Who’ll raise my kids if I die?

I may have only 18 months to live, and my husband is being a real SOB

Topics: Since You Asked, Cancer, Death and Dying, Family, Verbal Abuse, Marriage, Divorce, women,

Who'll raise my kids if I die? (Credit: Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Hi Cary,

Here’s the situation: I’ve been married to my husband for 13 years. All but the first year have been miserable. He never adjusted to being a father — never understood that his needs came second. He’s terrible with money (mine, his and ours) and has plunged us into debt while I was in a coma by using my credit cards and borrowing money from my elderly father, which he spent on no one knows what. He refuses to take responsibility for any of his actions (it’s always “that asshole”). He won’t do anything fun with our kids (two girls — ages 9 and 12) — he’d rather sleep on the weekends. He has serious stress/anger management issues for which he refuses to seek help; he throws things, calls us names, punches walls and we never know what will set him off. He parents sporadically if at all — since he “doesn’t understand girls.” He loses his temper and verbally abuses them. “Stupid cow” and “lazy bitch” are some of the things that spring to mind.

He took a pay cut when I returned to work so he didn’t have to commute — a cut of about one-third. Despite the fact that we can barely cover our debts. In short, he acts like a 3-year-old, and adds little if anything to our lives.

I was all set to finally leave him, with money saved for a home for me and the girls, and then disaster struck: The breast cancer I’d been battling for the past four years returned in a much more aggressive form and I ended up using my “escape” savings to fund radiation therapy.

He reminded me often during my initial chemo treatments and mastectomy that “any other man would have left me.” We don’t have sex, we haven’t since my mastectomy and we sleep in separate rooms.

My oncologist thinks the stress has something to with my cancer recurrence, and that if I could manage my stress, we might be able to get on top of the cancer.

The only reason I’m still with him is for the girls. I didn’t want to uproot them and put them through the trauma of a divorce while they were dealing with my cancer as well. But the situation is really becoming unbearable — so much so that my oldest daughter begs me to leave him and thinks I am a wimp for staying. I’ve given up on what I want. I’m probably dying anyway, and it’s too late for me to get a happy home life with him — but I could be happy with the girls and me together (without him), knowing we didn’t have to tread on eggshells every time he comes home.



Oh, and my prognosis is 18 months at this point, barring a miracle and my sheer determination not to leave my girls in the care of their father.

So my question is – Should I leave him and bank on the (admittedly) small chance that I can get another 10 years of peace and the girls are spared his abuse? Or should I just saddle up and hang in there, knowing that he is what he is, and he won’t change, and see if I can improve in some small way the girls’ home life?

Facing Hard Choices

Dear Facing Hard Choices,

Sometimes this job is easy. Sometimes this job is hard. Sometimes I read a letter and have to place it in God’s hands.

I feel certain only about this: You have to find some peace.

I don’t mean peace necessarily in the sense of stress-free. I mean it more in the sense of certainty: Knowing that you are doing what you can to heal from this disease, and that you are doing what you can to care for your girls, and that if the disease takes its course you have done what you can.

If there is somewhere you can go with your girls where they will be safe and your husband will not threaten you and you can continue your medical treatments, then go there.

This may bring new troubles. But for now, it will be good to be somewhere where your girls feel safe.

You also need help from your community. Talk with someone expert in matters of illness and family law and the spirit. If there is a women’s shelter or counseling center, or a family support center, go there. If you are a member of a church or spiritual group that has given you strength in the past, contact them. Consult a skilled and experienced psychotherapist. Talk to your doctor. Talk to a hospice person. Do all these things.

What is the right thing? I have struggled with that question. I cannot know with certainty. Actions have unexpected consequences. But if you can be happy with your girls, and if the oldest girl thinks you should go, then take your girls and go. Do that for now. Do the next right thing. Keep doing the next right thing until there is nothing more to do.

What is the solution? The solution will be whatever solution brings you peace. The solution will be whatever you can live with, and whatever you can die with.

