences; if she chose to buy, then the loan and title were to be only in her name.
I was disappointed, but silent, when Gabbie decided to buy a small two bedroom condo.
Selling the house was a boon for Gabbie. After being "cooped up in the house forever" she took a much needed break and stopped working. The kids were in school most of the day so after a few months with little to do, she got bored and started to work with her mother as a Realtor. She loved the social aspects of the job but hated being dragged around by indecisive buyers. She was never particularly busy and that left her under-stimulated. Because she was no longer exhausted and tied to the house all the time, she started making plans at night with various friends, including Linda, her best friend from high school.
When Linda and Gabbie were together, the party was always ON. Linda was divorced and very much on the hunt for a new husband. Gabbie was Linda's wingwoman. The two of them went out clubbing several weekend nights every month.
Gabbie didn't want to neglect any of her other friends so she made time to go out with them on other weekend nights. Gabbie and I went out too, about one night every two weeks.
Gabbie was very happy with her social, stress-free life. The kids, however, never stopped complaining about where we lived. All three of them (11, 7 & 5) shared one small bedroom. There was was no yard or place for them to play. There was no safe place for them to ride their bikes and there were no other kids nearby to play with. I agreed with the kids, the condo sucked. But I kept my mouth shut.
The kids' endless complaining, and Gabbie's concerns about having a 12 year old boy share a bedroom with a 6 year old girl, forced Gabbie to think about moving again. She would never admit it, but the condo was a mistake.
After less than two years of condo living, Gabbie found us a new "perfect home."
The new house was a "great deal" because it was a probate sale and it was large enough for everyone. In fact, it was 2.5x larger than the condo.
The price? Exactly what we sold the wait-in-line house for --- an amount that we couldn't afford. "It's only a few hundred dollars more a month than the condo." Um, sure, if you make the minimum payment on a neg am adjustable loan.
I couldn't hold my tongue this time. I told Gabbie I was against the purchase. But per our agreement, as long as I wasn't going on the loan and the title, she could do whatever she liked. Even if I wanted to, there wasn't any point in arguing with her. She did whatever she wanted anyway. And I was easy to ignore because I had this stupid idea that we were in a housing bubble.
Thanks to her 820 credit score and a Washington Mutual "No Doc" loan, Gabbie had no problem buying the place on her own---the Realtor who had only sold one house.
After she bought the probate house, Gabbie was quite busy over-seeing some significant renovations to it---some things were "too gross" in the house and had to be fixed. An endless supply of borrowed money paid for the renovations and the mortgage payments, for both places. (In order to get the "good deal" we had to buy before we sold. So we had double mortgage payments for several months until the condo sold.)
We moved into the probate house in the beginning of October of 2006. After we were there for about two weeks, I went out on a Sunday morning to get the newspaper and I noticed that the passenger seat of Gabbie's car had been moved. The seat was pushed all the way back and the head-rest was fully extended. Gabbie had been out the night before and it was obvious that a very tall person had been in her car. Linda is tall, but I found it odd that the head-rest was extended. Linda wasn't the type to adjust a head-rest.
Later that week, there were a few times when Gabbie deliberately took her cell phone into the bathroom so she could talk privately. Clearly, something was up. At my first opportunity, when Gabbie left her phone lying around, I checked her call log. I knew most of the numbers, except one, which showed up frequently. This was all the proof I needed. Between the moved car seat and the secret calls, I was certain that Gabbie was having an affair.
I debated what I should do. Be pissed? Threaten to leave? Actually leave?
Of all the things I could have said or done, anything that made me a hypocrite was not an option. I had fooled around with many men; how could I condemn her for fooling around with one?
Before I made a rash decision, I decided to confirm my suspicions. I knew that if I asked Gabbie any accusatory questions, a nasty fight would ensue. Therefore, I had to be careful. Gabbie always went on the offensive in a fight and if I questioned her fidelity, she would answer by questioning mine. How guilty would I look when she asked me if I'd ever had an affair?
I decided to stay silent, at least for a while. The risk of my accusation backfiring was too high, and, there was a chance that I was wrong.
