Today is my ex-husband’s birthday; he would have been 64. I keep a daily journal and have been remembering him, remembering the people we were, our relationship, what went wrong, what went right and what I learned along the way.
I was 17 when we met. I was going out with his cousin and was introduced to him at a disco. He was shorter than his cousin and looked much younger and I partonized him quite a bit. When he asked me to dance I obliged, feeling I was doing him a favour. However, when we got onto the dance floor and I saw how good he was, I viewed him differently. We were married when I was 19, after our engagement had been broken off for a while when I found out he’d been sleeping one my friends. That kind of set the tone for the whole of our relationship.
We broke up for a while when my first child was less than 2 years old but got back together again amidst all sorts of promises. Then, when I was 5 months pregnant with our second child he was promoted and started working away from home. I physically became a single parent although emotionally I’d felt one for a long time. The ineveitable happened and he found someone else, we divorced and went our different ways. But we had children together and that changes everything. He was a man driven by principles, but aware of his shortcomings, was active within the Labour Party and a shop steward. We shared political beliefs but differed on how to express them. However, when it came to our children we made a pact to always do what we felt was best for them, not us, and agreed never to rubbish the other in front of them. We kept our bargain, difficult as it was at times.
Over the years I grew to love and respect him in new ways. He never reneged on any child maintenance payments, was always there at the end of a phone to talk to about the children, and took them at holiday times to give me a rest. His work took him all over the world for months at a time but he kept in touch and when his boys were born our family extended. Things that had driven me crazy during our marriage – “No wife of mine is going to work in a bar”, “You don’t know what you’re talking about, bonnie lass”, and “If you want to go out, I’ll take youi” – I realized were just his way of trying to ‘be a man’ in the culture of the day. His sense of duty and resposibility were later the very things I valued him for when around me my friends’ ex-husbands were petty and vindictive during and after their divorces.
Every Mothers’ Day I received a huge bouquet of flowers to thank me for our children and that continued for another 30 years after our divorce, right up until his death. He cheered me on while I struggled to get my first and post grad degrees and always called to see how I was getting on, particularly after my diagnosis of MG. However, he himself fell ill from working with asbestos and other substances. His illness wore him out and his family begged him to retire but true to his principles and work ethics, he carried on working until the end. He also had another reason for carrying on – if he died ‘in work’ then his widow got a lot more from his work insurance.
I wrote a poem just before his funeral and want to share it with you. He was never completely comfortable with ‘strong’ women and always found it difficult to express his emotions, so we were completely incompatible as lovers/spouses. But he was always there, in the background, offering support wherever he could, and I miss him.
The light has gone out early.
I thought I would have gone
first, but here I am
sitting in the dark, remembering.
He blew into me one day
like he was the edge of the wind
bringing new ideas
from the low rattle of a storm.
His laughter warmed me, like a room
filled with sunshine, but too soon
blown out with the light.
I shiver in the dark.