My 80 something year old granddaddy was bald except for a fringe of black hair along the sides and back of his head. He had twinkling, green eyes that lightened as he aged. They always made him look like he was up to some kind of mischief. He smiled and teased his grandkids a lot.
He married my grandmother when they were in their early 20s, which was considered old for people born in 1899.
My grandmother passed away 12 years before he died at age 91. We never left a visit without him crying and saying how lonely he was without her. I never saw that man shed a tear when she was alive. Ugh, it just spun my heart every which way but free.
He had broad shoulders, a stout frame and toughened hands from working the farm for over 45 years.
He loved simple things: my grandmother, the earth, his children and grandchildren, animals, his pipe, homemade peach ice cream, pecan pie, colorful parakeets he raised after retiring from the farm and his shop off the detached garage where he “tinkered” with broken things or created anew.
He whistled his own little tune. We heard it most often in the mornings or when he was busy in his workshop, which was filled with a cherry wood chifferobe, wood shavings, a vise bolted to his workbench and the smell of metal and grease.
One summer night when fireflies sparkled and homemade ice cream seemed to churn for hours to an nine year old, I overhead him say, “We’ve been married over 50 years. We have three children and eight grandchildren. And not one divorce.”
He sounded like the richest man alive, and his abundance came from faith, family and simple comfort and joy.
We lost my grandmother two months before I was supposed to marry a man I’d been engaged to for 2 ½ years. I could not imagine our marriage resembling what my grandparents had, so I called off the wedding.
I married a few years later to someone who was my best friend, a man I knew would honor, love and cherish me, forsaking all others. It looked to me like this was it, a marriage like my grandparents’.
Fast forward 30 years later.
I’d slept alone in our king sized bed in our four-bedroom, three-bath home for the last time– You know my the dream house, the big one on the hill in the perfect neighborhood?
My husband and I knew for almost a year that our marriage was over. We’d discussed it, mourned it, but we stayed in it.
Every holiday or event I’d record in my mind as our “last family vacation at the beach” or our “last Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas.” We went through a whole year of lasts.
He was the father of my children. You’ll understand if you have children and end up in the 50 percent bracket of all marriages that end in divorce. It’s not only a rip of the family, but the heart and mind, too.
Fear paralyzed us both. Neither one of us knew how to walk out the red lacquered front door.
But one morning, I told the kids to grab a few toys and clothes. I packed my Volvo with the black lab, my bag and our children. I told them we were going to visit Nana and Grampa for a little while.
I didn’t have anyone in my family who’d gone through a divorce, Perhaps you don’t either. My parents were just mad as Blue jays. They wanted to help but didn’t know how because they’d never experienced separation.
I didn’t buy any self-help books or Google it because while the Internet was available, it had not yet turned into my personal assistant via a Smartphone.
One thing I wish I could have heard was: You will survive this. Your children are going to be all right, and so is your ex.
Here are some other things I wish I’d known:
- Seek direction from a spiritual advisor
- Get a realistic idea of your finances
- Create a budget strictly based on your income and stick to it.
- Make a new circle of single friends
- Take time in the morning to pray, meditate or communicate with God
- Talk to an attorney – even though we planned on mediation (We couldn’t reach an agreement.)
- Meet with a therapist, if only for a little while
- Surround yourself with good listeners that are perhaps outside your family.
- Make sure you have positive people who’ve gone through divorce before but will lift you up when the going gets tough.
- Stay in touch with new and old friends. You know, your BFF college friend who has always been on your side and cheered you on as you started a new career, got married, had kids and stayed home with them.
- Know that this too shall pass as silly as it sounds
- Believe there is a life, an abundant, joyful life you’ll have after your divorce.