A few weeks ago, I met a truly lovely woman who was going through an ugly divorce. We chatted for a bit and it was clear she was still feeling the heartache that comes with this unfortunate experience. I gave her a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Divorce and Recovery. Of course, I pointed her toward my story, The Second Half of Forever, and decided to publish a re-print with the hope that it might help someone. Situations often don’t seem as bleak if we know we’re not alone.
The Second Half of Forever
Change always comes bearing gifts.
I sat staring at the sleek, 10-button office telephone. I couldn’t believe it was true. Today was my first day on the job, and just fourteen days earlier Dale and I had received our final divorced degree. We were both still numb with unforeseen pain.
The phone and the divorce demons were both glaring at me-the black monstrosity that was sure to ring at any moment and the stark reality of spending the rest of my life alone. I felt overwhelmed about the many challenges that lay ahead and prayed I’d get a handle on my life.
Our divorce was an agreeable parting; there just wasn’t enough harmony or “glue” for staying together. We hadn’t had any arguments or blow-ups to mark our distance from each other; it just seemed that one day the earth heaved, leaving a crevasse at my feet as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon, which then began filling up with pure pain.
We didn’t want to be apart but we couldn’t stand to be together-somehow that just didn’t make any sense to me or to Dale. Together, we asked our marriage counselors, “Why?” Separately, and in individual sessions, we asked the same thing. One therapist waved his note pad in the air and said, “Ride it out, this will all blow over.” Well, it didn’t “blow over,” but it did sweep through the marriage leaving emotional pangs of grief that was much like enduring the physical loss of a loved one.
Dale and I experienced what marriage counselors, therapists, and anyone else who wanted to throw their opinion into the ring, called a classic case of “growing apart.” It seemed like yesterday when we were high school sweethearts and later tying the knot as if we had the world on a string. After doing a four-year stint in the military, we spent the nickels we’d been rubbing together and bought our first home, which was a small fixer-upper on three-acres of farmland in the Seattle suburbs. That’s where we raised our two kids in what was close to a picture-perfect life, all the while tilling our huge garden every spring, pressing apple cider every fall and refurbishing one room of the house every year.
We’d had a lot of good prosperous years together but our attempts to breathe new life into the relationship didn’t work. The break-up had blind-sided us both. We were in such distress we couldn’t talk about it to our children, friends or families; in fact we could only speak in short spurts with each other about the parting.
Twenty-five years had flown by. “What happened? What happened to us?” was our cry. The life we had together didn’t just involve raising a family; it included growing old together, and enjoying our grandchildren on trips to Disneyland.
As these whirling thoughts were running through my head, a grapefruit size lump was exploding in my throat and I felt my eyes welling with tears when the inevitable happened.
Ring…ring…ring…I was quickly jarred back to the present.
I picked up the black contraption as though something was going to jump out and bite me on the lip, and with a voice laden with insecurity I said, “Computing Management Organization, this is Cynthia.”
“Congratulations, Grandma!” A booming male voice blurted at me.
“Who is this?” I asked.
“It’s me, Dale! I’m calling to let you know that you started a new job today as a grandmother!”
Finally changing gears, I asked. “How did you find me in this sea of people?”
“A stork flew past the delivery room door this morning and dropped off a healthy baby boy with your new work phone number pinned to his blanket,” he said laughing.
“Well, congratulations to you too, Grandpa! With the birth of our first grandchild, it makes our divorce seem less final to me and I don’t feel so alone. Maybe we can call this new phase of our life the second half of forever?” I said.
I could hear him smiling. “I agree wholeheartedly; we had a terrific life. It-and we- just changed…but not together. This grand baby has put some sweetness back into our lives. Have a good first day on the job, Grandma, and goodbye-only for now.”
Cynthia is part of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. She has essays in Chicken Soup for the Mother and Son Soul, Chicken Soup for the Sister’s Soul 2, Divorce and Recovery, My Resolution, Food and Love, Finding My Faith and Just Us Girls, which can be purchase directly from Amazon through this blog.