The next day, Gabbie locked herself in the bathroom again to talk on her cell phone. I listened at the door. The conversation was pretty generic, nothing racy. But her tone gave her away. She was giddy. Whoever she was talking to made her very happy. Ok. NOW I had my proof.
When she came out of the bathroom I asked, "Who was that you were talking to?"
"You were listening to my conversation?! God! Can't I have a private conversation in this house without someone listening to me?!!"
"I just heard you laughing a lot, that's all. Who were you talking to?"
"Anyone I know?"
"No." She paused. "A friend I met going out."
"Is his phone number 235-3122?" I had memorized the number from her call log.
"How did you know that?? Did you take my phone without permission?! That is my PRIVATE phone. How dare you!"
When will people learn? If I am involved with you and you leave your cell phone or computer unattended, I WILL check them to see what you've been doing.
By the end of the fight, I learned that the guy she'd been talking to was Charlie. A "really fun guy who loves to go dancing." Um, hello, I like dancing.
Without any accusations from me, Gabbie swore up and down that she and Charlie were just friends. She said, "He's just a fun friend. I'm an honest person [this was a dig at me, going back 14 years, to Jim] and I would tell you if something was going on."
What she said was true. Gabbie had never withheld any emotion from me. For better or worse, I always knew exactly how she felt at every moment. And in that moment, I could tell...she had a crush on the guy, but hadn't slept with him.
A little over a week later, I got to meet Charlie myself. He was tall and lanky, about 6'3". Older, 47, and English.
I met Charlie at Linda's 40th birthday party. He was dressed rather nicely, in a black jacket and slacks. His face was weathered and had a lot of sun damage. His teeth were typically English. I didn't find him attractive but I could see that some people would.
Charlie made no effort to avoid me. Nor was he awkward around me. This gave me confidence that he and Gabbie were indeed just friends. Like Gabbie, he loved to talk and expected to be the center of attention. Poor Linda. She could be quite the Prima Donna herself but with Charlie and Gabbie around, she could barely hold the spotlight on her own birthday.
The party itself turned out to be very tame, which I hadn't expected from Linda. It was nice enough...a live band that covered Tom Petty. But no one got shit-faced or did anything to really embarrass themselves. Such a shame, really. Isn't that what 40th birthday parties are for?
Charlie worked as a handyman. In February of 2007 he somehow lost his job and Gabbie was absolutely thrilled when he said he could re-shingle our house for only $5,000. She had a low contractor's bid of $35,000. So starting that February and for many, many months afterward, Charlie worked on our house.
Because being a Realtor hadn't exactly worked out for Gabbie, she took a job looking after an infant for a single woman, an attorney. Gabbie negotiated with the woman to watch the baby at our house, thereby freeing her of any responsibility for the woman's household chores. This meant that Gabbie was home all day with someone to talk to - Charlie.
Every afternoon when I came home at 5, I found Charlie and Gabbie out on the back deck, drinking a cocktail together, laughing and bullshitting. Charlie was always doing the bullshitting and Gabbie was doing most of the laughing. She was like a 14 year old girl, sitting at the feet of her charming 17 year old boyfriend, idolizing him.
Mostly, I couldn't stay for cocktail hour. I had to take Conrad to karate and wait for him for an hour. By the time I got back, the sun had set and Charlie was gone.
Spending every weekday together wasn't enough for Gabbie and Charlie. They went out together several nights a week, including at least one Friday or Saturday. Linda would have been pissed about losing her wingwoman, had she not sunk her talons into a new boyfriend.
As the months ticked by, I learned more and more about Charlie. The first, and the most obvious thing I learned, was that he was an alcoholic. In a typical day, he worked from 10-4 with at least an hour lunch. And he drank about 15 beers in those 6 hours. Then he went to a bar for the rest of the night. Second, I learned that Charlie was what Gabbie called "a scrappy survivor." He didn't have a place of his own or even a car. He slept on his ex-wife's couch. The third thing I learned was that his ex-wife was a crazy bitch that he hated. Charlie had knocked her up about 14 years before while the two of them lived together and blew through her inheritance. Once the money ran out, so did Charlie. He moved to Miami.
