The Necessity of Forgiveness



    She said, “Heads up. I’m moving to North Carolina, and you’re not invited.” That was my ex alerting me. I knew things were on the rocks, but it was still sort of a shock. My wife and I started out well, and had some very good years. I can’t quite recall when it started to go bad. At some point the love started to seep away, and finally there was none left.

    She is the smartest person I have even known, a superb writer, a member of MENSA, and for a while I kept count, she beat me 45 out of 48 games of Scrabble©, which nobody does.

    At some point, we started deliberately using words to hurt. She was very very good at that. I didn’t try to understand or to work things out, I just mostly hid in my room and put on and sometimes also said hurtful things. She shot down all my ideas, called my comments stupid. Anything I wrote was bad writing. Anything I said became proof of how stupid I was. I was, she said, going to die homeless on a park bench, unknown, friendless, penniless and nobody would care.

    It’s probably obvious that alcohol was involved. I don’t know when that started, years before things went sour. The last several years, her alcohol-fueled rages became daily occurrences. I should have called in outside intervention—but she denied there was a problem and accused me of paranoia. Waking up every morning was an exercise in wondering what I was going to be accused of today.

    I reconnected with a couple of friends from when I taught at the university, after I discovered they lived nearby. lived nearby. They connected me to a church, I went, and found some solace, and a rich community of caring people. I had not been in a church in nearly thirty years. It slowly came to fulfill something I had been missing. My ex was shocked and every Sunday morning was a minefield as she ridiculed religion and me.

    Then came a day when I was bent over in pain and said “Please drive me to the emergency room” and she said “Call a taxi, I’m busy.” I called the friend, who got me there in minutes, and the serious problem was fixed. After that, she said “get out.” We agreed I’d be out in three months, as I saved up enough to make the break. Every time I went to see my doctor, she’d say “I hope you die. Please die. I want you to die.” She had controlled all our money, and it took me awhile to find enough. Then I moved out, to my small cottage where I still live. She paid a law firm a lot of money to initiate divorce.

    Things fell apart for her. Neighbors called the police for a welfare check. They found her, nearly dead, on the floor, in a kind of alcoholic incoherency. She was Baker-acted (involuntarily committed to treatment). The hospital found me after a week, and told me she was probably going to die, but if she didn’t she’d have to live in an assisted living facility for the remainder of her life.  So I contacted the rental agency, cleaned up the rental house, which was filthy. It had fifty trash bags in the kitchen alone. I found dozens of bottles of booze in her car—it’s amazing she didn’t kill somebody from driving drunk. Cleaning up took many days, but we had no children and no property to complicate things. This will sound unbelievable, but I had to vacuum fruit flies out of the freezer.

    She made a remarkable recovery. She was released, and decided to head West, where she had a half-sister. She was just as hateful as ever. Last I saw her was in a taxi, come to pick up some personal things of hers I had salvaged. Then she left for Arizona with no forwarding address.

    I got word this summer that she had died, apparently from a stroke. I simply did not react. I could not have cared less. I was bitter and angry over the last years together. The alcoholism that made my life miserable had ravaged her mind as well as her body. I found out that she had our pets euthanized, something that made me deeply angry.

    Finally, distance and time and lack of contact calmed things. Except for one weird phone call when she said her sister was a kingpin in the Mexican mafia, who killed babies and was going to kill her. Delusion? Paranoia? 

    Death. I felt nothing for that woman, someone I had once loved and who once loved me. I thought I had put it behind me. Then the woman who came out of no place and has given me a second chance, said I needed to get rid of my anger, that my ex couldn’t rest in peace until I gave up my anger. 

    It took me weeks to work through why I was angry and why I had continued to be angry, and how much of the ruins of the marriage was my fault. I worked through my anger. Being bitter and angry really is a stupid way of being. Too many people seem to enjoy their cup of bitterness. I guess I did, too. But I’m beginning to think you can’t love in the present if you hate in the past.

    Rest in peace, Lynn.

Deep knowledge, and happy reading.
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