It’s 3:00 in the morning, and I’m awake again; still. Before Mike got sick and our lives crashed like a speeding train into a brick wall I used to like this time of the day. Everyone was asleep as far as I knew. The dogs would be curled in their respective corners and were so comfy that they didn’t bother getting up and follow me around as they do during the day. It was the quietest time in the day for me, a time I could actually THINK. Think without interruption. What did I think about? Random thoughts, the to-do list of the day, or I’d read the newspaper. My favorite thing to do in fact was to get up the minute the newspapers (yes I read two of them everyday) arrived, make some coffee and sit in my favorite chair and do the crossword puzzle.
I hate the hours of 12:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. Everyday. Because that’s when the aloneness comes slithering in. During that period of time on a daily basis I am forced to face the situation I’ve been thrown into so unwillingly. And I find the future wanting for explanations and hope. You see, during the day I can easily find things to distract myself from the status of widow. As well as to NOT think about how it came to be, that my marital status has changed. Being a widow brings a whole new horizon in life, one that is from my current point of view, rather bleak. It’s a status that rarely exists on any forms; myspace doesn’t even have widow as an option to choose for your status on your page. Gay, straight, married, single, divorced, in a relationship….yup, lots of choices…but not widow. Why is that? Maybe it’s because no one wants to be reminded that there is another status out there, rather than single or married or divorced. Single is because you just haven’t found that special one yet. Married is because you have found that special someone and divorced is because you made a mistake and found that special someone wasn’t quite that special. But widow? Now that’s not usually a choice is it? It certainly wasn’t mine.
Not at all.
During the early morning hours I find that I remember where I was, what I was doing this time last year. While I was recovering from surgery I was also readying the house to sell it, we were going to move, get out of California once and for all. Because I just hate it here. I was only here because Mike lived here. Mike told me that I had sacrificed for him for over 10 years, now it was my turn. He also decided that I had worked enough in my lifetime, including the times I worked while he did not, whether because he was laid off or downsized– whatever. That I could pick the place I wanted to live, outline some essentials as far as a new home would have to have, which was a window in the kitchen, a separate formal dining room and a porch, the rest I didn’t care about– he’d find it for me. And he did search, high and low for months for just the right house. He only wanted a big garage and maybe some land. The kids were grown and gone and now was the time that all distractions would be reduced to a manageable load or just gone. That we would spend time with each other, now that parenthood no longer eclipsed our relationship in the way that is so necessary to raise decent adults. Wow! Anyone who has been in a long term relationship, marriage or otherwise, would think they finally won the lotto with a future like that. But I got a lesson in life, rather was reminded of a lesson I had learned well as a child…don’t dream, don’t hope, don’t dare think that something good is going to happen, because now he’s gone while I’m still here and it cannot be called good. Instead of moving like we planned; instead of starting life over together as we’d planned, instead of getting out of California, Mike became ill. Diagnosis to death took less than 5 months!
So now I am left with the knowledge that memories of what was to be—will never be.
I’m also left with picking up the pieces of my life, whatever that is now. However the pieces of my life also include some loose ends of Mike’s life. Namely his first wife. A woman named Rebecca “Becky” who is the nastiest, most self centered, greedy, as well as unhappy person I have ever known; and I have known a lot of people. She is unique in her own ugly way. While Mike was alive Becky made it her life’s purpose to make him miserable. She sued him and sued him and sued him. Over and over and over. She attempted to sue me also, which meant I had to retain my own lawyer, above and beyond Mike’s personal lawyer. It was insanity. Insanity was also the name Mike had Becky listed under on his cell phone. This sue feast lasted well over 12 years. They had a son together and she used that son as a way to justify the lawsuits. Frivolous lawsuits that the family law court entertain as if they have value…i.e, one emergency suit she filed over muddy sneakers. Another was because she didn’t want Mike to take his son to the barber. Those were in addition to the “regular” hearings she filed pleadings for–regular meaning, she wanted more money. She never stopped, ever. Two years ago while I was laying in an ICU after a motorcycle accident, she took advantage of the situation and filed another lawsuit against Mike…yes, for more money. This time though Mike didn’t care about that, he didn’t know if I was going to live or die. You see, money never held much interest to him. We didn’t live above our means, and only wanted enough to pay the bills and maybe have a little extra so we could go out to eat or go to a movie. We lived a simple, conservative life by choice. So Mike and I could never really understand Becky’s desire to spend $2,000 on attorney’s fees to gain another $50. a month from us. But spend and sue she did; and defend we did.
Now that Mike is gone it would stand to reason that my headache of Becky should also be gone. But it isn’t. No she has reared her greedy head once again. This time is for the gold, the brass ring, the jack pot. The downfall of me once and for all, or she hopes anyway. Becky has sued me for over $113,000. Yes, she actually wants me to pay her that amount. Oh sure she’s pretending that Mike owes her that, but he doesn’t. Now that he’s dead naturally she cannot stop the fight so it overflows on to me.
She has filed a lien against my house, which Mike and I owned together, as a way to keep me firmly planted within her grasp as well as insurance for the amount she fancies the court will order me to pay to her. Can she do that? Well that’s a moot question right now as she HAS done it. Where does she get that figure of $113,000?
