While we were away

While M and I were away on our wanderings in and around Portland, our next door neighbor’s (NDN) son passed away. We came home Friday to a lot of strange cars parked all over the place, including directly in front of our RV access driveway where M typically parks his car. Her daughter came out when she saw the garage door up and us unloading our suitcases and came over to tell us what had happened. Her brother was only 55, right between M and I in age. Heart attack. A lifetime of smoking and other bad habits had caught up with him.

I made a pan of lasagna last night and cut it up into small, freezable portions for our neighbor and included instructions on how long to reheat from frozen. M and I took them over, and were greeted by Rosie AND her parents, which our 80-something neighbor intends to keep along with another 2 cats. Neighbor’s daughter is not happy, feels it is too much for her mom, but now seems not the time to argue with her about it. Unfortunately she’s only staying another week or so, plus she lives in Connecticut and is only able to visit every few months, and they have no other family out here. The daughter has asked us if we can help out with the dogs until she can convince her mom to rehome the parents, and we somewhat reluctantly agreed. We are huge animal lovers, but dogs are different than the cats. The cats we can put out food and water and they are fine. The dogs need to be fed, watered, walked, and Rosie definitely needs a bath. NDN is inconsistent about ensuring food is provided consistently, so we have been seeing to the cats and sneaking Rosie food as well. Before her daughter leaves we will have to iron out details on what needs to be done.

So there is that. A sad situation.

Two different couples, both dear friends, also separated in our absence. Couple A was a long time coming, Couple B a bit of a surprise. Couple A had nuclear marriage meltdown while we were away. Thing have been touchy and brittle for months now, but apparently there was a fierce row, threats, physical spousal abuse via thrown objects, locks changed, and now lawyers engaged and divorce proceedings underway. The wife was arrested for assault after the husband was struck by a metal vase and hospitalized overnight. Needless to say, it’s an ugly situation and emotions running high.

I did speak to the husband at length yesterday about what final straw had caused this explosive chain of events. M and I have heard both sides of the story – how he is unhappy, she is bored, counseling is not helping, their marriage has died since the children grew up and moved out into independent lives. But the violence truly shocked me. M is not so surprised; maybe he just expects marital strife to bring out the worst in couples.

Couple B are also now separated and seem to be heading for divorce. They still have youngish children at home (8 and 9), which makes it so much worse. The gist of the story there is they are unhappy with each other, bored with their lives and marriage, both want to explore relationships with other people. In my exasperation for the ongoing whining about how hard it is to be a working mother and how unsatisfactory the sex in her life is, I asked why her they just did not try swinging or open marriage if that was the sum total of the issue between them. I suppose my tolerance and patience for whining was at an end, and I can reliably predict I will not be the friend she seeks out for comfort and sympathy in the future. M is much better, much more patient than I am in such situations, and in this one he is also far more hopeful for reconciliation.

My Saturday interactions and the friend I have tried to be to others in pain and in need of sympathy got me thinking … about marriage, relationships, life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

M and I have a happy, contented relationship. We are among the obscure, boring couples of the world, without great drama or fanfare. There is no big secret to it, either; it is a choice we make every day of our lives together. Every day we choose to stay with each other, to be married to one another, to be here together and to have each other’s backs. Maybe someday one or both of us will wake up and decide we are bored and unhappy and want to make a change, and maybe we will continue to be grown up enough to talk to the other about what we think, how we feel, what we want to do differently. And maybe we can negotiate and come to agreement on what works for both of us.

This is an probably an oversimplification of our relationship, but in truth it seems like it boils down to that. We love each other, we like being together, but anyone who reads this blog knows I cherish and celebrate every single day I can shove M out of the house and into an all-day event with one of his friends. Going running from before dawn to well after dusk? Great honey! Drive safely and have fun! Going backpacking for the weekend from Friday night to Monday? GREAT! Leave your dusty, dirty crap in the garage and undress in the laundry room whenever you get home so my floors stay clean. I do a fair amount of stuff with M that barely interests me and I would not miss if we dropped that activity or event, but I am reasonable enough to recognize he does the same for me.

I am not a spouse in either of the marriages breaking down, so I know I can have no idea of how really bad it is between them. Couple A has been sparking furiously since last year and it has only escalated. Couple B is overwhelmed with family responsibilities and demanding full-time jobs and financial stress, so perhaps a break from each other is warranted. I will likely call later and apologize for my insensitivity, because I did fall short and could have been a lot kinder and masked my exasperation. There have been so many long marriages breaking up recently and it is so sad to be an impartial yet supportive observer. The reasons are varied and truly none of my business, but it still saddens me that people I love are unhappy and in pain. Change is difficult.

 

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