What does one wear when she is off to meet the woman who wrecked her marriage?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m only vaguely fashion-conscious. But when I think about being face-to-face with her for the first time, I am perplexed.
We will meet at my grandson’s baptism. She will be with him. I will be with mine. We will be cordial and we will be relieved.
I will remember meeting her once in my husband’s office. She was the technician behind the ultrasound machine when I was called back for a second look after a questionable
mammogram. I felt very vulnerable though I had no inkling of how much I was so.
I will remember the slap of awareness as I perused the cell phone bill and noticed something amiss. I will remember how calm I felt when I asked him. I will remember my
mind spinning ahead at the moment he responded. And I will remember that my mind had not planned for this altered future.
She will seem young in comparison to me when we meet again. I will be surrounded by my loved ones while she will have only him. I will strive to make everyone comfortable and she will try her best to feel comfortable.
And we will move on to this new phase of life. We will begin anew as a family redefined by infidelity and a marriage that faltered.
And as I dress for that day I will remember that I have come to know that I no longer
blame him, or her, or infidelity, for the breakup of my marriage.
I will remember that there were patterns that developed very early on in a marriage of
very young people. Had I known what I know now, I’d have done it much differently.
I will remember the good times and the children and grandchildren that came from our marriage, the shared history and what we still share today.
More than anything else, I will keep in mind how the total upheaval of my world turned
out to be the best thing that could have ever happened to me. I will think how the intense anguish steadily faded and how I started feeling stronger sooner than I would have guessed. And how free I felt. Free from an underlying unhappiness that existed in an otherwise excellent life.
I will consider how I had gone along for years with lingering unhappiness, sensing emotional disconnect like the dull pain of a protracted headache. Always there at the back of my mind. I will remember how I never would have left him without stiff prompting because the known seemed far easier than the unknown. I could envision my life 20 years down the road if I stayed with him. Without him, I didn’t see much past next Tuesday.
About the time she and I glance at each other from across the room, I will be thinking of
how I have been able to forgive him, but not her. As it is with many other friends and family whom I have known forever, I choose to focus on the good qualities and to ignore the faults. I can look further back and remember what it was like when we were young, how we worked hard to move ahead, how we raised our children, how we shared a journey through time. Even with dreadful faults, I am somehow able to accept him for who he is because we have a common history and because I know him well. I know the demons that haunt him and the goodness that is often buried. I understand him as can only be done through years together and I sense that he is burdened by the choices he has made.
I do not know her like I know him. I know her only from brief interactions when the marriage was failing. I know how she looked when I ran into her shortly after I found out. She was at the video store with her husband and two small children and I knew her husband did not know yet. I recall looking boldly into her eyes and willing her to look closely at those two children and carry on as she should. Instead, her marriage ended and eventually, mine too. This is all that I know of her. I can see the faults that caused me pain. But I know she has another side too.
Divorce is painful for most everyone, no matter the particulars. What happens when it’s done has many versions. For me, it’s been transformative. I have found parts of me that I never knew were there and parts of me that had long-since been forgotten. I have discovered strength, self-esteem and a person I didn’t know very well. One can say all that comes naturally from the passage of time. In my case, I believe it has come directly from the unexpected door that popped open when the other door slammed shut in front of me.
So while I may remain a bit apprehensive about getting over the little hurdle of our first
encounter, I am happy that my grandson will be surrounded that day with an extended family that still exists, if in different form and connection. It is not today what I envisioned long ago it would be, but it is still a loving family. I know that I am happier than I ever would have been. I know that when the vows of marriage were cut apart, I was set free. I am happy and I am at peace. And it would never have happened without her. It still surprises me that my sorrow and pain created such sweetness.
I have said and written before that I sometimes feel I should send her a thank you note. My life is better because she entered into it and for that, I am grateful. For that, I can forgive.
I will wear whatever I feel like wearing that day. I will not worry if it is better to wear the outfit that makes me feel classically elegant or instead the outfit that makes me feel like a kinda sexy grandmother. All I really need wear that day is a smile.