August 5, 2016

A Day That Will Never Come…

Category: News — admin @ 6:00 pm

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And now, because you have known madness and despair, and because you will
grow desperate again before you come to evening, we who have stormed the
ramparts of the furious earth and been hurled back, we who have been maddened
by the unknowable and bitter mystery of love, …and savored all of life, the
tumult, pain, and frenzy, and now sit quietly by our windows watching all
that henceforth never more shall touch us – we call upon you to take heart,
for we can swear to you that these things pass.

—Thomas Wolfe
___________________

Well, it’s been a little more than nine years since my first blog was posted, back in 2007. Nine years, and the journey has twisted and turned in ways I could never have imagined or foreseen. I try to stop and take stock once in a while. And I’ve written about it, a lot at first, then more sporadically as the months and years rolled on. If you go dig around in some of those early blogs, it won’t take you long to figure out what was going on. The catalyst, the event that pushed me out, that made me write my voice for the first time ever, in my life. The trigger. My marriage exploded, and my world blew up.

It was a brutal and bitter place to find my writing voice. I guess you don’t get to choose when something happens organically on its own like that. It just is what it is, and gets here when it gets here. And I hunkered down in those early years, and spoke from deep pits of darkness and pain such as I had never seen before and have not seen since.

And I muddled on through, those first few months. Ellen moved to a faraway city, way out west. I stumbled along at home. And that first summer, she filed the divorce papers from where she was. I didn’t fight anything. I signed where I needed to sign and sent the papers back. And I will say this. It was a numbing and painful time. But through all that, our divorce could not have been more amicable than it was. We never even hired any lawyers at all. Just signed an agreement written up by an attorney friend of mine. We listed her stuff, and listed mine. Before leaving, she lugged in some big old tubs and loaded them with her things and I carried the tubs out to the garage and stacked them there against the wall. And there they remain, and I got no problem with any of all that. There were a few pieces of furniture, too, that stayed. And I was OK with that as well. It was pretty strange, how relaxed it all came down in some ways, when I stop and look back at it now.

The divorce got finalized that fall, sometime in November, if I remember right. It was kind of funny how that happened. From here, anyway, it was. Back then, it wasn’t. I had gotten the official notice. On such and such a day, at 4:30 my time, the judge would call me from the bench. And we’d go through with the hearing. I dreaded the moment, but still, you just walk forward in a time like that. That’s all you can do. The day came. 4:30 came. No phone call. Then it was closing time, 5:00. I got into my truck and headed for home. Over the mountain. And as I approached the little town of White Horse, sure enough, my cell phone rang. Blocked number, I couldn’t see where it was coming from. I answered. Hello.

An authoritative female voice. “Is this Ira Wagler?” I hedged. Depends on who’s asking. “This is Judge (I don’t remember her name),” she said. “Is this Ira Wagler? Please identify yourself.” I was done hedging. It is, I said. I was driving right by the fire station, so I pulled in and parked. And we proceeded right on with the hearing. I answered a few questions, and I heard Ellen’s voice answering the same questions on the other end. It was all pretty laid back. And after ten minutes or so, the Judge was done. “I hereby declare you divorced,” she proclaimed. And then it was over. I hung up and just sat there for a moment.

It felt so very strange. I remember thinking. I’m divorced. Then, before driving on, I called my brother Steve. I just got divorced in the parking lot of the White Horse Fire Station, I told him. Steve had known it was coming, but he was just silent for a moment. He said something, then, I don’t remember what. And I told him. I’m sure it’s probably the first time in history that anyone got divorced in the parking lot of a fire station. We both chuckled. It was funny, when you thought about it. And then I drove on out toward home.

And the months moved on. I wrote and wrote. And raged and raged, once in a while. Mostly, it was rage against the pain that life is, so often. One thing I never, never did. I never blamed Ellen for the failure of our marriage any more than I blamed myself. It wasn’t her fault, any more than it was mine. Had I been the man I should have been, a whole lot of crap would likely never have happened. Not that it does much good to say that from here and now. But still. That’s how I always felt, in my heart.

