Interesting in a way that, as an observer, I would say, “Huh, I didn’t see that coming,” but I wasn’t an observer, I was the one having the emotions, so instead of being intrigued, I was momentarily overwhelmed.
Here’s the situation…
My ex-in-laws showed up at graduation yesterday. They traveled here together, even though they have been divorced since the year that I married their son.
She and I had been close in some ways, not so much in others. She’s a little batshit crazy. I haven’t thought much about missing her or her presence in my life. It’s been easier to write her off as a loon and forget that there was ever any connection between us.
He and I were very close, even in the early years after the divorce. Then, once, he mentioned my (other) blog and inquired if I thought it might be hurtful to the boys. Since shutting down that blog was my ex’s raison d’etre, I figured dad took his side and considered me to be the horrible, emotionally abusive, bad guy, that his son portrayed me as.
Then, last year, in a desperate attempt to get my ex to do right by his children and help with their medical bills (which are astronomical) I wrote dad and begged for his assistance – in any way, shape, or form. His response…
It hurt, it was rude, it felt just like the Silent Treatment that my ex has given me for the last year and a half. I felt, that as the mother of his grandchildren, I at least deserved a “Thanks but no thanks because you, HDD, are a monster.”
But, it gave me another place to lay my indignation, frustration, and sadness for my boys.
As you can imagine, the prospect of seeing them yesterday at my son’s Big Day, was a bit nerve-wracking. I already had all of these emotions going about my baby graduating from High School, the end of an era, seeing my ex and his new family and wishing that somehow we could all get along for the boys’ sake and then there was the question of “How will his parents treat me?”
There was also the question of “How will I treat them?”
I walked into the auditorium determined to maintain my composure and be gracious, if given the opportunity, for the sake of the children. I was striving to be the bigger person and not ignore them as they had ignored me. And I was also prepared to be persona non grata yet maintain my joy for Greg.
After the ceremony, we all stood outside socializing (separately, of course) and just as things were starting to wind down and I had fallen into a conversation with friends who unknowingly were helping me keep my feet on the ground (thank you T and D), the ex-in-laws approached.
Oh. Holy. Fuck.
And suddenly, I was wrapped in a huge bear hug with dad and as self-righteously angry as I wanted to be, I felt myself hugging him back so very tightly. I could actually feel my guard letting down, could feel the physical and mental shedding of the armor.
And it felt really good.
When mom finally got there, I was able to turn and sincerely tell her how happy I was to see her.
I wasn’t the bad guy. I wasn’t going to be ostracized. I didn’t have to hang onto my anger and hurt.
What I felt was relief. And love. And compassion for these two kind human beings who are struggling to move through the world just as the rest of us are.
They are doing the very best that they can and I can’t imagine that their position is a comfortable one. Talk about being in the middle.
Their son, to whom their loyalties must lie. Their new daughter-in-law (the third they’ve had to adjust to) who is really, from their perspective, not part of the problem and is just this young girl who walked into a hornet’s nest and started having children so then she is also the mother of their grandchildren.
There are the two children (theirs) who are adorable and innocent and ignorant of the shit show. Then, there are my two children, who have been emotionally beaten to a pulp throughout the disintegration of their parents’ relationship. And, Bobby, my child who they tried to make their child, who honestly just wants a place to call home.
And the last person caught in the awkwardness of the moment was MCB, who, as always, handled the entire thing with grace. His well-mannered upbringing showed in everything from his firm handshake with dad to his bow tie (which, yes, he tied himself.)
So these lovely people, older people, people who deserve a little peace in the twilight of their lives, are having to navigate waters that none of us more directly involved have been able to do successfully.
And they handled it like champs. Which gave me pause, then the presence of mind to put on my big girl panties, take the high road, and just show a little love and a lot of appreciation.
It was a big lesson and an emotional upheaval and a gift.