Register Calendar Latest Topics

  Author   Comment  
Lead Admin

Senior Member
Posts: 175

SOMETHING about the name caught my eye: Chateau Troplong Mondot. And there, above the words on the wine bottle, a sepia sketch of grapevines and a turreted castle I'd stood before in another lifetime.

Scrolling back through the camera roll of memory, I found it: me, 24, him, 26, travelling round France, skint as church mice, but so deeply, thrillingly in love we were a world unto ourselves.

"Let's buy a bottle," he'd murmured into my ear at the cellar door. "We'll drink it on our 10th wedding anniversary."

We made it to three; three short years of a love affair we'd cast as our forever. Afterwards, we took our brokenness to opposite ends of the world and began new lives. Occasionally, we'd find ourselves cced in each other's group emails: a new baby; new job; new address.

Twenty years have passed since that late summer in St-Emilion. "Whatever happened to the claret?" I emailed recently. "Dan and I drank it together about 10 years ago," he responded, "it wasn't that flash."

I pictured him, corking it with the guy who'd been our best man; a cursory toast to the marriage that was no more; Blur and Oasis on the iPod; him wandering home to his wife and kids. And with every atom that had once loved him, I hoped he was happy.

Granted, one decree absolute does not make me the patron saint of divorce. We never had kids to squabble over, a monster mortgage to split or a dog demanding joint custody (pet settlements are increasingly nasty, apparently). But I do know that rip-tide of emotion in the early days; the hideous gut-plummeting loop-the-loop through fury, guilt, sadness and defeat.

With divorce now as common as the local coffee shop you'd have thought we'd have learned how to do it. It's Breakup 101: don't (whinge) about your ex in front of the kids; stay dignified; find a trusted friend or therapist to listen.

Yet I'm continually surprised how calamitous it has to be, how vile and vengeful. Call me naive, but unless he's slept with your best friend or she's blocking you from seeing the kids it's in everyone's best interest, bar the lawyers, that you show a soup├žon of civility to the person you once spooned.

But no - money, immunisation, names, schools, what the child eats, what they wear. Homes become brittle under the battles and bile: Dad is a "bastard", mum a "manipulating cow" and the kids collateral in a tug-of-hurt. I've watched three boys lurch from toddlers to teenagers under that model, never seeing even a glimpse of the love - or respect - that made them.

As a child of divorce, I only once tasted that bitterness. "Your mother," announced Dad, adopting a formality so searingly familiar to kids of separated parents, "got a far better financial settlement than me."

When I told Mum (oldest child, girl, best placed according to my brothers) her wince was imperceptible. "Oh darling, that's not your dad talking," she said, "that's hurt, and people say things they don't mean when they're hurt."

If only more people saw divorce as a bridge you'll forever have a foot on rather than one you have to detonate. Johnny Depp, proving he is every shade of awesome in the wake of his split from Vanessa Paradis, put it plainly last month: "For whatever reason that [the marriage] ceases, it doesn't stop the fact that you care for that person, and they're the mother of your kids, and you'll always know each other, and you're always gonna be in each other's lives because of those kids. You might as well make the best of it." You hear that Alec Baldwin? Mel Gibson? Heather Mills? Charlie Sheen?

These are long lives we lead and, as such, divorce is not a failure but a fleshing out of character. As the years pass and my first marriage fades ever further in my rear vision mirror, it feels like a softly yellowing stamp in my passport; a reminder of where my heart has been.

Likewise, a family is forever whether the pillars holding it up still face inward to each other or outwards to new structures and supports.

Yes, it takes maturity and a degree of tongue-biting to maintain the stability but there should be as much pride in managing a layered life as a linear one. Witness that tender moment when Andy Murray's divorced parents wrapped their arms round their son in a joint embrace after his Wimbledon victory. We may no longer be each other's, said the hug, but we are his.

Previous Topic | Next Topic

Quick Navigation:

Create your own forum with Website Toolbox!