My husband is at the DMV taking both the written and the behind the wheel portions of his driver’s test. I am not married to a 16-year-old; rather, this is happening because my husband’s been driving our family minivan without a license for the last four years.
We had planned to go hiking and grill out with our two young daughters today. We both work full-time and the two of us rarely have a free day that aligns. But he told me over breakfast that he had to go handle this—previously, we’d both found out at a court date for a previous traffic violation that his driving privileges had actually been suspended at the time of the incident—and I just nodded and took another enormous swig of coffee, scalding my tongue. None of this surprises me anymore.
When you choose someone with a spotty past as a life partner, you become accustomed to getting strange and unwelcome things in the mail. I dread hearing the dull metal thud of the post hitting the box, the mailman on his bluetooth bickering with his girl as he hops off our stoop. Sometimes it’s a notice from the city treasurer that there’s a lien against my husband from unpaid property taxes a few years ago; other times it’s an invoice from his stunning and extremely expensive attorney, who has thus far managed to minimize his legal woes. The most devastating by far are the tearful handwritten letters from his estranged mother who is by turns livid that she hasn’t met her grandchildren and wistful to reconnect with the man whom we both adore. Every ninety days or so, we get a check from a production gig he completed months ago: enviable, exhilarating, exhausting work that takes him all over the country and is as feast-or-famine as any other job in the music industry. In the meanwhile we stretch every dollar I make at my regular-person job to make ends meet. Sometimes we fall short. The mailman brings a fair number of “final notice before service interruption” correspondence, too.
Most of my husband’s issues stem from severe financial irresponsibility and personal negligence in the years following his tenure as a young serviceman. Upon returning to civilian life in his early twenties, he had expert knowledge of Marine Corps aircrafts and had logged thousands of hours of survival and crew chief training, but had never paid a utility bill or a written a rent check. The newfound lack of structure coupled with crippling bouts of PTSD proved to be a toxic combination for him, making reentry a rocky process. As far as I can tell, for about six years, if he didn’t have money to cover a bill, he tossed it in the trashcan.