On January 1, 2005, my ex-husband and I officially separated. I still feel sad about that.
We married on January 9, 1993, after having lived together for about seven years. He’s a great guy, and I was crazy about him. We were a partnership for almost 20 years in total, most of it amazing. We laughed, cried and partied. We traveled the world. We shared joys and sorrows. We created an abundant life full of interesting people, rewarding work, and intimate moments. We danced often. We rarely fought.
In January 2003, I suggested we renew our vows to mark our tenth wedding anniversary. I was as in love with him then as I had been on the frosty day we married a decade earlier. “Nah,” he said. “What for?” Over the next two years our marriage crumbled for reasons neither of us understood. I asked him to go for counselling with me. He declined.
I couldn’t fix whatever was wrong with us by myself. Had he acceded to my requests, I believe we would still be together. But he didn’t, and we’re not. When we split up, people were shocked because we were such a “great couple.” I was shocked too, and devastated. But splitting up, agonizing though it was, freed me to do things I never would have done had he and I stayed together – among them was caring in a special way for Mom.
From the time we moved overseas in 1993, my ex and I spent four to six weeks each summer with Mom at her home in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. We could do that because of the extended holidays afforded by his work, and the fact that I had my own business. After he and I separated in 2005, I returned to Canada to be with Mom for four to six weeks at Christmas in addition to the time I spent each summer. Essentially, I lived with her for a quarter of the year for the next six years. I couldn’t have done that had I still been married.
In 2011, I returned to Canada for good to care for Mom 24/7. I couldn’t have done that if I were married. On November 16, 2012, Mom was placed in a nursing home. I saw her virtually every day after that until she died on Wednesday, August 17, 2016. I was free to choose to remain close to her because I had no other attachments or commitments. I was by her side, holding her hand, when she drew her last breath.
The decade-long journey as Mom’s care partner was a tortuous, joyful, and painful roller coaster of emotions, challenges, loss, and healing none of which I would have experienced had my marriage not ended. I think about that a lot. I wonder about destiny, the Chinese characters for which are tattooed on the palm of my right hand; I had that done in the summer of 2004, six months before my marriage ended.
I’ve decided some things are meant to be. Others are not. Paradoxically, I believe some things are worth fighting for. Others not so much. I also know from experience it can be devilishly hard to distinguish between the two.
Other times it’s as crisp and clear as a fall morning or a mid-winter night.