But eventually I did learn the truth (that my wife had lied to me when she told me she owned her home, and that she’d spun countless other lies to hide the truth), got my spousal visa from the UK Border Agency, and moved to England on July 11, 2011. A week after arrival, on the 19th, I had my stroke / Bell’s palsy episode. Paula’s behavior only worsened. A turning point happened on my birthday that year, when Paula hit me in the face and abandoned me on the side of what I later found out was Eastern Avenue in Shoreham-by-Sea without my white cane. I had already had numerous hasty trips to B&B’s when her hot anger exploded.
This is me in Worthing Hospital on the day after the stroke / Bell’s palsy. It was also my first wedding anniversary with Paula. The woman beside me is NOT Paula, but my friend, Martha (pseudonym), who’d rescued me from Paula’s rage on my first trip to the UK and who helped me as much as she could thereafter:
So toward the end of November 2011, I realized that I needed to get away from Paula. Oh, but I didn’t want to leave her — I loved this woman!! Yet I mechanically tried to think through a solution. I had sold my home and all my possessions, so I had nowhere to go back to. I didn’t have any family to take me in. I called my friend, Charlotte (psudonym), who I’d known since ~1994. She lived in an efficiency condominium in DC, and she said I could stay with her, but only until December 1st, as she was expecting a guest. Well, that wouldn’t work, as I’d have nowhere to go on the 1st.
I called my friend, Rich (pseudonym), who lived in a big house in Silver Spring by himself. I knew he’d take me in. But his son was getting married and Rich was going to be in Jamaica for an extended period of time for the wedding. I didn’t think I could survive with Paula until Rob was back home.
Those were my only two options. And besides all that, I had the logistics of figuring out how to get 8 pieces of luggage and my little dog back the United States — and telling Paula that I was leaving. She would go ballistic and wouldn’t help me, and i knew I wouldn’t be able to cope. Raw to the bone, no more fight left.
I don’t remember what set her off, but it was at this point at the end of November 2011 that Paula flew into her next rage. She called me a “c*nt” and every vile epithet under the sun. Her eyes flashed fire and yet looked like vacuous satanic pools. Even worse than the screaming and the hateful things she said was the “silent treatment.” As I recall, the yelling had gone on all day, and the silent treatment had begun that evening. For the first time in our marriage, she slept on the sofa in the living room, leaving me alone with myself in the bedroom.
When I’d had my stroke / Bell’s palsy, I’d been given all manner of medications to relieve the intense nerve pain — tramadol, pregabalin, amitriptyline, and others. Paracetamol with codeine is sold over-the-counter in the UK, and I had some of those. I had a supply of anti-anxiety medication as well. I hadn’t known what would “work” in the past, but now I did.
I sat on the bed in the glow of the incandescent light of the small lamp. Too beaten down for another run to a B&B. No other options. I couldn’t see any way out, and I knew my life would be meaningless if I left Paula. So I quietly tip-toed into the kitchen and got two large glasses of water. I dragged out the plastic bin containing my stash of pills. For those in sealed packaging, I popped the pills from the bubbles one by one and put them in a cup. For those in capsules, I broke open the capsules and dumped the powder in the cup. And for the rest, I simply dumped the pills from the bottles on the bed. When I was done, I probably had the equivalent of two cups full of tablets. I knew this would work, and quickly.
I hesitated only briefly, then began to gulp down the pills with water. It was done. I sighed relief. I crept into the living room to kiss Paula on the cheek and whisper that I loved her. Paula slept deeply, and it was near impossible to awaken her when she was asleep. I’d witnessed her crashed on the bed in the late afternoon, snoring, and one or the other of her kids jostling her and pounding her on the arm and calling out, “Mummy, mummy, mummy, wake up!” They would do this repeatedly and she wouldn’t even stir. So I didn’t imagine that a last soft kiss on the cheek would awaken her… I thought I could whisper that I loved her and then retreat back to the bedroom for what remained.
But she did stir, groggy-eyed. She huskily said she needed to use the toilet and I listened to her shuffle-thud up the stairs. And everything went black…
When I “woke up,” I was in a bed at Worthing Hospital. (Was it Worthing or Chichester? I’m getting this mixed up with my stroke.) Paula was sitting in a chair beside the bed and holding my hand lovingly. Yet confusion, because one of the first things she said to me was, “I decided I don’t want you to die.” Was there ever a question?
Paula told me what had happened. She said that when she came downstairs from the toilet, she’d found me unconscious on the floor and not breathing. She’d called the equivalent of 911. In the ER, they’d pumped bags and bags of nasty green bile from my stomach. They’d inserted a mainline into the artery on my neck for life support, and put a breathing tube down my throat. I was comatose, and the doctors spoke to her about disconnecting the life support if I didn’t show “signs of life” after 48 hours.
Paula said that I showed some slight movement at 36 hours, and so they pulled out the breathing tube and i was able to breathe on my own. And then I “woke up” many days later to find her holding my hand…
While I’d been unconscious and at death’s door, Paula had trumpeted what I’d done to all my Facebook friends, to my embarrassment, leaving me wondering why she would share something so personal. I can’t say that I was glad I was alive, but I was momentarily glad that Paula seemed to love me again and there was no more anger. I was in the hospital several more days before being released. Again, the British “system” is kinder…
While Kim and I were together, we’d had wills made, and in mine, I’d left everything I owned to Kim. I had never bothered to change my will after the relationship ended and Paula knew this. Changing the will was left on the “to do” list that never materialized. Once I was back home with Paula, I had a telephone conversation with my friend, Charlotte. It was one of the few conversations I’d been able to have with friends without Paula watching me like a hawk. Charlottel told me that Paula had called her to tell her about the overdose, and that Paula had asked Charlotte questions about my will. Hmmm….!?!?!?
It didn’t take long for the “loving” Paula to vaporize and the raging cursing Paula to spring forth. Now she was belittling me and blaming me and complaining about all the money for petrol she’d had to spend in going back and forth to the hospital.
Paula hit me a second time. I don’t recall what had upset her. Whatever it was, it was always something I’d done wrong. We were standing in the kitchen one afternoon and the kids were at school. Paula was on one of her screaming jaunts. She took off the gold and diamond wedding ring I’d given her and flung it into the back garden where it was never found. She hovered over me threateningly, drew back her arm, and slapped me across the face. She said, “I’ll give you something to call the police about!” I was stunned. I knew the violence would burgeon, yet I couldn’t quite reconcile it with the loving person she’d once been. Paula swiveled around, grasping for something to throw at me. If a knife had been in reach, I’d be dead (and thankful!), but the only thing at arm’s length was a wad of plastic grocery store carrier bags. She hurled them at me and they fluttered to the floor. I was passive, pleading, and near mute during all of this. What could I do?
My mother died in February of 2012, on the day before Paula’s birthday. My dog died in May of 2012. (See the story of what happened to my dog here.) I was on a plane back to the United States in less than 24 hours. Much stuff before, after, and in-between. It was my little dog, Otis, who’d given her life to save mine.
Quite ironically, one of the first bits of music Paula shared with me was the British “boy band” Westlife, and their song I Wanna Grow Old with You.
Paula knew what music meant to me, as my beloved father had been a musician. She knew that, more than anything, I only wanted to most common of dreams — someone to grow old with. Every song she shared was tailored to her specific purpose. The lyrics of this song told how our separation (the ocean the was between us, and *her* keeping us apart by having lied about owning her house) would only make our “love grow stronger.” Most chillingly, the one line from the song says, “I wanna die lying in your arms…” And I very nearly did die lying in her arms….
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