2/15/14

The Ghost of Emails Past

It was in a box of things from our old house. William found it in the back of his closet. "Mom..." he startled me. I was in the kitchen, searching high and low for something gluten free that would taste just like spongy warm French bread (and having zero luck).

"Mom. I found this in my closet. What is it?" He held out a notebook, one of those report cover things, with the clear plastic pages you fill with papers. This one had a picture in the front pocket, a generic floral picture with the word MEMORIES handwritten across the front.



Ahh. I knew what that was. It was a family history that was written up by my ex-husband's grandmother. It told the tale of his long-ago ancestors and their journey from Norway to the United States. A really cool thing, actually, with lots of old family photos, too. For a second I thought we should maybe give it to Big Daddy, and then I thought, no. This is my children's history. They can keep it.

William began looking through it, turning the pages slowly, seeing black and white faces of long-ago children who shared some of his same DNA. He paused at one page, and pulled something out.

"Uh, Mom...I think this is yours..." he said, and passed me a piece of paper.

Oh my. I recalled folding that piece of paper and slipping it behind the picture, a lifetime ago. Or maybe it was only 7 years ago.

It was an email. I had printed it, and stuck it behind a picture of three chubby-faced Norwegian toddlers and then forgotten about it. Well, maybe "forgotten" is the wrong word. Like the sheet of paper it was printed on, I'd tucked the memory of this particular email behind other things in my mind. And there it had slept until William found it. Woke it up.

It was an email from my ex-husband, composed just six months before the divorce was finalized. He'd written it after we'd attended a wedding, arriving apart but spending a good deal of the evening together, with all four of the kids. Apparently, it had triggered some feelings in his heart, which prompted him to write this brief but telling note to me on a Monday night in June 2006.

It was an apology. The only apology he's ever offered. And reading it brought tears to my eyes, just as it did when I read it all those years ago, in a different house, in a different life.

I'm not current on the laws about emails and blogs, and I do have a sense of decency, so I won't share the actual email. I'll give him that much because I may be a lot of things, but a monster I'm not. But I will share this: it's the kind of email that revealed things, exposed the regret and doubt and ultimately, the resignation that things were damaged beyond repair. The kind of email that would have probably scared the bejeezus out of his then-girlfriend, now-wife. I know it would scare me to discover my significant other had these kinds of thoughts...not only had them but expressed them, in writing, to the person he'd once shared a life with.

It was painful to read. It hurt when I'd read it back then, and it hurt reading it in 2014.

But this time, it also made me feel something better than hurt. Something positive, and ultimately, something healing.

Because in this email, my ex-husband was giving me validation. He confirmed what I'd known all along: I was the brave one in our marriage. I was the one who fought for it. I was the one who had done the right thing.

Some days, that's all it takes to make you feel better. To allow you to keep going, to give you that push, that nudge, to carry on despite bumps in the road.

I needed to read that email, needed to see it again. I needed to be reminded of my strength and what I've overcome and how much courage I had. Courage I still have.

It was one line in that email that did it for me. No, it wasn't the number of times he said "sorry" (five). It wasn't his admission that he'd turned to the wrong person when he first started having doubts about our marriage. It wasn't even the part where he said that as he watched me, smiling and talking to his family at the wedding, he realized how much he'd messed things up.

It was six words. Six little words...

"I chickened out-- you never did."

I'm glad William found that book in the back of his closet. I needed reminding. With the stress and worry and anxiety that's once again infiltrated my life, it was important for me to see those words, no matter that they were written by my ex-husband several years ago.

I'd like to think that I slipped that folded note into that book, that particular book, for a reason. Maybe I knew I'd need to read it again, some day in the future. Maybe it was because I needed a physical, touchable piece of my own history, something I could hold in my hands and read with my eyes instead of just feeling it in my heart or reliving it in my mind.

I put it in a book titled "Memories". Because that's what it is now.





24 comments:

  1. Wow this is gorgeous. Those six words. It's lovely when such a burst captures such complexity so perfectly. Thank you for this.

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  2. That was incredibly moving. I just clicked on a link from the more the messier blog and made it here. Very glad I did. I don't know anything about the relationship that you have with the ex or his family, but if the pictures don't have names to go with them, it would be nice to get them. I am estranged from my father and his family but my kids love to know the names and stories that go with the old pictures. What a gift that memory book was.....in more ways than one.

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    1. Thank you so much, Sarah. I love her blog, and so glad you stopped by.

      Thankfully, the photos do have names and dates. It's such a lovely thing, to have that history.

      What a gift, indeed! Thanks so much for reading.

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    2. Oh, wow - I feel good that I've brought you a new fan! I love reading your blog, too; it gives me hope for a friend of mine who has been going through divorce hell for the past 2 years.

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  3. Seriously, every post you write is better than the one before. I really look forward to each new one.

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    1. That's so kind of you to say, Anne. Thank you :)

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  4. I've told my husband your story; he is disgusted with your ex. I don't know why that matters, just thought you should know. (Like maybe it's good to know that other males have your back or something?) <3 <3

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    1. My husband thinks Big Daddy's rather loathsome and unmanly too, FWIW :)

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    2. It totally makes me feel better, Kristen (and Jenzi!). It is proof that there are good guys in the world, and yes, knowing those good guys have my back is nice :)

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  5. Another great post :)

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  6. Wow! You should give "need-a-Kleenex" warnings!

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    1. Oh no! I'm sorry. Thank you for reading (and weeping?)

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  7. I needed to read this today, I needed to hear that sometimes there are men who apologize for the wrong they have done. I am glad you kept that letter, and shared it. My ex has never admitted to the ways he was wrong. today after I ran my children around before work, and then left them with my mom, I cried, I cried because I wish my story was different, I wish I had the family I always dreamed about, I cried because being a single mom is so hard, I cried because I should have chose a better partner. Thank you for all your posts, thank you for sharing your life with complete strangers. :') <3

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    1. Oh my friend..I'm crying for you :( I know how hard it is. It sucks some days. And yes we should have chosen better but you know what? How were we to know? We have kids we love and that makes even the shittiest choices somehow okay.

      We're going to be fine, my friend. It's not going to be easy and there will be more tears down the road, but WE'RE GOING TO BE FINE. And someday, we'll look back on these days and be so very proud of our bad selves and how hard we worked to maintain our dignity and our self-respect.

      I'm here with you, lady. Thank YOU for sharing your story. Keep on sharing. The more you express it, the better you feel.

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  8. Wow Jenny. I can't believe he actually apologized, and admitted how badly he effed up. It must have been tough to reread that message, but I'm glad you focused on how strong you truly are -- and how brave. Truth! Thanks, as always, for sharing your life.

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  9. What a gorgeous piece. I can't imagine the hurt and turmoil that divorce must cause. I can only imagine how good it felt to get the validation that your ex's email gave you. Thank you so much for sharing this.

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  10. It's been two years. He's still never once said he was sorry. I'm glad you have that email. Maybe someday I'll finally get an apology and an admission that I was the fighter and he was the chicken.

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