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A full plate

Posted Sep 24 2009 10:02pm

Indeed my life of late is a full plate.  Our 2 old dogs just died, my son’s going to be a father and I’m in the middle of a divorce. A very friendly divorce but it’s still the loss of a marriage and a transition to another phase of my life. As my wife said to me when I found out I was going to have a grandchild, “Well, you wanted change. You got it.”

We went through Legal Zoom which was remarkably easy to do since we agree on the division of property, debts and assets. There’s no children (they’re all grown) and no alimony, just an agreeable parting of the ways. Kind of strange to fill in the blanks on a computer screen and then click on the ‘Submit’ button. Divorce in the age of the Internet.

They will look it over to make sure it’s all okay and then mail it to us with instructions on how to file it with the courts. No attorney’s, no fighting, no legal bills outside of the few hundred to Legal Zoom.

The judge will then pronounce us ‘divorced’. She will go her way and I mine and that’s how 17 years of marriage will have come to completion. Rather than seeing it as ending, I like to see it as completing itself.

Growing up I can’t remember knowing many people who were divorced. The few that were, were different from my mom and dad and most other couples they were friends with. The one couple that sticks out were both married to other people when they began having an affair with each other, they divorced their spouses and got married and had kids. Their kids were wild.

The military police called the husband at 3 a.m. Sunday morning and asked, “Colonel, do you know where your sons are?”

The Colonel said, “I assume they’re in bed.”

“No sir, they’re on top of the Officer’s Club”

Crazy kids. They were always getting in trouble.

Later on the wife found out her husband was having another affair. She followed him to a parking lot where she saw him meet his lover . . . then she tried to run him over. He was an officer but not a gentleman.

As a kid it was kind of entertaining listening to the adults talk about them. It was one of the first glimpses into adulthood I had that illustrated not all adults made good decisions and were in control of their lives. Adulthood 101.

Divorce just wasn’t nearly as common then as now. It was looked down upon and seen as a failure. Maybe even more so given that I grew up in a military family. Loyalty wasn’t just encouraged, it was expected. Now I find myself on the verge of divorce #2. Another rite of passage.

When adding an email account to a new cell phone the other day, I found several emails from my daughter.  They were surprisingly angry rants. This was a time just after a family Halloween party my sister had were my niece managed to talk my daughter into attending. We’d had a wonderful few hours reuniting.

I had mistakenly thought that we were on the road to recovering our relationship but then she did a 180 and started to send emails like this one. She was 20 when she wrote it.

“You obviously don’t get it and probably never will.  I do not want you to be a part of my life and I will not ever have you be apart of my life.  I do not care that you love me or not because it doesn’t matter.  I do see that side of the family by the way, just not when you are there, so I do miss family functions because you always go.  Nothing traumatic happened besides not having a father figure, I have one now in Kevin (her mother’s 4th husband that she had only known a few months) and Grandpa so I’m ok, they are strong male role models that you are not.  I am better off without you in my life because all you do is cause stress and make me feel like a horrible person so I’m done with you and now I’m better off.”

I read this one and another to my therapist. He asked several questions about it, the time period, her age, etc. and then he told me that he thought she had some serious mental health problems, maybe even a borderline personality. He went on to say that her rant sounded more like something a 14 year old would say, not a 20 year old.

He added that not all divorces are ugly and antagonistic. The majority aren’t but of the ones that are, it’s not uncommon for one parent to say that the other parent is poisoning the well with the children. He can’t talk to my daughter to get her side of the story. Since he can only talk to me, he has to filter what I say through the prism of his experience.

“BUT”, he said, “Having talked to you at length I see that you are fairly evenly tempered, reasonable and logical even when it comes to discussing your ex-wife. Even if I only take 20% of what you say is true and throw out 80%, I’m left believing that this is indeed the case with you and your daughter. She’s been alienated.”

It was a strange sense of relief to have a professional confirm what I’d believed deep in my heart for so long now. I’d long ago packed my bags for a guilt trip but I had no idea what it was I was guilty of. I just felt that I’d failed my children.

On the flip side of this my daughter is suffering and I feel bad for her and want to help but I can’t.

Oddly enough re-reading my daughter’s letters don’t affect me like they used to. A good sign my black dog is behaving if not fading away. Another rite of passage.

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