I just got a phone call from my ex-mother-in-law, telling me that my ex-husband died yesterday.
I don't think I've done more than mention once or twice on this blog that I even had an ex-husband, but I did, the classic "starter marriage". We married when I was 22, and the divorce was final exactly eighteen months later, seven years ago last Wednesday. I rarely think about him, and have only seen him once since the divorce, although I live less than five miles from his parents and see them every so often at the grocery store.
He and I were friends in high school, the sort of friends where you both know that one of you has a tremendous crush on the other. We dated, after a fashion, for a few weeks one summer in college, then drifted apart for a while. We reconnected the summer before our senior year, in the days when I was left reeling from the news of my dad's terminal cancer. We began to shop for a ring that Christmas, became engaged in March, and moved in together after graduation. We married the next April, and built the house where I live today.
The marriage was a mistake, a horrible judgment error that I sometimes think I might not have made if my dad's death hadn't left me adrift. Dylan had some good qualities, but plenty of bad ones too, if I'd been interested in seeing them. Things deteriorated between us into the territory of emotional abuse, and occasionally skirted the line of physical abuse. He could be devastatingly funny and charming, then instantly morph into a 6'2" toddler with a drinking problem.
Happily, I had the good sense to put an end to it before any permanent damage occurred, and before we thought of having children. We disentangled the finances, had a straightforward legal process, I kept the house and the dogs, and he was gone from my life as though he'd never been. I began dating G shortly after Dylan moved out; I wondered if I was rushing into a new relationship too fast, but the truth is that I'd done all the necessary moving-on in those last sad months of the marriage, and the actual divorce was just the coda.
When I've thought about our marriage in the subsequent years, which isn't often, I'm mostly relieved that it was so easily undone, and grateful for where it left me in life. If it hadn't been for him, I wouldn't have moved back to my hometown after college. I wouldn't live in this house, wouldn't have met and married G, wouldn't have the girls. Most of my life is as it is because of him, if somewhat indirectly. And I simply can't quite wrap my head around the fact that he's gone.
I'm not even really sure how sad I am, or how sad I ought to be. It's terrible for his family, and my heart is broken for his mother. As far as I know, he never really got his life together, never remarried or even had anyone really serious, never had a family. I'm sorry that he won't get the chance, that he's died before he got around to growing up and becoming a better person. He could have been -- the potential was there -- but to my knowledge, he didn't, and that's such a waste.
Too, I loved him once, well enough to marry him and to think it would be forever. He was gone from my life a long time ago, but that's a very different deal from being dead. I did think from time to time, during those last few weeks before we split, that it would be so much *easier* if he could just drop dead. Of course, I didn't really want that to happen, just wanted to skip all the divorce junk, and I knew living well would be the best revenge. In the end, I didn't really bear him any ill-will, and I would never have wanted this to happen to him.
There'll be a visitation and a funeral and a wake later in the week, and his mother has asked me to be there for those things. I always got on very well with his parents, and they were genuinely sad when we split; but I'm apprehensive about seeing the extended family and friends after all these years, and I'm not sure what the script is for the ex-wife of the deceased. I suppose I will manage to sort it all out, but I am a little nervous about it. Mostly, though, I'm just kind of sad and shocked about the whole thing.
Goodbye, Dylan Thomas Gordy. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual Light shine upon him; may his soul and all souls, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen, and Amen.