If you’ve been following along through each chapter of this story, you probably have realized that this was a complicated event that, even though the crux of it did not take place over years but rather over months, there still seems to be a lot of information that has been packed into these chapters. I have done that intentionally. When I first wrote down the timeline of events, I was shocked at just how often the scene changed. I was also intrigued to see how the involvement of the players developed over time. What was supposed to start as a simple conversation about finances, morphed into a story that encompassed twenty-four years of marriage. I said before that the full back story would be much too long to write here. I still believe that to be true, yet I see that, in reality, the twenty-four years leading up to the few months chronicled here set the stage for all that would take place. I’ll dive into that more as I draw this to a close. But now, I hope, you have been anticipating my revelation of what was in the square, brown package that “mysteriously” arrived at our door in March of 2012…
As I picked up the package, I inspected it to see if it had any clues as to its sender. The only thing visible on the package besides my name was the postmark of Chicago, IL. DJ was a student there, but he was currently home on break. Perhaps the school sent something? But why would they send it to me? I moved to the table and grabbed some scissors to cut the tape that sealed the package. As I pulled back the bubble wrap that surrounded the contents, I saw a blue envelope. Underneath that envelope was a case that held CD’s. I opened the envelope and began to read the hand written card inside. It read:
Thank you for writing me to tell me of the impact our service had on you. I apologize this response has taken me so long to get to you, but I wanted to make sure that you had a copy of the entire series. May God bless you as you continue to follow Him.
Pastor James MacDonald had sent me the complete series that we had heard part of while visiting Chicago the prior October. Ten CD’s comprised the series which, if you remember, was titled I Really Want to Change, So Help me God. I couldn’t believe that he even read the letter I had sent him let alone that he personally sent me the series and a hand written note. Dave and DJ both asked what was in the package. I showed it to them and read the note that went along with it. DJ joked that he would be taking that back to school with him. (He and I had and continue to have a slight obsession with books and all things spiritual like that) I was quick to shake my head “No” toward him. He smiled and went downstairs to his room.
March 24th was DJ’s last night at home. Since spring break varied among his friends from high school, he was the only one left in town and was more than ready to get back to Chicago. The previous night, after Dave had gone to bed, DJ sat on the living room with me. He was concerned about returning to school and leaving Anna and me here. I made it clear to him that school was all he needed to worry about–that I had people here who would help if needed. He asked me if I had thought any more about leaving. Of course I had–that thought was never far from my mind. I think he knew that. He asked me if I would consider coming to Chicago to live so he could be close to me. I honestly answered him that there was no way I could ever afford to live in Chicago. I knew if we divorced, I wouldn’t even be able to afford to stay in the house we were living in at the time. Again, I told him that school was his priority and I would be sure to let him know as things changed. The night of the 24th, after DJ had gone downstairs to his room, Dave and I got into an argument. The argument was one of the nastiest we had ever had. Dave finally went into the bedroom, grabbed his travel bag, and began grabbing clothes from the closet. Fear gripped my heart as I watched him prepare to leave. I was terrified to be without him. How would I do anything? What would I tell Anna? Where would we live? How would we eat? I begged Dave to not leave for DJ’s sake–it was his last night home. The argument intensified and I knew I needed to leave the room. As I was leaving, Dave said, “I hope you have a Plan B.” I grabbed my cell phone and went downstairs to call Friend 1. Anna, who had come upstairs at some point, came downstairs and told me to stay down there. After what seemed like an hour, Anna quietly crept up the stairs. She came down and told me the bedroom light was off and the car Dave was driving was still in the driveway. She told me it was safe to come upstairs–Dave had gone to bed. I sat in the living room and just cried. I wasn’t sure I could do this much longer. I was so scared of him, yet I was even more scared to be without him.
The next day was Sunday. We went to separate services as usual. After the service, Pastor 1 came up to me to check on how things are going. I told him what happened the previous night as well as Dave’s words about having a Plan B. DJ came over to where we are talking. Pastor 1 looked at him and asked him if he knows what is really going to happen. DJ responds with a yes and Pastor 1 told me to meet him at the church the next day at 10:00 to discuss a Plan B. When we got home from church, DJ grabbed his stuff and we drove him to the bus stop to catch the Megabus back to Chicago. On the way home, Dave told me that he would agree to weekly counseling with Pastor 1. I was extremely confused. Could I trust him? Was he just buying time?
