Two Sundays ago we went to the zoo. We met one of my oldest friends there at the entrance, and had barely got down one trail when I saw before me my ex-husband´s new wife. I had only seen her in pictures before, but she had a sweet and distinctive face and I knew it was her. Especially because my ex-husband was standing next to her, or rather, leaning over a stroller.
I had not spoken to my ex-husband since about 2003, when he divorced me. I did not want a divorce, so I tried to negotiate anything but, though in the end I did not fight him because I do not believe in trapping people. I was so angry after that divorce that I could not speak to him. I lost my future and my entire family in one fell swoop. Which is silly of me, to view it as a loss. Because obviously his family did not miss me, or they would have contacted me. And it was my own folly to put them through school and neglect my own education. No one to blame but myself that I did not get a turn to attend university.
I have missed them all terribly, my in-laws. I managed, during some of the worst times, to put them out of my mind, but I still regard them all with affection. They were my siblings and parents and I loved them more than my own. Then I had the love but had not the family and it was a deep wound that I tried to fill for years. Now I know better. Now I understand that the pain is a part of me, nothing can fill it- but time and perspective can make it shallower, less painful.
When I look back at it I realize that most likely no one in the family believed that I truly loved them. I assumed that hard work and gifts would make it all apparent but nothing can convince those who see only fault. I had not grace nor diplomacy. I had not culture. I had experienced homelessness and I did not come from a good family. I was barely good enough for them, especially in light of my social awkwardness and the mistakes I make in conversation, all the fifty hour work weeks and tuition payments and cars would not guarantee me their love nor their respect.
I was doomed but I was so happy I never saw it coming. I held absolute faith in my marriage and my family. It was eternal in my view and so it was a comfort to me. This self delusion was the happiest time in my life.
So we are at the zoo. My children like to keep going. They like to complain and they like to keep going. So we walk and walk at the zoo and what I hear is ¨My legs hurt, I am hungry, is it lunchtime, my legs are tired, are we at the park yet, can we go see the fish..¨ The children love the zoo, I know, but while we are walking the trails (my favorite) they turn into little complaint machines. My ex-husband sees my friend and comes over to give her a big hug. I go to his new wife immediately and introduce myself, so we can skip the awkward scene where he has to explain I am his ex-wife. They show us an adorable new baby and a sweet little girl who looks as I always imagined her to look, all my adult life. Very lovely little girls, and of course, neither of them complain about stopping or going or anything. It was all very civilized on the part of the adults. My children wanted to be doing other things and of course they wanted my attention, which is normally theirs, so they were not very civilized. His new wife is lovely and funny and everything I would want for his family and children. He tells me he is working at a company where I used to work, where we met, actually. His wife asks me if I used to work there, and then we have the awkward scene where he explains I am his ex-wife. She hadn´t understood when I introduced myself, just who I was.
I did not ask about my former in-laws. If they wanted me to know how they were they would have reached out long ago. I did not look much at my ex-husband, it is not respectful in his culture and old habits die hard. I did not speak much to him, either, for the same reason, though I did answer his questions. But I really liked his new wife. She comes from a great family and she is established in the community and she is well traveled, cultured. She works at jobs I would have liked to do, myself. Best of all, she is funny. I just love humorous people.
After maybe ten minutes we excused ourselves and said goodbye and I waved to the adorable little girl who was hanging onto her father´s leg and jumping up and down, she had never said a word though I tried to talk to her about her aunt, who she resembles closely. She looked as I had always thought she would look, even seventeen years ago when I bought a little red and white dress for my future daughter, I had imagined such a face above the ribbon.
I explained to my boys who we had been talking to and they were as stunned as I. But I am afraid that surreal feeling stayed with me all that day, whereas they were over it in a few minutes. They had a great time at the zoo, even though the parks were closed. We played in a giant sandbox and we bought souvenirs and we made plans to go back. On our way home we drove through neighborhoods where I used to live and love with their own father and talked about how he used to be, before they were born, before he got so sick that we had to leave.
Losing a family is hard.