The Moment My Heart Shattered
I will never forget this precise moment for as along as I live. The day after I found out about my husband's affair was a Sunday. My daughter had her very first gymnastics competition, my son had rugby practice. We had one car and needed a lift from my sister to the competition, where I was going to meet up with them after rugby. It had all been planned meticulously in advance. That morning we needed packed lunches, uniforms, rugby boots and kit, competition standard french plaits with matching ribbons, leotard, hand guards and homemade competition number. I had had no sleep whatsoever. I was retching into the toilet at about 5am, then when it was time to get up, I was trying to be normal but just wandered aimlessly about in a daze, crying. My sister (who is the next one down from me) sprung into action and was like “What do you need? What do they like in their sandwiches? I’ll do it, don’t worry.” She got busy downstairs and sent me up to get ready for the day.
I don’t remember having a shower, but I must have done as I remember standing in front of my clothes not even knowing what to wear. I couldn’t even get dressed. I felt like I was on trial. Like what I chose to wear that day could make or break everything, could tip the balance either way. I was paralysed and just stood in front of my clothes rail like I had no idea what clothes even were. My brain was fizzing and spitting as it short circuited unable to make sense of the last 12 hours. My husband was still in bed at this point, on his side curled up in the foetal position. I managed to have a word with myself, took a deep breath and started to get dressed, deciding to just stick with black as it was easy. He then started talking about how he didn’t want a lift from my sister. He didn’t want to get in the car with her, her husband and kids as he felt really uncomfortable they knew what he had done. Just as I was saying we had no other way to get our daughter to the competition, she came in the bedroom and closed the door carefully behind her. She very softly said “Erm, guys…..there’s something I think you should know.” I turned to look at her, my husband still lay curled up on the bed. She carried on...
“******* just came up to me and said ‘I know why Mummy’s crying. Daddy loves someone else.’ He heard you guys talking last night.”
She was talking about my nine year old son.
That was it. That was the moment.
My heart shattered into a thousand pieces.
My legs dissolved into dust and I just crumbled into my sister, sobbing and she knew exactly why as she cried with me. In that moment I had completely forgotten about what I was wearing, as all of a sudden it didn’t seem so important. “I can't believe this is happening again” I cried into my sister’s shoulder. “I know, I know” she kept saying as she hugged me.
My boy, my sweet darling boy.
My son had just found out about his dad’s affair the same way I found out about my dad’s. Although I was twelve when I overheard my mum and my older sister. It’s how I know about cheating and how “the other woman” can have a tendency to be a bit batshit crazy.
It was a Saturday morning, probably around 1987/88. My younger sisters were out of the house. So was my dad. He could well have been chauffeuring them to athletics or some other recreational activity. As a family of four kids, we did a lot of them and we also had a pretty big house. I was home with my mum and older sister. I was downstairs, they were upstairs having quite a heated conversation. I think it was about my sister’s behaviour at the time. I’m sure they had no idea I could hear them. My mum was telling her off for being rude to my dad. She was responding by saying something along the lines of “Why should I?” like a typical stroppy teenager. Although my mum didn’t realise the reason she had, had nothing to do with raging hormones, moody interludes or pushing boundaries.
We had a family tradition of going camping to France on holiday each year. We’d all pile into my dad's Volvo estate, before the days of people carriers, four girls in the back seat, no seat belts and a load of kit that my dad would have to tesselate into the boot every year. I remember it that part being very stressful and they were very strict about what we could bring. We would get the ferry to France and then drive on to a campsite on the south west coast. That year, I remember all of this very clearly, we took the hovercraft. Remember those? Don’t even think they exist now. I might have to find a picture.
I don’t know if you have ever been on a ferry or hovercraft (!), but when you arrive all the cars have to line up, one after the other, in multiple lanes waiting to be signalled aboard. We had taken up our place in our allocated lane and were waiting. My position on the back seat was always behind my dad, next to the window. My sisters and I always had a pillow each, a pile of tapes and a Walkman at our feet and activities hanging out of a homemade organiser my mum had rustled up on her sewing machine, that fitted over each front seat. There was always a yellow potty under my dad’s seat in case anyone needed to be sick or wee. You didn’t dare ask for the toilet. My dad never stopped driving unless it was an allocated driving break. I have very vivid memories of one of my younger sisters balancing half naked on the yellow potty, up on the back seat and then my dad or mum throwing it out of the window! Crazy what you remember when you think about it! Anyway….