The next morning, I gave Anna her assignments and I went to the church. Pastor 1 wasn’t there yet, so I poked my head into Pastor 2’s office to see if he had a few minutes. He motioned to me to sit down. I sat down, again fighting back tears, and told him all that had happened in the previous few days. Pastor 2 took a deep breath and told me that maybe it was time for me to leave. Pastor 1 knocked on the door then and came in and sat down. The three of us began to discuss what this might look like. I again brought up my fears of not being able to provide for Anna or keep DJ in school. Pastor 1 pulled a piece of paper from the folder he had in his hands and told me that I needed to talk to an attorney to find out exactly what responsibilities Dave would have toward the kids. He then held up the piece of paper and said, “If he refuses to take care of the things you want him to take care of, we’ll just slide this in front of his face.” I knew that in his hands he held something that could be used to blackmail my husband. I also knew that it could have dire consequences that, in the long run, would hurt more than help any of us. As I left the church that morning, all that echoed in my head was the words of Pastor 2: “Becky, maybe it’s time to leave. God would not want you to live like this.” That was the first time in all that had happened that Pastor 2 had indicated that perhaps hope was really gone–perhaps this marriage was really over. As I walked to the van, suicidal thoughts were hitting hard. I made it home and perused the phone book for an attorney. I found one and called. Long story short, the attorney told me that Dave would be required by law to support Anna since she was still under the age of eighteen. He would not be required, though, to take any measures to keep DJ in school. DJ was over the age of eighteen and considered an adult. My heart was shattered as I weighed the words of the attorney which I had written on a piece of paper. I was in a no win situation. If I stayed, I would be staying in a very unhealthy relationship as well as keeping my daughter in a life of hell. If I left, my son would be forced to leave college and give up on what he felt God had called him to do. If you’ve ever been caught between a rock and a hard place, then you probably understand what I was feeling. This rock was heavy and it was crushing me against a very hard place. Pastor 1 called me later that day to ask me what the attorney had said. I relayed the information to him. He told me to keep that paper hidden from Dave. He then asked me to ask Dave if he was still willing to be in counseling sessions. He told me to call him later that night after Dave was in bed to let him know what Dave had said. I asked Dave that evening and he nodded his head while saying, “I’m NOT happy about it, but if that’s what it’s going to take to make this marriage work, then I’ll do it.” I called Pastor 1 later that night and we set up a time for the counseling to begin the following week.
Our first counseling session did not go very well. Pastor 1 had some stipulations that we had to meet in order for him to agree to counseling. Some of these kind of took me by surprise since he hadn’t said anything to me about them. One of the stipulations was that I continue with my own private counseling and stay on the medication prescribed. That wasn’t a problem. I found my Tuesday sessions, while not extremely helpful, a place to let off steam and talk to someone who did not know my husband or my family. Another stipulation was that Dave keep meeting with Mentor. Again, this wasn’t an issue. Dave and Mentor got along well, and while they had only met a couple times, we both were comfortable with Mentor being involved. Then, Pastor 1 said something that ticked Dave off. He told him that he had spoken to Mentor and, while he believed Mentor to be a wonderful person, he did not think he was the right person to be helping in the financial area. He said he had already spoken to someone else who said he would be willing to help us with our finances. Dave immediately went on the defense. First, he was upset that Pastor 1 had once again breached his trust. Second, he didn’t really want someone to have access to all our financial records–and Pastor 1 was very clear that all had to be made available. “Everything on the table” were the words he used. I knew we were already at risk of the counseling ending before it even began. Dave was upset and stubborn; Pastor 1 was just as stubborn. Dave finally, and surprisingly, agreed to allowing this person to help us in this area. Pastor 1 arranged a time for the three of us to meet the following week. What I didn’t know then was Pastor 1 had not only talked to this person, (who I will call Finance Guy from here on) but had told him everything that had taken place over the last few months. He also told him that he suspected Dave was hiding something–whether it be a gambling problem or some other issue–that was causing us to never have enough money.
Finance Guy would prove to be not only a valuable asset in helping us with our financial issues, but also a very good friend to both Dave and me in the coming weeks.