****This post is part of my series on Real Army Wives. This series follows my husband’s first deployment to Iraq in 2003, but it’s the story of the wives back home more so than the men at war. Click here for the previous chapter, The Fork in the Road*****
I love telling you the sweet, happy stories every week, but the truth is not everyone’s story is either of those things. When one tells a story, one must tell the whole entire story. I would be amiss to leave this part out.
Shelby, the duplex neighbor I mentioned here, was still in this downward spiral. Her husband, Dylan, was overseas just as the rest of ours’ were, but she’d taken up with this Muslim man. His car was always parked in her driveway, so Shelby wasn’t bothering to hide this.
Meanwhile, she was still cussing her husband out on the phone, as well as occasionally cussing out the new boyfriend, and this was all Shelby’s general pattern so it didn’t feel like anything new to me.
One time Katherine, my other next door neighbor, asked me, “April, what about Shelby, are you not going to try to save her?” Now Katherine was saying this half-sarcastically anyway, as she had sworn off all “organized religion” for herself.
I just looked at her with big eyes.
“Nooooo, no. I am not about to deal with that level of crazy.”
I could not save Shelby. Dylan could not save Shelby. The new boyfriend couldn’t save her either. No one but Shelby and Jesus himself could save her.
My actual interactions with Shelby were few and far between, though I heard her everyday on the other side of our ridiculously thin wall.
I could count our actual conversations on one hand. There was the time I mentioned before when the police came, the time she borrowed my vacuum cleaner (and two months later I was STILL waiting for her to return it…), and the day of the spider incident.
Did I ever mention the spider incident? Well! Let ma tell ya.
I had just returned home from the grocery store. After bringing all my bags in, I was putting groceries away from off the table, and there in the middle of my dining area floor, was THE spider. I was later told that this was a garden spider, but to me it looked like some sort of gigantic Harry Potter spider. This thing was as big as my hand, and I am not exaggerating a bit!!
So there we were, and what was I to do? Alan wasn’t coming home for months yet, and I certainly couldn’t kill it. No way could I get close enough to it to kill it. I do NOT handle creepy-crawly things. I do NOT. It is not in me.
“Who in the world could take care of this for me,” I thought, and it came to me. Shelby was 2 things:
1. She’s a mom, the only mom on the street, and moms do gross things… and
2. Shelby is scary herself. She could totally take this spider.
I was desperate, so I knocked on her door. It was 12pm, and she answered in her bathrobe. I’d clearly woken her up. Her bleached blonde hair was all catty-wompus, her eyeliner which is usually an inch or two thick, was all over her face, and she looked annoyed. Ha! But who was I to judge? Back then, I routinely slept until lunch time.
“Um…” I definitely stuttered through this, “Do you, um, kill spiders? There’s this ginormous one in my living room.”
Then it was her turn to get the wide eyes..”uh..Okay, I’ll come see.”
I escorted her into my living room and pointed at the offending monster.
“Ewwwww, do you have paper towels, or a napkin?”
“What!!!???” I thought, and probably SAID out loud. A paper towel!!?? I had thrown a lamp at it, and that hadn’t worked. How was she going to kill this thing with a paper towel!!??
I dutifully rolled off literally 20 paper towels and quickly handed them to Shelby.
She looked at me like I was complete bonkers and tore off ONE.
And then, y’all! She grabbed that spider up with that one little old paper towel and squashed it.
My eyes were popping out of my head. This was both horrifying and amazing.
I don’t remember if she flushed it or threw it away, but wow.
So…..all people have their redeeming qualities….and I had to respect her for this!
Shelby didn’t know much about me either. She knew I helped her out with her kids sometimes and the cops that one time, and she knew my husband was gone too. She probably knew all the neighbors hung out without her.
Also I should confess…..I used to sing to Shelby.
Say what?? Okay, I know that sounds weird, but it wasn’t really. See, remember we had the thin walls. The bathrooms and the master seemed to be the thinnest, and by nature I am a singer. I can’t help it. It’s what I do. If I’m not singing, I’m humming or whistling.
I keep it in check in public, but at home, that’s my space to sing out as loudly as I want. And we all know that bathrooms have the best acoustics, right? So that’s where I sing the loudest when I really want to belt out a powerful song.
Shelby’s family needed some powerful songs, but not just Brittney Spears. They needed the gospel. So what do you think I sang? I sang How Great Thou Art and It is Well and my favorite Jaci Velasquez and Point of Grace songs.
So you might say she knew me better than you think. Was it annoying or endearing? Judging by the state of mind she was usually in, I’m guessing it was annoying. But I could no more not sing than I could just not eat, so it was what it was.
Fast-forward a few months, and one gossip talking to another gossip who talked to another gossip. Rest assured, I was not involved in this particular gossip trail, as I didn’t know any of Dylan and Shelby’s friends or co-workers….but the thing is your sins really do eventually find you out.
And Shelby left a steady trail. Dylan’s superiors in Iraq knew all about her affairs, and they did something that might surprise you.
They shipped Dylan home to get his house in order, and they switched him to rear duty, so he was home to stay.
Around the first of October, Dylan just showed up at home one day.
First, there was an epic fight. Of course. Then Dylan packed himself and his two children up and left.
For two weeks, things were fairly quiet, and the boyfriend’s car was never seen there again.
Then as suddenly as they’d left, they were back, both Dylan and the children. They moved back in with Shelby. I guess this was their attempt to work things out.
Shelby’s defense was that their marriage was over even before he left. Emotionally that was true for her, but technically it wasn’t true at all.
It didn’t take long before Shelby moved out, and for the rest of our time there it was Dylan and his kids living there. Actually, it was them PLUS Shelby’s oldest son, who wasn’t Dylan’s, but he said he was the only person that kid had who’d really take care of him.
Elsie and I went over and introduced ourselves to Dylan. He asked us if we’d be willing to testify if it came to court as a custody battle. We said we would, but we never had too. Shelby willingly surrendered them over to him.
All in all, it was a heart-breaking saga to watch play out from the very beginning, though I’m thankful that those kids do have a dad who cares for them and was looking out for them.
In situations like that, you hope for the best, but I’ve always wondered if there was a happy ending of any kind for that family. Did Shelby ever face her demons and calm down? What ever happened to them? Did those sweet children go on living with Dylan?
I like to think they did.