In 1982, my husband and I decided we had to leave this town in New Mexico after 6 years. It truly was tearing us apart. Our son was in kindergarten, so it would not be a big deal for him to move. Our daughters were "the terrible two who were two." Well, they turned three in 1982. And then they were the "terrible two who were three." They really weren't terrible at all, but it was fun to say.
He found a job in a lovely town in western Colorado we had visited extensively in years past. It is in a river valley between one resort town and another. It is gorgeous. I was excited about moving. I looked at the decision to move with my husband as a commitment to stay married to him. We had actually gotten a lot closer after the rape.
It was sometime around this time that I started running. Even though I was still drinking every day, I would get up in the morning and get a neighbor to watch the kids so I could go out and run a few miles. It opened up a whole new world to me. It was the most amazing thing. I still smoked 2 packs a day too!
We weren't able to sell our house before we moved, so we rented it out. By the time we sold it, we made absolutely no money on it, so we ended up renting in this new place. First we had a townhouse in town, and then later we moved to a lovely home further up valley. It really did seem for a while that we had left our problems behind and in some respects we had. We left a lot of baggage behind. We didn't leave ourselves behind though, so we managed to create some new problems.
After a few months in this new place, my husband was hurt on the job and needed shoulder surgery. While he was in the hospital, his employer terminated his employment. He was unable to find a new job because he was unable to work! And we didn't have insurance.
Just at this time, I came down with a terrible stomach ache. After a few days, my husband insisted that I go to the doctor whether we could afford it or not. The doc diagnosed some "female" thing and sent me home with painkillers. The next day, I was delirious, had a fever, and pain so bad I knew I was dying. I knew that this was the result of my previous wishing to be dead. And at that time I was at peace with the idea of dying. But my husband dragged me out of bed and to the hospital. They still could not figure out what was wrong with me, but decided to slice my abdomen open from top to bottom to see. I had a ruptured appendix - the surgeon said I was likely one or two hours away from death if they hadn't opened me up. He also said that my 5 mile a day running habit had probably saved my life.
I still nearly died from infection afterward. I was in the hospital for a very long time. I remember laying in that bed watching every sticker come off of every single product that was used on me, and get stuck to my chart, so that I could be billed for it. It is amazing how much all that stuff costs.... you notice these things when you are paying the bill. (and every cent of that bill was paid eventually.)
But I was grateful to be alive which was a revelation to me. My husband was grateful I was alive which was also a revelation to me. My hospital room was full of so many flowers it was a revelation to everyone who saw it.
It was December 1982. I was a 30 year old wife and mother of three young children. I had just survived a life threatening illness. He was still recuperating from shoulder surgery. I was actually happy to be alive. When I got home from the hospital we literally did not know where our next meal was coming from, but we were a family and we actually had a community that cared about us. People would come by with food. Someone came by with a Christmas tree - sheepishly worried about hurting our pride - as if!
In my mind's eye, I can still visualize the photographs from that Christmas. We had no money, and yet, there we were. Opening presents. I know that my husband gave me the most beautiful blue velour sweater. I cherished that sweater for years. My daughter L. got her Annie doll that she loved for years. My son had ET pajamas, the girls had Strawberry Shortcake pajamas. We had a Rubik's Cube. I know that I sat on the floor on Christmas morning with a bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream and my coffee and cigarettes. What could be better. I don't know where the money for any of this stuff came from. Probably from the kindness of friends and family. And we certainly wouldn't feel too bad about that because we had been the type of people who had always "been there" for others for many many years.
It is the most amazing thing to write this. The bad times were not over. The drinking was not over. The worst times were yet to come - drinking wise. But yet, 1982, in spite of the health and financial problems was a little bit of a break. I don't think I ever realized what a good thing it was to get out of New Mexico. Phew. Just writing this, I feel I can breathe a little bit.