For Christmas of 2015, I went insane.
I quit my job. I abandoned my wife and kids. I flew to Las Vegas, bought an RV, and plotted a trip across America that would be never-ending. It was as ambitious and meticulous as any midlife crisis could get. In the process I alienated friends, family, former employers and recruiters, people who knew me, people who didn’t know me. I even alienated myself, which didn’t turn out to be very hard to do, because I’m not really sure who I am. Only that I don’t like that guy very much.
My wife went insane, too. Insane with fear, anger, grief, and a consuming worry that her three children would be fatherless and penniless without any recourse or hope of survival. I hurt her pretty badly. That’s not a wound that heals quickly.
She reached out to contact me every day. She sent me pictures of the kids. She sent infinite texts declaring her love and willingness to work with me to find a way to save our marriage, save our family, save me from the ultimate self-destruction. In the end, I listened.
I came home a few days before Christmas. We took pictures. We handed out gifts. Mom-in-Law simmered somewhere deep inside. She’s not very happy or trustful of me at all any more (can you blame her), but she had her Grandma face on, so all the kids saw were smiles and camera flashes and one happy family.
The wife and I came up with several conditions that had to be met before I came home. I had to agree to go through counseling. Grief counseling, for a traumatic event that still defines my life. Marriage counseling, to help not do things like “run off and leave on a moment’s notice when peoples’ lives depend on you. And family counseling, so I could learn to appreciate my wife and children, and learn to communicate with them the way humans do.
My condition was that the road trip was still on.
In the end, I compromised: something I’m not very good at. I cut the year-long trip I’d scheduled down to just two months. I agreed to take the whole family on the portion of the trip I’d planned for Southern California. You can read that whole story here. I agreed to be available by phone when needed, and to come home if a true emergency arose.
My wife wanted to know what I was hoping to accomplish with the trip, because all my answers sounded like bullshit. She wanted assurances I wouldn’t just run off again. She wanted me to give up the road trip and stay, like a good man and husband ought. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.
I left three days after my birthday.
I was 47 years old.
What did I hope to accomplish? I don’t know. Would I ever run off again? I don’t know. Could I give up the road trip? No. I truly couldn’t. I can’t explain it. I can’t justify it. This trip was the most important thing in my life and I can’t tell you why, because I don’t know. All I knew was that I *had* to get on the road. I had to get away from all the life and distraction and children and wife and bills and everything else that kept swallowing pieces of me every day.
I waited until the kids had gone to school, then I told my wife good bye. I told her I would be coming back on time, as promised.
I hoped I wasn’t lying.