And we never communicated much those first few years, Ellen and me. Once in a while, a strained email about some logistical thing. And when I settled on our house, then we communicated some, too. I got the house appraised, then remortgaged. And I bought out her half of the equity that was there. There weren’t a whole lot of pangs in me about all that. Some, sure. It was so final, so irrevocable, seemed like. With every step like that, the separation just got that much more firm, more deeply poured in concrete. But mostly, it all went well.

And I won’t pretend otherwise. The ghosts of who we were lurked there in the old brick house we had shared as our home. I stayed rooted there, because I was too stubborn to get pushed out by the memories of what had been, or the hauntings of what might have been. So now and then, I wrestled with the ghosts, when they came. Go away, I told them. Leave me alone. And mostly, they did. But sometimes they returned with a vengeance, and the battle started all over again. That’s just how it was.

The years just kind of slide together, here, in my memory. I can’t quite remember the dates of what happened when. Anyway, it wasn’t all that long after Ellen moved out west that the word trickled back. She’s dating some guy she met, there. About my age, the man was. His name was Tim. I brooded a good bit when I heard that. Still, you just keep walking. And I will say. I never, never blamed Tim for anything. He was just a guy who came wandering along long after me and my ex-wife had blown up our marriage. I always figured he’s probably a pretty likable man. But still…but still.

And I remember the turmoil inside me when I heard. Ellen and Tim were engaged. They were going to get married in July of 2010, if I remember right. That was the summer I was writing my book. So there was a lot going on. Still, as the date approached, I brooded a good bit. It wasn’t right, that I sat here all alone, while she went gallivanting around, and now she’s getting married again. That’s the concept that was so strange. From where we both came from, you just didn’t see such a thing. No divorce. And for sure, no divorce and remarriage. And the ghosts kept pushing themselves forward, into my mind. There she was, way out there. And here I was, back where our future dreams together had been launched, not all that many years ago. I brooded and drank and brooded and wrote. How a book ever came out of me that summer is more than a miracle.

The date approached, her new wedding date, I mean. And as it got close, I had to get out of the house. That Friday, the day before, I boarded Big Blue and headed west to Daviess, the land of my father’s blood. There was a little gathering going on that I figured to attend. Some old historic Amish house in Daviess was going to be torn down soon. And that Saturday, the place was open to all who wanted to walk through one last time. The house had been in my blood lineage, on my mother’s side, I think. Anyway, I just figured. Go hit the road and drive. Maybe you can get your head cleared.

It was a real good trip, more than I could ever have hoped for. I connected with the Freundschaft that Saturday, and hung out with friends and relatives. I thought of it now and then, but only fleetingly. Ellen is getting married this afternoon. Overall, it went better than I had dared to hope it would. And the next morning, early, I headed on back east toward home.

I got back late that afternoon. And I walked into my home. And it was one of the strangest things I have ever felt. The ghosts were gone. There was no vestige, no hint of their presence. Whatever had ever existed between Ellen and me, that time was past, now. It was so clear. Now she belonged to another man. Coming from where I came from, this was a very strange place to be. But there I was. And since that day, the ghosts of our pasts, Ellen’s and mine, have never returned. That’s not saying Billy the Ghost isn’t around. He might be, even though the tenant hasn’t heard him in a while, now. But he’s not associated with any of all that. If he’s there, he’s there for his own reasons.

And sometime later that year, Anne Marie began the last leg of her long journey home. And sometime in the spring of 2011, I think it was, Ellen flew in to see her good friend and say good-bye. We spoke over the phone a few times, leading up to her trip back. And she told me. “I want to come and spend time with Anne Marie while she’s still here, and we can still talk. When she passes, I won’t be coming to the funeral.” And we planned to meet, Ellen and me, while she was around. She needed to pick up a few things from my house, and she also asked me. Would I consider giving her the Bosch Mixer that my Dad had given to us as a wedding present? She sure could use it, for her own cooking.

