On Saturday at work, I ran into the male half of a married couple my husband and I knew. When I remarried, I invited them to my wedding, although they did not attend. Our kids were in the same classes and my husband coached youth athletics with the dad, while I volunteered at the holiday school parties with the mom. She stopped by my home just a few days before my husband died to offer her support. A few years later, we sat at the pool and I listened to her as she spoke about some marital disappointments. She shared the story of a college friend of hers who'd been widowed and then remarried and that gave me hope.
The dad is a successful and popular civic leader in our community. He knew about my foreclosure. So when we saw each other at the big box store where I work, I mentioned that I appreciated his kindness and tact in regard to that matter. I briefly explained about my divorce. He asked how the boys were doing. I inquired in kind and was taken aback when he told me that he and the wife had divorced in 2008. I experienced a range of reactions. Of course, some shock and sadness. But I was also a little suspect at his version of the story. I immediately wondered if his power and wealth contributed to the divorce. When I asked if he is dating, he admitted to seeing a woman who is the mom of one of his son's friends. Hmmm, I wondered...
The other reaction that I also felt immediately was "Finally, someone in our community who has also had to face a rough time in life!" My hardships have been difficult to face in part because of the insulated community in which I live. It is a charming, quaint town with little evident poverty. Mostly upper-middle class and above. Most women do not work outside the home even in today's day and age. When my second husband first came to visit me, he could not believe the number of luxury cars and SUVs being driven. A sale's clerk at the local Talbot's women's clothing store told me she has nicknamed our town "Mecca." Although I am sure I cannot be the only one facing financial problems that resulted in me having to sell my home, I have not known anyone personally in this position, except for my newly divorced friend. So along with my widowhood being very isolating, so too have been the other complications of my life - lack of family support, the divorce, etc.
The dad was buying three cartloads of household items and I wondered if he is redecorating because of a new level reached in his romantic relationship. I thought about all that this couple had faced together - they were teenage sweethearts and each supported the other throughout college. After school, they dealt with infertility, adoption, serious health problems and their share of aging parent issues. The mom is a few years older than I am. Dad got custody of the kids. My mind flashed to a scene from our kids' grade school days. The mom and I were picking up our children from school and I saw her oldest run into her waiting, open arms. They were smiling and laughing and I was so struck by the apparent love between them that that moment has remained etched in my mind all these years.
I know now that there is another mother out there hurting and in pain over a life she expected to have that didn't end up as planned. I cannot imagine her distress over not seeing and being with her children on a daily basis. My mind flashes to another image of her in the craft store as we shop for Halloween favors for our children's school parties. Her son is seated in the cart; another memory - the adoring look in her eyes as she brushed the hair off her other son's forehead in the bleachers at a little league baseball game.
I will have to call one of her closer friends to try and contact her, invite her to lunch. I will share my story of woe but offer to listen to hers and to try and comfort her in some small way.
I am almost ashamed to admit that this family's hardship has made me feel better. I know that I am not the only one in this land of Mecca that is experiencing tremendous loss and change. God help all of us middle-aged parents facing the tulmultuous changes brought on by death, divorce, financial hardship, illness and sandwich generation problems. Don't pass us by because we are living in a community where so many are fortunate and problems seem to be faced by so few.
Today I am grateful:
1. For seeing yellow school buses again.
2. For the way the shadows of the leaves were dancing across my comforter this morning.
3. For the lovely breeze ruffling the leaves on the trees outside in the warm sunlight.
4. For graham crackers with peanut butter.
5. For s'mores.