When I first think about divorce, I call my sister.
I say, “I am thinking about a divorce.”
She replies, “YOU don’t want to be a single mom.”
I think, well, crap, that is true. Me: “I AM a single mom. It’s just that one of them is FIFTY.”
My sister proceeds to tell me how difficult it is to be a single mother.
I have to self examine my OWN prejudices against single mothers.
Then I wade in, to solo and couples counseling, for a year. My ex fires our couples counselor after a YEAR. He says the counselor is on my side. “We have been talking to him for a year!” I protest.
“I want a new one,” says my then husband.
I find a new one. I am filling out the paperwork. It asks, what is your goal?
That is the moment I decide: I write “Amicable divorce.”
The two years before that moment, I am not sure. I am trying very very hard to see if it can be fixed. But it takes two to tango and my then husband will not tango. Not one step.
We were each attracted to something specific in the other person. My then husband did not want to work at any sort of traditional job. His father would come home angry from work for years. I loved working, always.
I was a terribly serious child, growing up in an alcoholic family, and I have food insecurity. That is, at some deep level, I always worry about whether there will be food. When I meet my then husband he says that his goal is “To have fun every day.”
This slays me. Have fun? And he WAS fun. Biking, jitterbug dancing, he was a tennis and golf pro, he was smart, well read, divorced from a marriage of convenience to a lesbian to cover so she could be a small town librarian. Really? Yes, really. I demanded to see the divorce papers before we got married. My then husband thought I was very very funny and I thought he was too.
When we divorce, people tell me he will never pay child support. He won’t stay in contact with the kids. There are a lot of opinions.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. My ex returns to school, gets a “displaced homemaker scholarship” because he was a househusband (yeah, I said he was smart). He goes to nursing school and gets an RN. “You’ve yammered about medicine at me for fourteen years, I might as well.”
He gave me hell about us living in an “old person’s” town. Then in nursing school he calls. “Hey, I’m doing a rotation. Guess what it is.”
“Don’t know, what?”
“I LOVE these OLD PEOPLE.” he says. And he DOES. He is wonderful with them. He works in a nursing home for years. He gives scholarships to the medical assistants when they leave for nursing school. He brings coffee to his medical assistants and the other staff. He drives by on his day off because one elderly woman will only take her medicine if he gives it to her. He gets pianos for the nursing homes. He does memory loss concerts, where he tries to engage memory loss folks. We store music as entire songs, or entire albums, so if someone starts a song, they can often go through the whole thing. He can sometimes get someone singing who no longer can string a sentence together. Families love it.
Early in covid he calls me. “I have covid.”
“Sh-t.” I say. “Are you ok?”
“Oh, yeah. Everyone at the facility has it. Two staff didn’t so we sent them home. We are working sick because there isn’t anyone else.”
“Yeah, it’s a little depressing. My memory loss folks can look ok at the start of the shift and are dead by the end.”
A quarter of the patients die. This is before the vaccine. My ex sails through covid, says he doesn’t feel bad, for him it’s just a cold. He says, “I miss some of them.” Yeah, holy crap.
So another hero. And he paid the child support every single month and stayed in touch with his kids in his own odd way. “Mom, he tells me about his golf shots,” says my daughter. I laugh, “Yeah. Well, he loves you.” “I don’t care about golf.” she says. “I know, me either,” I say.
The photograph was taken with my camera by my friend Amelia in 2014, I think. It is me and my ex, seven years after the divorce was final.
I read this to my ex prior to posting. Posted with his approval.