Wednesday, August 07, 2013

A different love story

This will sound odd, but I am even lucky in my ex-wife.

I will never, without permission, recount the circumstances of our separation. Suffice to say that we had a few years when we hated each other.

Reconciliation began in about 1989 when I had to call her to tell her of the death of my father. I don't know why I felt this was an obligation, because even I found him difficult. But that's another story.

She ended up on the other side of the world, we formalised our separation with a divorce, and we both remarried. And there was an extremely awkward phone call that ended well.

I don't remember who called first, but one of us felt that imminent birth needed to be announced to the other. And it turned out, in an oddity of life and circumstance, that our first children – their twins, our elder son – were born within a very short space of each other.

Somehow, our children reconciled us. She visited us with family in tow in the mid-1990s for an afternoon while back from England to see family. We visited them in the 2000s when we took our sons to England because I pined for the company of another friend who'd made the trip and wanted to show us the sights.

We stayed in intermittent touch, and in what seems to be a once-a-decade event, we saw each other. My first wife returned to Australia to see her family, and via e-mail and phone calls, I managed to find a slot in her schedule for us to talk.

And we found a life before we'd made the mistake of marrying or the mistake of separating or divorce, or briefly hating each other, or whatever the mistake was. We found the blood-wood of the friendship that led us down the path towards a marriage that ended badly.

I don't know all of her life challenges. She knows more of mine, because I have blogged some of them, and she hasn't hers.

I had a complete and utter meltdown. I held myself together while her daughters were present, before they took their leave so we could talk. After that, I emptied the bag, gave it a shake, told her the things that haunt me at 4am, and cried.

She knew me when I was a teenager with a set on her. We knew each other growing up when our parents didn't know what we saw in each other. We married, divorced, detested, reconciled, re-friended, and learned a new and different kind of love.

We're friends, now. I told her what went wrong with life, and she listened. We cried together, except that this time she was strong and I wasn't, so I beat my head on a picnic table in the bush, and I tried to tell her that the love that is my second wife, and still my great love, will die and I can't stand it.

And she cried with me, and stroked my arm, and hugged me, and listened to the worst of the worst, demanded the details, and reminded me that I am her best friend, which I in no way deserve.

And Ms T and I have sent our thanks to her privately. Whatever her arm-stroking, hugs, listening and cheek-kisses gave me while I beat at a picnic table and raged at life – they helped me, and hence helped us both.

And this brings me to the point of the post.

Thank you.”

It's nothing.”

How many times do you, the listeners and huggers, the strength-givers, cheer-givers, love-givers to the deeply depressed, think you're not changing lives?

Do not say that, or think that, because people like me need your ears and arms and love and cheek-kisses, not because you can replace us bearing our burdens, but because you will love us when we're at our worst, our depths, in our blackest nights, when Pratchett's Death is all our conversation.

If you have the strength to listen to the worst of someone else's life and still love them, you've helped them already.

If you can do it – all the way to facing the worst that they face without offering them a fake optimism, that “stay calm and carry on”, but instead try to imagine their burdens and merely sympathise, you've gone beyond the standard cant of support-group psychology.

If you can grasp the worst, well enough to say: “No. I can't imagine it. It's beyond me. But I'll be here whenever you need”, you've put your feet on the same path as we walk.

If you'll admit that you have your own demons, and promise to offer them back in return for your support, people like me will thank you. Because you're trusting us to be here and still strong enough that we can try to return your gentle love and support.

If you can write off old pain, and count old friendship as more important than settling long-dead scores? You're gold.

I have an ex-wife who supports me trying to care for my wife, across half the world. I have no idea what I did to deserve such love. Maybe I can earn what I don't deserve, sometime in the future.


paddybts said...

Reading your words Richard, is a perilously dangerous thing. It's like conversing with a dragon.
The sheer power of all that pain, is both hypnotic and heartbreaking.
What to say, that wont sound trite or facile.
How to offer support, without descending into bathos.
I've simply not got anywhere near your ability with words.
But I'm driven to try and offer you some sort of support.
Simply writing "take care", sounds bloody pathetic.
But from what you've written, I hope it might offer some small comfort.
So take care and treasure the good bits. P

CoralieN said...

You Richard, Ms T and your wonderful ex-wife are a big part of what's right about the world today. Just wish we would see more of it. Love to you all. Coralie

CoralieN said...

Sorry , forgot to say it's true "when the going gets tough the tough get going" as you've proven time and time again. xx