Paul is a retired American expat living in Thailand. Besides being an English teacher and translator, Paul likes languages and most sports.
My Mid-Life Crisis
In March 1984, I was sitting on top of the world. My wife, Mona, and I had recently purchased a big home for our family. Next, Mona and my adopted son Mike had passed their citizenship tests and become naturalized Americans. To add icing to the cake, the government was sending my family and me in the summer to Taiwan for my one year of Chinese language training.
One month later, a series of unfortunate events started to occur. They included the mental illnesses of Mona and Mike. By February 1990, my marriage was like an unstoppable train wreck. My separation began with a forced ex-parte court order. In 1991, our house burned down. What seemed like a bad dream didn't end until my divorce was finalized in July 1992.
In this article, I recall how a sweet marriage turned sour in a hurry.
1984–1985 — Troubling and Unfortunate Events
My nirvana of sitting on top of the world at the beginning of 1984 was short-lived. At the end of April or May, a series of troubling and unfortunate events continuing into 1985 started to occur. All of these events destabilized my marriage.
Around the end of April or May, Mona claimed that she was sexually assaulted in our neighborhood. As I recall, the incident happened early on a Saturday or Sunday evening. While I was playing baseball with Mike and Charles, Mona went for a walk in our neighborhood. Later, as the boys and I returned home, Mona was very distraught and standing in front of our home. She claimed that a man sexually assaulted and tried to force her into a car.
At Mona's request, we hired a private investigator to find the sex offender. He later found four or five suspects matching Mona's description but she couldn't identify her assailant in a police lineup.
After we were living in Taiwan, Mona accused me of having extra-marital affairs during the period November 1984-April 1985. One of the affairs was supposed to be with a woman who delivered firewood to our home. The other affair was portended to be with a suspected Chinese teacher at the school where I was studying. Both accusations were false.
In May and June 1985, Mona accused me of spousal abuse. She even called the local police to our home one morning. I never once abused or assaulted my wife.
To make matters worse, we received news from our rental agent in May 1985 that our bank in Maryland Old Court Savings and Loan had a run on it and failed.
Finally, in May or June, Mona sued her brother in a Kaohsiung court where our rented unit was located. The accusation against her brother was not paying Mona the rent that he had collected.
All of Mona's accusations were false and it was obvious that Mona was mentally ill with probable schizophrenia. The problem was that Mona didn't admit to being mentally ill.
Toledo Rental Property Management Problems
Our Toledo property management was a big problem during the 1980s. After buying a small house in South Toledo in November 1980, my wife and I did a horrible job of managing the property. It culminated in the bank foreclosing on our property in 1986.
The initial problem was not having a rental agent until 1984. Before moving out to Maryland in December 1980, we quickly found a renter who defaulted on paying rent. We had to travel back to Toledo to evict him.
After the renter moved out, the water was not shut off and the pipes drained. This caused future plumbing problems for a tenant that a rental agent had eventually found.
Before going to Taiwan for a year in 1984, we found a rental property agent in Toledo. While we were in Taiwan, the agent found a tenant for our property. He did not, however, collect rent from the tenant. Instead, the agent claimed to give the tenant rental credit for fixing the busted pipes in our home. The plumbing was not fixed and we received no rental payments from the agent. Mona was furious and immediately had me fire the agent.
When Mona found out I was making mortgage payments to the bank while we were in Taiwan, she was twice as angry and decided not to make any more mortgage payments until we received money from the agent. I reluctantly gave in to Mona, we never received any money from the agent, and the Toledo bank foreclosed on our house late in 1986.
1986 — Adopted Son Mike Becomes Mentally Ill
At the beginning of 1986, my marriage somewhat stabilized. Mona had forgotten about our Toledo home and the State of Maryland had helped us recover most of the money we had in the failed Old Court Savings and Loan.
The high point of the year occurred around the end of February when mom and dad flew in from Wisconsin to spend a weekend with us.
Then, everything turned sour with the Ides of March. Around the middle of March, Mike was very distraught and blamed himself for the Challenger explosion on January 28, 1986. Shortly after, he took Mona's car key one night while we were sleeping and drove the Mazda away. In the middle of the night, we received a phone call from the police notifying us that Mike had been arrested at a toll booth for non-payment of a toll and not having a driver's license. After he was taken into custody, he broke his glasses and tried cutting his wrists. Deemed suicidal, Mike was taken to a mental hospital in Anne Arundel County where we lived.
We talked with the doctors at Crownsville and they had diagnosed Mike as being schizophrenic. After taking medication for three or four weeks and getting his schizophrenia under control, Mike was released to our custody about the end of April.
Making sure that Mike took his medication, he got better and by the beginning of fall expressed an interest in joining the Navy. After going through a week of basic training at Orlando around Christmas, Mike was dishonorably discharged and sent home to us.
1987 — Mona Takes Control of All Money
Mike was home for about a week before he showed signs of schizophrenia again. After getting him recommitted to Crownsville, Mona demanded that all of my paychecks be handed over to her after my endorsement. She claimed that I couldn't be trusted with money because I was hiding it from her. To appease Mona. I handed over not only my government paycheck but also the pay I received from an evening part-time janitorial job. At that time, I was lucky to have a few dollars in my pocket to buy a pack of cigarettes.
