The Old Man On The Mountain

A View From the Backwoods of NH


The Old Man on the Mountain here, with some thoughts on a subject that some of you may have experienced, and some may be contemplating – divorce. There’s a funny cartoon (at least it’s funny to me ) about a couple standing at the Marriage License window at City Hall, with the caption “We’d like a learner’s permit”. And I remember my experience getting a marriage license – cheap and quick. Plunk down your cash, confirm you’ve both tested negative for VD and away you go. But you know, if there WAS a learner’s permit, then maybe there’d have been a manual with it – like the DMV – except the manual would inform you that as easy as it was to get a license, it will be the exact opposite to void it.

Someone once told me that you get three chances at marriage – once a fool, once for love and once for money. Well, I’ve used up the first two. At age 20, I was a fool that was married for 10 months, followed by 12 months of “waiting for the courts”. No kids, no real property, but my ex-Mother-in-Law told my Ex that she needed to file for alimony or find another place to live. The alimony was a funny part, since I’d found the Ex a job that paid more than mine, but the goal wasn’t to get money from me, no, it was to harass me. And even then, with a simple divorce, the cost was far more than anyone had warned me about.

Why’d I get married so young? Well, I’d always wanted to be a Dad – while others went on to college and planned out their professions, I wanted to start a family. I’d always read that if you work hard, you’ll succeed. And my Dad had never gone to college, yet he owned a house, two cars and had a family. He’d worked hard and I admired my Dad – if he could do it I could too.

So the second time I got married, I tried my best to make sure I avoided the pitfalls I’d experienced the first time and that my choice was well thought out – that I was sure I knew what I was doing. And that the girl I asked agreed with me that divorce was not an option – that we would always work things out. Something that two people in love can agree to without trepidation, not realizing that time takes it’s toll, whether you want it to or not. What I hadn’t counted on was one side quitting – because just as it takes two to fight (that’s what Mom used to tell me as a kid), it also takes two to work things out. Otherwise, it’s just “going through the motions” – usually done for appearances – so as to “appear” to care.

They say love is blind, but I don’t agree. To me, it’s trust that is blind – love just seems to have poor eyesight. Trust makes you overlook the obvious – well, at least obvious to almost everyone else. And only in the end did I learn that most times you just don’t ask the right questions when searching for answers. Maybe you ask the question “Don’t you want xxx?” with xxx meaning love, or happiness, or whatever you need it to mean. Sitting in therapy (the final resort) that’s what the therapist asked my EX – with her head bobbing up and down like one of those dogs on the back deck of an old person’s car. But what the therapist should have asked is “Are you willing to work for xxx?”.

I mean, c’mon, asking “don’t you want” will always elicit a “yes” answer to anything positive and a “no” answer to anything negative. But an “are you willing to work for” question will get right to the heart of the matter. Unfortunately for me, regardless of how the question was asked, my Ex had quit years before – just passing time until something better came along, taking all that she could while giving back the least she could to keep the status quo. So “working things out” was no longer an option, because you can’t work things out when only one side wants to work.

I stayed as long as I could, 28 years, until my last child could legally leave if he chose to do so. Sure, I could have left earlier, but it wasn’t my kid’s fault that I had chosen poorly. And knowing who she was, there was no way that I’d leave my kids in her custody. Hell, I had to give up business travel because even a week away caused major strife. So once again, it was on to divorce court. And this is where the manual would have been extremely useful. Because nothing that I’d experienced in life prepared me for what came next. I always thought that the movie “The War of the Roses” was a fictitious comedy – that’s what I get for thinking. I’ll be back at some point to describe the Massachusetts Family Court from my perspective – but I’ve got to warn you, it makes Steven King read like a Disney novel.