Yesterday was my wedding anniversary. (Or… it would have been, had we not stopped counting). I totally forgot until this morning when I checked the date to see how many days are left until my beach vacation.
Back then I chose the date because it fit our schedule at the time, between businesses opening and trips overseas. I also liked the idea of having an anniversary in an untraditional month, not the same ones everyone chooses. But also because eights are like infinity signs, so I thought a date with two eights – 8/8 – would be auspicious. That’s incredibly sappy, I know. (Spoiler alert: it did not work out as planned).
The huge, naive, romantic hope in that choice mocked me for years. First, when things weren’t great and my husband tried to mask how checked out he was with expensive presents and going through the motions of anniversary celebrations that reminded me that the loneliest place is next to someone who wishes he was somewhere else, infinitely lonelier than being alone. Later, after the divorce, because it felt like an anniversary of failure.
But in the intervening years I’ve come to learn my divorce wasn’t a failure. It signaled the end of a union that produced two amazing humans and tied me for life through blood bonds to a good and decent man. A man who will one day be the grandfather of my grandchildren, a devoted and kind father to our two. A good man who turned out to be all wrong for me and did not orchestrate his exit all that gracefully, but one who helped me learn many things about myself and relationships. It’s too bad that our society only sees forever as the success. One of the most successful things I’ve done was decide to move on to the next phase of my relationship with my husband and divorce him.
Of course it didn’t feel that way at the time. Then, it felt like defeat and a thousand blades of worthlessness, like I’d screwed up the choice I’d most wanted to get right in my life. The date came around every year to remind me. That I forgot it completely – that it just turned into any other day – is its own kind of success. This is the first year I didn’t remember on the actual date and in the days leading up to it.
On Thursday, I’ll pick up my ex and my kids from their vacation. On the way home from the airport, he’ll tease me I drive like an old lady, (I’ll ruminate on his deathly, terrifying tailgating but I’ll hold my tongue). He’ll have a present for me – he expresses gratitude through objects – but he’ll sheepishly make the kids give it to me. They will be tan and chatter about the fun they had in Europe, and, for a short while, we’ll be that version of ourselves. Then I’ll drop him off at his place and bring the kids to mine and life will go on in our not-so-new normal. In the first years after our divorce, when we were still trying to win and hoard things for ourselves and from each other, he might have kept the kids overnight until the very last moment he was bound to give them to me by legal arrangement. This year, he won’t count days at all, another form of calendar-watching we’ve left behind.
He’ll have forgotten August 8th too, with its memories of hope and loss and dreams that went a different way than planned. And that’s perfect.