~Wednesday, July 08, 2009

How Google ended my mother's marriage

I arrived Friday at lunch time to my mother's house. I had just left Christopher's (aka my girlfriend's house for movies and margaritas according to the story I gave my mom when I left) and I was in a good mood. Christopher liked me. He liked me in the snuggle in his sleep, play with my hair and kiss me on the forehead kind of way.

I was standing in the kitchen with my mom, chatting about nonsense when my step-father got off the couch for no reason and picked up a table he was supposed to carry into the basement the day before. He was so nasty and unnecessarily mean about it that it snapped me out of whatever I was saying. My mother was silent, but my gut instinct took over before I could give it a second thought, I yelled something to the extent that he was being an unreasonable jerk. I don't remember exactly what I said, all I know is that he single handedly changed the whole mood of the house with his actions and he was taking it out on my mother.

My step-father slunk out the back door and got in his truck and left the house. I was angry. It wasn't my place to be angry and insert myself into their marriage, but I could only take so much while living under the same roof and experiencing the same tensions.

My mother was visibly upset that he just took off. "You said you two are under the same cell-phone plan?" I asked.

"Yes, but they don't place the calls on the bill anymore. Besides he pays it so I don't get to see it," she said hopelessly.

I told her all about the world of on-line accounts, something I knew neither of them had experienced yet. I sat down at my mother's computer and created a T-mobile on-line account under his name, but linked to her e-mail address.

The first thing that came up was that they were over their shared minutes. A scroll of the mouse showed that they haven't been over their minutes in the last six months. My mother used 100 minutes; my step-father used 950.

Another thing I learned is that he spent $50 last month in text messages alone. Text messages at 20¢ a piece to one phone number. The text messages started at 8 in the morning and went to 1, 3 and sometimes 5 in the morning. A quick scroll through the calls showed that this number was dialed frequently too. Like say, every time he walked my dog at night and that time he left our family dinner at a restaurant and was gone for 40 minutes.

I was busy clicking and saving copies of the bills to my mother's hard drive while she stood at the printer making copies. "But how do we find out who he is calling?" she asked.

"We have two options. One, go to a pay phone, dial it and see if a man or a woman answers. Two, spend $5 at any of the cell-phone pay directories on-line and they'll tell you everything there is to know about the person, including how much she makes a year," I informed her.

"I don't want it traced to my credit card."

"We'll use mine," I offered. My mother handed me a $5 bill and I stuffed it in my wallet as I pulled out my bank card. I found the most reliable looking site and entered my credit card information. My mom began ironing clothes with her nervous energy.

I hesitated on the final click to get the report. This was a big deal. It was proof of both her and my suspicions. I inhaled, held my breath and clicked.

"Her name is T----."

My mother gasped and clapped her hand to her mouth, the other hand still holding the steaming iron. "She works with him." My mother goes through the list of all the things he's said about her and even mentions she met her 10 years ago. "Those last company functions, he didn't invite me to them," she says as she's processing the information.

"Mom, will you please stop ironing his shirt. You just found out he's cheating and you're still ironing his clothes."

She ignored me. She's a nervous cleaner, just like me.

My mother finally gets angry enough and finds his credit card statement and steams it open with the iron. All those company conferences he's been attending all summer were lies. When he said he was in one city, his credit card statement said he was spending money in another. There were no hotel charges for the conferences either. And the time he didn't come home and left his wedding ring at the house? The charges said he was in the same city as her.

"This is what I needed," she said. "This is what I needed to get out of the marriage."

"Mom, why aren't you upset or crying?" I asked.

"The tears will come. They'll be later. Now it's time for action." She made copies of the records. "If I divorced him without proof, he'd get half of everything. He'd get half of our family money and I would get half of his debt. With this, I can keep what's mine. I paid for this house, not him."

Meanwhile I sat at the keyboard. A quick company directory search showed that this woman was not laid off her job like he said about a month ago. He was calling her to help her find a job, he said.

"Now I need a divorce lawyer," my mom said as she put his credit card statement back in the envelope.

"You have to put the address in the envelope window," I pointed out.

"Oops." She fixed the envelope. "I want my old coworker's lawyer because he was such a shark, but I stopped talking to her because the divorce got so ugly." She ran through all the different ways to find out which lawyer her old friend used, "Maybe I can have my other friend she doesn't know call and ask for her friend."

I thought for a minute. "Mom, what county did she get divorced in?"

"The one I live in, why?"

I furiously typed until the county superior court records were in front of me, "because divorce records are public." Another quick search and I was writing the name and number down of the lawyer my mother wanted.

My mother stared at me, her mouth hanging open. "How do you know all this? What you've done in 5 minutes with 5 dollars would have cost me thousands to hire a detective to do the same thing."

"Easy," I said. "I'm single."

She didn't understand me.

