At age 44, Julie Metz's seemingly perfect life of husband, daughter, work-from-home occupation and house in the suburbs all but disappeared when her husband unexpectedly died. Becoming a widow and a single mother would only be the tip of the iceberg of challenges for Metz, as she later learned of her deceased husband's infidelities. How do you reconcile and forgive when the person who caused you pain is dead? This and other questions serve as the basis for Metz's memoir of "betrayal and renewal," Perfection, published in June and currently ranking sixteenth on the New York Times bestselling nonfiction list.
A forthcoming Q&A with YourTango delves into Metz's triumph over not only loss but infidelity and explores her hard-won battle to rediscover trust and love. The following is an excerpt from the book's first chapter and describes the day her world turned upside down—for the first time—when her husband passed away.
From PERFECTION by Julie Metz. Copyright 2009 Julie Metz. Published by Voice. Available wherever books are sold. All rights reserved.
It happened like this: Henry's footsteps on the old wooden floorboards. The toilet flushing. More footsteps, perhaps on the stairs. Silence. Then the thud.
I was working downstairs in my office on a bitterly cold Wednesday afternoon.
My workspace was an enclosed sunporch off our living room, the small-paned windows on three sides framing a view of the snowy hills across the road. Wrapped in a shawl,wearing fuzzy socks on my chilled feet, I continued studying the project on my computer screen. I had been a graphic designer for nearly twenty years, a freelancer, specializing in cover designs for book publishers.
Today's project was a novel about hard-luck cowboys, due yesterday, as always. I stopped fiddling with type design possibilities as I glanced at the computer clock—in an hour I would have to make a dash out to the car to pick up our six-and a half-year-old daughter Liza just before school let out at 3:10. Henry had been sick in bed all morning. There would be the freezing cold wait and the daily social milling with the other mothers on the school playground, then the quick drive home to finish my work. I'd wear my new sheepskin coat today and feel guilty about its expense on a warmer day. On second thought, the distressed sans serif type worked better with the moody image of a cowboy leaning against a split rail fence.
Suddenly my brain rewound sharply.
It wasn't a package dropped outside by the UPS guy.
My office phone rang. Instinctively, I answered. The photographer on the line asked me how I liked the images he had emailed.
It wasn't the cats knocking groceries off the kitchen counter.
"I can't talk now—something bad is happening." I ended the call abruptly.
The rooms were silent as I ran up the stairs, calling for Henry. Two of our four cats skittered out of my way, their nails clawing the wooden treads. The bedroom was empty. I raced back down the stairs.
I found Henry on his back, spread-eagled on the kitchen floor, his head a few inches from the oven broiler. He was still breathing. His body was silhouetted against the sea blue of the painted floorboards. I imagined the outline of a police chalk drawing of the victim at a crime scene. I was overcome with the feeling that I was in the scene and watching a scene on television—an opening sequence of an episode of Six Feet Under, our favorite show that year. Usually some minor character dies in the first five minutes.
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