I didn’t set out to marry bad husbands. It was something that happened along the way, and rather like unhappy families are unhappy in different ways, my bad husbands were bad in different ways.
This first I won’t talk about because he is still in my life as the father of my daughter and grandfather of my grandchildren – and because at her wedding he suddenly burst out with an incredible backhand apology in the reception line after more than three decades of silence. It was poorly timed, and was a kick to my heart. I collapsed in sobs in a corner while my third husband tried to shield me from the wedding party.
The second one I will talk about because he had someone track me down a week ago after two decades of silence. He is the catalyst for this blog. I had not known for years if he were dead or alive. I last saw him over 20 years ago in a banana grove on the side of a mountain in Maui.
Husband number two is alive, but dying. We will return to him, but, first, let’s do a fast review of husband number three.
No, first of all, I want to say that I am blessed beyond measure. My life is an astonishment of good things outside of my husbands. The dichotomy between the rest of my life and my husbands is an endorsement for reincarnation and karma. I must have been a real bitch in my past lives.
Husband number three was in some ways the worst because his motives were purely self-serving. He had the power to behave differently. He had options. His decision to lead a secret double life with a woman twenty years younger and to buy apartments in Beijing and San Francisco was calculated and deliberate. I saw how power corrupts, seduces, and confuses. It can make you believe you are above the rules that apply to others. He had never considered that I might refuse to accept an arrangement where he would be with me 50% of the time and with her 50% of the time.
It never crossed his mind I would leave, which I did within 25 minutes of reading the 2 ½ pages of revelations and future conditions that he handed me – oh, so sweetly and with such love in his eyes – in our garden. I left 24 minutes after smashing the glass with my strawberry smoothie into the wall.
It got worse after that, a stunning reversal from his being my soul mate since college, mate for 18 years, and champion. His acts were perhaps those of an angry, hurt, and emotionally immature man, but they were not the acts of a broken man. He had choices and options. He could have behaved better, but chose not to.
My second husband, however, was broken. His violence and rages were not calculated. They answered to an internal skewed gyroscope. He blacked out during his violence, though I didn’t know that until a year into it. They were frightening, controlling, and twice just skirted being fatal “accidents,” but they had little or nothing to do with me, or with us. We actually had times of peace, even as I had to be very careful.
His attempt to let me know that he was very ill came by a circuitous route. He asked his wife to contact a mutual friend from 35 year ago, who found my daughter through an Internet search and sent an email to where she worked. That was a week ago. By now I know that he has Lewy Body Disease, the most common dementia after Alzheimer’s. He also has Parkinson’s.
He cannot use a computer and has trouble with telephones. He was recently moved into an assisted living home in Tucson. They had moved from Hawaii to Tucson, he had bad lungs. He always thought it was his lungs that would get him.
I was given his mailing address. What? I’m to write and say . . . what? What does he remember? What does he know? What does he want from me? Do I owe him anything?
He was a failed yogi who meditated hours a day. Everyone thought he was so gentle. He was not. He wore drawstring pants and flip-flops and yogi shirts. At one time he was the most handsome man I had ever seen. People thought he was so gentle. He was not. He controlled my life and blamed me and felt unloved by me even though he was, though with time he was not. He was beaten as a child by his father and thought he deserved it. He smiled serenely and I heard the electricity snap in his back when he meditated. People thought he was so gentle. He was not. He was living proof that if you are going to mess with intense high energies you better have your psychological shit together or you can become very bad.
Life doesn’t follow nice clean script lines. Am I to write to him and say I forgive you when he may not be able to make sense of that? He did, after all, a decade after we separated (30 years ago now) visit my city and beg to see me. I refused. He begged again. I allowed it. He fell on his knees and begged my forgiveness. I told him the forgiveness he needed was his own, not mine. Did he forget that? Does it need renewing? Does this have anything at all to do with harm done?
Perhaps he just wants me to know he’s wrapping things up, and I am glad to know that, and I wish him no harm though my tongue has gone over the scar inside my lip more often this week than it has in many years. After that first time, he learned how to hit without blood.
The past week has included the resurrection of old memories. Disoriented bats of fear and trauma flew at me, shrieking “remember me?” But they have calmed down now, murmuring in a far back corner, wings folded, returning to sleep – so that the week also became one of reflection on him and our time together – and also, for reasons having to do with the dispensing of art, of reflection on my third husband who made choices consciously and deliberately. (In writing this blog, I may forfeit pieces of art I adore, but I’m bloody well finished with self-censoring.)
Forgiveness. Everyone thinks it’s about forgiveness. But I don’t think so. I forgave husband number two soon after the separation, and I forgave husband number three so quickly that it was almost simultaneous with each harm over several years. I don’t seem to have filing systems that store hate. For disgust, grief, momentary anger, repugnance, yes. Hate, no. It always breaks down when I focus on the individual.
Bad husbands are people too, and perhaps there are different kinds of broken. Some are brittle and snap people into fragments. Others are sloppy and bend people to do stupid things and cruel things – and to become blind and deaf to what is good and what is clear.
It is interesting how people who are not clear themselves often cannot tell who around them is clear, or helpful, or good. Projection is a demon.
Yet, I have become the person I am because of life experiences, including three husbands. Perhaps if enough harm is done, one gives up hate because if you did not, it would destroy you. What a perverse way to surrender to love.
Perhaps I will write husband number two. I sent a message back through the circuitous route thanking him for letting me know and telling him I wish him peace. But as his mind leaves, he may forget that. If I send a note saying that same thing, then he has something that he can hold in his hand. Maybe he can manage to remember the good parts. Something in me would like that.