Sure, I said. (And yes, I know what a Bosch Mixer is. It doesn’t matter.) You can have it. I’ll never, never use it. And we arranged a time, one evening after work, that she would come around and pick it up. I went straight home from work that afternoon, and waited. And soon, a little SUV zipped into my drive. I looked out and watched as Ellen got out and walked up to my house. I opened the door, and we hugged a little awkwardly.

She sat at the kitchen table, and I stood and leaned against the sink. And we talked. We were both a little nervous, of course we were. But we chatted right along. My book was just coming out that June, so she had all kinds of questions about what it had taken to write it. She knew from our past that writing a book had been one of those hopeless dreams I figured would never happen. So she knew how important it was to me. And we talked along about it, as I dragged out the Bosch. We packed the Mixer and a bunch of attachments into a sturdy cardboard shipping box she had brought. She would UPS it back to her home out west.

Since that time, I think, Ellen and I have looked after each other and cared for each other about as much as two people coming from where we came from could have. We emailed briefly now and then, about this and that. When Anne Marie passed away, I immediately called her. And we grieved together and talked about our memories of our friend.

And from that time, I’ve always said, pretty much. I don’t mind talking to Ellen and even seeing her here and there. I would be OK if I randomly ran into her and her husband, Tim. I’d be good with that, as long as I wasn’t expecting it. But then I always poured a little bit of concrete. I will not deliberately go to a place where I know they both would be. A day like that is a day that will never come.

And time drifted on. Two years ago, Mom passed away. And last year, Ellen’s father, Adin, died. We communicated both times. She contacted me before Mom’s funeral. And she told me. “Back when we separated, you told me you didn’t want to go alone to your Mother’s funeral. I promised then that I would come and go with you. Do you need me to?” I was deeply touched that she remembered. But I told her. I’m OK. Janice will be there, and she can walk beside me. Thank you for remembering.

And when Adin passed last September, I called her. And we simply spoke for a few minutes. I remember how you tried hard, so hard, to reach your Dad, I said. And he never would let you. He always rejected you. I never forgot how that was. And we grieved, there, for a few minutes, at the tragedy of all we had seen together. And we cried a little bit together, too.

And that was how things stood, back last November when I went into the hospital for what was to be a routine, one-day procedure. The night before, I got a call from Ellen. Somehow she had heard about it. Oh, it’s OK, I told her. I got some issues. But I’m not afraid of whatever will come at me. That was a mouthful. I had no idea of what was about to come at me. Over the next ten days, I found out. I was right about one thing, though. I never was afraid, going into any of it.

Ellen texted me a few times, there in those ten days I was in the hospital. And I always talked back about where I was. She was a nurse. And she cared that I was getting through and getting better. And then I got out. And all of life looked a whole lot different than it had before. I will walk forward into this new place, I said to myself. It’s a beautiful thing, all of life. And it’s a beautiful thing, to walk free through it.

It’s been a different road, since that time. One of the first things I did was cut out unnecessary noise. You come at me harsh, you come at me in a bad way and threaten me, I just cut you off, and all the noise and fuss you’re making. I don’t have to listen to a negative vibe. That was a new free little path for me. And life moved on, like it always does. I looked forward to it, and walked forward into it. Mostly, anyway.

And sometime earlier this year, I don’t remember when exactly, I got the usual invite from my brother-in-law, Paul Yutzy. Well, I guess he’s my ex brother-in-law, now. He’s Ellen’s older brother. We have remained close friends, through all the years of all the crap that me and his sister went through. After getting through such a thing, there’s not a whole lot out there that’s gonna make you see each other any different than you always did. He’s my friend. And he’s a good man.

And this year, the invitation rolled in like it always does. Paul’s White Party, in July. It happens out on his patio deck every year. The formal tables set up. He cooks up a great feast. And all the guests dress up in white. This year, I looked at the invitation. All other years, I was all ambivalent in my response. Maybe I’ll make it. Paul and I both knew I had no intention of showing up. That’s how it always was before. But not this year.

