Toni stood quietly in the warm, faintly lighted kitchen listening to the raindrops bouncing off the windows. The wall clock showed it to be 2:30 in the morning but time or sleep meant nothing to Toni. Conversations with Jeff, her husband of ten years, were replaying in her mind as the hands on the clock slowly crept forward.
Smiling, Toni remembered the day fifteen years past when she met Jeff. It was her second day on the job and being both shy and inexperienced, she was feeling lost in the corporate world. Enter Jeff Foster, Senior Software Engineer and all around good guy. Jeff asked Toni, Would you like for me to show you around? and neither knew the future they were stepping into.
Weeks flowed into months as their friendship strengthened and love began to emerge. She admired his intelligence and spiritual strength and felt secure in his presence. Jeff often told her I feel as if I can accomplish anything with your quite encouragement and belief in me. Yes, we were a formidable team, with humor and common sense our allies.
Being a divorced father with custody of his two children would overwhelm most couples, not us. We were unstoppable in our quest for love, happiness and family in the early years of our relationship and eventual marriage. Adding a son to our already large family a year after marriage was a cause for celebration. Every day brought us closer together and strengthened our commitment to each other.
Looking back over the years and examining each incident of our lives for a clue or warning sign of doom to follow was no good. Toni could not pinpoint the exact date the trouble began nor could she fully understand how it had reached this climax.
Was it the death of Jeffs younger brother at the age of thirty-eight or the news his best friend Zeke had six months to live that caused him to withdraw from life? Could it be his promotion at work, with new responsibilities and longer hours, or the trouble his son got into at school? Maybe it was my fault for not being there for him twenty-four hours a day? What was the answer? Why would a man come home from work one day and state, Im not happy and I want to go live on my boat?
As she watched the rain drops trickle down the window pane, she shuddered as she recalled her response to Jeffs statement of wanting to sail away from everyday life. Have you lost your mind? She questioned in a shrill voice that late afternoon in June. When the words were spoken, she regretted voicing them. Why did she act so defensively to this man whom she loved and shared her life with? Was it out of both fear and anger that she reacted the way she did? Seeing her distorted reflection in the window pane, Toni finally admitted the truths she kept buried inside.
Yes, she was angry at her husband for bringing this turmoil in her life. They had a beautiful home, lovely furnishings, three healthy children and the storybook life. Both husband and wife were professionals with top paying positions in successful companies with unlimited future potential. Furious with Jeff for not considering the consequences of his sudden decision and what repercussions this would have on her or the children, Toni felt the surge of anger rise once again in her chest. Everything the two had worked for was slowly being stolen away. College for the children, early retirement, a sound financial future could not materialize without his income or support, yet he said it wasnt important. How dare this man put her in this position after all the years she had devoted to him. Toni didnt deserve to be in this situation and she blamed Jeff for all her unhappiness.
Tears slowly traced down her cheeks as she thought of life without her soul mate. Memories of quiet moments together watching sunsets or laughter as they chased kids through the fields flashed through her mind as the hands of the clock inched forward. What caused her strong willed husband to succumb to deep depression was a mystery no one understood. The doctors he consulted werent sure and no one knew how long it would last.
Christmas holidays were fast approaching and there was so much to do. Toni thought of holidays' years past when the house was filled with laughter, the aroma of pine trees and Christmas baking. She knew the children were unsure of holiday plans and knew it was up to her to make a decision. Should she move out with her biological son and leave the other two with Jeff as she was contemplating? Life would not be too difficult for her and her son if she did leave and she would just start over. Toni was still young and attractive and she could survive without Jeff. The therapist she had been seeing advised her to think of herself and her happiness and not put Jeff first. Toni knew she had tried her best and it was beyond her control to cure Jeff. She could walk away and no one could fault her for wanting a life for her and their son.
As she quietly walked back to the bedroom, she heard a faint sound in the den. Peering in, she was taken aback at the sight of Jeff curled on the sofa. His hair was in need of cutting and he had at least a ten day growth of beard on his face. She could tell he had lost weight and hadnt had a bath in a few days. Looking closer she saw the look of peace on his face as he slept. Whatever demons raced through his mind during walking hours at least retreat during his sleeping state. Toni smiled as she thought of Jeff driving home and slipping in the house quietly so as not to wake her or the children.
Observing her husband, the question she had so fervently wished to be answered, was finally clear. Big houses, car phones and early retirement were not essential when you had love and commitment. The short yet powerful vows of ten years past through sickness and health were all the couple needed.