I took the clipboard and pen from the medical receptionist, choking back tears as I searched for a place to sit in my family doctor’s office to start filling out the forms. The hectic waiting room was full of kids and parents with colds and coughs, but I was there for another reason.
Tears kept falling as I looked through all the questions asking about my family history and the reason for my visit. As soon as I was finished, I took the clipboard back to the front desk, whispering to the receptionist to try to fit me in to see a doctor as quickly as possible.
While I waited in in the corner, I thought about how this Valentine’s Day morning had started.
Married for 15 years with three kids I adored: ages, 3, 8 and 13, we all looked forward each Valentine’s Day morning to see what gifts of chocolate would be waiting downstairs for us from my husband and their father.
It had been almost exactly one year since the five of us had relocated from Colorado to snow-burdened Akron, Ohio for my husband’s corporate sales job. After moving many times all over the country for his career while our kids were starting to grow up, I thought that the stability for our kids’ futures would be worth moving across the country yet again so that my husband could finish out his career at the corporate headquarters. I also hoped that his frequent business travel schedule would ease up so that I wouldn’t be the sole parent available for the kids three weeks of each month, year after year.
As I headed down the stairs of our five bedroom home at 6 AM to make coffee for my husband and me to share together in the den, I glanced at the kitchen table and saw gifts of chocolate candy tied with red ribbons at each of our kids’ places but none near the chair where I usually sat.
Although my husband had been acting strangely lately- gone at times that I expected him to be with us and evading questions when I asked him why he was working more weekends, I hoped that this Valentine’s Day morning would bring us close again.
After we had sat down together in the den with our coffee, I thought about the women’s magazine article I had recently seen that highlighted the warning signs of infidelity. Summoning my courage, I pointed out how he had not bought me anything for this Valentine’s Day, how he had barely shared any gifts or time with me at Christmas and how his erratic work schedule was disrupting our entire family.
I looked him directly in the eyes and asked him if he was involved with someone else. Although I had asked him the same question a few weeks prior to that and he had adamantly insisted that he wasn’t, I needed to ask him again.
“I don’t think this is a conversation that you want to have today,” he calmly replied. I asked him again. He then looked at me and said in a flat, hollow voice, “Our marriage was over in my head at the time it started with her so it didn’t really seem like an affair.”
I looked at him wide-eyed. “How could you do this to our three kids?” I demanded to know. He immediately got defensive and refused to answer any of the next questions I asked about who it was with, how long it had been going on and whether or not he planned to end it.
Then he abruptly left the den. Crumbling into a heap, I lay on the floor, still wearing my bathrobe, too shocked to even yell or cry. I thought about our three children still sleeping upstairs and how I would need to wake them soon to get each of them ready for their separate buses they would take to get to school. Although our son was only three, he also took a public school bus to attend an afternoon half-day preschool program where he could receive therapies and intervention to help with his developmental delays and learning disability.
I called a neighbor from down the street who I had met at church through teaching our preschoolers’ Sunday school class together. She agreed to take my son for part of the morning and get him on the bus to preschool for me.
After waiting more than two hours to finally see the family doctor, I sat crying on the end of the exam room table in a white paper robe, embarrassed and alone. My mind raced with thoughts about how I had been supposed to take two dozen cupcakes along with my son’s Valentine’s Day cards to school for him to pass out to his preschool classmates during his class party.
Clutching a new prescription and several Kleenex, I checked out at the desk again to sign some more paperwork. The receptionist smiled and then commented to me, “What a beautiful ring you have!”
Blinded by tears, I ran out into the snow and got into the minivan, completely unsure about what to do next.