This year, the invite came. And this year, I looked at it in a way I never had before. Yes. I will do this. A White Party. I can wear my white pants, a white shirt, and my seersucker jacket. And my little white hat. I think that would work out just fine. This is the new me. Now, I will go to places like Paul’s White Party. That’s what I thought to myself, all excited and confident.

And I told Paul. I’m coming, this year, for the first time ever. I’m excited about it. I think he was a little surprised. But he didn’t let on. “Great,” he said. And that’s how we left it, early on. But then, a few weeks later, he had something to tell me.

I don’t remember if he called me, or just sent me a message. It’s not that important, either way. But somehow, he told me. “Ellen wants to come for the White Party this year. She and Tim are going to be here. Are you OK with that?”

And right there it was. The day I had told myself would never come. I would not walk deliberately into a place where I knew my ex-wife and her husband would be. It wasn’t something I got showed how to do, growing up. It was always the outside English people who got caught up in traps like that. And I remember hearing of such a thing here and there, and wondering how it could be. How can any former husband and wife be at the same place in peace, especially when a new spouse is right there, too? I’ve always wondered. And I’ve always thought. That’s for those people to figure out. It’s not me.

But now, it was me.

And I wrote back to Paul. I don’t have a problem with that. I plan to be there. And that’s how we left it as the date slowly drifted in and came at us.

The party was in late July. And as the day approached, I got to thinking. It might be real hot that evening, too hot for a suit coat. And then the week arrived. And man, was it ever hot all week. The sun scorched down every day, and the hottest temps of the week were forecast for Saturday afternoon. And then the day arrived.

It felt so strange, walking up to a new door like that. I felt no stress at all, and no flashbacks came at me all week. The actual morning dawned, and the day crept by. And by four I was dressed and ready. White pants, seersucker shirt, white hat. And Big Blue and I cruised on up north toward Lebanon and Paul’s big mansion.

I pulled in right at five and parked. I was a good bit early. I had planned it that way. I couldn’t stay late, because of other plans. So I figured to get there early and get some visiting done. I walked into the garage, where Paul greeted me. I’m early, I said. “That’s totally all right,” he said. I turned toward the house. And she came walking through the foyer and out into the garage. She was smiling.

It was Ellen. The woman I had married almost precisely sixteen years ago as I write this. It’s been nine years since it all blew up, and we’ve both aged a bit. I’ve aged the most, of course. I’m old, and gray-haired now. Gray-bearded, too. But she was still as beautiful as ever. Her smile was exactly as I remembered it. She greeted me, and her voice was the same, too. I smiled and spoke back. We walked to each other, and we hugged each other hard.

And it seemed like it all washed away from both of us in that moment. The horror and the hurt and all the pain and darkness of long ago. I swore back when it happened that the pain of it would sear me inside forever. And in a sense, I guess it’s always there somehow. It bubbles up now and then in the sadness of all the memories, and all that was lost. But you can reach a place where you look back and realize you have grown beyond any point you ever thought you could have. And you can walk calmly through a new door as it opens, in a day you swore would never come.

It all seems so strange, but that’s how it is. I can tell you that, from where I’ve been.

We chatted for a minute, then walked into the house. In the kitchen, Malinda was bustling about with two helpers, preparing the vast feast that would be served outside, later, on white tablecloths. I’m early, I told her. She smiled and welcomed me. Ellen and I sat at the table, then. I kept glancing around. “Oh,” she said. “Tim is upstairs, changing. He’ll be down in a few minutes.” And we just chatted along and caught up until I saw the man approaching from across the room. We are Facebook friends, so I recognized him. Tim. Ellen’s husband.

I stood and held out my hand. He gripped it hard. We looked each other in the eye and smiled. I’m happy to finally meet you, I said. “Same here,” he said. And he sat with us, and the three of us just talked about a lot of things. I told them about my hospital stay, and my heart, and how I’ll never be afraid again. And when Ellen wandered away for a few minutes, Tim told me almost shyly. He’d read my book, and he liked to read my blogs. I thanked him for taking the time. I’m always honored, I said.

And soon the other guests began trickling in. I walked about, greeting the people I knew and introducing myself to those I didn’t. When Ellen came around, I introduced her, too. This is my ex-wife, Ellen. Some people looked startled, but mostly everyone seemed very OK with everything.

