Something about Oregon had always felt so enticing to me, even though before moving here I had never even visited. Perhaps it was all those unbearably hot summers in Texas, sweltering in high school and college band camp. Or, most likely, it was the same wanderlust that took me to Vermont and New York earlier in my life. Whatever it was, when I realized it was time to leave California, I knew it would be for the Pacific Northwest.
When I moved to Santa Rosa, CA, from Texas, after #1 and I parted, I had planned to make it my new home for a long time. Boy, did I go into that with blinders on! Unless you’ve got a wagon-load of money with you when coming over the Sierras, you won’t last long on a single person’s wages in The Gold State. Eureka, indeed. It was decided at the last-minute that the job I had been promised before moving was to go unfilled. I was terrified, my money was quickly dwindling and I had no friends or family around me for support. My sweet Scooter and darling Henry (photo above) had made the move with me, too, and they needed me. Enter #2.
He-who-will-become-my-second ex-husband and I met because of our shared love of horses. There was nothing I enjoyed more on the ranch back in Texas than riding horseback while gathering cattle for a workday or moving them from one pasture to another. I loved grooming the ranch horses, their smell, feeding them, talking to them and just watching them socialize with each other. People with an affinity for equines just want to be with them all the time and that was definitely true for me once I got the horse bug. So, meeting someone who shared that, and was much more knowledgeable than me about them, was a great start at filling the gaping void that was inside me from having left my home state.
Before long, I was able to get my petsitting business started up and add boarding to the services offered. #2 had very generously offered to let me use his home for my work and our relationship was on an easy path. I remember telling friends that he was treating me like a queen and how different it was to be with someone who truly valued me as an equal in all things.
Our home, a very old farmhouse, was built directly adjacent to an old lumber mill which was being redeveloped into a new home community. There was no telling what had been buried in the land at the mill and heavy excavation had to be done to clean the building site to meet environmental standards. Our home was owned by the same person who owned the mill site and it was part of the sale, so once we found out we had to move we began debating about staying in California or moving elsewhere.
#2’s family is close. They’re Italian…enough said, I think. There’s Mom, who is a 92 year-old lovely, fiery little woman. He also has an older brother and a son and daughter. All of them live around the San Francisco Bay area or within a couple of hours away. So, he wanted to stay close enough to drive home within a day. After much debate, and heavy lobbying from me, we chose to move to Portland, OR, to get away from the crazy real estate market in California and to take advantage of Portland’s reputation of being America’s top dog town. For several years the city had been chosen in an line-up of US places where residents spend more on their pets than anywhere else. Our research made it clear this was a great place to launch our full-time dog boarding and daycare venture.
Lovely pet people started showing up almost immediately after we set up shop. Our business flourished from my nearly 20 years’ experience and knowledge in pet care and #2’s skill in turning the old property he bought for us into a proper doggy retreat. We worked well as a team and played our strengths and weaknesses off one another. Eventually, knowing we would since shortly after meeting, we got married.
For a few years things bumped along nicely…work, a little vacation now and then, #2 traveling down to California to see his family frequently, meeting new dogs and their people. Throughout this time, my disease was beginning to make itself know, though. Unexplained pain, lethargy, falls, confusion. We had great insurance through Kaiser Permanente and I used all the resources there to try to figure out what was going on.
Finally, in May 2012, I got my diagnosis of autoimmune disease. It was a real blow, as you can imagine.
A subtle change had started to take place in our marriage relationship while I was experiencing my early disease problems. I noticed the shift especially after one of #2’s trips to California, where he had stayed with friends in the town we had lived in before moving north. When he returned home, he seemed distant and preoccupied, but he couldn’t tell me if anything was bothering him.
These friends he visited had been close with him and his second wife for many, many years. #2 always referred to them as his best friends, together with another couple from the same town. The husband of the couple had an accident and his leg was injured very badly, to the point that he was bedridden for months, from what #2 told me. He was, naturally, very depressed about his injury, too. #2 visited them every time he went to California, he said, to try to cheer up his friend.
After I got my diagnosis, then began a process lasting several months over the summer of trying different medications to figure out which would help the symptoms and perhaps stop the disease progression. I spent the majority of my time in bed because of medication side effects, fatigue, pain and my own depression during that time. I helped with the business as much as I could, but I wasn’t anywhere near the fully functioning partner I had always tried to be previously. #2 was pivotal in keeping our business and home going during this time and I tried to remember to thank him for his extra work. I knew he was exhausted from having so much on his plate.
