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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Communication Breakdown (12/16/10)

TITLE: How Did Things Go So Wrong?
By Terri Schroeder


How did things go so wrong? I must have asked myself that question a million times in the six months since Jenny walked out the door, ending our twelve-year marriage. Our two children, nine-year-old Alex, and Mia, age eleven, followed reluctantly behind her--tears streaming down their faces. But the tears weren’t really for me; in my heart I knew the tears were for their belongings, their familiar surroundings, classmates, and school. I was only the source of those things.

Was I a good husband and father? If you measured it by the material things I provided for my family, some people would say I was an excellent husband and father. Our mortgaged-to-the-hilt home with its filled, three-car garage, manicured lawn, and swimming pool would attest that I was a great provider. My family wanted for nothing. The best schools, the nicest clothes, the gadgets, and toys--we had it all.

When we first married, I was still going to college; Jenny and I lived in a cramped, run-down apartment with garage sale furnishings. The first few years together were a financial struggle. Our entertainment was walking hand-in-hand along the beach and sharing long, intimate conversations; a spontaneous picnic; or snuggling on the sofa--the simple things in life. All free, yet priceless things; they held no material value. In retrospect, those days of living-on-a-dime, were some of happiest days of my life.

It didn’t happen all at once; it came gradually, obscurely. I was too busy making money and climbing the ladder of success to even notice our communication breakdown and our failing marriage. The more I made, the more we spent, and the more money I needed to pay the bills. There was always something newer, bigger, and better to buy. Somewhere along the line, the intimacy and time we spent together ended.

Years ago, when I’d come home after a long, stressful day, Jenny would greet me at the door with a big hug and kiss. She’d be all excited and eager to share the day’s events and the children’s milestones with me; but I was often too tired to listen. I saw the hurt in her eyes so many times--in the beginning, that is. Slowly, the sparkle in her eyes disappeared, and her happy smile vanished, too. I couldn’t remember that last time Jenny patted the sofa and asked me to sit beside her to hear all about my day.

The kids who used to run and greet me with a wet kisses, squeals, and hugs were usually off with their friends, at school activities, or in their bedrooms social networking on computers. When did they stop inviting me to come to their games or activities?

Jenny asked if there was another woman in my life. No, there wasn’t. I just lost sight of what was important. I thought showing my love was by providing riches for my family; but that’s not what they really wanted or needed. Jenny tried to tell me that so many times, in so many ways. “We want you. We need you,” she cried. I understood after they left; but it was too late.

What would I give to have those days back? What would it take to have those days back? And the biggest question of all: Could I even get those days back?

I could try. With God all things are possible, right?

It wasn’t easy, and it didn’t happen overnight. The first thing I did is seek God’s will for my life; and I let God take control.

Jenny and I were able to put our marriage back together. We don’t have the affluent standard of living we once had--not in a material sense. The big, beautiful house was sold, and we have a smaller, affordable home; one that doesn’t require me to work overtime hours to pay the mortgage. Most of the toys we had are long gone. If we owed money on them, they were sold. Credit cards were snipped up; we kept one for emergency use only.

Weekends are now spent doing family things--the priceless, little things we missed: walks, bike rides, picnics, ballgames with the kids.

Amazingly, the kids adjusted just fine; they are happier, too--they have their dad again. And we all have something so much greater: love, peace, and joy in all things and through all circumstances. We are rich, indeed!

I thank God every day for giving me another chance with my family.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 12/29/10
Such a great truth in here - and what a wonderful ending. We've all seen it happen. So nice it turned out in this story.
Michael Throne12/30/10
Good story. Life's too complicated for 750 words, but you did a good job. This is a trap too many of us fall into.