$100,000 is for life insurance policy that the courts ordered back in 1996. Mike was to have a policy listing his son Ryan, who by the way is over 18 now, as sole and irrevocable beneficiary. Mike didn’t have any such policy. I don’t know why except that we were paying support, the child lived with us for over 18 months exclusively without any contact with his mother and who ever thought that Mike would be diagnoses with a deadly cancer just weeks after his 45 birthday? No one knew it, but Becky know imagines she can benefit by Mike’s untimely demise.
Curiously though the fact that Mike died, his son gets $1,412 a month as a benefit. I received $255. one time payment. While Gabrielle and Austin our other two children received nothing. So, the insurance policy, which was to be in effect until Ryan graduated from high school or reached age of majority became null and void, in my view when Ryan turned 18, which was before Mike died. The terms were fulfilled. But Becky doesn’t think so. Also she wants me to pay the remaining child support obligation but the social security benefit is doing that already. By the way that benefit is more than twice the amount that Mike was ordered to pay.
Here in California I am not legally or financially obligated to Becky or her son whatsoever. So you might ask how is it that she sued me. She sued me because I was Mike’s wife when he died. Therefore she is enraged that I was able to get a house and his clothes I guess. What she doesn’t care about or factor in is that she is employed making $50,000 a year or more, health/medical insurance of course with a 401(k). Her son brings home about $2,000 a month, virtually tax free. Me? Well I lost my job this time last year, due to the surgery I had. Although I have sought employment I cannot find any. Mike did not have life insurance listing me as beneficiary nor did we insure the home mortgage in case of death.
So I get saddled with the standard household expenses in addition to Mike’s medical bills…and trust me cancer is expensive, even given the fact that Mike received no treatment, funeral expenses of over $6,000, and no income. I cannot sell anything that I own to cover expenses or pay bills as Becky sought and received a restraining order barring me from doing so. Also she has requested the court to actually undo any transactions that I may have completed after Mike’s death, as a sale or a gift. Imagine that. How does one woman have so much control over my life by virtue of my marriage to Mike?
All in all Becky has thus far been successful simply due to inheritance laws in California…she’s claiming I just got everything that belonged to Mike. I guess she figures she deserves something for a former marriage to Mike. Maybe she did, but what she deserved she got in the divorce proceedings more than a decade ago. The family home, the family car, the furniture and the bank accounts. That’s it, the gravey train has to come to an end sometime. But not even in death will Becky let go of her greed, her desire to have it all…deserved or not. However, she negates the fact that Mike did have a Last Will and Testament. One in which he deliberately excluded her and stated why…”because I have more than provided for her during the course of my lifetime.” Not something she hoped to read, but it is what it is.
The foundation of Becky’s lawsuit is, while just plain greed is obvious as first glance, she claims that I am the one who has Mike’s property now, which is true, but Mike owes money to her, which is untrue. In actuality Mike’s estate is to pay Becky; but for the fact that their child is no longer a minor. He is earning money on his own right; a heck of a lot more than me!
The curious twist in this warped scenario is that Mike’s parents are encouraging Becky to go forward with her lawsuit; that they have paid the attorney to fight me. That they do not acknowledge that Mike had two other children; my children which he legally adopted about 12 years ago. That gives them the exact same standing legally as Becky and Mike’s son does. But let’s not remember there are other people who were impacted by Mike’s death…or no. As Mike’s father, Bob was fond of saying, “this is happening to Mike and Ryan. Never mind Victoria, Gabrielle or Austin.” Nice, real nice grandpa. However, it isn’t Ryan that sits alone at night wondering how to pick up the wreckage of this life. It isn’t Ryan wondering how to pay a mortgage. No, instead he wonders where he can get his next hit of pot, or his fix for crack. It isn’t Becky who lays in a bed acutely aware of the absence of an adored one. No she has her boyfriend to cuddle with if vipers can cuddle. It isn’t Mike’s parents who are constantly confronted with the chore of sifting through the remains of Mike’s life, his clothes, his “toys”, his desk, his unfulfilled dreams or his projects that shall remain forever unfinished. An unfinished life is what lives in our house now instead of Mike.
It isn’t Mike’s parents who suffer the death of my husband as they had no relationship for years but for the one I encouraged. Besides they have another son and a daughter who could give Becky a run for her money as far as selfishness and meanness is concerned.
Certainly, our daughter G is completely aware of the entire upheaval, the change, the despair that came the moment Mike died as she lives with me; trying to negotiate the uncharted waters in front of her. Yet she is powerless to have an impact as she cannot totally understand, though she tries so hard to…she cannot contemplate something that is not remotely understandable. And I try to keep many things from her as she’s suffered enough for her short years. Our son A has escaped to the Army and although he has compartmentalized the anguish of these past few months, he does not remain untouched, unaltered by the experience of it.
So Becky, her attorney and I will fight it out in May, in the family court under a divorce case which I was not a party. In a court of law that is supposed to be fair and equitable, but experience has taught me is not; a Judge which is supposed to be blind to everything except for the facts, but allowed to have a heart, to exercise caution and to have compassion; but also a court of law that doesn’t understand or enforce penalty of perjury or the right and wrong of things.
Is it fair? No. But as Mike used to tell us all, life isn’t fair, so what?