The Hamptons


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We were in The Hamptons for the holiday weekend.  I actually spent Memorial Day weekend in The Hamptons throughout most of my childhood; my mother’s parents had a summer home there – a home she inherited, that my cousins now use more than any of the rest of my family.  Until Memorial Day weekend, I hadn’t been there since 2009, despite the fact that I, technically, now own it.

I have no idea how many people have keys to that house; I have two uncles, who each have a wife and two sons – each of whom has a wife and two sons of his own; living in New York, all come and go with some frequency.  My two oldest sons also have access to the estate, as do John’s children.  There is a caretaker in permanent residence, and a cleaning staff keeps a regular schedule, so the house has been well occupied throughout the years, even with my absence.

The weekend was celebratory for us; my oldest son announced his engagement. The party was elegant and the food a work of art – the future bride and groom couldn’t take their eyes off each other.  All was as it should be.

Having all of my children in one place at one time has become reason enough for celebration – none of them live too far away, and individually we see them quite often, but to have had all five in one place at one time was priceless.

My daughter came with her boyfriend of several months; my middle son brought no date at all, which we all found a little puzzling …

Toasts were made, family ties rekindled through the sharing of tradition, and John and I watched – his arms folded tightly around me, as the first of my children announced his upcoming marriage.

Marriage – I am torn; when love is right, and the union works as it should, it brings immeasurable joy and fulfillment, but when it is wrong, and difficult to maintain, nothing on earth can yield more heartbreak, sorrow or emotional pain.

G asked me if I could go back in time, would I still marry her father – knowing it was wrong, and knowing also all of what would eventually come to pass.  Her eyes did not betray the answer she hoped to hear, and there was only one …

“Yes, I suppose I would, because I wouldn’t want to live without you and your brothers.”

I tried to make her understand that I wasn’t unhappy until the last few years, and that being married to your best friend is not analogous to a life in prison.

“But it was never what you have with John, mom.”

“No, G, it never was – but it never could have been.”

And that is how the conversation began …








Of What Will Be


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I loved him, I love him still.  I was never in love with him, and I’m beginning to understand he wasn’t in love with me, either – at least not at the end of our marriage; obsessed isn’t synonymous with being in love.

I don’t know when it happened – when he stopped feeling intense, romantic love for me, and I suppose that no longer matters – if it ever did.  Perhaps I had been mistaking obsession for love for a very long time.

When I was in the eleventh grade, just before I began dating Paul, I was going out with a boy, Evan, my parents – actually my mother, wanted me to date; according to her, he had good breeding and his family was well connected and traveled in the right circles.  I laughed at this then, just as I do now, but I agreed, reluctantly, to attend campus events with this boy whilst away at school.

One late afternoon, at the end of a recital, we took the long way back to my dorm, stopping to chat in one of the school’s gardens.  Before I realized what was happening, he was holding me too tight, kissing me too hard, and touching me in places I didn’t want to be touched.  When I finally broke free of him, I sent him away, but I remained in the garden alone.

I wasn’t there long when Paul, fresh from baseball practice, walked through the garden on his way to the dining hall.  I wanted to hide – I didn’t want him to see me like I was; I had been crying, and my blouse had been torn in the kerfuffle with Evan – but the garden had no hiding places, and its single path in and out left me no recourse other than to address Paul.

He smiled when he saw me, but immediately thereafter realized something was wrong.  I didn’t want to tell anyone, especially Paul, what had happened with Evan, so I ended up telling him that Evan and I had been making out and things simply went too far.

I knew he didn’t believe me – making out with a boy in the gardens was definitely out of character for me, but he didn’t press me for the truth.  He asked if he could walk me back to my dorm, and I said that he could, and somewhere between the garden and my room we decided to skip the dining hall and go into the village for dinner.

An hour later, Paul arrived at my door and we went to dinner.  I didn’t find out until we got back to campus that Paul had, between dropping me off at my room to get ready for dinner, and returning to collect me so we could go to dinner, beaten the hell out of Evan.

I was, even then, horrified.  I don’t like, and never have, the age-old notion that a man defends a woman’s honor through physical altercation with another man he believes has wronged her.  I passed it off as adolescent posturing, for the most part; Evan, in the final analysis, was just being a sixteen year old boy – yes, what he did was wrong, and yes I asked him to stop several times before he actually did, but I wasn’t harmed in any real way by what happened;

and Paul, he was just …




I no longer know how to complete the sentence; I haven’t for a long, long time.








