The question posed to me again and again was, “Why you?”
Sometimes not exactly in those words. Variants included “What the hell are you thinking?” and “Why should you care?”
The event causing such a stir? Being at my ex’s bedside after his surgery for cancer.
No one wished him ill. But what transpired between us and resulted in our divorce several years ago had made them all a bit protective.
I get it. Truly.
I don’t need to go into the particulars here. But I went through hell, financially, emotionally and otherwise. Plenty of people do during a divorce. Mine just had some extenuating circumstances attached.
I was angry for a long time. Resentful. In survival mode.
And then, life did that thing it likes to do; it turned on a dime. In the space of 30 seconds, I went from planning a fun solo weekend sans kids to hearing that he was undergoing emergency surgery within 24 hours. I was getting my kids, packing him a bag, making sure his garbage was taken out.
I knew he had only one family member here and that he would be of little help, emotionally or otherwise. My ex insisted he was going to be fine and needed no one after the surgery.
I knew otherwise.
Call it intuition or common sense. No matter. He was going to need someone after a surgery this major.
He did not want anyone there beforehand so I showed up around the time his surgery should have been done. The surgeon had called me already to tell me the news. Cancer. That’s about all we knew at the time.
As I waited in his room, I felt déjà vu. Even though he had not had a major surgery during our marriage, it felt like so many times in our marriage. Showing up. Being there for him. Looking out for him.
When they wheeled him in, he was moaning. In pain. They just left him there. He wasn’t hooked up to the proper monitors yet, pain meds were running low judging by the sounds he was emitting. He would have been totally alone in the dark if I wasn’t there.
I held his hand. I talked to him in a low voice. And then the question came—he wanted to know if it was cancer. No one had spoken to him yet.
So I explained things to him, the little I knew. Told him the boys and I would be there for him. I spoke, rather sharply, to the nurse I had to unearth from the nurse’s station after several minutes. I made sure they hooked him back up to the right monitors, that he was clear with them on needing more pain meds.
I am no Mother Teresa or Florence Nightingale, trust me. I stayed for all of 30 minutes to ensure he was set up properly and then realized what he really needed was sleep, not distraction. And I was a distraction.
He thanked me, using words I thought I’d never hear from him again. No matter that the next day, he barely remembered I was there and had forgotten our entire conversation. In the moment, he was comforted.
Before I left, I held his hand in the dark room and tears he could not see streamed down my face. If this were five years ago, I would have been sleeping on a cot and monitoring his every move. But I was no longer his wife. I was, really, no longer even the person that should have been at his side.
But it seemed I was still the only one who showed up.
I thought of him being the first face I saw when I awakened after a surgery myself. He was there for me. And I thought about a time when he left my hospital room before another surgery without so much as a goodbye. He was so not there for me. I felt remembered love and anger, gratitude and resentment, all in the same moment. And yet, the strongest emotion was love. Not romantic love. Love for a fellow human being. Sorrow that we could not have figured things out together. But mainly love.
So when my loved ones asked what the hell I was doing, I said the obvious. “The right thing. The human thing. The decent thing.”
To be honest, I don’t know what I was doing besides making sure someone I will always care about was taken care of when no one else stepped up to the plate. I was showing my boys what love looks like, even after things have been ugly.
I was doing what I would want someone else to do for me. If I had not been solid and there, I would never have forgiven myself going forward.
Life is not always clean. The lines become blurred.
Areas become gray and fuzzy.
But my core?
That does not shift. It is always, if I pay attention, clean, clear, bright, crisp.
This time, I paid attention.
42 Comments Add yours
Terrific post. What a great example of love and decency you are to your children. Doing the right thing is not always easy, especially when there was so much baggage to carry. But it’s always more difficult walking away from what is right. Good for you.
Yes, indeed, Kay. What you were doing was the right thing. As you do. Bless you, and best of luck to your ex, the father of your children, in his battle to come, my friend.
Yes, indeed, Kay. What you were doing, was the right thing. As you do. Bless you, and best of luck to your ex, the father of your children, in his battle to come, my friend.
Well done Kristine, and well related. Not your intention I know but you put many of us to shame, those of us who don’t reach out. Such kindnesses make the world a better place.
Good for you! In Feb. 2013 my father went off on a frightening, nasty, insulting tirade at me. I was left shaken for months (and not for the first time.) But when he had hip replacement in May this year, my husband and I took 2 weeks off work and went to Canada to nurse him back to health — and it was nursing! You do the right thing. You know it’s right — and what does anyone else’s opinion matter?
I remember that blog post well! And I remember thinking how selfless it was, particularly because you had so many reasons not to help. Life transforms us . . .
Also because no one else in my family (brothers) even bothered to check in to see how he was doing. Ugly behavior.
Its not easy to be there for a person after so much has happened. A lot of times I read your post and I’m unaware of what that must have felt like but this I know well. It is hard but it needs to be done.
How is he now? If you know?
And how are you?
Luckily, he is fine. It was caught just in time. As for me, I continue to live and learn 🙂 thank you so much for asking and for your kindness.
