I’ve often joked to people that if you opened my closet, bones would come tumbling out. All those proverbial skeletons, you know. Although the term “skeletons in the closet” implies long-buried secrets, and I’m not a woman of many secrets, so maybe not a fitting term after all. But I certainly have lived a life with some weird twists and turns.
Most everyone who knows me in real life or who has followed my blog for any length of time knows that I was once married to someone other than Michael. I was very young when I got married the first time – 19. What followed was a twelve-year volatile mess of a marriage that ultimately ended with my filing for divorce and him dying from an (presumably accidental) overdose of the drug to which he had become addicted and which played a huge part in the mess our life together was: cocaine. Pretty much the only good thing to come out of that relationship was Kevin. Kevin was two when his father died. He has no memories of him, although Michael and I have both always been very open with him about this piece of his past; however, Michael is really the only father Kevin has ever known.
The breakup between me and my first husband was ugly. We were in dire financial straits because he had run us so far into debt with his drug habit; there had been so much abuse and lying and just absolute destruction that the feelings on both sides were extremely acrimonious. The last time I ever exchanged words with him was in court at the hearing for the restraining order I applied for against him. He showed up in court at that hearing, not with an attorney, but with my mother. Yes, my mother. That’s a whole other story, but suffice to say that her choosing to show up in court on the side of the person who had so destroyed me was the final nail in the coffin of my relationship with her. Anyway, out in the hallway outside the courtroom, standing together facing me and my attorney, my mother said, “Who’s going to protect Kevin from you?!” And Kelly, my estranged husband, looked me in the eye and said to me, “You have no idea what’s in store for you.” Those were the last words ever spoken to me by him. I was granted my restraining order, and two weeks later, Kelly was dead.
The exact events that played out leading up to his death remain somewhat of a mystery; he died alone, and nobody has ever come forward to say that they saw him that night or were with him during any part of the night. What was pieced together by the police was this: he parked his pickup truck at an apartment complex (where it was found about a week after he died; it took the police that long to locate it, and to this day neither I nor anyone else knows if there was any specific connection to that apartment complex: did his dealer live there? Was he partying with someone there? Or was it just a random place he chose to park his truck?), and proceeded on foot, ending up in a neighborhood (which also appeared to be random) about a mile away where he wandered up and down the street for a while. Neighbors reported later of their dogs barking on and off at somebody. He still wore the slacks and shirt and tie he had worn to work, but at some point he abandoned his shoes, leaving them in someone’s backyard (they were found a week or two after he died). I vaguely remember being told by the police that they figured out he had wandered up and down the street because there were bloody footprints.
Eventually, he sat down on a low wall in someone’s front yard. He collapsed and he died. The time of death was later estimated to have been around 1:00 a.m., but he wasn’t found until later in the morning when the poor people who lived in that house came out to retrieve their Saturday morning paper (as I understand it).
Meanwhile, I was at home, absolutely fuming that he had not shown up for what was supposed to be his first supervised visit with Kevin. As I’ve said, eventually, someone from the sheriff/coroner’s office showed up and informed me that he had been found dead that morning a couple of miles away in someone’s yard.
It’s funny, because you think someone dying would provide a clean break. But it didn’t. For a long time, it felt as though I was never going to be free of him. There was the financial mess to clean up. There were the notes he had left hidden around the house before he was ordered by the court to move out so Kevin and I could stay there – notes I would find periodically over the next several months: “BITCH” “I HATE YOU” “FUCK YOU, CUNT” “BURN IN HELL”. There was the lawsuit I was served with arising from a car accident he caused before he died; I was now being held responsible as his surviving widow.
And then there’s Kevin. A living, breathing part of Kelly that walks around in my life every day. Not that I begrudge Kevin his parentage or his presence – he is by far one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received in this life. But often a gesture or expression or attitude disallows me from forgetting where he came from.
I’ve moved on with my life. It’s taken a great deal of work and very conscious effort to put all that behind me as much as possible and refuse to be enslaved by it. Nevertheless, once in a while, something will trigger a memory, a certain feeling. This happened when Amy Winehouse died a couple of months ago. I was suddenly overcome with sadness, just at what a waste it was, this young life thrown away, and the anguish all the people she left behind must be feeling. It felt so parallel on some level to my ex-husband dying, and I wrote about it: Slow Suicide
In a very bizarre turn of events, I received an email yesterday from a woman who is in my book club. As a founding member of this book club, I’ve been in it for eight years now, but she only joined in the last year or so. I have not gotten to know her; she comes to a lot of our discussions, but doesn’t talk much. So she sent me an email yesterday telling me that she had read my article about my ex-husband’s death, and she was “shocked” to realize a connection, and she wondered if we could meet to talk. I couldn’t imagine what connection this virtual stranger could possibly have to my ex-husband who died twelve years ago. Well, actually, I could imagine – that was the problem. My thoughts ran the gamut from “She knew Kelly,” to “She partied with Kelly that night,” to “She slept with Kelly and has his love child, so Kevin has a mystery sibling out there.” The trying to guess was driving me a little nuts, so I finally just sent her an email last night and asked her to just tell me whatever it was she had to tell me.
As it turns out, she and her husband live in the house whose yard my ex-husband died in. She and her husband are the ones who found him dead twelve years ago. They saw him dead. I never did, for which I am grateful. They called the police. And now, twelve years later, I am in the same book club with this woman. What are the chances? Bizarre bizarre bizarre. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s a smaller world than we usually realize.
It’s thrown me for a bit of a loop. Not that it changes anything. And it doesn’t exactly stir up old hurts or grief . . . but I’m suddenly confronted with imagined scenes of his death again after all these years. I doubt it was peaceful or pleasant in any way. He sat down on a low wall in a stranger’s front yard, coked out of his head, feet bleeding, and he collapsed and suffocated from respiratory arrest.
Life. Live it.