I trekked along at break-neck pace on my pre-dinner walk last week, passing by the home of my mother's best friend, Diane, who happened to be outside. I popped out the iPod earbuds and stopped and sat with her on the deck, catching up on the latest in each other's lives.
Diane has known me my whole life, since she and my mother became friends as freshmen in college, where I would accompany my very young mom to class on occasion. I have clear memories of those days as the daughter of a single mom who attended an all-woman's college in the 1970s. From a historical standpoint, it was a radical time. From my perspective as a five-year-old at her mother's college graduation party, it was a time to soak each other with water pistols filled with beer.
Thirty years later Diane and I sat and talked. It is moments like that in which I am trilled to have moved back to the neighborhood from whence I came, loving the full-circle of things--to an extent. She asked me about the boys, the dogs, Ian, work, etc. Toward the end of our 45 minute chat, she asked me about my ex-husband and how he was doing. I filled her in, happy to give her the updates and pleased that she, along with so many people, still asks for him and hopes he is well. After all, he and I had been together since we were 19, for a total of 13 years before it all blew apart. In the end, he is family. Especially because we are forever bonded as parents of the two best kids ever.
I mentioned to Diane that he'll be at the wedding, when Ian and I tie the knot next spring. She asked how he was doing with "it all", and I answered that he seemed fine, content in a relationship with a great woman that's been cooking for about a year, and happy to be working in New York. "Does he plan to remarry any time soon?" she wondered. I laughed, "No. I don't think so. Unless I'm just clueless. And I can be."
"Yeah, well, or maybe he's just not ready and you are."
"Or maybe he's just not over it. I mean, on some level, he could still be hanging on to the fact that you guys just seemed inevitable. Everyone thought so. It seemed like you would always be together--you had to be together."
I nodded. I wasn't sure how to respond. Inevitable? Us? Me and him? Maybe for a time, sure. We were. But damn it all we fucking tried to make that marriage work and it DID NOT. We tried, we tried, we tried... it was over long before any transgressions or separations. And still, we tried.
"Who knows," I finally said. "I mean, in some ways, when you have kids, you never get over the fact that you're divorced. We certainly never intended as parents to blow up the worlds of our two children, but that's what happened. It's what was happening anyway, though, and splitting up finally stopped the bleeding. I have a hard time forgiving myself for getting divorced solely for the impact it had on the kids, although I know we're all better for it than if we had stayed together just for the sake of the kids or simple, sickening codependence. So no, maybe he's not over it. I don't know. Inevitable? I don't know. What's inevitable? Maybe inevitable is really me and Ian, since I met Ian at the first party Keith and I ever went to together. Or maybe inevitable is the fact that Keith and I are meant to simply always be in each other's lives, because of the kids--as family but not as a couple. I don't know. I try not to question these things so much, Diane. It makes me crazy. Obviously. I mean, listen to me ramble."
"Well, no matter how you analyze it, you're lucky you get along so well, and the kids are going to benefit from the fact that you do. And that Ian gets along with Keith, and vice versa. I mean, you guys made it work even if you couldn't make it work."
"Thanks," I said. "That means a lot."
We chatted for a few more minutes, until I realized it was getting dark and way past dinnertime. I said goodbye, popped on the iPod and walked home quickly, nodding to other people walking by on their evening constitutionals. Inevitable? I kept thinking of the word. I wanted to cry, but I didn't. Some days I feel like I've come pretty far out of the shell I lived in during my first marriage. I've made mistakes, I've made improvements, I've kept the bills paid and the kids fed, relatively clean, and pretty happy. I've fallen in love again and this time, wow...this time it really is different. Now I *get* it, because if I didn't I sure wouldn't be getting married. Still, I felt like bursting into tears--but I didn't. I should have, though, just to let it out. But I didn't. I didn't want to cry on my evening walk. I didn't want to feel sorry for myself because I couldn't live my life hiding behind a fake smile in family pictures. Nope. I have to be proud of myself for saying so and making a break for it before even worse damage was done.
A few minutes later, drowning in a murky, self-obsessed swamp of pride and self-doubt, I turned down my street and headed toward the house. The kids were outside on their scooters and bikes with their best buddy from next door. Nolan spotted me and took off running up the sidewalk toward me. He leapt into my arms and hugged me. "Mommy, Mommy! We're taking turns winning!"
Yes we are.