The Lost Decade
Mike and Pam Calvert’s story shows that broken homes and broken marriages can be put back together again.
Mary May Larmoyeux
It had been 10 long, lonely years since Mike and Pam Calvert divorced. Mike lived by himself, and his children didn’t want anything to do with him. He hadn’t seen his 22-year-old daughter, Mandy, in several years.
When he looked into the mirror of his life, questions haunted him: Why had he overlooked the guilt he had felt, hoping that in time it would pass? What if he had listened to Pam’s pleas … where would he be today?
He was tired and yearned for a new start in life. That’s why he was making plans to finally leave Indiana, where Pam and the kids lived, and relocate to Colorado. And that’s when he received a phone call that changed his life and legacy.
"Dad, this is Mandy. I need to talk to you.”
She was crying and Mike asked if she was OK. She was.
His thoughts then went to his ex-wife and their now 15-year-old son.
“Is Mom OK?”
“Yes. I just need to talk to you, Dad. Can I come talk to you?”
“Of course you can,” Mike said, and then hung up the receiver. The phone immediately rang again.
“Dad, where do you live?” Mandy had never been to her father’s house.
Mandy was married now and had two young daughters. Mike had missed so much over the past 10 years—birthday parties, and holidays, and Mandy’s high school graduation. He certainly wasn’t invited to her wedding. And he had never even seen his own granddaughters.
For years Mandy had been bothered by what had happened between her mom and dad. She often talked with her husband about it. His advice? “Talk to your dad.”
And when Mandy arrived at her father’s home and saw him face to face after so many years, she was overcome with emotion. She and Mike talked about a lot of things before she finally brought up the reason for her visit: “Dad, is there ever a chance that you could put our family back together?”
"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise." Ephesians 5:15
Childhood sweethearts, both Mike and Pam describe the first 13 years of their marriage and family as a dream come true. They lived with their children in a two-story farmhouse that had a red-shingled roof and a front porch full of baskets brimming with flowers. Their 10 acres were surrounded by woods, cornfields, and rolling pastures. There was a little pond at the back of the property, and the fence line was blanketed with sweet-smelling honeysuckle.
After working all day in the construction industry, Mike cherished coming home to his retreat. “I could come home and be there with my family … and just enjoy life as it should be.”
Pam, too, loved the farm. Nothing felt better than to dig her fingers into the moist soil, planting tomatoes, peppers, and corn. And when Mike got home from work, there was always a hot meal on the table. It was often meatloaf and mashed potatoes—his favorite.
At the end of a typical workday, Pam could hear the crunch of gravel under the tires of Mike’s truck coming down their rural driveway. She’d watch for him from their bay window and would meet him on the back porch, usually with a warm hug or kiss.
Things began to change after Pam and Mike became friends with a couple from church who were having some problems in their marriage. The woman’s husband seldom attended church or did things socially with his wife. “She was always pairing off with Mike and me to do things,” Pam says.
At first this was fine with Pam. She and the woman enjoyed shopping together and they were good friends. Mike and the woman’s husband were also friends; they often went canoeing and fishing together.
Sometimes the phone would ring late at night. “I thought it was her husband,” Pam says, “but later on realized it was her.” And then Pam discovered that Mike and the woman had been out to a restaurant together—just the two of them—to talk about the woman’s marriage problems.
“I tried to talk with Mike about it,” Pam says. “It would always end up in an argument.” She told him that his relationship with the woman wasn’t right. “I felt our closeness drifting apart and yet he was drawing closer to this friend.”
Mike’s answer? “You are silly … jealous … You’re the one I come home to, the one I bring my paycheck to. Everything is fine.”
After Pam confronted Mike he became cold and distant. He often sat in the swivel chair in the living room, facing the wall in silence. And then he began to be late for dinner, never explaining where he had been.
Pam’s heart was broken. She thought she was losing her husband to another woman. “I couldn’t seem to break through to him to let him know what he was doing to our family,” Pam says. When she tried to address it, Mike claimed that it was Pam’s problem, not his.
In a few short months, Pam’s once-loving husband transformed into an uncaring, insensitive, unaffectionate person. And the woman Mike once called his sweet-tempered wife seemed to him to be judgmental, jealous, and possessive. He always felt he was “in the right” because there was no sexual involvement.
“Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man's dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” Proverbs 21:20
Mike kept brushing off Pam’s accusations—until the day he came home and all his possessions were sitting on the back porch. Pam had stacked his hunting equipment, fishing rods, boots, guitar, and banjo there along with black trash bags stuffed with his clothes. And when he went to unlock the back door, he discovered that the locks had been changed.
Shocked and angry, Mike called out for his wife, but she refused to come to the door. She told him to leave.
Pam hoped that Mike would wake up to what he was doing to their marriage. And Mike didn’t want to lose his family. But he believed Pam wouldn’t want him back in the house, so he left for good. Eventually he rented a trailer to live in.
