Monday, May 19, 2008

It's Not Always About the Gap (by Ron)

My first wife and I married when I was 18. My parents didn't have a great deal of advanced notice. I was home from Navy boot camp when she and I decided to marry during my two week leave. I can recall my mother following me from the front porch to the card yelling that I was not getting married. I was too young!

My ex and I were married almost a quarter century. In that period of time my mother and the rest of my family took her into the family without reservation. Needless to say our divorce did not sit well with them.

When we separated and I began the divorce proceedings I called my parents to tell them. Although I was no longer a child mom continued to think of me that way. She told me that I needed to make my marriage work and "forget this divorce foolishness."

Later, when I told her I was divorced and planned to marry Gayle she said, "she's only after your big check." She didn't even mention the age difference.

Personal boundaries never existed in my family of origin. Mom and dad felt we kids should always toe their line. If we didn't, we heard about it a lot, primarily from mom. When one of us put our foot down and did what we wanted, mom often complained to all of the other siblings. Everyone always knew what and whom mom was angry about. I knew I was destined to hear a lot from her about my new marriage, but I also knew I was going to keep my boundaries with my family secure.

Mom wasn't worried that I was 15 years older than Gayle. She wasn't interested in the size of Gayle's check. She simply didn't want to deal with the first divorce in our family. She wanted things to continue the way she wanted them to be. She wasn't a bad person, she was just scared and confused about the future.

Finally, when she knew she had lost, she brought out the big guns. "Ronnie", she said, "you can never bring that woman into my home." That took me by surprise. I had not expected my family to immediately welcome Gayle with open arms. However, I certainly hadn't expected her to be barred from my home. This was the beginning of major changes in my relationship with my mother. My response to the woman who had borne me and whom I knew loved me dearly was simple and direct. "Mom, she's my wife and if she's not welcome in your home then neither am I. I suppose we have seen each other for the last time in this life."

She didn't believe me, of course, and continued to ask when I was coming home to see them. I continued to emphasize that I could not come home alone. This continued through the Christmas holiday season. On Christmas day I made a call to mom and dad, as I always did. As usual since my divorce our conversations were uncomfortable. Dad spoke for only a few minutes, as was his usual pattern. Mom and I talked a little longer but I was finally able to begin bringing the conversation to a close. As I told mom goodbye and gave her my love I heard her say something that was totally unexpected. She said, "let me talk to Gayle."

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