WE INTERRUPT THIS DIVORCE FOR A SPECIAL BULLETIN
There have been major developments in my life since I last blogged. Let me lead up to the “biggee.”
My 93 yr old mother, who has symptoms of dementia. recently moved into an assisted living home. It is a lovely house in a residential neighborhood ten minutes from my home. There are only five residents, including my mother. Due to the financial aspect, she must share a room with another woman. Because my mother sleeps in a large recliner anyway, I’d asked the owners of the house if she could sleep in the “living room” area. This affords her the privacy she needs so she rarely has to go into the shared bedroom. By the time the residents awaken, my mother is up too so there is no inconvenience to anyone. They approved the arrangement, and I’d hoped that would avoid the potential for friction.
I thought it’d take my mom about a week to begin bitching about her “roommate,” but it started up immediately. After listening to her delusions about a neighbor in her former retirement community for almost 15 years, I was burnt out on hearing her constant complaints. I truly believe I chose a beautiful and an ideal living situation for my mother where she can get 24 hour a day care from the staff and have all her needs met. It was a good decision, one that will allow me to look myself in the eye without guilt or remorse because I know it’s what’s best for her. Of course, I’ve heard nothing but negative comments from the other members of my family questioning my decision. That’s how my family rolls. NONE of them, however, had been willing to do anything to help me with this difficult decision.
So on Thanksgiving, we were going to have a small family gathering at my house. On top of everything, Thanksgiving always falls around my birthday, so we were going to have a little birthday celebration too. My mother started right in with her roommate resentments as soon as she got into my house at 2:00 pm. “She accuses me of taking her things,” “She follows me around the house watching me like a guard” and on and on. My mother complained she’d rather be on the streets than be kept prisoner in this house. Alright, you get the idea.
I asked her several times to agree to hold off on her complaints during our holiday dinner. She agreed, and then she kept it to herself for a few minutes until I turned my back. Then she started it up again. For the most part, I ignored her. But then my daughter told me, right before she and her husband took off, that I couldn’t return Mom to the assisted living home until 8:00 pm. This meant I’d have to listen to her complaints for a total of SIX hours!!! Towards the end of the evening, I felt like my chest was going to explode.
I finally lost it when a cousin asked me in a loud voice, “Why don’t you let her move in with you?”
And it was “on.” I confronted him, my aunt, and my mother, and then I ran into my bedroom with tears streaming down my face. I lay down on the bed for about 15 minutes before there was a tentative knock on my door. My friend, who’d spent Thanksgiving with us, told me that my relatives had some gifts they wanted to give me. I came out of the bedroom, still crying, and opened the gifts. By this point, everyone was remorseful and apologetic about his or her behavior. I just wanted to get my mom out of my house.
During the evening, I felt so alone. There was no one to comfort me or support me during this gut-wrenching experience. I snuck out of the party for a few minutes and crept into my office to check my emails. I decided to zip out an email to my soon-to-be ex, Mark, to wish him and his family a very happy Thanksgiving. They are the Hallmark commercial type of family, with his parents’ house beautifully decorated during the holidays.
After I dropped off my mom, I found an emailed response from Mark. He’d wished me a very happy Thanksgiving and an early “happy birthday” too. I don’t honestly know what drove me to do it, but I replied in a jovial tone, “I guess this means no gift this year, huh?”
And it began. We started to email back and forth–the truth as it is for both of us. Did we want to open up this can of worms one more time? We had managed to avoid each other for six full months, and now this?
I told him I had the song “Here come these tears again” by Jackson Browne rumbling around in my head. He said “Don’t think twice, it’s alright” by Dylan was in his. And so it went during several exchanges. I commented finally that he’d been the one who’d always cautioned me not to send emotion-laden emails, and, yet, we’d ended our marriage in emails. I asked him why he couldn’t, even once, pick up that “shitty phone.”
He said he needed some time to process all of this. So did I. Would I awaken to a message that he didn’t want to open up his heart again? That we were better off leaving it alone?
