Sitting on an airplane returning to Boston from a spiritual retreat in Boulder, Barbara’s husband told her he wanted to go to Las Vegas and become a dealer. She finally connected all the dots left by her husband’s long history of mental illness and knew their 14-year marriage was over…
Nothing happened right away – we did talk about it but it took almost a year before we actually did get divorced. We had an extra bedroom so I moved into that. I never saw him anyway so we lived in same house for almost a year and just kind of gradually figured out how to do this.
After the divorce, he did go to Vegas. Sometimes he would call the children. Lots of times months would go by and they wouldn’t hear from him. He would have a job for a while and then something would happen and he’d get laid off or fired and he’d live in his car for weeks. I never had any doubts that we could not have gone with him. We would have lost everything.
I felt stunned after he’d gone and I was alone. The part of me that’s a caretaker, a helper, just couldn’t believe there wasn’t a way to somehow get past this. I did have tons of friends, I had neighbors, I had old friends – lots of support but I had to decide where to live. I loved Boston, I loved Massachusetts. I’m really a New Englander. I would never have left except for this great disaster.
My parents wanted me to live with them and to bring the children. That did not seem like a good idea to me because I was 39 so I didn’t really want to become a child again although they didn’t think of it that way. My best friends moved to New Hampshire and they offered to have me live with them. But the friends that ended up being the most helpful were in Colorado.
Somehow I felt that if I could get far enough away from Boston I could figure out what went wrong. I was still looking. What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently? So I came to Colorado. I had a friend in Ward who’s now my husband. He was divorced and he had two kids. I was divorced and I had two kids so we agreed to see if we could work something out. It wasn’t easy but we did.
I used to say I lost everything but my kids. I never quite figured out how we sold our house for $170,000 and I ended up with $10,000. We paid the lawyers, we paid the home-equity loan, which he’d used for cocaine. We lived there for six years and we probably paid interest and not much principal. I couldn’t even think about it. That was the least of it for me.
It was the betrayal. How could two people love each other and be together for 14 years and all of sudden you don’t feel like that anymore? I just couldn’t put those pieces together for a long time. In the mean time I was moving forward and ultimately I think that’s the only thing you can do. It may be that you never totally understand a big tragedy like that. It may never make sense.
Ward is a tiny town in the mountains above Boulder. It dates back to the mining days but these days strikes a casual visitor driving through as rather run down, ramshackle. However, I can imagine the town residents have a quite a sense of community and the town’s isolation would demand good neighbors. The move has worked out well for Barbara, possibly that year working through the divorce helped. Lorraine was another lady I interviewed – she’d moved from Alaska to Colorado immediately following her divorce and is still struggling to find her home. She wonders if she moved too soon.
Relocating wasn’t something I had to deal with when I got divorced – thankfully. Both my ex and I stayed living in the same town and I think that’s made it easier on our children since they had no changes with school and friends to contend with. Did you relocate after your divorce? How did it work out? How did you choose where to live?