Thirty years ago today, 3-30-87, Judge Kirkland, Seminole County’s official “hangin’ judge” said, “It’s over”– or words to that effect. He officially declared us divorced. Our nine year marriage was done, null and void, finis. The judge vaguely remembered me from me having testified in a few cases. He was considered Seminole’s toughest judge, but he was always nice to me. I had the feeling that he was curious about the divorce but he didn’t prolong the suspense by asking any questions and so in a matter of minutes the marriage that I thought was forever was officially declared kaput.
My wife didn’t show up for the hearing. I didn’t expect that she would. I was accompanied by a friend and witness. After court we went to one Sanford’s downtown eateries and had breakfast — eggs with biscuits and gravy made for an odd coda to the life-altering event of the morning.
The marriage ended but the relationship didn’t–and that’s what this blog is really about. It’s about my difficulty in giving up on the past — people and relationships. Other people seem to move on but I usually don’t. I could say it’s because I’m an only child and that in some sense I’ve felt lonely all of my life. I could also give it up to being codependent, and that’s true too. I also tend to be obsessive. I’m ruminative. I go over and over things in my mind, perpetually trying to fix the past. Obsessiveness is a type of problem solving gone awry. At least that’s what I tell my clients.
My wife and I have kept somewhat in touch over the years. Though I’ve only seen her in the flesh twice since 1992, we’ve exchanged cards and letters a couple of times a year every year. In 2003, she sold our 5-acre property out in the Black Hammock area and pointed her Dodge pickup truck west. She went all the way to Mexico and for a few months she wandered in the wilderness like the Israelites–but eventually she found her promised land. She loved Sedona but she settled in the Phoenix area. Or maybe she just ran out of money there. I’m not sure.
As time has gone on her twice a year letters have gotten shorter and vaguer — usually just a platitude or two peppered with Bible verses. They reveal nothing about her life. If she even has a phone, she’s given her number to absolutely nobody I know — not even her son. It’s not so much that she likes being mysterious, more like being elusive and difficult to understand or pin down.
The last time I saw her was Memorial Day weekend of 2001. Time had not been kind to her. The effects of heavy smoking and too many hours in the sun kind of took my breath away. I’m not sure why exactly but I thought she would always look great — somehow defying the effects of aging. At age 44 she was still one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen but by 53 her youth and looks were all but faded.
We spent over seven of our nine years together living in a dilapidated mobile home on acreage in the Black Hammock near Oviedo. In Florida, a hammock is high ground in the middle of a swamp. We lived there because my wife had horses. We had dogs and cats and chickens too. Several times a year I dream about that mobile home and our property out in the woods. Sometimes it looks like it did in reality but usually it’s surreal and dreamlike — generally bigger, sometimes a two story trailer. She’s hardly ever in the dream, mostly I’m waiting for her to come home. Many of the best memories of my rather long adult life are contained in the marriage and in that home.
In the ecology of dreamtime the beat up trailer is me — my consciousness. It’s her too. Its rooms and the land are the various parts of us. I keep dreaming about it because I keep trying to fix it — to put us back together again, to make sense out of that which is beyond comprehension. That’s what codependents try to do. God brought us together. Of that I am sure. That is a whole ‘nother story– but the improbability of us is quite impressive.
But my ex-wife is not the only MIA in my life. It drives me nuts when people are your friends for a season or two and then disappear. I should be used to it by now because it happens all the time. I have to remind myself that it’s not about me, its about them and their issues. Maybe I’m just too sentimental. I tend to want to hang on to friendships forever. It’s why I used to enjoy Facebook so much before it got consumed by political rancor. It probably has something to do with being an only child and having almost no surviving relatives — my stepson and his family out in California and a few cousins up in Ohio are about it.
There are folks I have called BFFs who I rarely hear from now. I have old home church friends who yammered on and on about how Christ’s Body is “family” who I also never hear from. After several decades I tracked down two of my closest buddies from the time I lived in New Mexico. I got their phone numbers from information and called them out of the blue. Neither could remember who I was — talk about deflating! I’m sure I think about the past waaay too much — certainly more than most–and I suppose that’s why the memory of those friendships are so alive in my thoughts. . . but obviously in their thoughts, not so much.
There is an old convention in newspaper journalism that when a piece is done “30” is scribbled at the end. It seems fitting.