The following morning, I awoke to an email from him asking if we could get together that evening (Saturday) to talk in person. I had secretly hoped it was what he’d say.
I had a writing group meeting in the afternoon but told him we could meet at about 7:00 pm. My head was spinning. Should I level with him? Should I be real and share my true feelings one more time? Was there any hope for this marriage?
My writing group urged me not to let him come into my house but to meet at a restaurant. It seemed like a wise plan. Of course, beforehand, I had to spend about an hour trying to decide what to wear. I didn’t want to look too provocative, but I also wanted him to see what he’d been missing! I carefully applied my make-up and drove to the nearby cafe.
When I first saw him, my heart started to flutter. He still looked really good. If he’d looked horrible, would it have made it any easier? He approached me with open arms and pulled me in for a warm and very long hug. I could feel my walls were up, but it still felt great to be held–especially after that disastrous Thanksgiving and the tumult surrounding my mother’s placement.
We talked…and talked…and talked. It was clear that, after we’d finished eating and drinking cup after cup of coffee, the server wanted us to leave already. Mark asked if he could come over, but I cautioned him that I was not going to be intimate with him no matter what. He came over, and we talked and talked and talked some more. The flame was still there between us. We kissed passionately, but he respected my need for distance until I felt sure. Neither one of us wanted to let go.
We decided we’re going to try one more time to work it out. We will talk through our issues together as best we can, but, if we can’t do it by ourselves, he’s agreed to return to counseling. We will probably never live together again. Neither of us is conventional, and we’re just going to have to figure out something that suits us–not what is expected by society and how it is in other, more traditional marriages. Neither of us is sure what that is yet. It’ll have to be a day at a time.
He came over yesterday to celebrate my actual birthday. He showed up with orange roses, rare this time of year, but the color I wear all the time. In his other hand, he held an ice cream birthday cake. We spent an intimate and beautiful day and evening together. It wasn’t all serious. In fact, we realized that’s a major problem for us: we both take EVERYTHING so seriously. We once had a major argument over some expired tartar sauce!
When he pulled the ice cream cake out of the freezer, it slipped out of its box. He managed to catch about half of it, and the rest went splat on the kitchen floor! The dogs rushed over to eat it–not good because it had chocolate cake and frosting. It was hysterically funny shooing away the dogs while Mark balanced half the cake in his hands.
We laughed till our sides hurt.
It was probably my favorite birthday celebration. So is there hope? Do I dare risk those tears again?
The more you resist something, the more it’s there. I’ve been trying to resist being open and honest with Mark–or even having a conversation with him–for six months. He’s never really been gone….The divorce is set to be finalized in mid-January. Both of us suspect we’ll have to cancel it–AGAIN. We’ve been down this road once before. The only one who benefitted from our separations has been the state of California with its high divorce fees. But hey, it’s only money.
I tried to forget Mark and minimize the feelings I had for him by masking it with anger, by making him “wrong” for me. I also resorted to my pattern of dating other men, in the hopes I’d find someone newer and better. I went on all those stupid dates, and it didn’t work- Not with the guy who had the leaky car roof, nor with the motorcycle guy who’d probably been homeless at one time, nor with the denying me a kiss guy, nor with the alleged “travel partner,” nor with the guy who spent four hours with me before rejecting me by phone later, nor with the married cowboy or the guide dog man. It was all entertaining, but it got really old. Maybe the problem was that I’d found Mark too easily after ending the marriage of my previous husband who died of cancer. Maybe I needed to see if I’d missed out on anything–or anyone. You know, “The grass is always greener, ” isn’t it?
The truth is that I was really lucky to find Mark when I did. We were incredibly lucky to fall so hard for each other right from the start. Maybe all the universe conspired, or was aligned, to set it up so we’d finally meet after both our paths had almost crossed so many times in our pasts. Who knows?
Mark didn’t even try to date anyone during those six months, though he admitted he’d thought about it. Six months abstinence for Mark is probably a record.
He says he never stopped loving me.
And I have to admit, finally, that I love him too. There’s no way this genie is going back into the bottle.