Hurt that Mike did not fight more for their marriage, Pam feared she had done the wrong thing. “Yet I knew I couldn't go back because I couldn't live the life that I had been living.”
From there Mike and Pam followed the typical path: legal separation, then divorce proceedings. After about a year, their marriage was legally dead.
And the beloved farm? It was sold as part of the divorce decree.
“You shall carry much seed into the field and shall gather in little, for the locust shall consume it.” Deuteronomy 28:38
A couple of months after the divorce, Mike finally realized the cost of his “friendship” with the woman from church. I have really messed up, he thought, but I don’t know how to fix this. The reality of life without Pam and the kids had sunk in, though, so he swallowed his pride and made a decision to talk with Pam about reconciling their marriage. On his way to her house, he stopped by his office to do some paperwork.
“I was surprised to hear the news,” the secretary told him when he arrived.
“What news?” Mike replied.
“Pam is getting married this weekend.”
Mike was crushed. “I realized that it was over,” Mike says. “There was no sense in me going there [to Pam’s house] if she had made that decision.”
Pam did remarry, then got a degree in business management, and eventually opened a bakery. Mike continued working at the construction company, but longer hours. He had new child-support payments to make in addition to paying rent on the trailer.
Mandy and Mark blamed their father for the family’s breakup. “Most of the time when I would go to visit … the children would leave the living room, go to their bedroom and shut the door and I would sit in the living room for the half hour by myself.”
And his relationship with the woman at church never amounted to anything permanent. After she and her husband divorced, Mike saw her for several years but they eventually drifted apart.
When Mike decided to leave Indiana and move to Colorado, he realized he wanted to see some of his old friends before he left. So he visited the little country church that he and Pam had attended when they were first married. “I found myself at the altar praying and pouring my heart out to God,” Mike says. “... I wanted to feel that communication [with God], that closeness that I felt years and years ago back when Pam and I got married.”
After almost a decade, Mike finally confessed to God that his relationship with the woman at church had been wrong. He asked God for forgiveness. At last, he felt at peace.
Then, two short weeks later, Mandy called.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Psalm 127:1
Mike told his daughter that he wished he could put their family back together, but it was impossible—Pam was remarried.
“You don’t have a clue what’s going on, do you?” asked Mandy. Pam was getting a divorce.
A few months later, Pam’s divorce was finalized and she and Mike got together. As he pulled into his ex-wife’s driveway, Mike heard a radio announcement for FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. It said that broken homes and broken marriages can be put back together again.
As Mike and Pam talked that day, he asked if there was still hope for them. She answered, “I don't know if I want to put the marriage back together. And if I did, where would we start?”
With tears in his eyes, Mike told Pam that he was a different man. “Apologies were pouring out of me.” Pam could tell that Mike had changed and that he was serious about pursuing her again. And he said he’d heard about a conference that might help them.
So instead of moving to Colorado, Mike went with Pam to a Weekend to Remember getaway. They attended as a divorced couple and drove back to their separate homes each evening.
During the weekend Mike recognized his lack of communication skills. “I needed to talk more with Pam and tell her my frustrations and feelings.” He realized that often Pam had simply not understood him because he had not shared his soul with her.
Pam realized that Mike not only needed her to listen to him, but also to laugh at his jokes and to follow his leadership. “A lot of times when he wanted to do things,” she says, “I'd say, ‘That's not my personality, I can't do that.’” But at the Weekend to Remember she learned that she needed to support her husband.
Pam and Mike courted for about four months after the Weekend to Remember. And then they reunited what never should have been broken apart: their marriage.
“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.” Joel 2:25
Pam and Mike were married for 14 years before they lost a decade of life together. They just celebrated another 11 years of marriage.
Mandy is grateful that God healed her parents’ shattered relationship. She describes their marriage as “definitely healthy” today. Yet, despite her gratitude for all that God has done, there is still deep pain when she talks about the lost decade. “I don't want that [divorce] for my kids or for myself …” she says. “I don’t wish that on anyone.”
Mike wishes he had come clean years ago and admitted that he was having an emotional affair with the woman at church. Perhaps he and Pam would have never divorced.
And what would have happened if Pam had not rushed into a second marriage? She admits today that she was probably trying to show Mike that she could have a relationship, too. But instead of their days being filled with “what ifs,” Mike and Pam are now helping others learn from their mistakes.
Today Mike and Pam encourage others not to give up on their marriages. They often share their testimony in churches and their message is always the same: hope. “We've had couples tell us, ‘You don't realize we've been separated for a year.” Or, ‘We've been divorced for two years … three years. There's no hope for us.’”
Mike always smiles and says, "Well, let me tell you about a couple I know …”
Copyright © 2012 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Listen to Mike and Pam Calvert's interview with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine on FamilyLife Today®.
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