Monday, September 8, 2014

Anniversary of what?

August 25th.  I have never been able to remember that date, but apparently that was (is) my wedding anniversary.  Each year Joan reminds me of the date and we do something, usually go out to dinner, to celebrate.  Chalk this up as one of the many ways I wasn't the perfect spouse, but not remembering the date of your anniversary can be a little awkward when you are married.  It's still awkward but in different ways.

By contrast, my anniversary with Mitchell is something I can't forget.  It's etched into my brain in a way that my wedding anniversary never was.  We had our first date on September 10th and decided to date each other exclusively only one month later, on October 10th.  With Joan I just have amnesia, always have.  I even had to look up the date to see how long we've been married, and our recent anniversary marked 15 years.  In a couple of days it will have been three years since Mitchell and I first went out.

This year on August 25th I had an appointment with my therapist and had also planned an outing afterwards with Joan, as that appointment would put me in her neck of the woods.  It was strictly coincidence on my end, but here we had made plans to see each other on our anniversary.  A few days before the 25th she reminded me of the significance of the date and a little light bulb went off in my head.

Last year Joan and I went out to dinner on this most important, historical, insignificant and forgetful day.  One part of last year's anniversary that I cannot forget is the tears that welled up in my eyes when dinner was over and it was time to take her home.  I had even cried on the way to dinner and had worried about messing up my eyeliner but when I dropped her off after dinner I was filled with the feeling that I'd let her down, destroyed her life and that I shouldn't be putting her out at her sister's house where she lives in a garage apartment.  With me she had the American Dream and we lived together, in our separate rooms, in the big house.  The dream, it turned out, was an illusion but fortunately we woke up before it became a nightmare.

This year I am dealing with the separation (almost divorce) much better and I believe that Joan is too.  We've gotten over most of the awkward stage of becoming (officially) friends and there usually isn't any tension when we are together.  I have come to realize that after about 2, maybe 3 hours together we seem to get on each others nerves and it's time to go.  Actually, that same phenomenon was true during most of marriage, which is really the sad part. 

So I was actually looking forward to our anniversary this year.  We had planned a seafood dinner, a real favorite for us both.  Then something happened.  Mitchell had stayed here that weekend and was due to leave Monday morning to go back out of town for work, but he decided to stay on into Monday to look at some cars in a nearby city and invited me to go along.  Of course I couldn't say no and was really happy to have a little more time with him that week.  But this would mean canceling the dinner with Joan and rescheduling it on another day.

Mitchell and I had a good day that Monday and even took my mom along with us, enjoying some car shopping and lunch in Wilson, NC.  Actually I think it was fitting that I spent my wedding anniversary with the person I really love, and with whom have a future planned.  The surprising part to me, yet again, was that initially I felt sad and hurt because Joan and I missed our anniversary dinner.  That old monster, guilt, crept back for a quick bite but I quickly kicked it away.  This isn't easy, but I am getting better.

In my most recent therapy appointment we discussed the long, often difficult process for me of letting go of my feelings of responsibility for taking care of Joan.  I know that she is an adult but, as I have probably mentioned here before, she has never lived on her own or had to care for herself.  She didn't sign up for this when we got married and I am sure she fully expected to be taken care of for the rest of her life.  I don't just mean financially, she doesn't like to have to live alone.  I left her alone, even though technically she left me.

Anyway, progress was made this year in that I put my priorities first, spent August 25th with my man and had the dinner with Joan a couple days later.  I didn't shed any tears on my actual anniversary, although there was a close call, and that Thursday when Joan and I got together we were both dry eyed and bushy tailed.  We had a pretty good time.


I picked Joan up that afternoon and we went shopping at a few stores in Cary, NC at Crossroads Plaza.  We both tried on NFL shirts at Old Navy and I found one for my favorite team that I bought, for less than $20.  I bought her a shirt there and some art supplies from Micheal's.  Overall it was a short, sweet shopping jaunt, just a couple of hours.  Perfect for us.

We weren't quite tired of each other yet and a change of scenery always helps, so we drove over to Tony's Oyster Bar for an early dinner.  We split some oysters, shrimp and veggies.  The food was ok but I've had better so we decided to go somewhere else next time.  The key was that we enjoyed dinner that evening and then quietly went our separate ways.  It feels good to be out with her doing some of the few things we enjoy together, like shopping and dining out.  She would never go out with me as myself when we lived together, so I much prefer this new phase of our relationship, the lasting friendship.  Have I told you our marriage sucked when we lived together?

little ol' me, at Tony's
Joan
Steamed oysters and steamed shrimp....

Today, two weeks after our 15th anniversary, I mailed the divorce papers to my lawyer.  I went to the bank this morning and put my notarized signature on the white piece of paper with the words Complaint For Absolute Divorce at the top.  Absolute divorce, absolutely.  You can't sugar coat it and you can't beat it with a stick.  The words that have brought (an unexpected) pain and tears over the last year and a half plus, now ring sort of hollow.  They have a good sound to them though.  We've drug it out, but it is time to finish this thing.

Maybe our divorce will create a new anniversary for Joan and I to celebrate every year with a dinner.  Maybe I won't have any trouble remembering this one and something tells me that will be the case.  In fact, somehow I think I am going to be able to remember our wedding anniversary from now on.  It's like, this year when she told it to me it clicked.  Somehow before it never did.  I feel like that is because I never really wanted to get married.  Having realized that I think I have to say that until recently I never really wanted to finalize the divorce.  As strange as this may seem, everything does work out in my life at exactly the right time.