Continued from Part I
Patches of whitewater promise mini-thrill dips and turns, which are sometimes cut short by a big rock or a group of rocks. We use our paddles and a lot of muscle to push off and set ourselves right. And so it goes, for four hours—a mini-thrill, stuck, unstuck, followed by long, long stretches of still water; repeat.
At about the halfway point, somewhere between the blessed final chorus of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and the first of many choruses of “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean,” Carol and I put aside our oars.
She cites a generic fatigue; I am achy, uncomfortable, having my period. Carol and I stretch out in the raft to the extent we can, sigh loudly, and wonder how long before we see the big, elephant-ear-shaped rock formation the rental guy said we’d pass just before the take-out point. We know the answer: miles away. We pull our sun-visors down lower, resentful of the sun on our faces, and sigh some more. Mike good-naturedly dubs our raft the SS Miserable. Slightly ashamed of making the kids work harder, Carol and I eventually take up the oars again.
My complaints notwithstanding, I am enjoying this low-level adventure—the physical challenge, the fresh air, a day filled vivid greens and impossible blues. More than anything, though, I’m thrilled to give Taylor a family memory she can cherish. For her part, though, she’s more interested in singing silly nautical songs with Rob and Carol’s sons. We’re all in the same boat, and that seems to be enough for her.
After a lazy picnic lunch docked along the tree-lined riverbank and after several false sightings, we round a bend and see the elephant-ear rock in the distance. A frenzy of oaring ensues, fourteen arms on one accord.
Like those troublesome moments along the Yough, Mike and I have certainly had our ugly and tense moments, and we continue to face challenges. If it were all sunshine and roses, we’d still be married. But, by and large, our post-divorce, co-parenting relationship leads people to repeatedly ask us, “How do you do it?”
We might make divorce look good, but it’s definitely not easy. Divorce hurts parents and kids alike. Our reasoned decision aside, the result is a family torn apart, and when children are involved, that tear must be healed; the pieces must be put back together, albeit, in a different configuration.
When we separated, we explained to Taylor all the things that would change, like living arrangements. But, we assured her, some really important things would remain the same, like our love for her and Peyton, our active involvement in their lives, and our promise to put them first.
Healing our family requires that we honor this promise, even if it means stepping outside our comfort zones and temporarily bandaging marital wounds that have not yet healed properly. Our new definition of family is based not on shared residence but on shared commitment and effort. As I learned that day on the Yough, everyone oaring together toward a common goal makes for smoother sailing.