Photographs and Memories


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John and I were alone in the city for several nights last month; our pied-a-terre, that once belonged to my parents, a delightful respite from work and day to day life.

I’ve changed very little in the apartment since my mother gave me the keys during the height of my affair with John – for some reason I just never got around to making it my own; even the pictures there are of people and places long, long ago …

I first noticed this during a particularly vulnerable time in my life; Paul’s behavior was erratic, my mother’s illness had returned and was terminal, I was in love – for the first time in my life, with a man who was not my husband, and I was searching for answers.

I was visiting my mother, and I couldn’t sleep; no matter what I did I could not quiet my mind – I wanted out of my marriage, and I was just beginning to realize that.  About two in the morning, I got dressed, left a note for my mother, took the keys to her car, and the key to the Manhattan apartment she had just given me, and drove into the city.

It had been several years since I had been inside the apartment, and it felt strange to be there alone.  I made tea and sat down at the piano, but I didn’t play, I just sat there admiring the glow from the city lights across the park.  Exhausted, I made my way to what had been my bedroom as a child, but  suddenly realized I was now the master of the house, so turned the opposite direction and walked down the hall.

And there they were, the pictures of my wedding day.  Hanging one below the other just outside the door to what had been my parents bedroom suite – lasting memories of a day I now wished had never been.

I looked at each picture in turn; my father and I alone; my mother, father and I, me with each set of my grandparents, me with my mother …

I had seen the photos many times, but for the first time ever I realized Paul wasn’t in this set of displayed pictures.  Our wedding portrait was prominently displayed in my parent’s home, but here – in Manhattan, it was as if Paul did not exist – even in photos taken on the day of his marriage.

In that moment, my guilt was overwhelming.  I knew the photos were not meant to exclude Paul from our lives; his absence there indicative of nothing – but they were, on that chilly morning, a reminder of all I had done to him, and continued to do, even though I knew my love for John was destroying him.

I got into bed and cried until I just couldn’t cry anymore, and then I slept.  When John called later in the morning, he knew by the tone of my voice something was wrong.  I told him about the pictures, how I’d never noticed Paul’s absence among them before, and I shared the depth of my guilt. He listened, and he understood.

Last month, John and I took those pictures down from the wall they had adorned for almost three decades …

but their outline remains in the faded paint, the scars of what has been.








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In between my hating Paul for what he did, and finding a way to get beyond it to a place of renewed friendship and affection, I ignored it.  I put it out of my mind and I went on with my life.

It is that time in which I was purposely oblivious to my own feeling and pain that my daughter’s answers lie, and that is a dark place I don’t want to know – not for myself, or for her.

To say I had fully reconciled all that transpired between us prior to Paul’s death would be a lie, and I’m still not there today.  He left behind a tangled, complicated mess.  Emotions, the intimate details of my life, my feelings for Paul – these are not easy subject matter for me to delve into.

Yet, in preparation for my upcoming discussions with G, I have begun to revisit the past; I’ve reread much of this blog, letters between John and I, my private journals, and email between myself and a handful of trusted confidantes – and I have concluded that my life was disordered and happening outside my control; while living it it did not seem so.  It was pain filled, and the storm was constant, but this view that it was somehow incoherent and random is new.

Love and Other Mysteries, which is told in retrospect, is revealing of my discontinuous process; the story is yet unfinished, or even up to date, because I haven’t worked through my own thoughts and feelings past the point of my last post.

Today, my role is mother, and only mother. Would I want my daughter to do what I did – which is to find ways to mitigate having been violated?  Would I want her to look at the whole picture – inclusive of her own choices, whatever they may have been, to somehow find rape and assault less reprehensible?   Would I want her to look past the actions themselves because the man – any man, was mentally ill at the time?   No, on all counts, no.

But the man we are speaking of in this context is her father, so I walk a fine, fine line.  Paul was not a monster, but he was capable of terrible things.

I did so much to protect my children, and at the time I thought it was right.

Now, I’m not so sure.






Dear E,

In preparing to discuss Paul with G, I have reread much of our email correspondence.  I want you to know how much it helped me then, and how much it helps me now.

