Another of Da’s witticisms … “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” He pulled this one out every time one of us had the audacity to try to right our most current wrong by explaining it wasn’t what we meant to do. As in, “When I pushed David over the wall in the barn I was just trying to help him, I didn’t mean for him to fall on the concrete floor on the other side and break his arm.” True story.
Anyway, the reason for bringing up this little bon mot is my current frustration with my divorced friends. Like most Americans, I know a lot of divorcees. Some are repeat offenders (one of my friends is on #3). I would like to think of this as American optimism – “maybe this time” – but it is more than that. It seems to me that so many people struggle with being alone. I get it – trust me, I get it. Being alone, especially on these cold, dark winter nights, is not fun. It can be lonely and sad and generally depressing. It certainly wasn’t what I had in mind for this stage of my life – but that choice was taken away from me. I had my life partner. “Life partner.” I love that phrase. Unfortunately his life just wasn’t long enough for my liking. But I wasn’t consulted about his departure. I don’t believe he was either. And if either of us were asked, the answer would be a very loud “NO!” Joe’s death was not our choice.
On the other hand, divorce is a choice. At one point, two people vowed, in front of God, family and friends, that they would be together “until death do us part.” But, to use the vernacular, shit happens, and not everyone can wait until death does the parting. Fortunately, there are divorce proceedings to help those who cannot wait. And please do not misunderstand. I am sorry these marriages didn’t work out. I totally understand that a day in divorce court is better than a day in criminal court. However, while it can be mean and messy and altogether not what anyone would want to wish upon a couple, it is still a choice.
Despite this, my well-intentioned friends seem compelled to make analogies between their status and mine. I could make a comment about how quiet the house is only to hear “Well, I have been alone for over six years. I totally understand.” It’s actually worse than that but on the off chance that one of my divorced friends actually reads this blog I thought it best to use an innocuous example. There is a great temptation to point out that she chose to kick her “worthless, cheating, no-good” husband out of the house (and her life), but I know better. Or, I should say, now I know better.
When I first noticed that the divorcees were trying to compare their situation to mine, I did try to explain the difference. Massive mistake. Apparently divorcees do not like being told that their lot in life was a choice – first they chose to marry this person and then they chose to “un-marry” this person. Sounds like choices to me. One friend tells of how the man she was so in love with that she agreed to marry him later decided that her best friend was a better choice (not her words). Marriage dissolved – badly. Another tells of how her ex couldn’t decide what he wanted to do after getting out of the Navy. He chose not to work while figuring this out. She tried to be patient but her patience waned after several months. She decided he might find inspiration out on the street. Oddly, it worked. But their marriage was toast. Again and again, lots of choices.
In both of these cases, all you have to do is bring up the names of their ex-spouses and these women do a remarkable impression of Linda Blair in the bedroom scene from “The Exorcist.”
I don’t have this sort of reaction when I hear Joe’s name. No head-spinning; no flying off the bed; not even any green pea soup-spewing for this girl. No court dates or divorce attorneys or custody battles. No clothes flying out the window onto the lawn. I loved my husband, until death did us part.
So, as a reasonable person can see, the end of a marriage by the death of a spouse is not anything like the end of a marriage by the divorce of a spouse. Not even close. Any analogies to the contrary are flawed. I know the divorcees think they are trying to empathize and demonstrate how they understand my plight. I know they have the very best of intentions.
But here’s the thing … apparently Da was correct on this one … the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions.