Randy had a temper to beat all tempers….except, maybe, mine. He didn’t get really mad very often, but when he did–everyone knew it. He would be grumpy more often than angry. He really preferred to ignore the daily irritations of his life, including the ones I brought to him. It used to drive me crazy, how he could just walk away and ignore me when I wanted to argue. Over the years, I learned how to push the correct buttons to get him to come stomping back and give me what I was looking for. Over even more years, I learned that letting him walk away and ignore the irritation was usually the better choice. Usually. I must say, arguing with him was always interesting.
In the beginning of our married life, it would scare me to death when he got mad. I was never afraid of him; I was afraid he would leave me. I swallowed many of the words I knew would pierce him deeply. I could live with being miserable; I couldn’t live without him. I would try to hold my end of the discussion as calmly as I could, but he could never “discuss.” He would always yell, and usually nose-to-nose. He could turn any argument to his favor, and it would always end with it looking like I was wrong. I was never sure how it happened, because I knew I was right to begin with, but that wasn’t where I ended. I had my own limitations, however, and would never apologize–no matter what. Even though he had come out on top, verbally, I would clam up and utter not another word–for days–until he said he was sorry. He said he was sorry a lot in our first 7-8 years of marriage. Then he quit drinking, and suddenly, I was responsible for half the arguments, dammit, and he was sober enough to remember.
This is not to say I was a meek little wife, by any means. He could out-argue me any day of the week due to my fear of pushing him out the door, but I managed to get my point across in different ways. I learned to wait for the just-right time, slip in some biting words that made my point, and walk away. The resulting silence as he stood there in shock that I would say something so cutting would give me the chance to escape before he could turn the argument around again. Mostly, though, I was persistent and stubborn. I may not have been able to win an argument, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
It was the summer of 1990 that I first learned I could actually live without him. It changed the whole way I argued. We had a rocky marriage at that time, and the rocks won. We were both bloodied and bruised, emotionally, on a regular basis. We had just stopped trying for our second child, as nothing seemed to work. I was a wreck from the disappointment of not conceiving month after month. We were trying to sell a 3-bedroom house out in the country and buy a 2-bedroom back in town, and the realtor was not cooperating. Randy’s drinking was getting worse, and he’d had two accidents that resulted in DUIs. Luckily, Meagan doesn’t remember any of that time. I sometimes wish I didn’t either. We were not nice to each other. He left twice, moving out without telling me where he was staying. The first time, I spent hours on the phone trying to track him down. The second time, I put all my energy and focus into selling our house and getting the next one ready to move into. If I was going to be on my own, it would be on my terms. I spent the summer being a single mother and rarely saw him. My family moved Meagan and I into our new house in August. I didn’t pack anything of Randy’s at the old house. When he showed up to help move (he drank, but he wasn’t stupid), he was angry that I had left all his things where they were at the old house. I just looked at him as I handed him an empty box and said “I don’t know where you intend to live. You can pack and move your own shit wherever you want.” He moved it into our new house, but he didn’t come with it. It was about another month before we decided to try again. By that time, I was no longer afraid of him leaving me. He had left me, and I had survived. I loved him deeply, but I loved my daughter in a completely different way and she had to come first. It was a whole new ballgame.
It was almost two more years before he quit drinking, after the birth of our second daughter. During these two years, our arguments reached new heights. Now, when he would get nose-to-nose and yell, I would yell right back. I refused to back down. I wouldn’t even bother to discuss anything, I’d just say the words I knew would send him into a frenzy and let the games begin. I was still incredibly angry over his drinking and his abandonment, and the whole world knew it. The more I pushed, the more he pushed back. It was like “Clash of the Titans.”
Then, one day in January of 1992, I decided I was done pushing. I made up my mind to get a lawyer and be done with it. I told no one. It was soon after my decision to wave the white flag that he woke me up in the middle of the night, crying. He said he was so sorry and he was done drinking. He knew it was killing our marriage, and he didn’t want to lose his family. He asked for my support, and understanding, and patience. He knew it wouldn’t be easy, but it was what he wanted to do. I was astounded but wary. How did he know that those words were the only ones that would get me to drop the lawyer he didn’t even know about? How had he finally seen the rope that I was at the end of? I agreed to wait, with reservations. He was right, it was not easy, but it was so worth it. The whole experience of putting past hurts to rest and starting fresh made us that much stronger and closer. In addition, it changed the tone of our arguments.
Suddenly, I had to let go of all my anger and resentments towards the Randy-who-drank. That Randy was gone. I could not hold him responsible for my past hurts, not if I wanted to move forward. Since forward was definitely where I wanted to go, I buried all those feelings. It was not the best of ideas, but it worked for me at the time. Our arguments decreased drastically. We talked more. I learned how to drop hints instead of the bombshells I knew would set him off. I learned to let the little irritations slide because I realized that in the grand scheme of things, they really were little. I learned to pick my battles. Best of all, I learned that no matter what the argument was about or how heated we got or how long it lasted, Randy and I were in it for the long haul. We could argue almost comfortably, knowing that this, too, would pass, and we would continue on our path together. We could truly let our thoughts be heard, knowing the other may not like hearing them, but would listen, and maybe reflect later, and things would get better each time. We could argue passionately, because we loved each other passionately, and that balanced everything. We found ourselves talking more than arguing, discussing more than arguing, laughing more than arguing. But still, when we argued–boy, could we heat up the air. He still apologized first. I was still stubborn and he always liked getting to the “making up” part as quickly as possible.
I still have trouble looking at pictures or videos from when he drank; it brings back the anger at the Randy-who-drank. I would rather deal with those memories all my life to get to the Randy-who-didn’t-drink. That Randy was truly special. He was the love of my life and always would be. He still had a temper, I still had a temper, and we still knew the buttons to push. We just didn’t feel the need to push them as much anymore. It was so much more fun to not argue.
I’ve heard people talk about Randy’s temper with friends, with family, with work. I would hear people remark, “He’s a great guy, but you really don’t want to make him mad.” He could annihilate a person with just words within seconds. What they didn’t realize was this: Randy could get truly angry only over things he truly loved. Randy could get that angry with those he loved because he loved them. He always wanted what was best for them, and it would incense him that we didn’t always see what he knew was best. He could get furious with me or, occasionally, his children, because he truly and passionately loved us. He could get angry with his friends, because he truly loved his friends. He could get angry at work, because he truly loved the company he worked for and people with whom he worked.
In the end, no matter how angry he might get, he was always standing right there with us. He tried very hard to never let anyone down before he stopped drinking, and he succeeded beautifully once he became sober. With his family, with his friends, with his company, he proved daily he was in it for the long haul.