When my ex-husband became very ill recently, I received a telephone call from my daughter. She was on her way to the hospital to be by his side in the emergency room. Her voice was so filled with fear that it prompted my heart to immediately respond -- a response without the angry tones of a bitter ex-wife, but rather that of sincere empathy and concern. In those initial moments of my unexpected reaction, I felt the mixed emotions of kindness and harshness stir inside of me. I instantly felt conflicted by the duality of the feelings. Yet somewhere deep inside, my spirit beckoned me to take the proverbial high road. So I did just that and explained to my daughter that my thoughts and prayers were with her and her dad.
In that moment of reckoning, it appeared I had made a conscious positive choice over the negative path of indignation. By doing so, I felt a release of anger and an inexplicable uplifting of my soul. Instead of remembering the hurt imposed in bygone days, I recalled the memories of a young man I once knew. In place of the painful thoughts from the end of our life together, my mind swept quickly to the beginning and the kindling of new love. At that time, he was everything a young woman desired in a suitor and in a budding romance. He was handsome, smart, kind and attentive. He courted me in a way that made me feel like a princess. And when I became pregnant, he rallied to my side and that of our unborn child. He stood up against his parents, my parents and the opinions of the local parish priest. He rose as my knight in shining armor, ready to champion the cause and accept his responsibility as a husband and a father.
In the initial years of our marriage, life was good. We shared in the experiences of being a young couple enjoying the pleasures of one another and our newborn child. When we moved into our first apartment, life became quite pleasant as we bonded into a family. That is, until alcoholism came knocking at the door. In the years that followed the onset of the disease, the drinking escalated and so did the ill behaviors. And after what seemed like an eternity, our marriage became another statistic and ended in divorce. Through the years that followed the dissolution of our life as husband and wife, the relationship became extremely complex and the communication almost nonexistent. The leftover emotions took hold and seemed to prevail for far too long. So in the initial moments of learning of my ex's ill health, my response was quite perplexing; as was my sudden need to settle the past not just for my daughter's benefit, but for mine and possibly his, as well.
From the time of our marital separation to the moment of the telephone call alerting me to my ex's illness, I had always told my daughter to keep her heart open to her father. For in my own heart, I knew it was the best guidance to provide. I believed that the bond between a parent and child was paramount to the maturation and well-being of the offspring. In my mind, no matter the age, this intrinsic relationship is the strongest of human ties.
In providing my grown daughter with these words of wisdom, I felt the need to embrace the concept on my own. I found that my heart had likewise opened to my ex again. Not in the familiar pattern of love, but in the form of a release -- a letting go of sorts from the emotional pain inflicted and the regrets. As I moved in this newly-understood direction of forgiving the past mistakes, I hoped that this release would become a permanent part of my being. If indeed these feelings were lasting ones, then perhaps the remorse felt would diminish with their presence. Not the rue over years lost, nor for what could have or should have been, but the raw emotions that once dwelt inside me when I sensed no ability to reconcile an irreconcilable past that had tainted my mind and held my heart captive.