Last night, the kids and I ended up looking through old photo albums. My father has recently joined Facebook and we wanted to find some pics to post on his wall. Since he has been pretty much out of our lives for the past 20 years, that meant going back in time, and looking at wedding pictures and when the ex and I were first married.
It’s always a bittersweet journey to go down that road. At the time, it seemed like one of the best times of my life, but knowing what I do now, would I make the same choices? There is one photo of the wedding that screams out to me now. It is the traditional “You may kiss the bride” shot–and he is leaning down to kiss me—but the only part of his body touching me is his lips. Pretty much says it all. Deep down, I was never what he wanted, never what he truly desired. He knew he was making a mistake. He was soooo nervous that day, with sweat pouring down his forehead even though it was a mild September day.
It is painful to see the pictures of him holding our children as newborns. He was so happy and proud to be a father then. How did that translate to being able to walk away from them twenty years later? Sure, he’s involved in their lives, but he didn’t stay around to finish raising them. He’s not there for the day-to-day crises, the nuts and bolts of being a family. He’s more like an especially close uncle than a father. He got to pick and choose which parts of being a father he wanted.
I look at the young woman I was then and my heart breaks for her. She was so idealistic and optimistic about life. She believed that love could overcome anything. She expected the best from the people around her and trusted that they would always do the right thing.
If I’d had the given of hindsight all those years ago, would I make the same decisions? I don’t think I would. People say–well, then you wouldn’t have your three beautiful children. In my heart, I feel like these kids would have been mine anyway, they would have found their way to me no matter what choices I had made in life. In reality, I know that who they are is as much due to their father’s influences as mine. But I also feel that they deserved more. They’ve all come through the divorce okay, but who knows what scars it left deep down that will effect their own relationships? I was such a basket case when we first separated and their father was only looking out for himself by that point. One could argue that it was good that they had a stable family for as long as they did–but isn’t it somehow even a bigger betrayal, to think you have the perfect family and then have it explode all around you? I just don’t know.
If I’d had the gift of hindsight, I would know that that idealistic young woman deserved more. She deserved a man who loved her for all that she was, not someone who loved her the best he was able to muster because, frankly, she was better than the alternative. She deserved a man who was there for the long run, who was committed to his family for as long as they needed him, not for as long as he could stand it. She deserved honesty and respect. She deserved at least all of those things.