Sometimes this job is easy. Sometimes this job is hard. Sometimes I read a letter and have to place it in God’s hands.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 22
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Talking Heads, 1977
    This was their first weekend as a foursome at CBGB’s, after adding Jerry Harrison, before they started recording the LP “Talking Heads: 77.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith, Bowery 1976
    Patti lit up by the Bowery streetlights. I tapped her on the shoulder, asked if I could do a picture, took two shots and everyone went back to what they were doing. 1/4 second at f/5.6 no tripod.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Blondie, 1977
    This was taken at the Punk Magazine Benefit show. According to Chris Stein (seated, on slide guitar), they were playing “Little Red Rooster.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    No Wave Punks, Bowery Summer 1978
    They were sitting just like this when I walked out of CBGB's. Me: “Don’t move” They didn’t. L to R: Harold Paris, Kristian Hoffman, Diego Cortez, Anya Phillips, Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Jim Sclavunos, Bradley Field, Liz Seidman.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell + Bob Quine, 1978
    Richard Hell and the Voidoids, playing CBGB's in 1978, with Richard’s peerless guitar player Robert Quine. Sorely missed, Quine died in 2004.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bathroom, 1977
    This photograph of mine was used to create the “replica” CBGB's bathroom in the Punk Couture show last summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I got into the Met with a bathroom photo.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Stiv Bators + Divine, 1978
    Stiv Bators, Divine and the Dead Boys at the Blitz Benefit show for injured Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977
    “The kids are all hopped up and ready to go…” View from the unique "side stage" at CBGB's that you had to walk past to get to the basement bathrooms.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Klaus Nomi, Christopher Parker, Jim Jarmusch – Bowery 1978
    Jarmusch was still in film school, Parker was starring in Jim’s first film "Permanent Vacation" and Klaus just appeared out of nowhere.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Hilly Kristal, Bowery 1977
    When I used to show people this picture of owner Hilly Kristal, they would ask me “Why did you photograph that guy? He’s not a punk!” Now they know why. None of these pictures would have existed without Hilly Kristal.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Dictators, Bowery 1976
    Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators with his girlfriend Jody. I took this shot as a thank you for him returning the wallet I’d lost the night before at CBGB's. He doesn’t like that I tell people he returned it with everything in it.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Alex Chilton, Bowery 1977
    We were on the median strip on the Bowery shooting what became a 45 single sleeve for Alex’s “Bangkok.” A drop of rain landed on the camera lens by accident. Definitely a lucky night!

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery view, 1977
    The view from across the Bowery in the summer of 1977.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977 – never before printed
    I loved shooting The Ramones. They would play two sets a night, four nights a week at CBGB's, and I’d be there for all of them. This shot is notable for Johnny playing a Strat, rather than his usual Mosrite. Maybe he’d just broken a string. Love that hair.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell, Bowery 1977 – never before printed
    Richard exiting CBGB's with his guitar at 4am, about to step into a Bowery rainstorm. I’ve always printed the shots of him in the rain, but this one is a real standout to me now.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith + Ronnie Spector, 1979
    May 24th – Bob Dylan Birthday show – Patti “invited” everyone at that night’s Palladium show on 14th Street down to CBGB's to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday. Here, Patti and Ronnie are doing “Be My Baby.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Legs McNeil, 1977
    Legs, ready for his close-up, near the front door of CBGB's.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Suicide, 1977
    Rev and Alan Vega – I thought Alan was going to hit me with that chain. This was the Punk Magazine Benefit show.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ian Hunter and Fans, outside bathroom
    I always think of “All the Young Dudes” when I look at this shot. These fans had caught Ian Hunter in the CBGB's basement outside the bathrooms, and I just stepped in to record the moment.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Tommy Ramone, 1977
    Only at CBGB's could I have gotten this shot of Tommy Ramone seen through Johnny Ramones legs.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery 4am, 1977
    End of the night garbage run. Time to go home.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>