Friday, January 27, 2012

Numb and puzzling grief

This is hard to write, because I'm not sure how I feel. Joel, my ex-husband, died unexpectedly today. He'd been in a wheelchair for years and was not in good health, but there had been no decline lately. My chldren would have told me. For years I've known that I'd outlive him and wondered how I'd feel when he died. We've been divorced thirty years, and the last two years we were together he was pretty cruel to me in emotional terms. But I find all that vanished from my mind. I have cried, not wrenching huge sobs but tears that keep creeping down my cheeks. I am grieving for all that he missed in life--our children, our grandchildren, and the wonderful family life we have--and for a man that I once loved a lot and had a wonderful time with. Now grown, my chldren have not been close to their father, though they have great childhood memories of him. He was a terrific father to young children and brought a lot of fun into their lives. So the ones I've talked to are like me--sad but puzzled about how to feel. They will go to whatever kind of service is held in California, but they have agreed to go as a foursome, without families.
Joel and I have not been close for many years, not one of those divorces where you keep in touch. When Jordan married, the minister asked delicately how mom and dad get along, and Jordan said, "They're cordial." That's about it. We saw each other at weddings. When our oldest married in 2000, the whole wedding party was on a catamarand cruise off Grand Cayman, and somehow Joel and I sat by ourselves and talked for an hour, talking about the past and people we knew. I said I was often tempted to email him with news of those people, especially deaths, and he said he wished I would. But it never happened. The last time I saw him or had any contact was 2004 when our youngest married and he raised a nice toast to me for the way I'd raised our children (it made me feel a bit like the nanny). Yes, it was cordial, but there was nothing to bind us together anymore. He had chosen a lifestyle that was foreign to me, and my career has blossomed in directions it never took while we were married. For him, there was a second wife and another child, a girl of whom I've always been fond; for me, one man that mattered and some that didn't, and now a wonderful personal and professional life. I can't and won't play the grieving widow. And yet I'm puzzled.
I have this strong feeling that there should be a Fort Worth obituary--even today people ask me how Joel is, and I always say that my kids haven't told me there was any change. And there are people I feel should know. I have notified some personal friends, but the rest is up to Joel's wife and, perhaps my children. I have to remember my place (or non-place) in this.
And yet I grieve and shed tears.

6 comments:

Edith Maxwell said...

Judy, thank you for sharing your feelings with us, the universe out here.

I can imagine feeling similarly when I might hear the news of my ex-husband's passing (although from all accounts he is hearty and thriving). We shared love, life, and parenting with these men. That is something to grieve the passing of, and maybe it's never truly over until that man leaves this earth.

Hugs to you.

Judy Alter said...

Thanks, Edith. You're right. We shared a lot and there are ties that bind. I'm grateful tonight for my children.

Polly said...

Maybe you're sad for what could have been, Judy. My parents divorced when I was 12, and I think my mother had a live-long love/hate relationship with the memories. Nice that you can articulate your feelings, and they aren't bitter. Hers were.

Judy Alter said...

Thanks, Polly. No, I'm concentrating on the good memories. Before things wemt south, we had some wonderful times.

Maddie James said...

Hi Judy. I am truly sorry for your loss. Prayers for you and your children... I think numb and puzzled is quite appropriate. Thinking about you....

Judy Alter said...

Maddie James, thanks. yes, it is puzzling, but I'm moving on.