I have mulled this over in my brain for years - too many years, and way too long. When and where to start the story; who to include or exclude; do I change the names to protect the guilty and innocent; and I do I share this story with everyone involved. These are all things that I took into account when I pondered writing this account. The main reason for taking on this task is to apologize to many, many people. Even though I was not the only guilty party, it started with me. My choices and decisions started it all – pain, heartbreak, disappointment, removal of trust, grief, and even love.
When I think of when the story started I like to look back to find an event, something out of my control, to blame it on. Of course I know it was not this event or someone else’s doing, but I thought I needed to add some context. Some irony was found in this process so it also needed to be mentioned.
Back in 1986 I was in the US Air Force and I was stationed at Hill AFB near Ogden, Utah. Living in the dorms meant going through several roommates. I can remember three – Airman Gates, Gregory Reed and the notable Paul Smith. Paul was a big kid. He was a bit of a slob; not too much common sense; and was addicted to comic books. While he was my roommate he became involved with another Airman (woman) Mary Rose. He did not treat her right and I wondered what she saw in him. The relationship did not last long. Mary and I became friends after Paul dumped her. On a side note I was temporarily interested in Mary, but that went nowhere.
Anyway, Mary had a friend from her high school/college days. Her name is Sandy O’Malley. Mary shared my name with Sandy on a trip home. Sandy and I became pen pals; friends; lovers and then we were married. I know, I shortened a great romantic story down to a sentence. This story is not about Sandy’s and my marriage; it is about how I destroyed it and other things.
So, in the previous paragraphs I essentially blamed Paul’s poor treatment of women for what happened to me years later. Ridiculous, right? Well, as I said I wanted to find someone else to blame for my troubles and other people’s pain. Of course it’s not his fault. It’s mine.
In 1990, while I was working for a small print shop in Walnut Creek, California, a very beautiful woman, Fran Walker, walked in looking for a job. We needed someone to work the counter and make copies. She had experience at Dittos, like myself, and she only lived a few blocks away. Although she may have got the job by herself, I did recommend her to the owner. I was smitten from the start. Conveniently, I tried to forget I had a new wife at home. This is where I could say, truthfully, that I never saw Sandy any more. She worked at a hotel in San Francisco as a restaurant manager. We had become distant in less than two years of being wed. She seemed more interested in her work than putting energy in our marriage. While this was true, it did not mean I had permission or the right to pursue another woman. I gave up on what I had and looked for greener pastures. It was not greener on the other side of the fence though as I was to find out.
The turning point, the time when I could, and should, have let things die before they got started between Fran and I was when she quit the print shop to go to college. I sat down and wrote a heartfelt letter to her. I sealed the deal with a quote from “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor. My romantic efforts were misdirected though. I should have been figuring out a way to keep Sandy. Find ways to renew the romance with her. I was lazy and weak though. I went with what was close by and easy. The letter should have never been written. I am sorry I wrote a single word.
The day Sandy found a card from Fran, or to, I can’t remember, was a terrible day. I believe Sandy was in shock and denial. She stayed the night in our apartment, but I believe it was the last time were slept anywhere near each other. I slept on the couch. A weight had been lifted off my chest because she finally knew, but another part of me felt like a criminal. I had betrayed my first real love. The romance that I had always longed for was over.
The separation and divorce was ugly, but not as bad as it could have been. I remember the two of us talking to a paralegal on how to divorce without court proceedings. California is a community property state so splitting property and money was easy – 50/50. When it came to my last name though, Sandy exclaimed she wanted it removed as quickly as possible. I understood that. She took it fairly willingly in the beginning. I remember watching her practice her new signature over and over. We did not see each other again after that. Her stepmother, Linda, was present in the apartment during the removal of Sandy’s things. Sandy’s sister also chewed me out once over some money issues.
So, I waited for the other shoe to drop. Peter, Fran’s boy friend and fiancé, still did not know about me. He knew me. He even drove Fran to my apartment once or twice. Amazing. To be a fly on the wall in their house all those years (yes, years) would have been amazing. There is a great song by the Eagles called “Lying Eyes” that I think describes Fran’s situation pretty well.
Since I lost Sandy, I longed to now spend the rest of my life with Fran. It was an on and off thing for as I said years. Finally Fran told me she was going to tell Peter the truth. How much of the story I did not know. Apparently he was devastated. I know I would have been. She asked me to be there for the aftermath. He and I were actually alone for a few minutes in their backyard. I told him I was there at Fran’s urging, but also because I was concerned about him. I am not sure he believed me. I would not have in his shoes.
It was all over though between Fran and I that same night – at least I think it was the same night. She had always wanted children. Peter was wishy-washy about the idea. As a last desperate move on is part, or to show his true feelings, or both, he sketched out on a napkin some stick figures. There was Fran, Peter and a child. Fran showed it to me. I could tell it took her by surprise. Even though she had proposed marriage to me on the phone weeks before, this was the end of our romance.
Fran has had years to make up with Peter for her behavior and choices. I know they have at least one child. I did not have any chance to do the same with Sandy. That was impossible because of my choices. I don’t know what I was thinking when I first looked longingly at Fran. I was lonely to be sure, but that was not an excuse to betray and cheat on someone I professed to love.
I am truly sorry to everyone I hurt and disappointed along the way. First would be of course Sandy. I betrayed her trust. I lied to her repeatedly. I am sorry. I broke her heart when I should have been there to strengthen it. I took a great romantic story and potential long life together and threw it away. I regret this and I am truly sorry.
Next would be Peter. I had no right to infringe on the life you had set out for you and Fran. I am sorry. You deserve happiness. You provided love and a home for Fran where I provided difficult decisions and pain. You were a much bigger man than me in the end. I would not have taken the news as well. Again, I apologize.
The families are both sides experienced disappointment because of me. My father was there to rescue me when things fell apart the first time. Little did he know I had not given up, but that’s part of the “rest of the story” and it need not be mentioned in this apology. Sandy’s father, who I did consider a friend, I am sure, was not impressed by my actions. I apologize to him too. To my sister who lectured me a few times on what I was doing wrong, but I did not listen, I am sorry. Sandy’s siblings, could have become a great part of my life. I betrayed them too – I am sorry. My brother Thom and his wife, Wendy: Sandy was a part of your lives too. She adored Chantelle and Tyler. I made those relationships difficult and strained. I apologize.
To all those who attended the wedding, and who wished us well, and prayed for us – I am sorry. It was all for naught, and it’s my fault. It was not what I intended.
And lastly, an apology to Fran. I should have left you alone, or at least I should have made you hate me instead of romancing you. You were spoken for as well as I. Too much pain, indecision and complication was a result of my bad intentions. Though we did share love, it was tainted. It was not deserved. It should not have happened. I am sorry.