He had returned only a month before Gabbie met him and the reason he came back was to spend time with his kid. Or so he said.
Basically, he was an unemployed, alcoholic drifter who had two things going for him: his ok looks and his charming English demeanor.
Obviously, I hated Charlie. LOATHED HIM. On the rare day when I came home and he wasn't in the house or on the back deck, I thought, Maybe this is the day that he's gone for good! My hopes were always dashed.
Why did I put up with him? Why did I allow him to spend all day with my wife while she gazed dreamily at him like a love-sick school girl?
Most men would have told their wives, "Enough is enough. Tell this guy to clean up his shit and never come back." But I wouldn't do that. I don't tell my wife what to do. Ever.
Gabbie has always had, and always will have, complete freedom to do whatever she wants. Freedom is like oxygen to her and I would rather suffocate myself rather than watch her wither in a metaphorical cage. Freedom and Gabbie are one in the same.
Deep down, both Gabbie and I know that our marriage has been tenuous ever since I came out and we split up. Ever since returning to her 10 weeks after splitting, I have been honestly and sincerely committed to her. But in Gabbie's heart, we both know she doesn't trust me. And her distrust will never be resolved by anything that I say, do, or don't do. It's a breakthrough that must happen for her, without my interference.
Charlie was a test for Gabbie. He and I were completely different. I was the known entity, a steady, reliable and somewhat introverted gay husband of 17 years and he was the loud, macho, charming Englishman, a Johnny-Come-Lately, ready to add excitement to her otherwise dreary life.
For months, I spent almost every night at home with kids while Gabbie was out with Charlie, clubbing or listening to bands. I believed Charlie was a bright flame, someone who burns intensely for a short time, then fades. But that didn't happen.
One night, I thought things went too far. Charlie and Gabbie were both very drunk and for whatever reason, Charlie gave Gabbie a piggy-back ride. While carrying her, he stumbled and she fell, causing her clavicle to break. She was pretty bruised and in a lot of pain throughout the 6 weeks that she wore a sling to heal the break. I hoped that her injury would make her question her friendship with Charlie. It didn't. Days later, the two of them were out together again.
In the early summer of 2007 Gabbie's complaints about my low libido reached a crescendo. It excited her to be around macho Charlie and she was looking to me to fulfill her needs. I had already reduce the Propecia to one pill every third day, but I decided to stop taking it all together.
In early October, Gabbie and I took a week-long cruise together, just the two of us, while her mother watched the kids. It was a terrific time. Other than almost missing the plane home, everything went perfectly. We had sex often, and it was good. After silently battling Charlie for her attention, I felt sure that I had won. How could she even think about him when, without the pressures of everyday life, we were so good together?
The next night after we returned, Charlie and Gabbie went out as usual.
In the days and weeks that followed, they continued their routine of spending much of the day together and then playing shuffleboard as a team at a local bar at night.
In December of 2007, Gabbie started to regularly complain that she had never had the chance to "sow any wild oats." All her friends had dated, they had lots of sex with lots of different guys, but she had only been with me.
I knew what she wanted. She wanted me to give her permission to have sex with Charlie.
As I said, I never said 'no' to Gabbie. But what she wanted...
Did I have any self-respect at all? Any pride? Any balls?
My response to her 'sowing oats' speech was "uh huh" as in, "I don't want to talk about this, but I'm going to respond so that we can move along to another subject."
Over the next five or six weeks, Gabbie repeated variations of her 'sowing oats' speech, often sighting the sexual exploits of her girlfriends, especially Linda. I continued to avoid discussing the subject as much as I could.
Eventually, Gabbie lost her patience. One Sunday night, she asked me directly, "Would it be ok if I sowed some wild oats of my own?"
Fucking 'wild oats.'
Her direct question required a direct answer and although I tried to hem and haw, dodge and stall, she would not relent. After being badgered so much, I lost my considerable patience, and finally said, "I'm not going to tell you what to do. Do whatever you think is best."
Two nights later she packed a large purse and put her beloved lumpy pillow in it.
She was so excited, she practically levitated out the door, calling out as she left, "I love you sweetie!"
Sure you do.