The evening came at us, then. As we were getting seated, Ellen asked me. “Would you like to sit with us?” I hadn’t really thought about it, but I accepted. Yes, I’d like that very much. And we sat and ate together, the three of us. Me and Ellen and Tim.

Paul’s White Party is a big, big deal. He and Malinda had prepared an enormous and delectable feast. Five or six courses, I can’t remember. Salad, then soup. Then the main dishes, which included grilled salmon, lamb chops, and steak. The food was beyond delicious, the wine robustly red. And sitting right there, I sinned grievously again, with my feasting.

The hours wore on, and we were comfortable and relaxed. Right at eight, I told Ellen. I need to leave now. And I told her the reasons why. She understood, and Tim did, too. I stood and he reached over, and we gripped hands again. I wished him well. And then Ellen asked. “Can I walk you to your truck?” You may, I said.

I thanked Paul on the way out, and waved good-bye to my other friends. I went inside to grab my keys, and Ellen met me in the garage. We walked over to the open door. And we stood there and looked at each other.

And we wished each other well. I had a lovely time, I told her. I enjoyed meeting Tim. He’s a good man. I’m sure you guys have to work through things, like every couple does. But I wish you every blessing. “Thank you,” she said. “I had a lovely time, too.”

We were done. There wasn’t a whole lot more to say. We faced each other, and then we hugged. Good-bye, I said. “Good-bye,” she answered.

And then I turned and walked out to my truck.

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(21 Comments) »

  1. This is a very sweet story. You both seem like two very nice people. Not every choice is a choice between the good and the bad,sometimes we can survive in the shadows of our memories and surprisingly with time safely reach the surface without drowning.

    Comment by carol ellmore — August 5, 2016 @ 7:26 pm

  2. Enjoyed reading your blog tonight Ira, wish you well, keep writing :)

    Comment by Mary marner — August 5, 2016 @ 7:40 pm

  3. Another great blog. I am glad you have been able to get to the point where you are at peace about the divorce. You will never be the same, but you are ok.

    Comment by Deb — August 5, 2016 @ 8:15 pm

  4. The way divorce should be, friends once, marriage partners should part as friends. After all, God protects the bond that was created if man allows Him to. My exes were never able to see or feel that irrevocable bond, so be it. But you and Ellen understand that it remains. And God blesses you for honoring that.

    Comment by Pam — August 5, 2016 @ 11:00 pm

  5. Very good post. I can relate to you about the X. I’ve been in a situation almost like your’s. Life can be real tough sometimes, but with Jesus Christ. It will be alright.

    God Bless you.

    Linda

    Comment by Linda Morris — August 5, 2016 @ 11:13 pm

  6. I enjoyed reading this Blog..
    I wish my Divorce had been as Amicable
    As yours but I’m happy to see you held
    No bitterness towards Ellen.
    But Know Everything happens for a reason.
    You are a Good Man Ira & I’m sure 1 day
    You will find your Soul mate it’s Never too late
    To find love.
    Carry On my friend.
    Melissa

    #A day that Never Comes

    Comment by Melissa — August 6, 2016 @ 3:19 am

  7. When I sit down and have a moment to actually read your writing….I always love it. So matter of fact. You know sometimes I read Tom Robbins, and am left thinking what the heck was that, I never feel that way after reading your writing, thank you.

    Comment by Elizabeth — August 6, 2016 @ 7:55 am

  8. She did look beautiful from the pictures I saw. One of my favorite memories is going to Longwood Gardens with Ellen and Ann Marie. Love reading your blog, especially those straight from the heart.

    Comment by Dawn — August 6, 2016 @ 7:57 am

  9. How merciful and gracious of God to give you and Ellen this beautiful gift of reconciliation. “His loving-kindness, oh, how good!”

    And how wonderfully courageous and forgiving of you and Ellen both to have the guts and the humility to embrace His good gift.

