I'm fixin' to write an etiquette book for people who have been married for twenty five years, who aren't yet divorced, but well on their way there, and one of the couple is about to celebrate a Big birthday, you know, like a Half Century. I'm fixin' to write this book pretty damn quickly so I can benefit from it. So you can't live with each other any more, but you're nice people, kind people, thinking people, and you care about each other and your children, and you wouldn't really want to be at the birthday party unless of course you had some new hot boyfriend to show off (I kid, Emily Post would NOT like that at all) but you do want to make sure that he has a happy birthday and someone is paying attention so that he doesn't have to spend it alone in a miserable solitude.
There has to be a sitcom about this. The Easter Lunch inspired by "Keeping Up Appearances." (No, I'm not Mrs. Bucket.) The eighteenth birthday supper inspired by "The Godfather." The dreaded college graduation where I'm literally begging people to come so that there isn't too much awkward silence at the jolly family dinner. The watching his gingham short-sleeved shirts dry on the clothes line in the garden behind my office. The discovery of four year old texts proclaiming love. The fact that rice with pinenuts in the Lebanese manner has not been made in this house for eighteen months. The immense relief from the realization that things are no longer quite as raw.
Today, I made lists of things I'd take with me if I left. I believe this to be a good sign. I would leave him the wedding silver and I would take the silver my mother has been giving me year after year for my birthday, the silver my grandmother and great grandmother collected. I would take my books and leave his. Mine fall into the novels category buoyed by flora and fauna. His fall into politics and science. There is beauty everywhere, of course.
I would take Norwegian flags, books on Britain, anything to do with
trees. I would take the cups he gave me for my birthday two years ago,
made by Wedgwood and collected, cup by cup, for over six months, on
eBay, because they are the cups my parents loved. I would take the
ribbons won by Minky, the self-portrait Ned painted in high school with
the angry red background I love. I would leave him his Hockney, the
Alexis Smith, the "good" art. I have Elizabeth David, Gabriel Garcia
Marquez, Sharon Olds and Rose Prince on my team.
There is no blame anymore. There is nothing like that. There is an open road, paved with trees and sunlight and a large sign floating across the blue sky reading "y.o.u.r. f.u.t.u.r.e." I have no need for anything but harmony and happy memories. In fact, for the first time on Tuesday night, while on my first date, I thought to myself, this, this could be an adventure worth taking. And it's the first time I've felt that way. We had fun. We drank a glass of Bandol at the Chateau Marmont and comiserated with each other about divorce. And then we moved on. It wasn't scarey, even though I wanted to turn around ten times on the mile drive to the Chateau. I think I even looked to the valet parking guy for assistance. It was fine. All was well. There is a great adventure ahead.
I remember my husband best when he was sleeping. He slept a lot. He slept with a cotton blanket across his face, hiding him from the world. He was the king of the 20-minute power nap.But there was great sweetness when he slept. And I hope he sleeps many more nights. I wish him a happy fiftieth birthday and I wish him happiness in his life. And I hope that from his apartment he can hear crows and owls and maybe even coyotes in the middle of the night.
His world has gone on. I can guarantee that he doesn't think of me sleeping or my relationship with the birds outside my window. We are in different places I suppose. That's okay. I still want him to have a happy birthday, with friends and balloons and lovely speeches, as our birthday parties have always been. I won't be there.