Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Sunday, March 09, 2008

To My Ex-Husband

I'm an avid googler.

When I can't sleep I make a sport of it, and look up all kinds of people from my past. Most often it's old classmates from college. And you, of course, are one of those.

Last night I googled your name. You, the first of my two ex-husbands. My college sweetheart. How ridiculous that it all started between us with the musical production where you played a sperm and I was the egg.

We jumped into marriage fresh out of college, like so many of our equally misguided friends. It was only natural, right? College degree, marriage license. A no-brainer.

The baggage we carried into the marriage from our two families was more than just baggage. It was two separate 18-wheelers filled with boxes of toxic sludge, broken scissors, and Ziploc bags stuffed with quivering rattlesnake eggs itching to hatch.

Six weeks after the big festive wedding, things began to disintegrate. A year in, we separated. Then a few months later we reconciled. Then another separation. Then another getting back together. My mother must have been going insane watching this, never having liked you in the first place. Outdoing her in that department was your mother, who hated me from the start. Because I was female, and you had chosen me. Remember when your mom asked me what she could get me for Christmas? I said to her: "Well, I'm allergic to wool and I have way too much black stuff. Other than that, I love everything." She got me a pair of black wool pants. Yeah. Merry Christmas, rotten stealer of my boy.

My parents wouldn't speak to me when I came home with an engagement ring. They saw what a hideous match we were. But what do parents know?

Starting early in the marriage, in fact, back at that six-week mark, you starting slapping me in the face. I didn't blame you. When we fought, I had a vicious mouth.

Things ramped up. Lots of shoving, lots of me finding myself on the floor. Pots and pans flying through the air at my head, which caused me even at those moments to become that much more determined and pointed in my insults of you. I refused to run from you. For a long time. Until just before that third and final separation when you were tossing me over the couch or down the stairs of our apartment or grinding my face into the carpet. I started to catch on. I started to see that the combination of our anger was going to get one of us killed, and it probably wasn't going to be the rugby player.

One of our main conflicts was about children. I'd told you before we ever married that I would never have kids. That was OK with you. No problem. All we need is us, right? Fast forward to the day you were screaming at me while driving, and you ran us into a stop sign while yelling "Is one god-damned baby too much to ask for?!"

Somewhere in there, I met someone else. I sneaked around and started seeing him because I was the kind of weak, despicable woman who was too afraid to be on my own. I had to have the next trapeze to leap to clearly in my sight before I let go of the first one. I always had to have a man in the wings, just in case. A very healthy way to run a life, indeed.

After I left you for good, you demanded your old high school class ring back, (you had dug it out of a box and given it to me in a tender moment in college), and your favorite kitchen glasses. I was to bring them to you at your hotel security job. I brought the new guy with me. He stayed in the car. But you followed me outside and wanted to beat him up too. You backed down only when, with a slight push of his accelerator, he had you pinned between his car and the one in front of it, just like a big angry bug. I remember sitting in the passenger seat saying "What the fuck is wrong with my life?"

Ah, but that new guy was my hero. He protected me from you.

Your second marriage was a success. Your new wife even came with a two-year-old! Then you fathered two kids of your own. That's about all I knew about your post-Candy life, except for the fact that you were a "full time homemaker" which just about made me puke. Especially when I realized how happy it probably made you. Your potential happiness was on my shit list for a long time.

My second marriage? A huge mistake. A twelve year mistake. I used to actually wish he would beat me physically instead of the other ways he punched. Another terrible match.

And here I am, finally with the right person. And you are, too.

But when I googled your name last night, I also found out that you have Stage 4 melanoma. It was in an online church bulletin. I thought it had to be the wrong guy. I kept searching. Then I found the Facebook group your 15-year-old daughter started in order to solicit prayers for you.

Suddenly, after not talking to you for twenty years, all I wanted to do was to tell you I'm sorry. To tell you that I could see us both more clearly now. And to tell you that even with all the shitstorms we caused and endured together, I still care about you. I value every day of that impossible, exhausting trip.

I called your house and got your machine. You were upbeat and sounded healthy when you said "We just got this cool new phone for Christmas, and I actually read the instructions to figure out how to record this message." Christmas. Almost three months ago. Were you still alive?

I called your sister. Out of the blue of twenty years, she hears me say "This is your former sister-in-law, Candy." "Oh," she said.

I had to know how you were. She said your surgeon was very agressive, very determined to keep cutting things out of you as they became attacked by the cancer. He had even cut some out of your brain. But now he had to stop. He couldn't cut any more.

I told her I wanted to call and talk to you. "I don't think I'd do that," she said. "This is the toughest part emotionally for them."

You were going to leave the planet without knowing how much you'd meant in my life, and that I had forgiven us both for the mess we made.