    Comment by Ava — August 6, 2016 @ 12:43 pm

  10. Thank you for writing it, Ira. There is nothing really I can say. But thank you for writing so honestly; maybe somewhat for yourself, but clearly also for us. Good writing is very hard work. Writing about personal pain – I can not even think to do that at this point.

    When you said, “we hugged a little awkwardly” … I just lowered my head, tearfully, feeling the pain of a fellow human being. “God, help our broken humanity.”

    When I read again of the rejection – I just cried out in my own heart to God. It was the same thing as when I finished reading Elie Weisel’s book “Night,” which I read last week. And I just sat there trying to take in our great selfishness, that I don’t even know how to break out of. It is s difficult place to really go to, and recognize my own heart and actions honestly. I thought, then too, of my children, and others around me. And Heaven whose angels are never deceived, and who watch. (I really do think of this; but it is not because I decided to, but because there was some kind of awakening thrust on me.) And I wonder how it is, before God, who I know can and is changing me, … how and if I will ever really, truly know how to love another. May God help us; we are in such great need.

    Thank you for eliciting such thoughts as this.

    Comment by LeRoy — August 6, 2016 @ 3:50 pm

  11. Ira. I always enjoy your posts. And I hope this does not offend you. But I feel about your divorce a lot like you do in other areas concerning the state… They have absolutely no jurisdiction in marriage matters. What God joined together let not man put asunder. In the eyes of God you are still married. And I agree with God..

    Comment by John weaver — August 6, 2016 @ 7:38 pm

  12. Miss Melinda and Paul certainly hosted an elegant party. I’m glad to see you made the effort to go. Huge stride. So many beautiful friends and family you have that embrace your company. Do you realize what a charmed life you live?

    Comment by lisa — August 6, 2016 @ 9:02 pm

  13. What a lovely story. Seems there is life after the death of a marriage after all.

    Comment by forsythia — August 7, 2016 @ 9:54 am

  14. Happy you took a leap of faith and decided to go to the party. I believe that meeting with your ex was meant for you and her both. Be at peace, Ira, that is another hurdle you have overcome.

    Comment by Rosanna F. — August 7, 2016 @ 5:56 pm

  15. Rosanna F said it all! Another very good one.

    Comment by Linda Ault — August 8, 2016 @ 4:20 pm

  16. What heart rending pain, it seems that it never goes away. It is 29 years, and now that our son died ,I didn’t even add his new wife’s name to the obituary survivors , a bit of bitterness still lingers , I’m happy that you have made it , I love your blog !!

    Comment by Georgia — August 10, 2016 @ 11:26 am

  17. Was Ellen raised Amish also? Thank you for your ramblings!

    Comment by judy chaffin — August 10, 2016 @ 3:44 pm

  18. The stirring and moving started up some in the back closet where the ghosts and skeletons live after I read this post. Had to go in there and tell em to calm down and go back to sleep, which they did after a while. The emotional aftermath of the big D isn’t pretty, at least it wasn’t for me. Took some real work on my part to work thru the bitterness and sense of separation and for what I had done to her. Cancer moved in, several times, long after we went our separate ways. When she passed and I heard about it, I felt some pretty intense deep grief. So, I went on-line to her obituary and thanked her. For all the good times we had. For some of her actions ,which included leaving me. That was the catalyst for turning my life around and facing self. And I wished peace for her. One day I will travel to her grave in the little cemetery on a hill in Ohio. I will tell her that I still have the black Jeep she wanted so badly. The one we took all the road trips in. I can see the smile on her face…peace to all..

    Comment by lenny — August 11, 2016 @ 12:37 pm

  19. I loved your book and always look forward to reading your blogs.

    Comment by Marion — August 13, 2016 @ 10:09 am

  20. Ira, your post is very meaningful and I do not mean to diminish an iota of its significance. Thank you for sharing something so personal. But I trust you will forgive my chuckle when I read again of your sartorially splendid seersucker suit.

    Comment by Aaron Martin — August 21, 2016 @ 9:06 pm

  21. Wow. Riveting.

    Comment by Sho — November 28, 2018 @ 1:36 am

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