A few posts ago I wrote about an ex-hubby. Yesterday he made a 4 hour trip to bring me a van load of stuff which had belonged to his mother, who recently died. I had qualms about this whole thing, dreading as always an encounter which dredges up memories of a failed marriage, and the general state of confusion I lived in during that marriage.
Oddly enough, just seeing my ex didn’t stir up any of those memories this time. But as he was leaving he handed me a yellowed packet of photos. After he left, I opened it to find our wedding photos from 1977. Goodnight, what a toothpick I was! And so young looking. I realized that the day we married I was 24, younger than any of my sons are now.
Taking a stroll down memory lane with the help of these photos was bittersweet. I had forgotten the photos of me and my dad; some of them are quite good, if faded. It hit me that these are the only existing photos (that I’m aware of) of the two of us together. There’s Dad with his perm and polyester suit (this was the era of such things!), and I can tell just by the expression on his face in most of the photos that he’s thinking, “Am I holding my face right? Should I smile more or frown slightly?” He was always incredibly self-conscious about the expression on his face. How, I wonder now, did I even talk him into walking me down the aisle? And there I am, thin as a soda cracker, wearing a dazed yet hopeful expression. In one photo I’m sitting in my wedding gown wearing what appears to be a relaxed smile. But what’s this? I see in the photo that my hand is clutching my knee for dear life. And why not? Considering how things turned out, why not.
Oh, I have to feel a certain degree of fondness for that younger self in these photos. Yes, my life was a mess. But how hard I tried to do the right thing. Painful now to reflect on just how intensely I tried. If you’ve ever had occasion to watch a stressed out child painstakingly attempt to please his parents or teachers, with the sure conviction that nothing he does will ever be good enough—–then you know what I’m talking about.
I don’t like most of the choices I made in the past. It bugs me that so many people got hurt because of those choices. But when I look at these photos it stirs up more than feelings of regret. Something like fondness, or even admiration for that other me, that me who lived daily with the fear of waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I’m actually glad to have seen my ex. All my sons were here, with their kids. He helped raise them for a few years and, though he’s always had an anger problem, they seemed glad to see him. Watching them interact made me realize we are all stumble-bums, blustering our way through life trying to make sense of it all. None of us have all the answers, not even those whose lives on the surface appear idyllic.
Yesterday I was hit with the insight that yes, I messed things up with my dysfunctions and emotional baggage, but so did he! I wasn’t the only wounded person involved in that marriage. Neither of us knew how to be married or, when the time came, how to be divorced. We just faked it, faked being adults because, when you come right down to it, what else is there? Sometimes you just have to fake the art of living and hope that something genuine will come of it, until you get the hang of being an adult. I did the best that I knew how to do at the time and, in spite of how things turned out, I do admire myself for the effort.
(We were no Blondie and Dagwood!)