I spent all afternoon reading every word of my journal from 1980, the year we met. I was all the way back there, reliving the Big College Romance and the drama and the technicolored tempest of being 20 years old with you.

I cried uncontrollably. I deliberated. I asked two people that I trust what I should do. Both said: call him. Leave a message on his machine if that's all you can do. Tell him what's in your heart.

I couldn't decide if that was too selfish. But I knew I couldn't live with the regret of not calling.

So I called. Dialing the phone was ridiculously hard. I was shaking and trying to get my shit together and failing. I left two messages because I was so nervous I left things out the first time. I had no idea if you were in the hospital or still at home or if someone would erase the messages before you heard them:

"This is a message for W. This is Candy. I accidentally found out on Facebook last night that you are ill. I talked to your sister today. I just wanted to tell you that I'm praying for you and your wife and your kids. And also I wanted to thank you for the time we spent together. It was a big deal. I'm glad you found the love of your life. I knew you would."

Second message: "Sorry for another message. I didn't actually find out accidentally. Something told me to google your name last night and that's how I found out. I also want to say I'm sorry for the way things ended with us, and for being so rude when we last spoke, 20 years ago. I hope this call doesn't offend anyone in your house. Bye."

Two hours later, you called me back. I was completely stunned. We talked for half an hour and it was really valuable for us both, I think. Your wife and my husband are very understanding people, and knew we needed closure. Your oldest kid is going to college in the fall and you're worried about it. But you also know you won't live that long.

"Yep, pretty surreal here," you said. "I feel good right now, which is what makes it all so weird. But things are going to get pretty crazy in the next few weeks."

Pretty crazy? Pretty crazy is when you have too much to do and your garbage disposal breaks and you forget to pay the power bill and the dog pisses on the rug. You are looking right down both barrels of death. And still understating everything.

We talked about God and our spouses and the many old college friends we never talk to anymore.

I didn't want to push my luck, but I gave you my email address. You said you'd write. You probably won't, but I'm so thankful that you called back, and that we got to linger in the mercy we'd found for each other, that I will try to make that enough.


  • At 10:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This was a difficult but rewarding read, Candy. Why is it that we women so often have to pay our dues (i.e., deal with truly awful men) before the universe hands us delightful, compassionate guys? You paid your dues at least twice! But I'm glad that the universe remembered to make it up to you, Mrs. Happy-As-a-Dog-Rolling-in-Crap.

  • At 11:38 AM, Blogger Jerry said…

    You did what you had to do--what your heart compelled you to do. Death brings a perspective on what is important and what is not.

    When you were describing you accounts of pitched battles with your ex, I thought of all the shrill, shrieking insanity in which I participated.

    Contrition and forgiveness;let me know if you can truly forgive yourself. I still feel the regret.

    I think you showed a lot of courage--making yourself that vulnerable, letting your defenses down--facing your responsibility that way. Seems like you're learning some good things before it's too late.

  • At 12:57 PM, Blogger Norma said…

    You're such a great person Candy. I love you

  • At 1:01 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Norma, no I'm not. But I'm trying to learn how to shed the rotten parts of me. When I'm done, I will be the size of a Chiclet.

  • At 6:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Candy - when you sent me the note I read today, I had no idea this was posted - till now. A nice completion to the story. I'm glad you both found some closure. It seems it was the right thing for both of you - love you Poola

  • At 9:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Fuck. Hard slam to the chest without warning.

    You spend all this time hating someone's guts for good reason and then realize that they're on their way out and it gets really clear really fast. That you don't hate them so much as you hate what they did and what you did and what the two of you did together and to each other but you don't really hate this human being. Just the exoskeleton.

    You did the right thing, calling. I think it all gets sorted out once we get back to God. The exoskeleton is lost and we'll be able to see what it was that attracted us to all of those nightmares because the nightmare part will be gone.

    I'm sorry, Candy. This is hard.

  • At 9:17 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    That sums it up PERFECTLY, Ana. And it's like this: How can I blame him for the outrageous shit he did when I don't even know why I did any of the stuff *I* did? And pretty much still don't know my motivation for much of anything I do currently.

    Love the exoskeleton description. Perfect.

  • At 10:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    candy you have the most amazing ability to make me cry... like the post about your dad that made me think about my grandpa ... and this one ... and i know i don't really know you all that well, but these tender stories always take me by surprise (though they shouldn't anymore) because for so long I thought of you as the strong and snarky one who always had a sharp, sarcastic, hysterical response to any situation...

    you're amazing, you know.

  • At 10:36 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…


    Really glad you read this post, since you were there for that whole chunk of history.
    Thanks. Love you, too.

  • At 10:41 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    That's because that 315 office brought out the snarkiest in me. With all those hideously stupid undergrads around, and all those insane liberal grad students (oh wait...redundant!) I couldn't help myself.

    Then you put me in the desert away from all my friends and I start writing all this sap.

