When someone is already down, what should you do? Help them up? At least ignore them? Or, if you’re a monster, you might keep kicking them. In fact, there are some people out there (and thank goodness it’s not the norm) who think that it’s perfectly fine to not just continue kicking, but to maybe jump on their head and spit on them, too.
Such is the story of Robby and Lynn. Lynn was one of my best friends growing up. She stayed in our hometown, married her high school boyfriend, Robby, and they had four kids together. Robby and Lynn’s life was far from happy. Robby became an alcoholic and drug addict and, as you can imagine, chaos ruled the day. Finally, after years of abuse, Lynn divorced Robby.
Five months after her diagnosis of stage IV pancreatic cancer, I drove to our hometown to see Lynn and I knew it would be the last time I would see her. Lynn looked healthy. One would never know the horrible treatments she was going through. That’s what’s tricky about second-guessing someone who is fighting cancer– sometimes they look as sick as they are, and sometimes not. With Lynn, most of her hair was still intact and she looked fantastic. Behind that façade, her cancer was raging and growing by the minute. We had a great visit and I cried every time I was out of Lynn’s presence. During one of our talks, Lynn told me that she knew that her marriage to Robby had made her sick. Robby’s abuse had slowly poisoned her soul and her body. Yes, how well I can relate.
Because Lynn didn’t have a lot of money, many people in our small town came to her aid. Rusty’s, a saloon in town, hosted a fundraiser for Lynn. That night, while Lynn was at the event, Robby showed up drunk and started screaming at her. Another time, Robby called Lynn and told her that she deserved to get cancer because she had divorced him. Shocking, disgusting, immoral and evil.
Lynn died in the early morning one October just days after her 38th birthday. She left behind four children ages 15, 13, and 4-year old twins. Because Robby was in no condition to be a father, Lynn’s 28 year old single sister took custody and moved them all to Southern California where she lives. She has been an incredible mother to those kids and I know there is a special place in heaven reserved for her.
The reality is that life with an addict is never good. Still, that doesn’t excuse Robby’s behavior in the wake of a cancer diagnosis. Simply, when one is down, you don’t keep punching and kicking. At a minimum, you back off and walk away. I used to think that Robby was the most vile and evil person I have ever known. I now know that I, too, had my own Robby (my then-husband) and that he was capable of the identical behavior.
The last time I was in our hometown, I visited Lynn’s gravesite and talked to her for a long time. Tragically, we share many of the same experiences. I can relate to her hell and it makes me angrier and sadder than I was back then. Chaos, anger, bitterness and sickness results from that life.
After Lynn passed away, I did my best to take the young twins for the weekend once every month. It gave Lynn’s sister a much needed break and it allowed me to fulfill a promise I made to Lynn in the last days of her life. When I married Rob (my now ex-husband– they share the same name!), taking the twins became much more difficult for me. While Rob paid lip service to being supportive of taking the twins, every time I did was just one more excuse Rob had to drink more and be more angry and awful. One such weekend involved the police being called out to our home to calm a raging aggressive Rob. When the police were still at the home waiting for Rob to pack his belongings and leave, Lynn’s sister and her oldest daughter showed up. It was so humiliating for me. No longer could I pretend that my life with Rob was as happy as it appeared. In fact, she learned that night that I was living in hell. She distracted the children until Rob and the police left and, once they were gone, she sat with me and hugged me while I sobbed. She knew all too well what I was going through– her sister lived it, too.
Lynn’s story is tragic. I’m still haunted by her story and I think of her often. I lost so much faith in humanity with Lynn’s passing and even more during my time with my tormentor, my husband, Rob the Great (Alcoholic). Time heals all wounds and, thank goodness, I have the time to heal.