The Old Man On The Mountain

A View From the Backwoods of NH

The Ex

I called my sister the other day to wish her a happy birthday. We hadn’t spoken in a while, so she updated me on the family and what was new in her world. We spoke about the kids, our cousins, Uncle and Aunt (all that remains), when she mentioned to me that she’d had a “surprise” visit – my ex-wife and her sister. It seems they were in the area and wondered if it was OK to drop in for a “quick” visit. Though we had separated over five years earlier, and she’d only seen/spoken to the Ex a couple of times since then, being the ever-gracious hostess that my sister was and is, she said “sure”, even though she had things to do and places to go. She learned too late that there’s nothing “quick” about a visit from my Ex. Four hours later the visit ended and her day was shot.

When we separated, the only thing I said to friends and family about the Ex was that they should take her at face-value. Do not absently extend the same courtesies that they did when we were a couple, as things may have changed. That was it – nothing more or less. My sister had asked about how I would feel if she kept in touch with the Ex, and I told her I was ambivalent and that she would need to determine for herself what type of person the Ex was. The only thing she knew was that my two girls didn’t speak with their mother and that my son had initially come to live with me.

Sadly, I can’t say the same about the Ex and her interactions with her family/friends. About a year after we split, our Uncle (on her side) passed away. I spoke with the girls about going to the wake/funeral (since they live nearby), but both were kind of hesitant about going – unsure of how they would be received and not wanting a scene with their mother (my son had moved back and re-established his relationship). I assured them that things would be fine, but they were still hesitant. Since I couldn’t make it there, I sent flowers from the family expressing our condolences.

In retrospect I guess it was a good thing the girls didn’t go. I received a “thank you” card from the family (for the flowers), along with a note berating all of us for how we were treating “their cousin”. It was obvious from the note that the Ex had not painted a pretty picture of any of us and that we were pretty much “persona non grata”. I was disappointed that they had such little respect for us and hadn’t even given us the benefit of the doubt, so I can only imagine the tales of woe that the Ex had woven. I could accept this if it were only me that she’d trashed, but she’d trashed her children too, for her personal gain. And it’s that kind of action that sums up why the girls and I don’t speak with her.

To give you an idea of who my Ex-wife is, let me give you this analogy – You are part of a platoon (in my case, our family), inside the heart of (pick your war), out on patrol. The Ex is our point person, the one up front, our eyes and ears. It’s her responsibility to ensure our safety by informing us of what she sees and hears. Suddenly the enemy appears – and she has two choices – she can hide behind a grouping of brush and stay safe, while sacrificing us, or she can risk injury and/or death by notifying us of what she sees. My Ex – she dives behind the brush without hesitation. This was something that I had overlooked throughout most of my marriage, but something that the innocence of a child’s eyes could see and not forgive.

I had always put my family first, and would sacrifice anything for them. My worst nightmare involved my oldest daughter. In the dream, we were walking down the sidewalk when she began to run – she ran out into the street with me chasing her just as a car appeared at high speed. I woke up screaming when I’d realized that I would not reach her in time to save her – to this day that dream haunts me as the worst fear I’ve ever encountered. But I’ve had time to reflect and I see now what my children had seen all along, and I don’t blame them at all for how they act. The last time I saw my Ex was at my Mother’s funeral. She told me that I HAD to make the girls talk with her, just as I had so many times when we were married, that I once again had to be the peacemaker.

I explained two things to her that day – one, I don’t MAKE my children do anything. They’re adults, capable of making their own decisions and I respect that. Two, this was MY MOTHER’S FUNERAL, not the place to argue over HER personal inconveniences, and that she should show some respect, instead of being so self-centered. I’m sure she didn’t appreciate it, and I haven’t spoken with her since. As time has passed I’ve come to see just who she is, to see past what I once closed my eyes to. Do I hate her? Hanging on to hate is a terrible way to spend your life, so no, I don’t. As I said, I’m ambivalent – and I’m free.