Optimism, that potent elixir…
Romeo and Juliet. Tristan and Iseult. Lancelot and Guinevere.
My Mom and my former spouse.
I thought I had heard it all. You thought you had heard it all. But the fantastical statements, many of which are designed to deflect blame, continue. With this one taking top prize for Most Inconceivable.
“We are two people who love each who are not permitted to speak because of you.”
To clear up what I assume is a mad mix of confusion and disbelief, let me cast the players for you. The WE is my Mom and my former spouse. The YOU is me.
You can get up now. Dust yourself off.
HGM has been free of former spouse references for awhile. It’s been bliss, no? But this could not slide. Not because I need to trot out his words for us all to shake our head at, but to remind us all how slick adulterers can be when it comes to deflecting blame for their choices.
May 18th was my Mom’s 90th birthday. A party was planned. Guests were coming in from all points west. The idea that Mom was going to be able to get up and dressed and make her way to a restaurant was an absolute fantasy to her hospice nurse. Her strength had long since evaporated. She left her bed only when necessary and with the help of my oldest, and strongest, brother. How would she be able to greet 60 people when her breathing was so compromised, her voice so weak?
And then the hospice nurse would shake her head and say, Your Mom’s will is so strong. Anything is possible.
But we all still wondered…
I floated a Plan B by her which was swatted down with a look that said, Don’t you even think it.
She was adamant about being at her party.
That morning, while she rested in bed, I texted my former spouse to ask that The Dudes call her to wish her happy birthday. I put the phone to her ear. Her brown eyes twinkled as she listened to The Dudes sing. Without fixating on it, I knew this would be the last time they would sing happy birthday to her while she was on the planet. (We’ll still sing every May 18th, as we do for my Dad every August.) I clutched the scene in my mind, freezing it, wanting to hold on to the image of her dancing eyes and happy smile.
And then it all went sideways.
I heard her say, It’s good to hear your voice, too.
And then she grimaced. And then she cried. And my insides went haywire. Literally. I felt electric jolts zipping along my spine, frying my head. It felt like someone set a match to my eyes. My hands were shaking.
It all got blurry at that point, but I remember wanting to get the phone out of her hands as quickly as possible. And then I wanted to fly to him on the power of anger alone and, using only my glare, vaporize his ass. My former spouse made my Mom cry on her birthday. To use a phrase from my Mom’s book – I could have throttled him.
Instead I texted him this:
I appreciate your need to talk to my Mom, but I don’t appreciate her being reduced to tears on her birthday.
And his response…well, you read it. I am keeping apart two people who love each other.
On this side of fantasyland, the real reason my former spouse has not talked to my Mom is because my Mom asked for him not to contact her. She did this after learning that he was STILL lying when he came clean about his affair. Once she learned it was four years, not one, and that he could continue to lie so easily, she was done with him. She reiterated her request when she shared with me her diagnosis, going one step further to say, I don’t want him calling me just because I am sick.
My Mom felt used by my former spouse. She was, and still is, angry. That first year post Pocket Call was agonizing for her. My personal pain paled in comparison to the ill will I felt as a result of the pain his actions inflicted upon her. Gratefully, I quickly realized that I was way better off without him. Nothing is ever gained by being committed to a liar. But I still felt a great deal of anger because of what his actions did to her. If you recall she developed a debilitating case of Shingles – on her left side. Where her cancer then returned a year and half later.
Anger and dis-ease cause disease.
So why did she say, It’s good to hear your voice, too? Because she was taken aback, she’s reflexively polite, The Dudes were on the phone, and she didn’t know what else to say. She didn’t cry because she heard the voice of a person she loves but has been prevented from speaking to by her daughter. She cried because she still hurts. Because her heart is still broken by his deceit, his actions, his affairs. She isn’t crying because I AM KEEPING THEM APART. And to accuse me of that while my Mom is dying is obscene.
Please. I can’t prevent my Mom from doing anything. Not even in her current state. She is a warrior. If she wanted to speak to him she would pick up the phone and call him. When I read to her his text message she said: I detest him.
I have witnesses.
Then she brushed off the experience saying, Don’t pay him any attention.
It wasn’t that easy for me. Out of all the things he’s said to me – and there have been some REMARKABLE statements – this one was beyond belief.