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend…
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you

Because I knew you

I have been changed for good

And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the things I’ve done, you blame me for

But then, I guess we know
There’s blame to share

And none of it seems to matter anymore

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes the sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood

Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a bird
In the wood

Who can say if I’ve been
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better

And because I knew you…

Because I knew you…

Because I knew you…
I have been changed for good…

They Disappoint, They Leave a Mess, They Die but They Don’t


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My daughter will be home for a time during her school holidays, and she has asked that we openly discuss her father, and all that happened between us.

Her visit is not lengthy – about three weeks sandwiched in between the end of classes and her departure for a summer internship in Europe.

I have shared with you, Dear Reader, the best and worst of Paul; you’ve seen him demonized and humanized as I tried to process his life, and our life together.

I begin in conflicted deficit; this is Paul’s daughter – and the father daughter bond, in my heart, is sacrosanct.  But she deserves the whole truth, and I have never lied to her, or any of my children, about anyone or anything, and I know I cannot start now.  She is no longer a child, but that fact does nothing to lessen the desire I feel to protect her.

I do not want to put her on a plane, for what should be the best summer of her life so far, emotionally burdened by the details of her mother’s sexual awakening, the worst of her father, and the disintegration of her parents marriage. The timing doesn’t feel right to me, but she isn’t allowing me to be fair; she wants, and needs, answers.

For now, she knows and understands that I have always been honest with her, but I have told her only what her age and emotional maturity would allow her to process.  Her overwhelming desire to know more is fairly recent, but it has become a driving force in her life, and I know only full disclosure – or something close to it, will appease her heart and mind now.

John suggested that we discuss my sexual awakening, and his coming into my life, with her together, and when she has absorbed all of that, I should speak to her about Paul alone.  It is a sound, responsible plan.

But how do I tell her what Paul did to me?  How do I tell her that despite my knowing and understanding he was sick – and therefore not wholly responsible for his behaviour and actions, our marriage effectively ended the night he raped me?

My oldest sons know – they were too old to protect completely while everything was happening, but full disclosure so close to the moment was much simpler.  And they had a chance to confront their father directly, which they did, before he died.  She will never have that chance.   And Paul will forever be denied the opportunity to soothe her as he did with our sons.  There will be no redemption here, no salvation.

I did not get off Scot-free; my fairy tale ending came at a terrible price.  I hurt the people I love most in this world; it was arrogant of me to believe I could protect them, always.  No one is alone, everything we do affects the lives of other people, and today I am acutely aware of this fact.

Yet even with all the regret, pain and devastation

If I had it all to do over, I would do no differently.

I just hope my daughter doesn’t ask me if I would; I won’t lie to her, but I don’t want to divulge that truth.

I’m not ready for her to know me that well …

but even as I write these words, my heart is telling me that she already does.











Dissonant Notes


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Several years ago, I had a friend who suggested my relationship with John was new – “he is just getting started with you,” was the term she used to indicate our relationship would not always be romantic, sexually alive, and free from internal strife – that eventually John would prove himself to be no different from any ordinary man.  This friend, well-meaning though I believe she was, didn’t understand; she tried to, but there was a disconnect somewhere between my words and her comprehension of my relationship with John …

I knew John then as I know him now, as I have known him for a thousand years … as I will always know him.

Our relationship was formed between our true selves, our sexual selves.  There was never any pretense – I was always complicated, masochistic, instinctively aware Libby; and he was always dominant, honorable, wise and sadistic John.  We didn’t hide ourselves, or our desires, from each other, ever.

I don’t know how many of my readers hoped-against-hope that I would remain married to Paul, but I know a fair few did.  Looking back, I recognize a time when I did.  That prison was safe, and even as I longed for freedom from a man I never really knew, I’ll admit that I was somewhat afraid to step forward when the door was unlocked.

But I wasn’t afraid of John, or what might happen to us.  I knew what would happen; I would step into the role I was born to play.  I would be part of a love and a life I instinctively knew, with a man I understood as the moon understands the stars.

… To live our lives as we truly are takes courage, even when we understand the beauty and wisdom in doing so.

We condition ourselves not to expect fairy tale endings because we so seldom follow our intuition and inclination to happily ever after. We couple and mate, for myriad reasons, with people we cannot share our inner-most selves with, with people whose inner-most selves we will never know or understand.

Now, several years later, and far removed from “just getting started,” there is no discord in our home; there is no strife, or stress, because there was never any subterfuge -and there was never a masquerade.

Sexually, John has given me the world – but it was the world I expected to receive.  It has not been devoid of adventure, and I would not have wanted it to have been, but even the new is orchestrated within his character, a character I well know and recognize.  I want to be overwhelmed, to be taken and used for his pleasure – I want to know him as the sadist he is, and I always have.

