Over 25 years of doing business I’m pretty confident I’ve earned a law degree…and paid for it. Attorneys are expensive, particularly bad ones, so I have settled in with a few good ones who not only take care of business but are fun to work with. It seems like attorneys have advised me on practically everything: trademarks, acquisitions, trade secrets, real estate, franchise law, employment law, corporate law, estate law, and litigation. Unfortunately there have been a handful of times that I leaned on attorneys to advise me when something bad was happening. This is a story about one of those times.
In 1993 Toppers was 2 years old and Scott Gittrich was busy fucking up a marriage.
I met Carol on January 3, 1984, on my first day in the pizza business. When I first saw her she was on her hands and knees cleaning a storage area in the Domino’s Pizza store that her brother Warren managed. Carol wasn’t afraid to work her ass off then, and even though I haven’t talked to her in about 20 years, I can guarantee you that she isn’t afraid to work her ass off now. She’s a pretty special person.
Anyhow, we fell in love, got married, and moved around the country chasing my pizza career. Carol’s passion was and no doubt still is, animals. She earned a degree as a veterinary technician and we had a passel of animals, including 2 horses, Nicki and Tom. She supported my dream to own my own pizza place too, which meant we saved money like champs. Even when we didn’t have a car or a refrigerator, we saved a few bucks. We opened Toppers Pizza together in 1991.
It’s well documented that early in Toppers history we were barely surviving. What’s not as well documented is that my marriage was barely surviving too. It’s hard to share with you how screwed up I was; I’m definitely not going to tell you the whole story (at least right now). For now, just believe me that I was a bad husband. It pains me to admit that, but it was true. Was. That’s why I can admit it now I suppose, because I feel pretty good about the husband I am today. As much as I want you to like me and believe that I’m a great guy; I’m not always. I’m flawed. But I try.
Eventually, Carol and I were going to marriage counseling. It was good and I learned some things then that are important to me today. One day Carol and I were driving somewhere (I remember exactly where we were) and she told me that she didn’t want to go to counseling anymore. I said “If we don’t go to counseling, then we aren’t going to save our marriage”, to which she said “I don’t want to save our marriage”.
I know divorce is common and most of you reading this are either divorced or have divorced parents. I can’t help that; it wasn’t common for me. I felt bad. I mean I felt really, really bad. Those next few weeks were the low point of my entire life (so far).
In my pain I did a lot of crazy and bad shit, but I also became angry with Carol. How could she hurt me like this? I called my attorney, Jeff Wampler.
Not knowing a thing about divorce except maybe what I’d seen on TV and the movies, I told him the worst stuff I knew about Carol (which wasn’t much) and told him that I wanted to fight her. What he said to me in that phone call is the best legal advice I ever got in my life…so far. What I remember him saying is something like this:
“Scott, you can do that if you want to. But I’m not going to be part of it. I want you to think about this. You’ve been with Carol for almost 10 years. You’ve loved her and lived with her. You can choose now to be pissed off and kick each other as you separate, but why? I suggest the two of you go out to dinner and talk about how to split up the few things you have. You can figure it out. If you do that, I’ll write it up for you and handle it for you.”
I decided that day that I was going to love Carol for the rest of my life, just like I promised her I would. Sure, we weren’t going to be married. I fucked that up. But as my attorney told me, I didn’t need to let that ruin everything I’d had with Carol for 10 years. My attorney told me that.
I don’t use Jeff Wampler for legal work anymore, but I do tell this story occasionally when I think someone might need to hear it. I called Jeff many years later and told him how grateful I was for what he said to me at an important point in my life.
Carol and I haven’t seen nor talked to each other for a long long time; not because we hate each other, I guess just because life changed. My mom sent me an article a couple years ago about Carol’s dad dying. It hurt.
I have been married to the love of my life, Robin, for 20 years now. Last week I had just laid down to bed when the phone rang and I heard Robin answer it. It was our 18 year old son Clay who is going through the pain of breaking up with his own special person, Meraiah.
I listened to Robin’s half of the conversation as I dozed off. She was telling Clay that one of the reasons she loved me was that I told her when we were dating that I loved Carol still and I always would.