This was a beautiful piece and you are a wonderful person.
This speaks volumes about your character and in the end, we have to live with ourselves. I think for this moment in time you were the person your dog thinks you are. I’m sure more than this moment, but kudos. This was the right thing to do.
Thank you! It is hard to be the person my dog thinks I am, some days. And I say this as she stares balefully at me from her spot on the floor, wondering why her walk is so late this AM:).
You set a great example. There’s no ‘wrong’ in doing what feels right.
It’s amazing what can happen when our hearts are open.
A lovely picture of forgiveness and time’s healing.
This is beautiful, and something that I can so connect with (not with an ex, but another relation.). Thanks for sharing your heart.
At the start of the post, I was thinking, what the hell is she doing?? But by the end of the post, I remember about your boys, and then it struck me. It was a good thing you did to be at your ex’s bedside – to show love like you would for any human being – and that’s a great example for your boys to learn.
You were not alone, see? 🙂 Many of my friends were right there with you. But now you get it. As did I. I love it when that happens.
Wow! I think I read about you in ‘My Morning Paper’, under ‘Angels Among Us’!!! Seriously, having spent 10 days in the hospital myself following a significant surgery, I know how comforting it was to have someone there just to touch me, console me and listen to me. Strangely enough, even a doctor asking how I felt, or patting me on the shoulder was so satisfying. You did a wonderful thing, and the reward for you is that you know you did. I bet you were glowing with personal pride when you left the hospital. Very nice.
This is so much about you and your capacity to be compassionate. Bless you.
Doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest thing to do, you did it anyway…I hope I could do the same.
One of my favorites. Deeply moving.
I think this is the best piece you’ve written (that I’ve read – maybe there are other amazing jewels that I’ve missed somehow). I’ve thought about this but haven’t had to act on it — it seemed to me to be about loyalty to a time, to a commitment that was made even though both the time and the commitment are done. Anyway, I loved this – it was beautifully written and so true.
Thanks, Jan. Means a lot coming from a writer like you.
its the first day of school and I’m not shedding a tear for my kids but rather this very moving piece you wrote!!! Humanity and love. That’s where we move from. Have a great day!!!!
I love the example you set for your children and even others out. I adore this post. It makes me have hope for love being there even in bad times.
On the other side of the world, I’m shedding a tear. The ties that bind us to our ex-husbands are strong; shared experiences, but mostly our children. I also know of other divorced couples where one has nursed the other through serious (sometimes terminal) illness…and they do it from that place of pure love. Hurt fades, but love stays strong, and your children will always thank you for this. He is their father, no matter what, and they will remember your love and your kindness to him (even if he doesn’t). They’ll know you were there for him when he needed it (and that knowing will comfort them too). You did good.
Thank you, Lee, for sharing the tears. Means so very much, even from the other side of the world.
Beautiful, Kristine. I like to think I’d have done the same thing. You are teaching your boys a most important lesson. The romantic love may be gone, but the base love, the human to human love, remains.
I think that’s what hit me so hard, Dale. Despite everything, that love was the strongest emotion–even while the others swirled around also. I am sure you would have done the same thing. Just sure of it.
And we need not explain it to those who don’t understand.
Thanks for thinking so!
Hugs to you and to him. Hope he doesn’t suffer unduly and that he is one of the lucky ones.
I am not surprised that you did this. Well done, and beautifully told.
You were there for all the right reasons, my friend. You did “The right thing. The human thing. The decent thing.” When you showed up, you showed what you’re made of: The good things. The kind thing things. The loving things. Way to show your sons what love really looks like. xoxo
Great example for you kids!! Sad that no one else was there for him!! You’re a strong person, Krisse!
A beautiful post. “Doing the right thing” can be private, personal, just for the people involved. It doesn’t matter what others think. It is just right.
It’s what you call standing in your truth Kay. It is about all the wisdom and love that you have traveled to reach a point that just says, ‘I do love this person…even after all that’s happened’.
It’s finally reaching that place within that is coming from you unconditionally…not what every one else expects from you.
It is amazing what people will do for each other sometimes (and what they won’t). I know someone whose mother-in-law was always horrible to her: spiteful, nasty, making no excuses for not liking her. Yet, when the older woman had a major operation, her daughter-in-law was the only one who sat with her, holding her hand, day after day. The mother-in-law didn’t remember, and went back to her nasty self when she recovered. I’ve known several people who, after distressing marriage break-ups, have taken their ex in to their home years later when serious illness has struck, and in one case even became the long-term carer for the ex. The world is a better place for people such as you and them, who do the decent thing.
It’s reassuring, isn’t it, Caron? To know that, in the end, people do the right thing? Even when it’s hard? I love knowing that is happening all over the world at this very moment.
This was beautifully written. And you are, obviously, a beautiful soul. You are setting an example for your children – as you said. When you act from your heart, you always do the right thing.
Thank you, Christine. I get it right about as much as I get it wrong. I just hope the “rights” are bigger in the long run.