Ed. Note: Some stories start at the beginning, some at the end, and others right in the middle. This is starting at an end, right before a new beginning. And if that doesn’t seem very clear, just imagine living through it.
I was married before. Eight years. A house. Holidays and families and vacations. “Significant” is the word that comes to mind. Maybe “substantial,” too.
It ended for all the usual reasons, plus a few specific ones. But it ended; we saw it coming, both of us, like a light at the end of a tunnel. We didn’t know if it was the sun shining up ahead or the headlight of an oncoming train, barreling down the track.
Those are the bare facts. A few hurt feelings, a little upheaval, and more problems with the US mail than anyone wants, but just facts. I forget them, sometimes. They seem like a different life.
Other things, I never forget, good or ill. These memories linger.
It’s a warm afternoon, spring, and we’re sitting in wooden Adirondack chairs bought in a much more hopeful honeymoon year. A glass of wine sits on each of our wide armrests. It’s a rare afternoon detente in a marriage that’s effectively, if not expressly, done.
Or, better said: I knew she was done, and I knew I wouldn’t struggle against the end. Let the train flatten me head-on, or enter into the sun. But, as a mark of, I’m not sure, either control, blame, or just meanness, I was making her say it, sitting in those chairs, wine in hand, sun and blue skies shining above. I wanter her to say the words I knew she felt: I don’t love you anymore; I can’t do this; It’s not working out.
I was past the point, too, of asking for more, trying more. I wouldn’t ask for counseling, or ask what happened to us. I would just move on to the grim planning of how to end long-entwined lives.
And then, she didn’t say it. Oh, I mean, she said the marriage was over, she’d known for a while and knew that I knew it, too.
But none of the expected reasons/justifications/cliches arose. Instead, she said this:
“Everytime you pick up a baby, I see how much you want that. You want to be a Dad. And I can’t do that.”
I knew this, immediately: she believed what she said, and she meant it, even if the recitation seemed somewhat rehearsed. Normally, the tension between honesty and planning might have offended. But as it stood, I only felt a little manipulated, and that was because of this: She was right. Dear Lord, was she right.
That Talking Heads song’s chorus has this: “As the days go by…” The days have gone by, 8 years since I sat on in those chairs on that tiny deck, hearing the words that finally ended a struggling, sad marriage. The days go by, one after the other, until now my daughter, borne of a stronger marriage, of love, waits just a few more weeks to arrive, bringing her own light and life. The days go by, bringing a new sun and blue sky, leading me to this moment, finally a Dad who has waited, days go by, 16 years for this.