    Honestly, I'm just glad someone is getting ANYTHING from this. I write it only to keep my sanity. Especially this post. Sometimes it's very annoying that I cannot seem to function until I sit down and write what I've been through. I feel like that kid in "American Beauty" who has to have his video camera on all the time.

  • At 10:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Examine closely and say "my bad" more often than "your fault" and you're on your way to full butterfly. Your ex will get there sooner. Aslan is going to take the dragon layers off and all that will remain is what's worth keeping.

    Mine's about Chicklet size, too.

  • At 11:01 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Loves me the Narnia.

    I'm only Chiclet sized with my heavy winter coat on.

  • At 1:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You are in my prayers.

  • At 11:44 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Thanks, MC. He needs it way more than I do.

  • At 2:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    `This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me,' whispered the Rat, as if in a trance. `Here, in this holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him!'
    Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror -- indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy -- but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty he turned to look for his friend. and saw him at his side cowed, stricken, and trembling violently. And still there was utter silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and still the light grew and grew.
    Perhaps he would never have dared to raise his eyes, but that, though the piping was now hushed, the call and the summons seemed still dominant and imperious. He might not refuse, were Death himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked with mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden. Trembling he obeyed, and raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fulness of incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humourously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves, sleeping soundly in entire peace and contentment, the little, round, podgy, childish form of the baby otter. All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.
    `Rat!' he found breath to whisper, shaking. `Are you afraid?'
    `Afraid?' murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. `Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!'
    Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.

    I think it's much harder where he's been than where he's going, Candy.

  • At 4:37 PM, Blogger mgm said…

    Candy, that was just lovely. I am glad you didn't listen to the sister and that you called him. I am sure you both needed that closure. His sister probably thought you calling would upset him, but it may have been just the thing he needed. To know that you are in a good place and that you have learned from what happened between the two of you. Honestly, Candy, that is a great gift to him.

    And despite your protestations to the contrary, you are a great person. "Learning to shed the rotten parts of" you is something that most people have trouble doing. I know I do. The fact that you can recognize what baggage needs let go makes you a better person than most people.

    I love you!

  • At 1:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thank you for this.

    I have nothing to say... and so much to say, to you.

    You're strong. very.

    (Oh, look! My "Word Verification" is fuukd. I shit you NOT.

    To delete or not delete. LOL

  • At 1:26 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    don't leave me hanging! Which anonymous ARE you?
    Email me:

    And by the way, I have never felt strong a day in my life.
    Only fuukd. :)

  • At 1:27 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Ana, you are so good to me.

    Thank you for that chunk of Willows.

  • At 1:28 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Love you back, Mad Grad.

    Miss harrassing you, big time.

  • At 11:41 AM, Blogger Citlali said…

    I ditto mad grad mom. everything. I'm glad you called him too. Regret is far heavier, nastier, more destructive than fear. hugs = ]

  • At 11:55 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Citlali, you're right. And the pisser is that regret is SO easy to create.


  • At 2:18 PM, Blogger Tony from the Bronx said…

    Shovin' your woman? Slapping her face? Throwing her down and grinding her face into the rug? You make that sound...well...bad. Out here we call it Saturday night.

  • At 8:35 PM, Blogger Steve B said…

    Powerful stuff. And well written, as always. It's amazing how much perspective we get when faced with death.

    Puts a whole new spin on things.

  • At 1:09 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Yee-haw, Tony!

    Steve, yes. Wish I could get perspective that quickly in some other way.

  • At 6:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    What a tragic story. I am sorry.
    Through good/bad and all that, you find good. That you did (new husband) and were able to make peace - and closure.

    BTW your arms looked super thin in that picture.

    Kel -

  • At 8:09 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    I'm really glad for the closure too, Kel.

    Oh, and yeah...I was an absolute stick, very thin, until I was about 36. When I graduated from college I weighed 103.

    Eventually, in my late 30s, the middle-aged metabolism found my skinny ass and inflated it.

  • At 7:26 AM, Blogger Dana said…

    Dangit woman, just when I thought I couldn't love you more...

    AND you made me cry.

    What a triumph. What mercy God has given to both of you, him in his last days and you in your heart for whatever time is yours to live.

    Way to go Candy. I am impressed.

  • At 10:48 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Thanks, Dana. What a great comment to read after a full night of hacking and chills. I kept thinking of what worse stuff HE is going through and trying to get myself to buck up.

  • At 6:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I want to give thanks to the great doctor Lawrence who help me in getting back my ex-boyfriend i saw a testimony post by miss Kate from Spain about how the great doctor Lawrence had helped her, i decide to email him and to my greatest surprise my ex-boyfriend came back to me after three days of contacting him.i simply want to say thanks for what he had done for me and am so happy may he live long. if you have any problem just email him ... Chalie


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