Divorce and the end of all things

The sun

Ten years ago today my parents’ marriage ended. The divorce was finalized months later, but today is the day my dad left suddenly and unexpectedly. I didn’t notice that today was that day until a friend emailed me this afternoon. She’s getting divorced too. That’s when I noticed the date and was like, Oh, right, October 9th. It must be National Divorce Day or something.

I’ve passed through many stages of adulthood. In my early twenties there was the Oh, wow, my friends are getting married! stage. Then came the Oh, wow, my friends are having kids! period. Now we seem to have entered the Oh, wow my friends are getting divorced! period. I’m not sure what stages will follow. Probably the Oh, wow, my friends are getting remarried! period, the Oh, wow, my friends are grandparents! period, and eventually the Oh, wow, my friends are dying! period. That’s a lot of exclamation points for all those periods.

I have at least three friends right now who are divorced or in the process of divorcing, plus one who just ended a serious, we-live-together, relationship. It’s sad, even if people break up for the right reasons. The divorce that broke my heart the most happened last year between two friends from high school with two little kids. I still remember how Guy would tease Gal in Mrs. Heimerdinger’s 6th period English class. How Gal went to the prom with someone else. How Guy and Gal got together in college. How they married when we’d fallen out of touch and how we got back in touch again after Facebook was invented. Guy and Gal would organize barbeques and Christmas cookie exchanges with friends. I’d come and feel like I had real friends, a real community. Knowing I had a long drive home after one gathering, Guy and Gal invited me to stay at their place for dinner. Kiddo sat in my lap and pointed to animals in a picture book, sounding out newly learned names in babyspeak. We ate sweet potato fries for dinner, all of us around the table, and it felt like a home. But that home doesn’t exist anymore.

I don’t know quite what to make of it, other than some things can be beautiful and precious because they don’t last forever. That nothing lasts forever, not people or relationships or even the planet where we act out all these dramas. Some day the sun will burn out and we’ll be left in the dark, but it did burn bright and beautifully for awhile, and maybe that’s all we can ask for.

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  1. Katherine says

    As someone who divorced after 23 years of marriage, and who surprised all my friends by doing so, I think I understand how you feel. Actually, I do understand as I have had friends who divorced who were the last people I expected would. And for friends, I think it’s often more painful than we think and we don’t really talk about that. So I felt bad about my friends who were let down, and still do 12 years later. And some of them have never forgiven me, although they weren’t in my marriage. You see, I was married to a very nice man. Nothing lasts forever, it’s true, but we are human, and so we often wish things would. Lovely post, thank you.

  2. Mom says

    Thank you for the phone call on the anniversary. We can now laugh at some of the bizarre things that happened during the first few days after being told where to find the farewell manuscript in the basement. Oh, and some of the items taken — like my hair dryer! We are survivors!!!! We know how to survive a catastrophe!

  3. Sherry says

    Moving and timely post. I’ve been married 34 years to a very tolerable fellow but I have frequently thought of “changing my status”. When we make it through the rough spots, I’m always glad we did.

  4. Susan McConnell says

    Very thoughtful post. I’ve been through two divorces and almost all my friends (one exception) have been divorced at LEAST once. None of us, I think, got married thinking that we’d end up divorcing. Life is crap sometimes.

  5. says

    My cousin divorced his wife. He is the only one in the family who is divorced. People will make snide remarks like…”oh and he left his wife” in the same way you would say “Oh he murdered someone.” Keep in mind they are still saying this even though they divorced in the 90s. On the flip side, he and his ex have a very amicable relationship now. The process of getting there was probably a long one…however its their business and not mine. However, sometimes splits need to happen to live healthier lives. I guess it is a part of living.

  6. maggie says

    @Mom – I was going to say “how lucky you are to have such a talented, beautiful daughter as Jennette!” But then I realized that luck probably had little to do with it, and that congratulations are in order to you for doing such a fantastic job of raising her!

  7. says

    Love this post, Jennette. I was divorced in 2008 (after almost 10 years) and remarried in 2010. I often think about the Zen story of the assistant who broke his master’s favorite cup and was terrified to tell him. But when he found out, the master said, “The cup was always broken.” Nothing is perfect, ever. We all just do the best we can and make the best of the gifts we have, for however long they last. Thanks for sharing this beautiful piece of writing.

  8. Deb says

    Love your conclusion. It really resonates with me, especially now that I’m 61. Brought tears to my eyes. Thank you, Jennette. <3

  9. says

    Divorces made me sad. I’m a firm believer in “Happily Ever After,” and a divorce ends all that. But sometimes I know divorce is necessary and a valid alternative to trying to continue to live together. And I know happiness can arise again after divorce, but it takes a long time I fear.
    Great blog Jennette.

  10. says

    Well, I’m helping to counteract the sadness of October 9–my husband and I got married on October 9, 2011, after almost a decade together. And we’re really happy! Thanks for sharing such a moving story. My parents are still together, but my brother and I wish they would have divorced a long time ago because they’re absolutely miserbale together. I have a hard time even acknowledging their wedding anniversary, knowing it’s not really anything to celebrate. So, divorce sucks, but most of the time it’s better than trying to save a relationship that can’t be saved.

  11. Gal says

    There’s still a home here, Jennetti. Coming from a divorced family, when I got married divorce was never an option. But then shit you never ever conceived of or thought in a million years could happen to you happens, and the relationship is broken. And then you agonize over what would be best for the kids and come to the second hardest realization you have to make in your life and file for divorce. And then you work like hell to make sure that your kids still feel loved- we’re lucky they’re too young to think it was their fault or really even remember a time when it wasn’t Mommy’s house and Daddy’s house. Ideal? No. But the best of the pretty crappy alternatives available.


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