Empty House, Full Mind

Views of life from the empty nest

Archive for the month “December, 2011”

A Child of Divorce – at 49

This past weekend I went to a bridal shower for my mother. At seventy-something, she is remarrying after nearly 30 years of being single. Her fiance is a loving and warm man whom our family has welcomed with open arms, and who has brought so much to my mother’s life. To see them together is to see the true meaning of miraculous – that they have found each other at this point in their lives, that they are healthy and can enjoy being together, and that they are making this commitment to each other with the excitement of two people decades younger.

But something odd happened to me after the shower, on the long drive home. I realized that despite the fact that my father had remarried twice and he and my mother had long ago both moved on with their lives, there was still a part of me that thought they might someday get back together.

Ridiculous, I know. I mean, besides everything else, my father has been dead for four years.

This is the plight of a child of divorce, even as I am racing towards 50. Even though I came to terms with my parents divorce many, many years ago. Somewhere inside of me, all these years, while my mother was still single, a teeny, tiny part of me always hoped they would someday be together again.

I guess that’s what most children of divorce would wish for, no matter how young or old they might be. I was very fortunate that my mother and father were (nearly) always comfortable being around each other, and most every family celebration included both of them. My mother showed enormous class and dignity when dealing with my father’s second – and third – wives.  My parents both always put myself, my children, and my brother and his family before their own issues.

I was surprised at this very odd thought when it popped into my head as I drove down the freeway – “Mom and Dad will never be married again.” As I mentioned, the fact that my father is dead was a big part of why this was an odd thought.  But also, I don’t remember ever considering that it was even remotely a possibility, nor was it a good idea. And yet the little girl inside of me was speaking up and this was what she was wishing for…mommy and daddy together again.

I am so happy for my mother. As everyone at the shower mentioned, there is no one in the world who deserves to be happy and in love more than she does. A psychotherapist, she has given thousands of hours of her life to helping others to feel better about their lives, and now she feels thrilled about hers. She has found love at a time of life when many people are losing their partners.

I’m not a “woo-woo” person. I’m generally a fairly practical thinker, with a pretty strong bullshit detector. But I am convinced that my father sent my mother her soon-to-be husband, as a way of making up for a lot of mistakes that he made along the way.

My family, circa 1968

Ridiculous? Most definitely. But then, so is the little girl who’s voice I heard as I drove home from the shower – the little girl who wished her parents were still married. Sometimes, our hearts overrule our heads, and we have a moment of emotion that we don’t understand – or maybe we do.

Congratulations to my mother and her wonderful guy. I know they’ll be happy forever, and I’m so happy for them.  And so is the little girl, deep inside of me.

The “B” Side of Life

I recently went to my hair stylist, Gordon, as I have done every 5 weeks for 15 years. I wrote about Gordon previously after he was a survivor of the Salon Meritage massacre in October.  Gordon is an amazing person who has recently experienced far more tragedy in his life than he – or anyone – should have to endure. As we were talking about how he is getting through this uncomfortable and confusing time he said this:

“This is the “B” side of my life.  It’s not what I signed up for.”

I was struck by what a profound and perfect metaphor that sentence was for Gordon’s life at this point, and for, I’m sure, most people at some time or another.  The “B” side – the other side of the 45 record that was an afterthought, not really chosen, just put there to take up space.  The side that no one really liked, or cared about, or possibly even listened to at all.  The less than side.  The other side.  That’s what Gordon was talking about.

I’ve been to the “B” side in my life.  There have been moments that were so terrible, so awful, so sad, that I never thought I’d get through them.  Obviously nothing can compare to what my dear friend Gordon has had to endure, but my “B” side moments were, to me, pretty horrible.  I think most people, by the time  they reach the middle of their life, have had moments when they thought they’d never be happy, sane, safe, secure – ever again.  That’s where Gordon is right now.  He is on the “B” side and the record is skipping.  But eventually, as it did for me, and I’m sure for you, or someone you love, it will get better.  Eventually, it always gets better, even if it’s still awful.  Because we are human, we go on, we continue to look for things that make us happy, that will bring us up from the bottom, that will make the “B” side eventually become the “A” side.

This is a true fact:  Gloria Gaynor’s anthem to getting over it, “I Will Survive,” was a “B” side.  Look what happened to that song.  And what a message it sent.

So here’s to making the “B” side work, turning an afterthought into a megahit, a mistake into magic.  It can happen, and it does happen.

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