“How have you been?”
“Sad, my youngest graduated last spring. That means the end is near. When he leaves for college, she will too.”
That’s how the conversation started, I was talking to my friend on the phone.
My friend is a therapist, not mine, but she has the tendency to pull me out of myself with simple observations and well placed queries. She is a great therapist, and I wish she were mine, but our friendship and geographical separation precludes that arrangement. Nonetheless she is like a cathedral, in that she has great acoustics. Our conversations can turn from celebratory to funeral, and resonate with that reverential hushed quiet, and you and hear a pin drop in the dead spaces.
After a bit of silence, she gently urges me, not mourn before it is time. That I should enjoy the days I have left. Mourning for what is not gone can only color these last days in sadness.
I tell her, that it is in my nature to be prepared, and though I try not to get bogged down into the loss of my marriage, I can’t let that day come and not be prepared. I’m an old boy scout, “be prepared” was our motto, and it has served me well in my life, in work and in play. It is my nature to be prepared, so even though the days of my marriage are winding down, and my soon-to-be ex-wife and I are on very good terms, I must still prepare. So I withdraw; in preparation for when I’ll be alone.
Some of our friends have taken sides, siding with my wife, they say that I brought this on myself, and I agree with them. But then, they say I can fix this and all will be better, but they are on the outside and don’t understand. Others blame the circumstances, or misunderstandings. Even a few even go as far; at their own peril, to claim my wife is being unfair and wrong, when they see my face, they back off, dangerous terrain.
But the truth be told, we split because we still love each other. Our marriage, through circumstance and my bad behavior had become a dangerous place. A room full of charged mouse traps, the springs tightly wound, the trigger set just so. Carefully we would tiptoe around, avoiding one trigger only to inadvertently step on another, then another, until it would quickly cascade into a full blown crisis. The cascade of tripped traps would result in a huge fight.
The circumstance was the death of our middle son, a beautiful complement to our family. Individually we were tragically hopeless, each an every one. But as a whole we meshed into one solid unit, each supporting the other. When he was cruelly pulled from our carefully constructed family it fell apart, first with my wife descending into a deep depression followed by my other two son’s withdrawing into their own private hell and ending with myself escaping to the seduction of forbidden sexual pleasures in other women.
We all were dealing in our own way, mine was the most deceitful and hurtful, not just hurting myself but hurting my wife and sons. After dealing with my infidelity, we tried to piece it back together, but the daily walk down the hall of mouse traps began to take its toll, and we began to hate each other. Maybe it was the cheater’s way out, a stronger man may have been able to pull it together, but those questions aside, I just couldn’t imagine a life where I hated the love of my life. So instead, I sent her to the arms of another, and then begged out of our marriage.
In my mind, I felt that I would be able to live with my decision, because the life we shared, which was great, story book in fact, was going away. Eaten away with every vicious biting comment, every slap, every cut. I couldn’t bear to see all that love that took thirty years to build be destroyed in that way. I would rather remember it as it was, perfect.
Be prepared, that’s my motto, and if I seem to be quiet or withdrawn, that is because I’m trying to deal with the consequences of a life in which I was poorly prepared to answer to the things I had done. I’m not sure that I can admit it to myself, if it is even true, how much that motto figured into my infidelity, my ultimate decision to leave (and it was mine to make) and in my subsequent actions to begin mourning now. I don’t want to see that far into my logical brain. Who would.
Be prepared, and then let it come.
©The Autobiography of Mr. Perfect, 2014