Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A Verdict is Imminent

Last weekend Gabbie and I spent more than four hours alone together, driving back and forth to see our oldest son in his new apartment.

For the first twenty minutes of the ride, Gabbie rehashed how frustrated she is with our two younger kids.  I hate that topic because she complains about them, they complain about her and I'm stuck in the middle. This time, thankfully, Gabbie turned the conversation toward memories of when the kids were young and sweet - a subject that only she and I understand in the same way.

Thinking and talking about those days made my heart ache.  I had to fight a strong desire to take Gabbie's hand and hold it tight.  I had to fight to keep from affirming that we share a natural and effortless intimacy that keeps us deeply connected.

We've lived apart for four years, but it doesn't feel like it. We still "get" each other.  We're still as bonded as ever.  Nothing is different...
...yet everything has changed.

***

A short time later, the trip down Memory Lane took a wrong turn when Gabbie told me I wanted to marry her soon after we met.  She said I knew in our fourth month together, when we were traveling in England at the age of 20.

That was completely wrong --- and when Gabbie said it, I debated whether I should correct her or not.  The truth is, during that trip I was counting the number of days until we'd go back to our respective schools and be 2000 miles apart.  I was very much hoping that the long distance would strain our relationship and make it easier to break up.

Instead, the break-up didn't happen until I came out to her and she moved to her own place - six years after we met and more than two years after we were married.

Our "separation" was a major turning point for me because that's when I knew I wanted to be married to her. Even then, it took two months apart and a good relationship with a guy for me to feel that way.  Before all that happened, I was resentful and felt railroaded into marriage.

So, here we were, twenty-three years later, with lots of water under the bridge...and did I tell her the truth about when I wanted to be with her?  Or did I let her keep her happy fantasy?

After weighing the pros and cons of hurtful honesty, I decided to keep my mouth shut --- for now.

***

On the return trip from seeing our son, Gabbie confided in me about her current boyfriend.  He's 51 years old and Gabbie is his first serious relationship.  They've been dating for two and a half years.

Through force of will, Gabbie convinced the guy to give up his apartment of 15 years and move in with her a year ago.  Although she orchestrated the move, she worried that if they lived together, he wouldn't have a reason to propose marriage, so she also secured a promise from him for an engagement ring "soon." 

A month after moving in, the boyfriend confessed he wasn't ready to get married.  He said he needed more time to think about it.

A few months after that, as Gabbie became weary of her boyfriend's low paying job and horrendous work schedule (12 hour days, six days a week), she got a commitment from him to make a change.

Nine months later,  he's still at the same job, working the same hours and he's made no effort to look for something better.

Although Gabbie is disappointed by her boyfriend's lack of follow-through, she's not ready to give up on him yet.  His mother is very wealthy and in her 80s, and since she can't live forever, there will come a day when her little boy will inherit several millions.  For that reason, among others, Gabbie's dreams for the future remain intact.

"I'm hopeful, but I can't wait forever," she explained to me.  "If he doesn't propose by the end of the year I'm going to have to reassess my options."

"He's a good guy.  I'm sure he'll do the right thing when the time comes," I assured her.

Even as I said that, I felt pulled in two very different directions:

On the one hand, I sincerely hoped the guy would propose soon, because, more than anything, that would help me turn the corner with Gabbie.  Let her be his responsibility for all eternity, not mine.  I look forward to the day when I feel 100% free of taking care of her.

On the other hand, when she said she might need to "reassess her options" I felt a rush of adrenaline, fueled by hope.  It's sad to admit this, but there's a core part of me that feels like we are destined to reunite some day, and spend the rest of our lives together.  All the bad stuff that's happened over the past nine years? Short term distractions...mere minutes on our walk together to the End of Time.

Crazy, I know, but that's how I feel - and far more often than I should.  My conflicting responses show how very mixed up my thoughts and emotions about Gabbie continue to be.  I hunger for the day when the contradictions end and both my head and heart are in the same place.

***

"I can see why you didn't want to go, Cameron.  It was awful.  Thank God the judge cleared the court.  I was very, very emotional."

I'd been holding my breath for more than three hours, impatiently waiting for Gabbie to call me with news on the fate of our 26 year marriage.

Since our split was amicable, we paid less than $200 each to get a final judgment .  I did all the paperwork, while Gabbie's job was to convince the judge that our marriage was fraudulent and should be erased from existence.  If she failed (which everyone said she would --- "long-term marriages are not annulled"), we'd still be legally single, we'd just have to wait a few months for the mandatory "cooling off" period to pass.

Annulment or dissolution?!!  That's what I most wanted to know from Gabbie.  Spare me the preliminaries and tell me the outcome!

"...we'll both get documentation in the mail confirming everything within the next week or so."

---

Given all my conflicted thoughts and feelings, I really had no idea how I would react when I heard the news.

I worried that I might sob uncontrollably for hours, as I did when I lost my wedding ring in a bar a few years ago.  {Amazingly, I was able to recover it the following day.  I was far happier to receive the ring on that day than I was the day we were married.)

As it turned out, unlike my reaction to the ring, I felt far more relief than either joy or sadness. I was relieved to have the whole process over, to have a final outcome, to have a legal status that accurately reflects my life.

About an hour later, a few tears escaped.  That was helpful.  I felt better afterward.

---

Days later, my emotions are still mixed, but relief continues to dominate.  It's time to get on with life, to stop looking backward and instead look to the future.

A future and a life with someone new...