The divorce itself was relatively anti-climactic. We aren’t fighting. I no longer feel angry. I think we both felt relieved.
There’s no pomp or circumstance in a divorce. It wasn’t even a real courtroom like you might imagine. It was a tiny room on the 16th floor of the courthouse building in downtown Chicago. The judge did have a raised bench and probably a gavel – though he never pounded it. There was a grumpy woman who stamped papers and swore everyone in whom my ex (he is now officially my ex-husband. I never thought I’d have one of those) suggested may have recently transferred from the DMV. She was THAT grumpy. Apparently her job makes her unhappy. That’s too bad.
The most exciting moment was when my lawyer said “impractical” when she should have said “impracticable.” The judge called her out on it. Other than that…yeah…not too exciting. A few minutes later it was done and we were back out in the cold.
I walked across the street to get a celebratory coffee. The woman crossing next to me, wearing the unmistakable bandana of a cancer patient, looked at me and laughed and said, “Beautiful day!”
“Oh, man,” I thought. “Things could always be so much worse.”
The woman who took my order at The Corner Bakery woke me from a daze by saying, “She was diagnosed with lung and pancreatic cancer. The doctor gave her 30 days.”
Startled, I said, “I’m sorry…who?”
“My friend,” she said. “I’m going to her funeral in an hour. She was given 30 days by her doctor and she lived exactly 30 days.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“No. She really lived. I’m not sad. She did it right.”
“Oh, man,” I thought. “I’m really, really lucky.”
I turned to put cream and sugar in my coffee and had to step over the feet of a young lady who was sitting on a bench waiting for her order. I looked up to smile at her and her face was heavily scarred – probably burns – mostly around her eyes.
“Oh, man,” I thought. “That’s just overkill.”
Earlier in the morning, before the courtroom, we were in a conference room signing papers. I looked over at my husband (he was still technically my husband then) bending over a paper, signing our marriage to a close and our life together flashed through my mind – just for a moment. The early days when we couldn’t keep our hands off each other…our beautiful wedding…the great trip to New Orleans. The plans we made. The way we made each other laugh. Our ability to make eye contact across a room and know what the other one was thinking…(actually, we can still do that.) The other papers we’ve signed – a marriage license, a mortgage, birth documents, countless medical consents…and now these….
I only lied once today in court. I was asked if all attempts had been made at reconciliation. The truth is, none were made. But I smiled at my husband and said “Yes” to the judge anyway. It would have been impractical to say “No.” And, really, almost impracticable as well.
My grandmother had a large, clear plastic oval disc filled with white and blue sand that leaned on a stand on a table in her living room. I played with it every time I visited. If you were careful and worked very hard, you could get the sand to separate into even parts – with white sand filling the top half and the heavier dark blue sand filling the bottom. Or you could turn it and bump it and jostle it and the sand would make new images that looked like an ocean wave during a storm or clouds swirling in an evening sky.
You can try to make a neat, balanced picture but the reality of life is that it is constantly turning and bumping and jostling. Stand back and look at the picture every once in a while. It might be different but just as beautiful.
In the elevator, the lawyer said, “I’m not gonna say impracticable. It’s a dumb word.” We laughed.
I turned to my ex-husband as we stepped off the elevator into the lobby and said, “What is right and what is practicable are two different things…which president?”
“Harding.” And then he waved goodbye and turned and went out the door.
When in doubt about what to say to put a final button on a momentous occasion, always quote an obscure dead president. Always. We’re such nerds.
Also, it was actually Buchanan.
Yeah. He and I will forever be in the same picture. Our children make that inevitable. And I’m glad. It should be that way. He is a man I loved enough to pin all my hopes to. No more regret about that. He is a man I loved enough to create other human beings with. There can’t possibly be any regret about that. There would be a void if he were not in the picture.
Sure, the picture’s been shaken up quite a bit – not just by divorce but by years of bumps and turns along the way. I’m grateful for this opportunity to stand back and look. It’s really something extraordinary we’ve made.
Filed under: Uncategorized