…..as we were waiting, probably arguing about touching arms, not having enough space or who couldn’t see the Storyteller book properly to read along with the tape, my mum said
“Oh look! It’s Diane and Tony.”
Another family had pulled up in our lane a few cars behind us. They were friends of my mum and dad. Tony worked for the same company as my dad but in a different town. They knew each other from company work trips they got, I think, as commission. They had two boys, younger than us girls and had suddenly decided to go on holiday, very last minute, and just happened to be staying in a town very close to where we were going. Oh, what a coincidence!! My mum, being my mum, suggested that we all should get together. Now being the eighties, I have no idea how they managed to arrange it in a foreign country without mobiles, emails or even a phone, even though we were staying in a holiday camp that year with apartments, not tents. However, they must have managed it somehow because we definitely spent a few days with them. I remember a water park or maybe it was just the pool on our holiday camp that had a slide. I definitely remember the beach and also going out for dinner. I remember us all getting on really well, so well there were lots of discussions about them coming to stay for Christmas that year. The only thing I remember was Diane saying she had come over to our town to take the boys swimming and her car had broken down and that she had contacted Dad. I also remember my mum’s response being “Oh, you never mentioned that *******” That, I thought was odd as their town was over the other side of the country, but I was twelve, it was all fun. Lots of fun. I wasn’t old enough to notice anything amiss. Turns out my older sister was.
In conversations we’ve had as grown ups, she recalls noticing odd looks between my dad and Diane on that holiday and also remembers thinking it was weird that a woman would sunbathe topless in front of someone else’s husband. Topless sunbathing was all the rage in the seventies and eighties. No one thought anything of it, especially in France. My mum did it every year, but she must’ve covered up with Tony about. Diane didn’t. Whatever my sister noticed was enough to raise suspicion in her fourteen year old brain. She used to clean my dad’s office on the weekend as a Saturday job. She had her own set of keys and everything. It was very grown up. She would go down there on a Saturday morning and do the cleaning in return for payment. Perfect opportunity for snooping, which she must’ve done.
“Why should I? You don’t know what he’s done.”
“What do you mean, I don't know what he's done?”
I don’t really remember the next bit exactly, but my sister divulged what she had found. Then I remember my mum saying “Show me.” They both came down the stairs. “Have you got the keys?” Mum checked with my sister. She nodded. They told me where they were going and I was to stay here as Dad would be home in a minute and as they got to the door Mum turned to her and said “Whatever happens this is not your fault.” And they left.
Turns out my sister had seen cards and letters from Diane, and also another lady called Liz. Although whoever Liz was, she hadn't been batshit crazy enough to follow us on holiday with her husband and kids. I mean, who does that? Fatal Attraction was just about to be released, so the term "bunny boiler" hadn't even gone public yet. (Maybe the same kind of person who encroaches on other people's husband's, writes to their wife in their family home and takes covert pictures of him to use as revenge ammunition?!)
My dad came home that afternoon with a bunch of bright yellow flowers for my mum and one for my sister. I remember asking him what they were for (even though I obviously already knew) and he snapped at me to mind my own business. Diane and her family never came for Christmas. I never heard another thing about it until about five or six years later, but that was the start of about ten to fifteen years of affair aftermath hell for my mum and our family. I could go into more details, but I don’t want to bore you. It affected my life in so many ways in my late teens, resulting in me leaving to go and live in America at 19 because my life had gone way off track and I couldn’t be in the same house as my Dad. What I will say is that what I experienced was enough for me to swear that it would never happen to me. I would never, ever, ever stand for that or be with anyone who would ever do that. As I said in 325 Days, lying and cheating, was my absolute deal breaker and then in To Leave Or Not To Leave?, low betide anyone who was foolish enough to try it.
And here I was, with bits of my shattered heart scattered around my feet, grieving for my precious little boy as history was repeating itself.