Cacophony only resonates throughout our lives when we are unable to hear the drum beat of our lover’s desire.



A Time and a Place


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In the beginning, we had safewords – at his insistence, but I did not use them …

except for the night we spent in the cottage at Gig Harbor.

and that night they didn’t work; he knew I using them to manipulate and control – to stop the pain without experiencing it, or connecting to it.  To stop it before allowing it to take me deep inside myself to that place of understanding and enlightenment – that place I so needed to be.

So much had happened; Paul was sick, which I took responsibility for – at that time I assigned blame to myself.  I was often sad and overwhelmed, and I alleviated the stress and pain through self-harm, and some of what I did to myself was dangerous.

I didn’t want an intense spanking that night – I wanted to play, and to make love, but I didn’t want the emotional aftermath, or the deep, soul bearing intimacy that follows the kind of spanking John was determined to give me.

I remember his strength and confidence, and his absolute resolve as he took me on that journey.  I felt no distress when my safewords failed – on the contrary, I felt a depth of security I had never known before.

I became angry, at first – to which John said, “feel your anger.  A lot has happened to you that should make you angry; be mad, be furious even – just feel it.”

And when the anger gave way to self – deprecation, and shame for all I had done, John spanked harder – ignoring my screams.  I had already abandoned all hope of my safewords working, and had resorted to pleading, which seemed to fall on deaf ears.


When he finally spoke, he said, “None of what has happened means you are less than you have ever been; you were so young when you promised Paul forever – you were young and you were afraid; there is no shame in needing to be loved in ways that you innately understand.  The is no shame in your desire.”

And when I was sobbing, broken and in emotional and physical agony, he said …

“Libby, you are not in control here – you don’t have to be.  You don’t have to be strong, or bear the burden alone anymore.  And if you need to be hurt, I will hurt you – safely, in ways that can actually heal.”

There were tears in his eyes, and on his cheeks – he had heard my screams, and he had felt my pain. He had not sent me on a journey, he had gone with me.

The only time I ever used the safewords he insisted I have, he ignored them.

They were no longer needed.








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Joye is dying, and she asked for me …

She looked into my eyes and spoke to my father.  She is not the first to find my father in my eyes,  but this poignant moment made me long for shelter – made me wish I could hide.

I see death every day.  I’ve seen it destroy brilliant minds and ravage bodies so perfect Greek Gods could not compare.  I’ve seen it rob wise men of their intellect, and reduce the strong to infantile weakness.  I’ve seen it arrive and depart without warning, or mercy.  I’ve known it to remain just out of reach, though it is longed for.  And I’ve seen it embraced like an old friend at the end of a long and somber journey …

But nothing prepared me for hearing Joye’s last words of love for my father.

When she was newly diagnosed, she took me to lunch and spoke candidly, as she knew she could.  Her sons did not know of her affair, and if her husband knew – as she suspects he must have, he  never confronted her.  I alone am that link to her past, and to a man she will always love more than life itself.

She was my touchstone when my life fell apart; I introduced her to John early on because I knew I’d find approval and understanding.   I told Joye what Paul did to me even before I told my own mother …

And years before, when my father died, we had comforted each other.  I cried with Joye at a time when my mother had forbidden my tears …

Occasionally my mind wanders to that night, now so long ago, when I found she and my father making love in front of the fire place in his library, but the confusion and pain and disappointment I felt then is gone; it has been replaced with a deep and abiding understanding.

I am grateful beyond measure they knew ethereal love.








Ghosts of the Past


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When I graduated from high school, my parents hosted a party; it was a an elegant, lavish affair attended by friends and family – it was held two days after the ceremony in my mother’s garden.  Actually, the adults in attendance mingled in the garden, the graduates held court pool-side.  My parents gave me a red Ferrari, which was my second car; the first was a blue Mercedes 450SL, which I had received on my sixteenth birthday – that first car too had been given to me during the course of a tasteful yet lavish party.

A week after graduation, my parents and I attended Paul’s graduation party.  West Haven is a world apart from Greenwich.  Paul’s mother, who was an excellent cook, had worked for days preparing traditional Italian fare, and the small backyard was festive with table cloths and balloons in our school colors.  There were no white-gloved waiters, no five course dinner, no over-the-top gifts; just Paul’s family celebrating his accomplishment with him.  It was simple, but it was beautiful too.

