Living with Crazy: Something Bad Has Happened

As I write this, I realize it has been nearly 10 years since the occurrence of the life-changing events I have begun to describe. Ten years.

Ten years ago, I was a stay-at-home mom to a 2-year-old. My husband, child and I lived in a spacious two-story rental house in the middle of the redwoods, just outside the college town of Arcata. My husband was bright, personable. He was a loving husband and father, and he seemed to be doing well at his job. He was giving our toddler and me a nice peaceful life

My days were filled with looking after my child, feeding him oatmeal in the morning, changing his diapers, getting him dressed. We’d go to this fitness center in town, where I could exercise and he could play in a baby sitting facility known as Kids Korner. After the gym, we’d go get me a mocha at this Whole Foods-type, locally owned grocery store which had a cafe. The barristas would whip up extra milk foam for him. The two of us would sit there together, chatting in the way you can with 2-year-olds. I would drink my mocha; he would devour his foam.

We might to go a playground, or meet friends from my moms’ group, and he could run around a playground with some other kids. Or he and I might go for a walk along any of the trails into the redwoods that surrounded Arcata. Sometimes, on a nice day, I’d take him to one of the beaches a few miles west of Arcata and up north along 101. The beaches in Humboldt County are gorgeous and varied. One might roll with amazing sand dunes we’d roll around it. Others held huge logs, bleeched by the water, that had swept back to shore. They made for excellent climbing.

The beaches were almost always empty. We’d be the only ones there. Outside of the towns, Humboldt County represents one of the most remote parts of California.
After the playground or the beach, we’d go home, have lunch, and then it would be naptime.

My husband usually would come home around 5:30 p.m. We lived close enough to the Humboldt State campus that he could walk home. However, on a rainy day, my son and I would go pick him up–we only had one car. We would bring my husband home, and altogether, we would eat dinner.

Evenings were spent playing with our toddler, running trains around his Thomas the Tank engine set, or actually pretending to be trains, the three of us tearing around the upstairs, in and out of our bedrooms, falling on our child’s bed, tickling him, and then running around some more.
I missed the Bay Area. I missed our big-city life in San Francisco as up-and-coming professions. But after our son came in 1998, my husband felt eager to leave. The city, with the dot-com era heating up, was becoming too expensive. He convinced me it would be a good idea to give small-town life a try. A college town seemed like a good place to experiment with a more low-key life-style. There would be some of the culture you get in a more urban area, just on a smaller scale.

That life of small-town bliss came to an end with my husband’s big news on March 20, 2001.

But you know, I didn’t take it in, the reality of the news that was coming in to me. What he was telling me was frightening, traumatic, life-changing.

But I listened to his words calmly, as if they didn’t really mean disaster. No, this will all blow over in a day or two, I thought.

I realize now his news had suddenly thrust me into a state of disbelief, shock and denial–a state that would last for years, and lingers to to this day. When he suddenly appeared at home on that Tuesday morning–a workday morning–and announced, “Something bad has happened,” I ran downstairs, hugged him and said something vaguely supportive like “We’ll deal with whatever it is together.”

I led him to the living room sofa. Somewhere between the hug and the couch, he explained that he had been fired from his job as a Humboldt State University fundraiser. He said he had been caught padding his expense accounts and falsifying documents to make it look like he was more successful than he actually was.
He sagged into the sofa cushion: “I”m sorry. I’m so sorry,” he said. And then he told me that he had been severely depressed for more than a year and had, on a daily basis, been thinking of killing myself.
Once again, I said something consoling and stroked his hand. But that strange calm stayed with me. I didn’t know what else to say, so we sat together quietly for a while.

4 thoughts on “Living with Crazy: Something Bad Has Happened

  1. Martha,
    I'm so moved by your story. What an idyllic time you spent before that bad news descended. I know you've found ways to get back there – just a bit, with love and your incredible bravery and resilence.
    Keep writing!


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