Patty Tate, 52, was feeling better, but it took almost two years to reach that benchmark. She could finally say that she had rejoined the land of the living—most days. Yet, there were still many mornings when she’d wake up in a cold sweat and remember that her husband of 30 years had cheated and then dumped her, leaving her almost penniless and certainly alone. Even now, that shroud of loneliness surfaced periodically like a bad smell that nothing could shake.
Her initial anger had subsided, however, from when he had said, “I’m leaving. The passion’s gone.” Back then, she fantasized. Her dream was running over him with her car in their driveway, similar to what a distraught wife in Houston did to her dentist husband when she discovered his torrid affair. Or, she might bag the car and pick up a sharp knife as Lorena Bobbit, the frustrated Virginia housewife, did when she grabbed one in the kitchen after learning that her former Marine husband also was having an affair. She sliced off his penis and hurled it into a field.
What it is with these guys and their need to find happiness or at least sex elsewhere?
Patty knew she would never go to these extremes and that she was better off without Sam. If only she had listened to her mother, Elizabeth Beamer, who never liked him. Beamer thought Sam sullen and intense. “I always said that if you start with bad ingredients, you’re not going to end up with a good marriage.” At least now Patty would have a shot at a new life, start over, and make some of her dreams become reality. Although Sam was a partner in a prominent business and could have given her daughter more, Beamer reasoned that money wasn’t everything. “Anyway,” Beamer thought, “some day Sam will get his comeuppance.”
Patty’s thoughts flashed back to the 22-year-old Sam Tate whom she met at a college rally on a warm spring afternoon in the late ‘60s when protests were being staged across college campuses against the wars in Vietnam and Cambodia. He was standing in a corner with his business school buddies holding up signs and drinking Bud Lights. She liked the way he was dressed in a blue-gray T-shirt, jeans, Cleveland Indians baseball cap, and wearing glasses that made him look a bit like Peter Sellers. She was sitting with her friends when he noticed her shoulder length nimbus of brown hair, doe-shaped brown eyes, and bright pink lipstick. (He told her this later.)
His looks definitely appealed with his full shock of dark curly blond hair and slender build. He walked over to her and as he leaned forward to talk, his glasses slipped down his nose. “Do you mind if I stand here with you?” he asked politely. Patty smiled and said, “Yes,” and he moved closer. The two had no problem conversing, initially about all the wars the U.S. had entered and which allies were supportive or not. Both felt a modicum of chemistry and exchanged numbers.
Sam then walked Patty back to the dorm where she was living, and said he would call. At exactly 9 a.m. on Monday, before each headed to classes, he did, and asked her out for a first date. It wasn’t love at first sight; Sam was an acquired taste like getting used to black coffee or a new wine varietal. He had several quirks such as always composing bad puns—“Hi Patty, are you into cakes?” Ha. Ha. Or throwing out useless trivia: “Did you know there’s a word that changes its pronunciation when the first letter is capitalized. It’s polish as a verb, but when a noun, it’s Polish. Patty thought, “O-K-A-Y and…?”
Another of his peccadilloes was smoothing his kneecaps with his hands when he was nervous such as the first time he met Patty’s parents. However, the more Patty saw him, the more she liked Sam for he genuinely seemed to care about her. He always brought her candy and flowers and when invited for dinner, he helped out around the kitchen, loading the dishwasher and throwing out the trash.
She soon fell in love with Sam. They sneaked around to have sex, often in the basement of Sam’s parents’ home. It was the first time for her. She was considered to be a “nice girl” and found it extremely embarrassing when she had to ask her ob-gyn for birth control pills. Fortunately, he didn’t ask too many questions. The sex seemed good. She loved how he kissed, his soft lips against hers. Smooth skin and warm tangled limbs. The way he caressed and massaged her shoulders and stroked her inner thighs. After sex, they would embrace, and he’d give her tiny light kisses on her face like a woodpecker. She enjoyed the closeness and listening to the thump-thump of his heart. Within 2 1/2 years of their first date, they married because that’s what “nice” girls did back then, especially if they slept with the guy they loved. Theirs was a small ceremony in her parents’ backyard, and then Patty and Sam moved south to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he was offered the COO position in a family business without heirs. It seemed the right choice to try life below the Mason-Dixon line.