November 9, 2007

The Rending

Category: News — Ira @ 7:20 pm


“ ‘Cause today my world slipped away
We buried the plans that we made
And tonight I’m alone and afraid
‘Cause today my world slipped away.”

—Vern Gosdin, lyrics: “Today my World…”

The lyrics aren’t exactly accurate. My world started slipping away slowly a little over twenty-four months ago. In February of this year, it reached hyper-speed and has been escalating since. It culminated last Thursday, Nov. 1, at approximately 5:10 PM Eastern time. In a little court room in Phoenix, Arizona, the judge declared her official conclusion. And now that world is gone, slipped away. Like the years of our youth, it will never return.

Ellen and I are divorced. Our marriage annulled. Annulled. Whatever that means. A Catholic word. I thought only the Pope could do that, annul a marriage. Apparently not. It’s like it never happened. Like the sun never rose on August 4, 2000. Like the wedding service in the little mountain chapel in Gatlinburg, Tennessee has been struck from the records of existence. Like all the joy and expectations and hopes and dreams present on that day weren’t. Annulled. Gone. Vaporized by a magic wand. By the judge’s magic pen.


Divorced. A savage and brutal word. One I could never have imagined would ever apply to me. Who would? Divorced. The death of so much. Of love. Of marriage. Of friendships. Of families. Of dreams. Divorced. The whisper will now slither and waft about like a choking poisonous cloud wherever I go. The leprous stigma branded into my persona.

Divorced. Some will flinch away. Some will judge, piously quoting ream upon ream of applicable Scripture with vacant hearts and condescending confidence. Some will say wise, trite things. Some will pity openly, and I will despise them. Some will inquire, for reasons legitimate and illegitimate. Some will gossip, and the Lord will rebuke them. Some will write me off as lost. And some, I know, will be supportive in silence or with sparse awkward words and simple acts of kindness, sharing a pain they can neither express nor comprehend.

The last two years have been a harsh and bitter trail, now littered with the remains of all we were. And all we were not. We stand with naked and wounded souls before the world. It is impossible to endure the brutal sledge-hammer blows of such an experience unaffected or unscathed.

Somewhere, down deep, it hurts. Indescribably. The protective layers that cover the heart exist for a reason. I have not peeled them back. Not had the strength or the nerve. Maybe I never will. But now, a dull ache pounds, deep inside. It will pulse and throb there like a living thing for a long, long time. Until, I suppose, the wound is sliced open, the venom drained, the pain released, the nightmares exorcised.

Where does one go in a time such as this? What does one say or write? What words can possibly be written that have not been said before, by others who have passed before us on this same bleak road? Where does one turn? The bottle? The self-help psychobabble that clogs the bookstores? The trite vapid cliché? “Oh, it will be alright. With God all things are possible.” And that time-honored classic, vacuously intoned to a million people every day, “Time heals all wounds.” It’s a lie. Dulls it, maybe. Scabs over, sure. But heals? It does not and will not.

Now, amidst all the hostilities, all the noise, all the thunder, all the rage and anguish, all the cruel betrayal, all the failures on both sides, I stop and pause. I look back on the seven years of our marriage and remember. And reflect. The good times. There were some. A lot, actually. Times of laughter, life and love. And strangely, illogically, incomprehensibly, I can dredge up little rage at Ellen, although I know that others can and do and will. And I do not fault them for it. Maybe it will hit me in full force one day. But now, I feel only pain and loss and immeasurable sorrow.

She made our house a home. All the little touches of comfort, the little extras, the trinkets, they came from her. Most were packed away when she left. Some remain, a silent reminder of the hands that placed them there. She labored in the flower beds around the house for hours and hours, watering and weeding with love and care. She was an outstanding cook and often made delicious meals, when there was time from the work schedule. And she could sing, her voice lifted in open and joyful song as she puttered about the house. Sometimes I joined in, my own voice rough and untrained, making hers sound all the more beautiful.

Her heart yearned for a child. During the optimistic first year or two of our marriage, we scoured the local garage sales and bought many little things for a baby. Trinkets. A tiny bathing tub. Loads and loads of toys; there’s a box full in the house. She would be a natural and excellent mother. She always gravitated to the babies in church and held and cradled them. And they slept peacefully in her arms. In the depths and privacy of her soul, she deeply mourned our barren marriage. My heart often ached in silence for her. Especially during church service on Mother’s Day, when roses were passed out and the pastor opined emotionally about motherhood. Her agony pierced to the core of her heart. I comforted her awkwardly, as a man does.

We are the children of our fathers, and our fathers inflict the deepest wounds within us. Hers were particularly keen and agonizing. She ached for the relationship. In the past seven years, she tried and tried again and again to open a link of communication with him. She reached out. She cried for his love. She wrote poignantly and brokenly. For his acceptance. For the stability and reassurance that could only come from him. All in vain. Her overtures were coldly rejected. Again and again. Until she just gave up. During the first few years, she sometimes wept in bitter despair. Then less and less, and then not at all. The gulf remains, and it is her father’s loss to bear.

The man she turned to, my close friend for forty years, will not heal her wounds. No man can or will. For him, I have only seething venom; at him, only deep abiding rage. Although much more could be said on the matter, now is not the time. On this day, it’s not about him, and I will not grant him the importance of more than a passing mention. He will, however, be the sole subject of a future blog. One day. Soon.

Right now, I won’t pretend life is beautiful. It’s not. It’s ugly, raw, harsh and rough. And will be for awhile. But still, it’s life, and I will live it. I enter a strange new land with savage skies and unknown horizons, the first in my family to do so. Before me looms a steep and rutted road. Tomorrow, I suppose, will bring what it may. And sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Today, there are no more tears to weep; there are no more words to say. With no other recourse, and reacting instinctively, I turn my face to the bitter winds and walk.




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