"Whenever I started dating someone new, my friend and I would go to the surrounding 3 counties' web sites and search for that guy's arrest records. And when you've been screwed over by a few bad boyfriends, you learn the benefits of on-line accounts and pay cell-phone directories."

I had managed to impress my mother.

My step-father still hadn't returned home. I began to think that it was my anger at him that blow the whole cheating thing wide open. If it wasn't for my anger, my mother would still be blissfully unaware. Well, she'd still be ignorant.

I began to feel guilty. I was the catalyst for my mother calling the divorce lawyer. If it wasn't for me, she would still be married. I ended my mother's marriage.

But she wanted to know the truth. She already did in a way. Folding his laundry last week, she found a new pair of underpants in a new style. "Men don't buy new underwear unless they're cheating," she had said.

And we both knew the lies. Driving a cousin to visit his sick grandmother and not returning for four days. A conference that started on Sunday, the Lord's Day here in the Bible Belt. His upcoming court testimony for the next five days in which he'll put eight cops in jail for fighting at a restaurant he was eating at years ago. Oh please.

But my mother's marriage is ending, and I feel responsible.

19 comments:

SuvvyGirl said...

You and your family have had quite the time the last few months. But don't feel bad about this. You step-father is the one that made the decision you just helped to empower your mother to stand up and be a stronger woman.

Erin said...

I showed my mother the Match.com profile that my dad had made. It was the push she needed to file for divorce. This is the best thing for you mom. Not only was her husband cheating on her, but he was also being verbally abusive.

Beth said...

You're not responsible, don't be crazy. I'm simplifying, but thats like saying a waitress in a restaurant is responsible for a diner getting food poisoning! She just delivered the food and you just delivered the information your mom needed to make a positive change in her life.

He's responsible for the marriage being over. It was all brought about by his deceit and now he'll get whats coming to him. Or not get it as the case may be.

Cataclismical said...

Don't feel guilty. You did the right thing .. I snoop all the time :(, but sometimes you need to!

Good luck and keep strong for both yourself and your mum. You both deserve better

HomeImprovementNinja said...

It would've ended anyway, so what you did was just fast forward the DVD to the next chapter.

Anais Nin said that love never dies a natural death. And I agree. someone in the relationship always does something to destroy it, either through neglect, unkind words or actions.

kristinblakely said...

holy shit.

Anonymous said...

You did your mom a favor. Why are you feeling guilty?

The marriage was horrible so who cares that it's ending?

It is NOT better to be in a horrible marriage than to be a single independent woman.

preciousandpriceless said...

Don't you dare feel guilty. All of this was a long time coming, I'm glad that you were there to assist your mom in getting the ball rolling to changing what you live in. Google is fantastic!

Aritza, Goddess of .. said...

I think what you did was the best thing to do. Don't give yourself such a hard time, it needed to be done.
When my parents were have serious issues, I asked my mother not to divorce my dad. It was a mistake, I should've supported her from the beginning. He was abusive with her and I didn't help end it as fast as I should have.
Don't feel responsible, he cheated, he is responsible. All you did was protect your mother from more harm. :)

Lpeg said...

You are awesome, and super google-search savvy!! I am so impressed, and would never have thought of that kind of tracking stuff.

And this is not your fault. Seriously. I can't believe the things your family has been through, but hopefully, now, both you and your mother can start fresh.

Maybe it was you that ended your mother's marriage, but maybe it was because she saw how you got yourself out of a shitty situation and how well you are doing. Maybe she just wants that for herself, as well, and she is finally strong enough to do something about it, with you being such a good role model.

Good for her. The tears will come later, but this is a good thing. Neither of you deserve that.

Debbie said...

lol, I thought I was the only one who can find ANYTHING on the internet.

I'm impressed... great job on helping your mom get rid of this loser. There is nothing wrong with being independant and single. All the signs were there, she just needed the extra little push to take action.

TexInTheCity said...

Dude, with $5 and Google you can rule the world!

Cath said...

I "may" have cyber-stalked men... to check out details - most helpful. But, and don't take this the wrong way, is your mother stupid? All of these signs going on for years and just ignoring them? Let her divorce him, move on and LEARN!

Prettylyf said...

Your mum deserves better so don't feel guilty about it

AmyB said...

HO-LY CRAAAAAP. That is so nuts! So sad for your mom, but in a way, you've actually given her her life back. Please don't feel responsible. If you do, feel responsible for her future happiness - you certainly have secured that.

You should write a Google Sleuthing 101 book. ;o)

dont eat the token said...

Sounds like she was just waiting for ... the catalyst.

Croaker said...

Sounds like you did a good thing. Your mother just needed help finding the proof so that she was validated in leaving.

Paige Jennifer said...

The iron part totally belongs in a movie or television show.

Yay for you two women moving forward in ways that are best for both of you.

And reason #582 we get along so well? My nickname is Super Sleuth.

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