Divorce tears apart so many things.
Two relationships that I have continued to mourn: the loss of a sister-in-law and a stepson. I was close to the both of them - as close as you can be when they live in another country. I immediately felt comfortable around my ex sister-in-law, from the first moment we met. She was really the closest thing to a sister that I have ever had, being sibling-less. I remember the last time we visited my ex’s country, when S was just seven months old. After he went to sleep, my ex, his sister, and I spent hours separating pumpkin seeds from their salty white shells, popping the green seeds into our mouths, and talking late into the night. We revealed gory details of our childhoods, swapping war stories and memories. The three of us shared the “bond” that comes from having a truly terrible childhood, and all the assorted scars that go with that. (It was one of the things that I think attracted my ex and I to each other - the simple, brutal fact of our woundedness - but that is not enough to sustain a marriage.)
I also really adored J, H’s son from his first marriage - who is almost exactly ten years older than S (their birthdays are three days apart). The last time I saw him, he was a funny, slightly effeminate twelve year-old living with my ex here in the US. My ex and I were in what I called our “separated and working it out phase that never actually worked out.” J and I used to do yoga on the rug in my ex’s apartment and watch “Hannah Montana” together on TV. I took J and S to the pumpkin patch around Halloween and we had all kinds of fun outings together. I would have been more than happy to be his stepmom, and I would have loved him like my own.
Recently, I was reviewing some old digital videos from a time when ex had borrowed the video camera. I discovered some hilarious lip-synch videos that J had made of himself. First I laughed, then I just broke down and cried, missing him, my cool little buddy.
J moved back to my ex’s country sometime during the period when my ex decided to take a year off from fatherhood, and I didn’t know this until months after the fact. All that time, I was wondering what he was telling this kid as to how and why his baby half-brother suddenly stopped coming over.
I haven’t heard anything about J in almost three years. I wonder if he mourned in any way the abrupt end to our relationship. I know I did. I wish I had been able to say goodbye to him and explain in an age-appropriate way why I disappeared from his life. It’s not clear to me if anyone explained anything to him, and that pains me greatly.
So…to get to the point, my ex sister-in-law is visiting the US this month. My ex informed me of this, and I wanted to badly to see her. I was afraid to ask him if it was OK to see her. I am not sure of the etiquette, or the appropriateness around such things. The last time I had reached out to her, it was through Facebook. It was during that year when my ex took the year off from fatherhood, and I asked her if she had any insight as to what was going on. She said that she did not, that he told her that I wasn’t allowing him to see S. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I figured that he must be in a really bad way if he was lying to his own sister like that. It gave me some insight into the pain and shame that he must have been feeling around his actions.
I agonized and deliberated over asking to see her. Women in my single moms’ support group had some insights - mainly that if we had been close, that it would be OK, and not inappropriate, for me to reach out to her.
It had not been my intention to pour my heart out to her, but that’s what I ended up doing - weirdly, in full view of my ex, who was in his office with S. I told her how devastated I was by the divorce, that I still missed him, blah blah blah. She said that she was surprised.
I always thought of you as so strong, she said.
I don’t feel strong, I told her.
I asked her if he was happy.
Who? she asked.
It’s none of your business anymore whether she’s happy, she remarked, without a shred of meanness.
It’s true. We have a business relationship today - it is a joint venture, the raising of a very special little boy. My ex’s happiness or unhappiness should not matter to me, except as it affects S. But it does. I continue to wonder. Two years into his marriage, does he ever question leaving me? Or has he never looked back? These are not conversations we will ever have, I know. I must live with these and so many other unanswered questions.
She told me news of J, how tall he is, what a “man” he has become, at nearly fifteen. I told her how much I loved him, and she said he loved me too.
After about half an hour of standing there on the sidewalk in full view of my ex, we kissed, on both cheeks, as they do in her part of the world, and we parted. I am not sure if I will see her again this trip.
So many times I have written of my inability to accept reality around the end of my marriage. I am still not much closer. It feels like slogging through quicksand. I want to be done with grieving, now. It goes on and on. I’m sick of it. It bores me already. It has to stop. But it just does not, in spite of everything I’ve tried.
There was something about that statement of hers: his happiness or unhappiness is none of your business anymore. It hit me in a different way. The only thing *I* can control is my own happiness or unhappiness. And obsessing about my ex-husband, two years after our divorce, two years into his marriage to someone else, is guaranteed to bring nothing but misery. I know finding someone else will not fix it: I’ve already tried that. I think there is no way past this steadily unfurling grief but through it. I will keep soldiering on, and practice blind trust that one day, I will truly be over him. One day, this horrible longing for something that can never be will leave me, and I will be free.
Welcome to this blog - my chronicle of the illuminating, character-building path of single parenthood. I'm making this up as I go along. My life is my practice, and my five year-old son is my greatest teacher.