This story is going to be tough for me to write for lots of reasons. But, it’s real, and it’s part of my story so I can’t just write the good stuff.
Here are the details you might need to know. There was a woman I worked with for about a year. She worked in another group but since we worked so closely together I sent her an article from the newspaper about a kid that went to our same school growing up who was arrested for drugs. She started acting a little strange after that, not wanting to come into the office and had to be spoken to by her manager.
She asked me to walk to get a coffee one day. I specifically remember this because my boss at the time said to me “something doesn’t feel right, I wouldn’t go”…but I didn’t see the harm so I went. We walked and talked about being from the same town and how she wanted a fresh start at the company and was afraid her boss thought she was acting too strange, and that she knew of the person who was arrested for drugs, but she wasn’t associated with him. I told her I would talk to her boss but that she should be fine, just continue to do your work and she would be fine. I knew her boss at the time very well, super good guy who was really good to his team. Anyway, after this walk she came back and told her boss that she felt threatened by me. I was shocked and very, very confused. I thought I was helping this person out, but they said I was causing this person to feel threatened in the workplace. I was completely thrown off guard. I have dealt with many employees, lots of different HR related items, but never had it been turned on me. I reached out to HR, and asked them to do an investigation. I gave them the facts that I had. This person was put into another team and eventually fired. I saved the voicemail from HR on my phone stating I was cleared but I was SHOOK by the entire incident. The Senior Vice President in my area made a few comments to others that I must have cheated on my wife and that there had to be something to her claims. With all this happening I also had to deal with my home life. So, I went into work feeling like I was being looked at as a bad guy and I came home and had to try and prove that nothing happened. I had to prove innocence when there was no way for me to prove anything.
Anyway, time passed and my wife remembered who I was and all was good. The fact that the girl was moved from a team and fired helped me out at home. I try hard not to hate anyone, but this girl deserved some hate after what she tried to do. So, her getting moved and fired was a really good thing. In fact, six years pass, and then on a Monday night my house phone rings. It was late, maybe 11 pm, I was awake and I saw the caller ID and did not pick up and there was no message left. I took a picture of the caller ID and sent it to the wife the next morning while working and asked her what we should do with it. Figuring we might talk to our cop friend and just mention it, or say nothing at all and chalk it up to a coincidence.
That next night as I am driving home from work a woman attacks my wife outside the house saying “I know who you are, you are his wife”. As she is attacking my wife, my 11 year old daughter is in the car completely frozen and crying and asking “How does she know my Dad”. My wife ends up scaring the woman away, but she gets her license plate and calls the police. The police find out it is this person I used to work with 6 years prior.
I get a frantic phone call from the wife stating that I better not lie to her and she needs to know everything that is going on and if I am cheating she has to know now. I get to the house, I’m shaking like crazy. There are 5 cop cars there, and as I walk towards the house the police stop me and keep me from my wife. They start asking me questions about this person so I tell them I used to work with them, and the mysterious phone call. Then they call over another police officer who pulls me aside He asks “I need to know what you did, they we can go from here”… so I tell him “I used to work with her, she was moved from my team, but she said I threatened her, and then I get a call from her the other night…that’s it, no cheating”. He believes me, sends the rest of the cops on their way, and talks the wife and I through the next steps.
Now, for a 2nd time I have to prove my innocence to the people I love the most. I have to prove something I have no idea how to prove. I go and talk with my father in law, telling him the story, telling him I know how it looks but I need his help. I do the same with the wife. I tell her I know how it looks, but it isn’t that. I spend a few days on the couch, just because I don’t know what to do.
I have to talk with my kids, work on some trust that they may have lost. I do the same with the wife. I broke down, completely. I was losing what I cared about most through no fault of my own. But, I knew how it looked. It looked bad. It looked like I wasn’t the person I said I was.
Through going to court and hearing this person’s story it appears there are drug and mental health issues, which selfishly, help my wife trust that I was telling the truth the entire time. Each time we had to go to court about it though, the wife would pull back from me again. Like she was playing out the situations in her head and thinking “I know him, but this looks like he is so guilty”.
It took me a bit to go out and talk with my friends about the story. Give them all the details, and each time I tell the story I have to say “I know how this looks”. I have a great group of supportive friends though. The type that help you out of whatever depression you are in, but also store the information to be able to make fun of me any chance they get. We deal with lots of stuff through humor. For guys, or at least the guys I call my friends, it is the easiest way to get through something.
Anyway, I tell this story from my perspective. My family was almost ruined. Everything I cared about, everything I built, all was almost gone. I got lucky that this person ended up being crazy. I got lucky that my wife eventually believed me; I got lucky that my wife is a strong person. She didn’t let her eyes tell the whole story. She let her heart help her remember who I am.
This story is really hard for me, and I am sure it is also very difficult for my wife.
Yesterday was our final day in court related to this matter. The wife stood up and read her victim impact statement like a BOSS. Nerves of steel. The badass judge rejected the first plea deal that the DA and Defense Attorney came up with and yelled that this person should be in jail. For us, we just wanted the whole thing to be over. It had been 469 days since it happened. The judge scolded this person and added probation and mandatory drug testing. The judge really let her have it and in the process provided the closure that the wife and I needed. It was like he was speaking directly to my wife and saying “don’t worry, I got this”.
My wife deserved this day. As we walked out of the court I could almost feel her little lighter on her feet. Her shoulders loosened and she breathed a big breathe of fresh air. She texted me after we had both returned to work about how great she felt. It was the first time in 469 days she mentioned to me about being happy. She always puts on a smile with others. You’d never know she carried all that weight with her because she doesn’t burden others.
I share this story because it’s not fair to readers to only see the good stuff, the happy tears. I share this story to show just what an accusation can do. Even as you are reading this now you might be thinking “yeah, but, HE did something”. Accusations can put a stink on someone, even with no truth.
I wish there was a big lesson or a big win I got from all of this, but sometimes, life isn’t poetic. Sometimes, life just sucks.
So, when I write all that corny stuff about passing on your smile or happiness to someone else lots of times it was me who needed that smile. For 469 days I needed that smile, I needed that kind gesture because it felt like the world was crashing around me.
Writing has been an escape from some real world stuff for me. Today though, as I write this story my weighted vest is gone. I’m smiling typing this because I AM LUCKY. I’m lucky that the ones I love believed in me. The ones I love showed me what love is.
So, I guess in the end, I do win. In the end I’m smiling.