Attention to Detail (The Butter Story)

I never get to just butter my toast, ever again.  And if he knew this, my ex-spouse would be very, very happy.  (I almost didn’t write this for that reason alone—but shouldn’t I be long past caring about his feelings?)

Buttered toast and a cup of hot tea.  Perfect for lounging on the couch with the perfect book.  Or with Saturday morning cartoons.  (Do they even still have those?  Netflix will do.)  I used to just love the ritual of spreading the butter on that crispy toast, looking forward to that first bite.

But that was before I was married.  By the time my marriage ended, this one-time feminist was reduced to craven panic at the fear of leaving breadcrumbs in the butter.  Breadcrumbs.  In the butter.

Oh, my aching Christ.

(Dear God, please just let me have that one—it really is called for, here.)

Each crumb, apparently, was highly significant of my failure as a wife, parent, and person, for I was roundly criticized by my spouse, and my sons as well—even before they were teens—if one tiny crumb was left behind.   How low can one person’s soul be crushed, that I would:  a) Feel guilty for the serious life violation leaving crumbs in butter, and b) Allow my own sons to belittle me for a triviality?

But of course, I did not allow this.  My spouse did.  He put forth concentrated effort to train them in this and all other criticisms of me.  One day, when my second son was only a toddler, he told me angrily that he had just overheard my spouse telling my firstborn of an entirely fabricated malicious act I had supposedly done.  My second son said “I was there with Daddy and you that time, and you didn’t say or do what he said.”  He added, “Now I know who the real liar is!”.   What a sad thing to hear your little boy say.

Gosh.  I may not have been a liar like my spouse, or evil like my spouse, but I certainly had my faults, and chief among them was stupidity.

It never occurred to me—not once—that this piece of human feces had been making up similar lies prior to this, or that he would continue to do so.  Or that the end result of this would be that the boys I loved so well who loved me back, and whom I parented so well and who thrived by it, would grow nonetheless to hate and resent me.  In later years they would report to me things I had done and said which had never occurred.  They would love their father and trust him in all things over me, even while agreeing that he is a liar and a cheat and out to win contests at any cost.


These now-adult boys are now solely his children—he has, effectively, erased the effects of my good start to their moral centers—and so they now admire him for these qualities, and consider my naivete and my goodness to be equivalent weaknesses of mine.  Although they don’t believe I’m really all that good—they don’t remember the good years; only the couple after the abuse had turned overt and physical and my resentment and depression boiled over into anger at the world around me.  These bad years proved to them the truth of the picture good ole’ Dad had always painted.

But, back to that forever-rancid butter.  It wasn’t until after I had filed for divorce and was living alone that I noticed:   My spouse-free butter was practically crumb-free.  Because I have Asperger’s (autism-lite:  think “smart, but dumb”), this is what happened:  “At last!”, she exclaimed with pride, “I’ve finally learned not to leave crumbs in the butter!”  But after a few moments of puzzlement (i.e. How did this effortless miracle occur?) I figured out that I had not magically evolved into a Master Butter Handler.  The key to the mystery was much simpler than that:  All those years, my spouse had been purposely seeding our butter with crumbs when no one else was looking, and blaming the mess on me.

Clever boy.

(Excerpt from my book “The Thief”)

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  1. Merry Christmas, Monk and Roo–and You | The Last Half

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