“They don’t make ’em like me anymore.”
This was the cocky response I gave my son when he asked why I’d decided not to date anyone up to now. He came back with a snarky reply of, “Thank god they don’t,” and it caused me to laugh harder. I was trying to ease some comic relief into a topic I was hoping to exit after we’d gone down and around a few rabbit holes.
Our conversation started on the topic of weddings, before parlaying into relationships, where he asked, “Why do people bother getting married, anyway?”
Ugh. I seem never prepared for the hard ones, but I’m good at stalling, so I asked what brought the question to mind. He explained that in one of his classes earlier that day, a teacher asked the students to raise their hands if their parents were divorced. Of the thirty students in attendance, he
said the teacher counted twenty-three hands up in the air, including his.
In my head, I thought, “Holy hell. Seriously?” Meanwhile, I had a stern look on my face while listening to him, wondering where to take the conversation, because what I thought I might say suddenly wasn’t sufficient to respond to a likely epidemic I was largely clueless about. I stalled by asking more questions, while at the same time having a flashback about one of the times I drove the quarterback home after a football game.
It was really late, the car was filled with teenage boys, the excitement of a win painted their energy, they were sweaty and happy. Outside of the smell, I was busy framing the moment because it’s one of the sounds I love, and which can’ t be replicated but in the time capsule of memory. As I listened to them, I could tell the football boy had a knack for making others laugh, but I didn’t know him, and at one point I asked if his Mom and Dad were home. Without missing a beat, he said his Mom worked at night, and that his dad went out for milk a long time ago and never came back. I looked up at him in the rear-view mirror as he and everyone else began laughing hysterically as if his answer was an inside joke. I smiled but was silenced by his answer, because I didn’t know if he was joking. After dropping him off, I asked my son if he was serious, and nonchalantly, he said, “Yeah,” then looked back down at his cell phone to watch a video.
“Mom, where’d you go?” my son asked.
“Oh. Nowhere,” I answered.
Actually, I was beginning to feel sad by what I needed to say while debating whether it needed to be said because it was so laden with opinion that I couldn’t be sure it was true. I think everything and everyone looks good until it’s in our possession, and I think when we need to care for it more than anticipated, we’re apt to want a refund or an exchange. I didn’t know how to say that without embedding his spirit with what might have been jaded thinking. He is the only of his siblings to care for a pet long after the excitement of bringing them home wears off. He is also the only that holds his emotions in until he can’t. He has what it takes to go the distance in a relationship, I think, but if he finds himself with someone not as like-minded, I think it will destroy him, until he masters the latter, and that’s where I come in, and where I feel it’s important to tread lightly but deeply.
So I started talking about examples of people we know, some married, some divorced, but most in between. I then talked about us, about him, and about the importance of taking the time to learn people in different environments and states of mind, not over days or months, but years. We talked about facades, and how it often takes years for them to fall away to really know someone, and even then, you only know them as much as they know themselves, and since we are always evolving, we get an opportunity to witness how people evolve, or have evolved, and whether it inspires us, scares us, disgusts us, or whatever it is that might help one decide whether they want to be along for the ride, not out of morbid curiosity, but out of a desire to be part of a joint evolution.
I told him there is something outside of butterflies, attraction, lust and enamoring that keeps folks coming home to only their spouse when life swings them balls of tragedy that includes sickness, death, job loss, poverty and more. He asked what and I laughed, because the answer is so multitudinous as to be humorous.
I’d like to tell my son the answer is love, but it’s not the correct answer, because love is also the reason we divorce. To love ourselves, our children, or simply our lives, it’s sometimes necessary to separate from those who block our progress from love, and hell if people don’t divorce their families for the same reasons, but I didn’t go there. Ultimately, I said the reason people divorce is because something inside them likely needed to experience an aspect of love they didn’t feel could be accomplished in their marriage. My reasoning was too simple, and excluded the aspect of pure selfishness, and though we touched on the subject of emotion, it’s still a place I tread lightly upon.
I believe every break fashions us into something more beautiful and useful than had we no breaks at all. I believe marriage after divorce is like Kintsugi or golden joinery, and I also believe people experience Kintsugi before even being in a relationship with another. Maybe long-term marriages survive because each person values the other like a spiritual gold mine and the knowing that they’ve been graced to have another soul to exchange nuggets of love with until the end, and then some. Who knows.
The conversation drained me, but we laughed in the end, and maybe that’s all that matters in any relationship, is to know that a laugh is destined to follow every tear.