I broke it down like this:
He believes my Mom loves him despite his adultery. He must not have paid close attention to her morsels of wisdom over the years, one of which is: If I can’t respect you I can’t love you. Somehow he thinks he is so fabulous that even though he betrayed her daughter she must still love him. Yea. No.
And this…It’s MY fault they aren’t speaking. NOT his. No. Not his. Me. It’s my fault. They love each other. And I’m standing in the way. Just like it’s my fault that he had a void in him that needed to be filled by another woman/women. My fault that he had an affair. Affairs.
Me, me, me. All my fault.
M, a very dear love of a man who is family even though he’s not blood related, said: She thinks even less of him than you do. He wanted to write to my former spouse and tell him to guard his words. My Mom talked him out of it.
As I said earlier, I’m not trotting these words out to hurt my former spouse. (He doesn’t read the blog anymore…but has someone read it for him. Okey-dokey. Do me a favor: Stop. Move on.) I’m relaying them to YOU because this kind of mad talk is just the sort of thing that can upend a person, make them crazy with Ego chatter and manufactured conversations. Or, in my case, visions of me going Uma on him when he tells me to ‘please go and enjoy your family’ as if I need his authorization.
The only people responsible for the negative fallout due to infidelity are the two people who had the affair. Any other accusations are indicative of the delusional state of the person speaking/typing/broadcasting them. Regardless of how many times they say I take full responsibility for my actions, statements like this prove otherwise.
That night, after her amazing party had come to an end and she was tucked back in bed, bright eyed and so happy, I sat on the porch under the stars and laughed for the first time about it all. Thanks to Mr. Perfect Timing. I don’t remember what he said, but he has a magical way with humor when situations are clenched. He has a way of making you think that sailing through rough waters with him at the helm is going to be a wild, but safe ride. And that you will have so much fun talking about it once on dry land. Cocktail in hand. Made with one of those huge ice cubes so it doesn’t get all watered down too quickly while you laugh so hard tears stream down your face.
I miss Mr. Perfect Timing.
It’s been two years of fits and starts as my former spouse and I try to form a cordial relationship for the sake of The Dudes. Statements like this make it pretty challenging to deal with him. It’s been a struggle. But I am just so over it. I don’t have any struggle left in the tank. His perception will NEVER change. It’s my fault. He did what he needed to do. And everyone should just acknowledge that he’s a great guy who was in a bad marriage.
You got it, buddy. I’ll let your words and actions speak for themselves.
But there’s one thing I will never, ever do. Accept blame for the fact that my Mom doesn’t want to speak to him. I am not responsible in ANY way for his affair and the fallout. I am not responsible for how my family feels about him. And you aren’t responsible in ANY way for your spouse’s affair. Or any of the fallout. If that suggestion is floated by you, grab it and launch it right back at your spouse saying, No one is to blame but you.
But we are responsible for our choices. For making good choices. So I will need to choose to be cordial. And I will choose to be very conscious of the thoughts I allow to percolate in my brain and the feelings I allow to run through my body. In two years I’ve been tested by moving, infidelity, divorce, moving again, and being apart from my Mom as she leaves the planet. I’m not going to cave under it all now.
My brother said, when he learned of Mr. Perfect Timing Pressing Pause, This is your Everest. He meant this time period, not specifically The Pause. He’s right. I feel as raw today as I did when I learned of the extent of my former spouse’s double life. This is a CRUCIAL time. I can chuck it all and become a mess or I can choose to be graceful, and optimistic and thankful.
And just as I typed those last words, the Tall Dude’s teacher came to tell me a story about him. How he is a cheerleader for his entire class. And how he encourages others to be kind to themselves. How he’s made such an impression on her that she CANNOT WAIT to see where he is twenty years from now.
I may be losing my Mom, I may have lost Mr. Perfect Timing. But I’ve got The Dudes. And the opportunity to make good choices. Life will continue to be full of reasons to celebrate. So I’d rather focus on being the one thing I know I can be: Optimistic. Optimistic that my former spouse and I will be able to have a cordial relationship that brings peace to The Dudes’ lives, optimistic that my Mom and I will remain meaningfully connected after she leaves Earth, optimistic that my heart will get strong again and remain open.
This is my Everest. And I’m optimistic that I will summit.
Thank you for your love and support during this time. Your messages have meant so much to me. I am deeply grateful. I’m going to go ball my eyes out now. Shocker.