For followers of this blog, surprise: I’ve been married twice.
An even bigger surprise: the first time was to a woman.
The marriage was brief but the love was real.
My second marriage has lasted far longer. I compare it to a few marathons I’ve entered: at times I’ve cramped up and wanted to step off the course and applaud everyone else, but I never have given in to that wish, and I’ve always been grateful when I’ve reached the finish line.
For years I wondered what happened to my wife. When we were together, I had not yet run a 5K let alone completed 28 marathons. I was still at the beginning of my career. Although we hoped for children, parenthood was a distant dream, and now that I am a parent, I realize how truly unprepared I would have been back then to become a father.
Many friends and acquaintances guessed I would leap right into a relationship with a man after my wife and I separated. Actually, I didn’t date until after the divorce was final and for a few years after that it was only with women. I was numb from the experience of my first marriage. In some ways, being alone was a relief.
In fact, the week before I met my husband, I had decided that I was going to live the rest of my life as a single person. I was a good friend to many people, gay and straight, but my attempts at finding a permanent, intimate, committed relationship were a series of unfinished marathons.
Now, for the past 18 years, I’ve hung in there thanks to my husband and our daughter. I’ve loved the stability, the trust, the excitement of seeing them every single day even during moments and hours that can be frustrating.
I’ve had very few What If moments these past 18 years, but I still think about my first marriage from time to time.
Even in the age of social media it’s been hard to find out whatever happened to my wife. I’ve had a few friends from my past life write that they corresponded with her years ago, but I’ve never been able to find out where her life’s journey has taken her.
Until last weekend.
For the first time in two decades, I found a picture of my ex-wife. Had I clicked on the picture, I would have learned a great deal.
As a trained journalist, I so wanted to. But I’ve let it go an entire week. My wife and I didn’t have children together. Our families did not stay in touch. We didn’t exactly part as friends. We didn’t share too many friends, and the few we did now are many miles and years away.
I love tidy, happy endings, but I’ve learned they don’t always happen. I wish my ex-wife great happiness and hope that she found a partner for life. That may be the best I can do, a personal challenge as difficult as any marathon or perhaps several: letting go forever.