The first thing I want to tell you is this: I only cry in the car. The second is, I never miss the man I left.
It’s 6:25 on a Wednesday evening, a night when the kids have a standing engagement and I usually work alone for a few hours. I send him a text: I’m at the Thai place if you want to swing by. He responds a second later: Just picked up take-out from there 10 minutes ago. Great minds. Next time, I type. About once a month we share a meal. We chat about bosses and kids and upcoming family plans. Every few days, one of us texts the other with a piece of trivia, an old inside joke. Sometimes I’ll even ask, “Do you remember that time when we …” Most often, he doesn’t.
I never guessed that once I left my husband, it would be easier to talk to him. That we would respect one another or chat casually again. We separated with the goal of rebuilding a friendship and raising our children in one family. To date, we’re doing just that. He meets us at the restaurant for first-day-of-school dinners and birthdays, and occasionally just because. We interact like … well, like family. Like cousins or siblings, who live in different cities and have separate lives, but a lot of shared history. Our individual lives are better, and our relationship is much healthier, than it was in the last few years of our marriage. I never once wonder if we did the right thing, and neither of us considers going back. I’m glad for where we are, and I don’t miss the season that preceded it in any way.
But the man I married? The fun-loving, adventurous, compassionate man who used to keep crackers and water in his car for the homeless, the man who kept our accounts to the penny in his head, and who could always – always – negotiate the best deals? I miss that man every day.
Grief is completely unpredictable. You brace yourself for big days, but life is in the details, and grief is, too. Mine seems reserved almost exclusively for my car. I’ll drive down the road and tell the story of his accident out loud to myself, again. I’ll vocalize all the details and weep. By the time I get home, it’s out, and I’m ready to go back and care for my kids.