For over two months I have contemplated expressing my gratitude here for my first wife, but just was not ready to write about it publicly. Even now I am not fully prepared, but do believe it is time.
B. and I were married and made a home together for 22 years. We were wedded for another four years, but resided in different states and lived individual lives. When we separated her comment was she “did not intend to be a divorced woman” and while I considered moving forward with a divorce against her wishes, I didn’t do it. A portion of the reason had to do with investments being adversely affected if assets were split within the first few years after we separated. Also there was hesitation about moving forward with the divorce because I was the one who wanted out of the marriage and had caused her great pain. Feeling remorse for not being able to see my son daily was a further hindrance. In the end, after three years she filled for a divorce that took yet another year.
B. was probably the first “normal” woman I ever dated having previously attracted or been attracted to troubled and “crazy women”. What I can look back and see now is I was just as nuts in my own way as the women I gave the “crazy” label to. What we had in common with our “crazy” dysfunctions was a good deal of our appeal to each other.
B. was 22 and I was 23 when we became husband and wife. Her family accepted me openly and her Father treated me truly like a son. Her mother was kind and thoughtful. In the early years of being married their support was invaluable. They gave us things we needed but did not have the money to buy. They took us on vacations we could not have afforded ourselves. They expressed openly their affection for both of us and their pleasure in us as a couple. I will always love her parents and be grateful to them.
Having had no healthy examples of what a good marriage or relationship looked like growing up, my coloring outside the marital lines was a predictable behavior. My growing up made me like a blind man trying to find his way in a place he had never been to or known about. In many ways B. did far better as a wife than my performance as a husband. I was a good provider and responsible financially. I was a pretty good father who loved his son deeply. B. did everything else from paying the bills, to cutting the grass to hauling our boy to hockey practice. As a partner I did have some good husband years before our son was born, but followed that up with a lot of years when I was at best only partially in the marriage. I yearned to be single for many years before the strength arrived to say so. There will always be some remorse within for not doing the right thing sooner when I should have.
What in youth looked like a straight and level road of living, turned out to be life filled with crooked turns, bumps, obstacles, steep hills and detours. That is normal. We just did not know it long ago. It took years, but B. can speak with civility to me now. We can even enjoy an occasional meal with our son when I visit the area they live in. I am grateful. “Once upon a time” is no more. Past is past. However, it is good that remnants of what once was still remain.
My lessons have been learned the hard way, but they have been learned. The trials and heartache served well in their ability to teach. I am at peace but will always bear a scar of remorse for the pain I caused B.. I will be eternally grateful for the wonderful son she gave birth to. He was our greatest creation together.
Written by Regina Brett, The Plain Dealer newspaper, Cleveland, Ohio
“To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I’ve ever written. My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more”
1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.
8. It’s OK to get angry with God. (He can take it)
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.
12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.
16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.
18. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness but YOU.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words ‘In five years, will this matter?’
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time, time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.
35. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
36. Growing old beats the alternative – dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you are loved.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s we’d grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42. The best is yet to come …
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
45. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.