Sometimes #2 would go to my many doctor’s appointments with me, but more often he needed to be at home due to business. When he came along, he seemed understanding and supportive while we spoke with my doctors. At home, he’d encourage me to take it easy and rest as much as possible while he worked. This always caused me a lot of guilt, but my body just would not cooperate with any other activity.
As the summer wore on, #2’s attitude began to deteriorate further and he became more distant and, now, argumentative with me. I’d been noticing that he was spending more time on the computer and also going outside to talk on the phone. When he’d help me get out of bed or to the bathroom, he handled me roughly and rarely spent time with me anymore. Then, the yelling started and quickly escalated. I was already an emotional mess from all that was happening to me physically. This new wrinkle in the marriage was quickly putting me over the edge.
It will come as no shock to anyone reading this that #2 was planning to leave me. What may come as a surprise is that he had been conniving to do so for months with the wife of his bed ridden best friend. I found the proof one day when I unexpectedly sat down at his computer to pay a couple of bills and found his Facebook messenger open. It revealed a very long conversation, the gist of which being, “If only we didn’t have to be caretakers to these people (our spouses), we could be together.”
So, now I knew the problem: the vows he made to me at our marriage were only lip service. “In sickness and in health” had a different meaning to him than everyone else on the planet. Integrity and strength of character were missing in this husband, too.
I didn’t confront him with my new information. I wanted to keep my own counsel and think about what my options were. I was a very sick woman. I was living in a house which he owned, not both of us together. I jointly owned a business with him. If we split up, how would I be able to work enough to afford the really expensive health insurance we had, among everything else?
The proverbial ish finally hit the fan on Thanksgiving Day 2012. We had a house full of boarding dogs, I was ill from trying out yet another medication (over the summer and early fall, I had tried five meds to stop my disease progression, all of which had made me either extremely nauseous or break out in hives), and #2 was itching for an argument. In the course of telling me how worthless I was for not being able to work and that I was a bitch, he said he wanted to go back home to California for good because he didn’t want to take care of a sick wife for the rest of his life.
Even though I had known we were likely to separate, the slap in the face from hearing my own husband tell me he no longer cared enough about me as a human being to honor his word and help me through the darkest part of my life was nearly palpable. I remember I was standing by the kitchen sink when he said this to me and I think I actually reeled backward.
Fast forward a few weeks. #2 has moved out of the house to live in the driveway in the travel trailer I purchased for us with money from my mother’s estate. He continues to work the dog business while I try to pull myself together enough and begin to formulate a plan for what I’ll do once he leaves. My health is still not good, but the latest medicine my doctor tries on me seems to be working better than any of the others and has alleviated a bit of the pain and fatigue. During this time, I discover that #2 hasn’t paid the mortgage for several months while I had been so ill and not tending to the finances. The mortgage is in default, of course, and Bank of America wants their money. Where is it? No answer from #2. Foreclosure begins.
He finally leaves for good during the winter. By this time, I’m taking handfuls of prescription pills every day to be able to keep up with the business. Luckily, my dear dog clients have stood by me during the upheaval. He tells some of them goodbye and that he’s going to California “for a while to look after Mother because her health is getting worse”. My clients aren’t stupid and they know he’s leaving me. It’s actually sort of the same thing he tells me, that he’s going to live with his mom because of her health. I’m not stupid, either.
Long story short, he’s now living full-time with the wife of his ex-best friend. I assume he’s the ex-best friend. I wouldn’t think they could remain friends while my husband is brazenly adulterating with his wife. #2 has yet to file for divorce from me. That’s probably because he doesn’t want the courts or IRS to know that he has money stashed away which could be used to pay toward the $300K judgement against him from Bank of America for the mortgage default or to pay me spousal support. He continues to claim he doesn’t have a job or money when I contact him to ask for help while I’m in such dire need.
So, call out number two: David F. Miller of Cloverdale, CA. (503-970-0704; firstname.lastname@example.org; Facebook). The examples of personal integrity, honesty and respectability you and Marni Thompson Ojeda are providing to the children and grandchildren of your various marriages are simply outstanding. The parents of the children in your daycare, Mrs. Ojeda, must also feel very fortunate to have you model such virtues to their kids. David, the time will come when you can no longer flee your responsibilities as you’ve demonstrated your entire life. Your dear mother will one day, fortunately, have a rest from bailing you out after you’ve created mess after mess for yourself. Grow up, claim responsibility, get a job, pay your debts and stop hiding. At 59 years old, that shouldn’t be hard to do.