Paul was so embarrassed when my parents accepted his mother’s invitation, and he was visibly nervous when we arrived.  My mother hugged and kissed him, my father shook his hand and then enveloped him in a warm embrace; I smiled at him with delight, but I was as nervous as he was.  The afternoon was warm, the food was delicious, and the stories told by Paul’s aunts and uncles were hilarious.

As the party wore on, and evening set in, my father took Paul aside and handed him an envelope – Paul’s graduation gift from my parents.  I didn’t find out what that envelope contained until later, because about that time Paul’s father arrived at the party.

He was filled with rage; drunk and foul-mouthed – angry because he hadn’t been invited to the party.  He hadn’t seen Paul in almost four years, and Paul hadn’t missed him.  He was an abusive parent, but even more so an abusive husband.

Paul’s family tried to placate his father, tried to soothe and calm, but it impossible; through tears, Paul asked my father to take me home.  The ride from West Haven to Greenwich was deadly silent.

I played the piano that night, for what must have been hours.  When my father came into my room to say good night, he asked me if I wanted to talk – and I did, but I didn’t know what to say, so he held me and said, “You and Paul come from different worlds, Libby.  If the differences were only financial, it wouldn’t matter, but you’ve seen today that it is far deeper than money.  He needs your friendship, but your life will always bewilder him; he needs your kindness, but never your love.  And I don’t want you ever to go to his house again – promise me.”

I looked up at my father – the wisest man I had ever known, and knew he was right.

“I promise.  What was in the envelope you gave to Paul?”

“I care about Paul, and he has incredible potential; your mother and I gave him a copy of the check we sent to Harvard – we will be paying Paul’s college tuition.”

The next morning, Paul came to the door during breakfast.  Martin, our butler, showed him into the dining room, and my mother gasped audibly when she saw him; he was a mess – still in the clothes from the party the night before, but they were torn; he had a black eye and it was obvious he hadn’t slept.

I got up to go to him, but my father said, “No, Elizabeth.”  Then he looked at my mother and asked her to take me and give them the room.

A few minutes later, my father came to me and told me he was going out with Paul, and not to worry, everything was going to be fine.

When he got home late that night, my father told me that Paul’s father had come back to the house after all of their family had gone home, and he had beaten Paul’s mother badly – she was in the hospital.  Paul had tried to stop his father, and this is why he had looked as he had when I saw him that morning – for trying to help his mother, Paul’s father had beaten him too.

I found out some time later that my father had paid the hospital bills for Paul’s mother, and had taken Paul to stay with my uncle Colin in Rhode Island.  Paul hadn’t wanted to stay with us because he told my father he couldn’t face me after all I had seen.

My father and I left for Italy a few days later, and Paul ended up spending the summer working for my family’s law firm’s Rhode Island office with my Uncle Colin.

When late August arrived, I move to New Haven and Paul moved to Cambridge; we never discussed what happened the night of his graduation party.  Not ever.

During my daughter’s spring break,  she was here and helping me go through some containers I had found stored in the very back, upper-most shelf of a storage closet in one of the hallways.  In one of the smaller boxes we found the Commencement program for my high school graduation, a hand written copy of my valedictory address, the cards I had been given by family members and special friends all neatly tied together with a silk ribbon – obviously my mother’s doing, and a few photos of the parties and ceremonies marking the occasion, including my party, and Paul’s.

I’ve never really known how much to tell my daughter about her father.  Her older brothers know almost everything, her younger brothers – far too young to understand what happened between Paul and I – have been spared most of the trauma, but my daughter was neither old enough for full discretionary disclosure, nor young enough to be spared all the pain and drama that enveloped our family during the events marking the last turbulent years of her father’s life.  I have always been completely honest with my children, about everything, but I’ve also taken a cautious approach, never giving them more than they could handle and process in the moment given their age and level of emotional maturity.

G’s relationship with her father became quite complicated prior to his death.  And today, in her memory, it remains so.  For all intents and purposes, John is her father; she calls him dad, she seeks his advice, hugs and kisses him good night when she is home, and he goes into the city and meets her for lunch – just the two of them, at least twice a month.  It is a beautiful relationship.

But that box containing what remains of Paul’s and my graduation left G questioning and wanting to understand her father, and why – why about many, many things.

She isn’t a child anymore, but I’m still not sure how much she is ready for.

West Haven is still a world apart from Greenwich.