By Erica Ndaguba
I cried when I found out. I never thought I’d cry over him. Who was he anyway. Just someone that I spent half my life with. Through the years I had began to despise him. It was the small things he did that annoyed me the most, like his bad breath in the mornings or the way he never bothered to help do the dishes, like it was automatically always my job. The way he was always scratching whenever got sleepy, especially before he went to bed, like he had fleas or something; these things annoyed me more then his hostile ways.
Whenever he yelled at me,criticized me, told me off or just ignored me, I became numb. I could shut myself into my own little shell, just like a turtle. He couldn’t get to me. I didn’t need to waste my time yelling back at him anymore. I didn’t need to hurt him with my words, though I really did know how to. I didn’t need to find someone who could sympathize with me. No, it didn’t matter anymore.
Still, at times, we pretended to be friends. We kept each other company. Even when we were mad, it was just nice to know someone was in the house with me. One night, I remember looking at him as he was scratching his “fleas” as always before he slept and I felt sick in my stomach. I took my pillow and went out to the car, laid the car seat back and went to sleep. A few minutes later he came knocking on the car window. I was shocked. I didn’t think he’d care. I rolled down the window. He just looked at me for about a minute. Never said a word. Then he walked back in the house and I guess he went to bed. I rolled up the window and went back to sleep in the car. But I knew he missed me. The next night, I did sleep in the bedroom with him.
I don’t know when I fell out of love with him. Maybe after the first year. Maybe after the first or second or hundredth time he came home drunk, speaking foolishness. Maybe after our only son died. Maybe during the many lonely nights I spent weeping and grieving in the dark, sitting in our sons room remembering the joy he always brought to my soul. Maybe when he never once came in to comfort me or to show me his grief was as deep as mine. No. One day we were eating dinner together, silently in the kitchen and he looked at me and said, “He’s gone. When are you gonna get over it. All your grief and crying can’t bring him back.” How wicked. How cruel. I think it was one of the things he’s done that hurt me most. No compassion. I took my plate of food and threw it on the floor. The glass shattered everywhere and the food spread across the floor. He looked at me and shook his head then went to his room. Perhaps he didn’t grieve like me cause most of the time, especially right after our sons death, he was so drunk he probably never even remembered he had a son.
Those were the days. They were hard times. But somewhere in our 40 years of marriage, I’d fallen out of love. At times I hated him. I wondered why it wasn’t him who died, instead of our precious son. I was so angry with him. And my anger got deeper every year.
As he got older he began to drink less. He never had much to say though. He’d just read or watch tv. He always expected me to cook. Once for a whole week, I decided not to cook. The first night, he came home from work and looked around the Kitchen for dinner. Then he looked at me sitting at the table reading my magazine. “Where’s dinner?” He asked gruffly. I ignored him. He looked in the fridge, then back at me. He started to walk out the kitchen, then he came back, grabbed my magazine, ripped it up and threw it all over the floor. He proceeded to tell me how stupid and foolish I was. He ripped me up and down with his words and I… I just went into my shell and waited for it to be over. When it was. I started laughing. I thought he’d slap me across the face and I waited for it, but it never came. He just went to his room. He had no dinner that night. The next day, he came home and found no dinner again. When he saw that it was not there, he left. He came home late that night and slept. The next day it was the same. By the fourth day, he came home with his own dinner he’d brought from a fast food restaurant. Finally, after a week, I decided to continue cooking dinner for the both of us. He came home with his dinner and saw that I had cooked. He ignored the food I cooked and ate his fast food. But when I woke up the next morning, I saw that some time during the night he must have gotten up and eaten the rest of the dinner I’d cooked, cause it was gone and it wasn’t in the trash. He did like my cooking though he didn’t want to admit it.
But something happened in the last seven days. He had changed. He came home from work the other day then left that evening with a young man. I was surprised. He came in after 11pm that night, which was very unusual for him. He looked like he’d been weeping. I ignored him as usual and went back to sleep. I felt him come close to me. I pretended to be asleep. I felt him kiss my cheek. My heart began to pound. Something must be wrong with him. I felt his cheeks wet with tears as he rubbed his cheek against mine. He rubbed my back with his hand. I didn’t know what to do so I pretended to sleep through it all. Then… he did the most remarkable thing. He whispered, “I love you and I’m sorry.” It was like someone was trying to break my shell. No… I won’t allow it, I’d told myself. Never. You just want to get back in and hurt me. I ignored him.
The next day was his day off. When I awoke he was sitting at his desk, reading a book. I strained to see it with out him noticing. It was the Bible. Oh no! He’s lost his mind,” I thought to myself. When he noticed I was up, he turned and looked at me. I looked at him and rolled my eyes, then went to the bathroom. He followed me and stood in the door way. “Don’t look at me like a fool,” I snapped. “Ethel…something happened to me.” “Good, ” I replied sarcastically. “Ethel… last night I gave my heart to Jesus.” I laughed, “so now you’re a religious freak.” “Ethel…I’m a new man, I was born again.” “Stop that foolish talk, ” I snapped getting more annoyed by the moment. He proceeded to tell me he had been changed last night at a revival meeting. He’d found what he was longing for all his life. He found his father. His real dad had walked out on his Mom when he was four years old. He always wanted to be a real dad to our son, but our son died at 8 years old. He said, he felt all new inside. He felt clean and forgiven. I think he’d lost his mind or something. All I know is something really weird happened to him. Yet, it seemed so real. I was almost jealous of whatever he had.
Since then he’d been so loving, so kindhearted, so thoughtful and so repentant. He’s said sorry for so many things. He had tried to hold me in his arms a couple of times, but I pushed him away. He’d kissed me every morning and night and different times through out the day. He’d talked to me so much. He’d never talked that much since we lost our son. He’d been so thankful and so happy. He told me I had to come to know this Jesus. I had to be washed in His cleansing blood. I had to be set free. It was all crazy.
Then this evening, he didn’t come home from work at 6pm which he always did. At 6:30 I got the phone call. He’s gone. My husband of forty years, gone. “It looks like it was a blood clot in the brain,” they told me. “He just fell over dead, right before he was to get off from work.” I never thought I’d cry. I never knew I’d miss him. Now, I just long to be in his arms one last time. I wish I’d been more open to him these last few days. I wish I’d let him love me. It’s like… he wanted to. He was trying, but I was hiding in my shell.
The more I think about it, the more the realization hits and the more my heart grows heavy. I’ll even miss his bad breath and fleas. Maybe, I never really fell out of love like I thought. Maybe I just learned to hide it. I wonder if he’s with this Jesus he kept telling me about these past few days. I wonder if he’s finally embracing his heavenly father. I wonder if this Bible he treasured these last few days has anything worth value in it. But he did change. He really did change. I wonder if I can be changed too.
Erica Ndaguba is married to a wonderful Nigerian man and they have 3 wonderful kids. They’ve been married 5 years. She’s lived 6 years on the mission field and returned to the States 2 years ago with her husband and kids. She used to teach ESL but now she’s a fulltime housewife and mother.