Working two jobs five days a week and sometimes on Saturday and Sunday, I wasn't with Mona and the boys that much. When I was with her, Mona wanted to buy things at estate auctions and then sell them at flea markets on the weekend.
1989–February 1990 — Mona Convinced I Am Guilty of Spousal Abuse
As 1989 began, Mike had been in and out of Crownsville several times. Charles was recovering from a broken ankle which he suffered skateboarding in October of November 1988. All of this didn't help Mona who was becoming more schizophrenic herself.
In addition to not trusting me with money, Mona was now convinced that I was abusing her. This became especially serious after I called the police and had Mike arrested for trying to assault me in the presence of Mona.
In January 1990, Mona was obsessed with telling her future by playing cards every time I saw her after coming home from work in the afternoon. Mona was convinced that I was working with others to harm her.
For the past year, Mona had talked very little with me and we were sleeping in separate bedrooms. It was almost a joy to be away from her working until one evening in February 1990.
February 1990 — Kicked Out of Home with an Ex-Parte Order
February 15, 1990, I can remember that date like it was yesterday. At times, it still seems like a bad dream to me.
It was 9:15 pm on Thursday the day after Valentine's Day and I had just returned home from my part-time janitorial job. Waiting for me at the front door were two female police officers. They informed me I was being served with an ex-parte court order for suspected spousal abuse. I was ordered to get a suitcase and fill it up with personal belongings because I had to vacate my home until a court appearance date one week later.
I was shocked and angry that my wife Mona was doing this to me. As I put the suitcase into my car and then drove off, I counted myself lucky as having just been paid at my part-time job. The first order of business was to cash my paycheck and find a motel to spend the night.
I decided to stay in a motel not too close to my home and not too far from my two jobs. After checking into the motel and looking at the money from my cashed paycheck, I realized that I only had enough to pay for four or five days in the motel.
Since I had no other money on me, my first order of business was to have my government paycheck direct-deposited into my account. The government would not pay me for two more weeks so I requested a $200 loan from a co-worker and received $200 from my sister Pat to tie me over for expenses until I was paid again.
On February 22, I appeared in court to answer the ex-parte order. Mona was there with a lawyer who requested that the ex-parte order be continued and who announced that Mona was going to file for divorce. I wasn't represented by an attorney probably because I was still shell-shocked and couldn't afford one.
My financial situation gradually improved now that I had control of all my earnings. I quickly repaid my co-worker and was able to pay the monthly mortgage on my house. Around the middle of March, I moved out of the motel and split the cost of an apartment with a co-worker.
I still, however, had a lot of medical bills to pay from Charles' broken ankle in 1988. Fortunately, the government gave me a three-month temporary assignment overseas from August until November. With extra pay from this assignment, I was able to pay off all of Charles' medical bills.
After returning from overseas in November, I asked Mona if she wanted to reconcile and Mona refused.
By the beginning of 1991, I had already moved three times and felt like a rolling stone.
March 1991 — My House Burns Down at Jay Bea Ct.
After having moved for the fourth time in the past year, another mid-life disaster struck around the first week in March 1991. It was about 3:00 pm and I had just returned from work. The phone rang and my son Charles excitedly told me that our house had just burned down!
I hurried over to Jay Bea Ct. and saw a sad and anxious Mona there. Before I could talk with my wife, an insurance adjuster with a car parked next to the street curb outside our house approached us like a vulture. After expressing sympathy for our fire, the adjuster promised that his company would represent us in dealing with the company that had insured our home. Mona and I both decided to engage his services and signed a contract. Our first order of business was to itemize everything that had been lost in the fire.
While the insurance company was processing our claim, the insurance paid for Mona's and Charles' lodging in an apartment. It took about 10 months for the insurance company to adjudicate our claim because it thought there was foul play in what started the fire. According to Mona, she forgot to turn off a curling iron which ignited the fire. Eventually, that was determined to be the cause of the fire rather than the blaze being intentionally set.
January 1992 — Mona Refuses to Deal with Insurance Adjuster
In January 1992, our insurance adjuster informed me that the insurance company was ready to settle our claim so we could get the house rebuilt. Before settling the claim, however, both Mona and I needed to sign off on the insurance adjuster receiving his commission for representing us.
On the day I came over to see Mona and request she sign a form so the claim could be finalized, she refused and sprayed Mace in my face. It was at that point that I decided it was necessary to get a divorce and move on with my life financially.
A month later in February, I moved again into a one-bedroom apartment where Charles could live with me.
In April, my attorney got a court date for a divorce proceeding but after a two-hour wait, the judge never showed up.
July 1992 — Judgment of Final Divorce
Around the middle of July, my mid-life crisis finally came to an end. I got another court date in Annapolis and this time my divorce was finalized.
According to the settlement, I got credit for all of the mortgage payments I had made through July 1992. The court order stipulated that the house would be sold after it had been rebuilt. After the mortgage was paid off, the remaining money received from the sale would be divided between Mona and me. Now the insurance adjuster could be paid, money received from the insurance, and the house rebuilt. The court further decreed that neither Mona nor I could re-buy the house after it was rebuilt. I was now a free man and finally out of debt.
I had never expected in my wildest dream to go through a lengthy separation and divorce from 1990 until 1992. Although Mona suffered mental illness during the last eight years of our marriage, things might have worked out differently if I had been more understanding, attentive, had better communication skills, and had not worked so much to avoid being with my wife.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Paul Richard Kuehn