It’s Memorial Day Weekend. As with most places in the U.S., something is going on to celebrate in my small neck of the woods. Whether consciously commemorating those who fought and died for our freedom, or whether using it as an excuse to drink more beer or sell more beer, something is going on.
I’m attending none of it.
Instead, I’m cleaning my garage.
It’s been 4 years…almost….since that stormy June day that I left my second husband finally concluding that no matter how much I desired reconciliation, it was simply not going to happen. It was nearly nine months before that, during which I planned my escape from a 6-year marriage which I dub as The Nightmare I Couldn’t Wake From.” This, after leaving a first marriage of 16 years which also failed miserably.
Now, nearly 4 years later,my second ex is remarried to someone he met online shortly after our divorce was final and with whom he ran off to Vegas to marry. Our daughter spoke to her new stepmother once in person and a few times on the phone before being forced to accept a near stranger into her life as “stepmom.” My first ex remarried months after our divorce was final to someone I knew he was interested in even before we had separated. But I digress.
I’m cleaning out the garage.
Cleaning the garage is pretty easy if you have a “pitch it all” mentality, which I do. I definitely intend to pitch it all. I’m downsizing, streamlining, and getting rid of all the stuff I don’t need. I’m planning to move in the next year. I’m planning a big life change that will remove me from the places and things that are surrounded in painful memories of the last decade or so.
That’s why I’m cleaning the garage. I don’t want to take the past with me into my future.
It wasn’t as easy a project as I’d hoped it would be. You see, sometimes when you clean the garage, it is easy. You simply say “It goes to Goodwill” or “That goes to recycle” or “That’s trash.” This is all very simple when you are dealing with furniture, clothing, broken things that cannot be repaired, old TVs and the like. It is quite a different matter when the stuff you have to sort through consists of five or six large boxes of pictures and memorabilia.
Cleaning out the real junk, the useless “stuff” was the easy part today. I quickly filled my trailer full of stuff for the landfill, filled my Dodge Durango full of stuff to go to the Goodwill, and my recycling bin full of paper product that in this digital age I can easily re-create or find again online.
The tough part began when I started the ominous task, the task I’d delayed and procrastinated about for over four years, the task of sorting through the pictures, the mementos, the letters, the notes and cards from a lifetime…or was it two…ago.
My mother’s funeral…my second wedding…my son posing in front of the Old Faithful sign after a week of me frantically trying to keep him from impulsively using the Yellowstone Geysers as hot tubs because my husband had confiscated the meds (he doesn’t believe in medicating a child for ADHD…yet it wasn’t his child to make that decision about). All of the many financial records I kept from my first marriage: the loan papers from a house I recieved no equity in when we divorced, the many other papers, pictures and mementos of a very unhealthy and cluttered life.
“I have been intending to write to you….There are a couple of things I want to tell you. I would imagine that as (your first ex) remarries, lives in better circumstances, drives a better car, and wears better clothes, as he takes nice trips, this will get to you a little…”
It took all my composure to not dissolve into tears on the spot. Had I not had a houseful of kids and a significant other around…I might have enjoyed that luxury. Today, I did not. I simply put the letter aside so I could revisit it later. Now, is that later. And now, to be honest, I am wiping away tears as I write this.
This letter was written almost, but not quite two years after my divorce from my first ex. We had three children, he got the house without having to split the equity and he coerced me out of a boatload of other financial and custodial rights in the name of trying to be fair. I’m not bitter about this. I made my choices, uninformed as they were, because I simply wanted out of a marriage that was sucking the very life out of me. Even so, my mother, long before the events transpired had the foresight to call this spot on.
My ex has been out of the country with his new wife (something he never did with me, though he knew it was a dream of mine), he actually went on a honeymoon with her out of the country for their honeymoon. For ours? We ended up spending a weekend somewhere…insignificant in the country…probably in the state…and I can’t even remember it…it was that exciting.
Now, lest you think I am bitter, I am not. It was a bad match, a bad marriage and everything about it reflects that. It is what it is and it was what it was. That’s over and done with. The part that got me was that my mother called it spot on about the emotions I might feel after the fact.
How could she have known?
She knew because I was walking her same path…or at least a similar one almost 30 years later.
Her life in many ways seemed to parallel mine.
She continues with these words…and I must admit…I had to pause to grieve, to cry, to feel the sadness that comes with knowing I cannot talk to her now…when I’d most like to…
“I say all this to you because I know that you will feel a twinge as (your ex) has, and does, all the things you wanted him to do. Your story is long from completely written yet, and as you continue to struggle and he seems to be doing swimmingly, it will get to you from time to time. Character counts and ultimately shows since leopards can’t change their spots. So, sweet (and she uses my name here) keep on being your very best and you’ll understand all this better in years to come. In all, try not be resentful at those moments and remember, you are your own person.
I am amazed that she dialed this right in long before it actually happened and, now, after the fact, when all of it has transpired exactly as she predicted in her casual letter to me…I am reduced to tears, once again regretting that I didn’t know a wonderfully insightful woman far better than I did.
So…this is my Memorial Day. It is celebrated this year, not in honor of military heroes who do deserve honor, but instead, this Memorial Day for me, is celebrated, honored, commemorated, in paying homage to a woman who was an amazing soldier, who never gave up, who persevered through some of the most difficult things life can throw at a person and who defied death at least two or three times and lived to tell about it.
This Memorial Day for me, celebrates my mother (she passed shortly after that letter was written) who fought wars and won them by simply being the most authentic person she could be. She is one of my biggest heroes in life and one of my biggest regrets in life to date is that I’d wish I known her better than I did.
Me: I love you, Mom.
My Mom: I know you do, Honey. I love you too…and remember this…there are better days ahead.