*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a friend who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
My friend Patty has had some wild things happen to her in her life, and I have been thinking of her a lot lately. The other day I was thinking about the time she ran herself over with her car, and today I was ruminating over the fact of why she got divorced and made out like a bandit with alimony.
Her husband Ron was a real piece of work. She met him when she was lured into Scientology at a young age and he was about ten years older than her.
Ron was a very controlling man. He insisted on telling her every day what he wanted for dinner, he expected her to lay his clothes out for him for the next day, and never helped with chores around the house. He monitored Patty’s phone calls before the time of cell phones, picking up a line to listen in from another part of the house to make sure she wasn’t talking to any men. He also didn’t like it when she wanted to go out with friends and often just didn’t let her at all, because that would mean he’d get no dinner.
Ron also controlled the finances in the house. Since he was the one who brought home all the money, he was the one who balanced the checkbook and paid the bills. This made it so Patty often didn’t know what was going on with their finances.
One Christmas, a time when Ron was actually generous and usually took Patty on a vacation, there was no talk of a vacation coming, and Christmas came and went with no special gift for her. Patty got up the courage to ask Ron if they were in trouble, and he snapped at her.
“No, I spent the money on something else this year.”
Ron looked very uncomfortable about it, and Patty pressed him for answers. Finally, she said she wouldn’t speak to him until he told her the truth.
Weeks went by and Patty and Ron didn’t speak, they moved past each other in the house and it was very uncomfortable for Patty. But finally, Ron broke down.
One night when Patty was in her bedroom sewing, Ron came in and dropped a photo of two teenagers, a boy and a girl, on her table.
“Who’s this?” She asked.
“These are my twins, Beth and Ronny. They just turned eighteen and started college. I’ve been helping them get on their feet.”
Patty’s head swirled, and she told me later she felt like she was going to just pass out and hit the floor when she heard this news.
Her husband had two children before meeting her, and she had no idea about it. He had kept them from her, the knowledge of them, for all sixteen years of their marriage.
Patty was enraged that he’d kept the secret so long, especially because Patty was a very loving, motherly type and would have loved her step-children as she loved her own had she had the chance, and that’s what she told Ron.
Shortly after that, maybe Patty decided that was the last straw because after years of his abuse, she finally filed for divorce.
What would you have done?