Many years ago, when I was young, naïve and very foolish, I fell deeply and completely in love with a wonderful girl. We were 20 and 18 when we married. We had little idea of what it took to make a life, but we willingly took our chances and started on the path. We played the roles that we thought society demanded of us. We looked to others for examples and followed as best we could, with little instruction and less introspection of what we really wanted.
I was willing to sacrifice whatever it took to make our marriage work. I set aside my family, my education, my friends in order to devote myself to us. My goals for future career had to change to fit the circumstances and I made the most of what I was able to do at the time. All that mattered to me was our love and our future together.
I worked hard at the opportunity at work that was available and advanced as far as I was allowed to. We had two daughters and we bought a house and worked to make it our home. I thought that we had done well to establish ourselves and that we had a plan for the future.
All that fell apart when my wife asked me to leave our home so that she would have time to sort out her thoughts and feelings. I was apparently oblivious to her unhappiness with our life together. I thought all was right with the world, but not so for her. We had had no discussions about this, so it was a surprise to me. I was dazed and confused when I moved in with my folks temporarily. During that time, I offered to go to counseling with her, but she said that I could go if I wanted, but she didn't need or want it. She was visiting a psychiatrist at the time. Within a few weeks, she had filed for divorce. I was dumbfounded and very hurt and confused by this. I offered to sleep in the basement while we worked out any problems, but she wanted me out of her life. I talked to her psychiatrist and he told me that I couldn't make her love me, no matter how hard I tried. When I talked to her about that, she told me that she had never really loved me, but that I was a way to get away from her father. She told me that I was a good husband and a good father but she couldn't live with me any more. When she told me that, it hit like a ton of bricks. I was completely destroyed. I loved her with all my soul and she didn't want me in her life any more. Where was I to go and what was I to do?
We were married 13 years when the divorce was granted. I could have fought and stalled but I wanted her to be happy and there was a burning hope deep inside that we might someday reconcile. I was an empty shell for a long time after that. It felt like my whole life had fallen apart. I had lost the love of my life, my daughters, my home, my dogs – everything I had worked for. I tried very hard to keep contact with the girls steady after that so they would know that I still loved them and that they were not involved in the problem. All direction was gone from my life at that time – my goals and efforts had been so finely focused on our marriage and our future and now I had to refocus on something else. I focused on the girls and on my family who gave me much support during those difficult years.
All of a sudden my career and advancement wasn't of such major importance without someone to share the gains. I had a few years of wandering and waiting and enduring the loneliness and despair to pass through. Eventually, I bought a townhouse and decorated it, but got little satisfaction from that. When Mom had her larynx removed due to throat cancer, I moved home with her and Dad to give as much help as I could. I was able to focus on helping them. After she adapted to this loss and she and dad seemed to be getting along pretty well, I quit work and traveled about the country to help me see things more clearly. It helped me become more content with myself and with what life had brought to me. I became closer to my daughters during this time. After the trip, I settled down at home with mom and dad and work. After mom died, my focus switched to my father. We became very close friends, leaning on each other for support and counsel. We took some trips together and watched out for each other.
Dad died this year and I find myself alone again. My daughters have become my friends, but they have married and moved away. My sisters and brother are very close friends and we get together every week. I retired early last year, partly to help dad as his health was slipping. I also thought we might be able to get in a few more trips before his health failed completely. His death came quickly and with a minimum of pain to him. Now I have the daunting challenge of refocusing on something else. I'm not sure yet upon what or who to focus, but I'm hopeful that time will provide an answer. Right now I know that I face some time of despair and loneliness again.
I have my family, who love me, to lean on and that helps when the anguish builds up inside, but it doesn't fill that empty kernel down deep inside that yearns to share. In my quest for self, I had learned that doing for others and giving to others gave me the most joy. I didn't need wealth or power or “things” to make me happy – I needed to share myself with someone who cared. Seeing the joy I could bring to a loved one gave me the greatest pleasure. This is what I search for in my life – to help my loved ones when I can and to bring them joy.
I also found out that you can't destroy love. Once you really love someone, you can't just turn it off. No matter what they do, you still love them. I still love all the people I have ever loved. I now try to limit my love to people that I trust – this helps avoid the deep pain when the people you love turn away.
They say that time heals all wounds, but I'm not sure about that. With time, wounds will build up some pretty tough scar tissue, but the memory and the scar of the wound is always there.