Grateful

The sadness of my wife ending our marriage is mitigated, so slightly, by the apparent inevitability of its collapse.  So many of my wife’s long time friends, who have known her far longer than they have known me, have told me now that this is her history: she ends relationships.  Whether or not my own needs and behavior hastened this end may be a moot point.  I accept the blame she has placed on me, as it’s the reality she experienced.

One friend even told me I may have received the very best my wife had to give, for as long as she was able or willing to be committed.  I can’t know these things, and she, no doubt, would object to these observations.

Perhaps people tell me things they think I may want to hear. And other people’s married lives are always, truly, a mystery.  No one can see what goes on inside a marriage, regardless of its principal’s past histories.

 

In the face of this, I’ve been thinking of all the many reasons I have to be grateful to my wife. In the short time we’ve been together—less than six years—she has given me many gifts that will last a lifetime.

Don Draper in Mad Men famously pitched a new Kodak slide projector as the Carousel—technology playing on emotion and nostalgia.   He showed pictures of his wife and family that evoked happiness, joy, and connection, and he said that in ancient Greek nostalgia literally meant a pain from an old wound.  In the show he was losing this happiness in his personal life, and in his pitch the images and memories shared were his wounds, his pain. It’s the most poignant scene in the entire series.

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As these are my wounds, twinges in my heart, more potent than mere memory.

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My wife re-introduced me to the joys and challenges of open water swimming.  I remember so well that first time we swam together in Tomales Bay, at Heart’s Desire Beach. I’ve been back many times since that afternoon and every time it’s is a reliving of that first time we swam there, the water warm and encompassing.  It was indeed my heart’s desire.

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After letting my membership lapse at the Dolphin Swimming and Boating Club, my wife introduced me to the next door neighbor South End Rowing Club. She had been a long time South Ender, and in fact, when we first arranged to meet after corresponding on a dating platform, it was at the front door of the South End. She told me later that her friends were watching from behind the door. Since then the South End has become an integral part of my life, a focus around which so much of my life in San Francisco revolves. I am in my second term as an elected Board Member, with many many friends. Leaving the South End will be perhaps the saddest part of leaving San Francisco.

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At the South End Rowing Club my wife introduced me to a fellow swimmer who has become one of my very best friends, a friend for life. In fact he married my wife and me. His friendship has sustained me through this recent difficult period. Is the lifelong friendship of a true friend more valuable than the loss of love?  Romantic love is sure always to fade, but friendship deepens and grows stronger with years.

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Swimming at China Beach in Sea Cliff, and joining the group of China Beach swimmers on sunny days, has been a happy pleasure I wouldn’t have discovered–or had easy walking-distance access to–had I not married my wife.

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My wife shared her love of Northern California by introducing me to many of the places that had been dear to her. Big Sur and Detjen’s Big Sur Inn. Yosemite and the legendary Ahwahnee. Both were trips she planned as birthday gifts.

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She introduced me to the swim adventure company Swim Trek, and organized a trip with other South Enders to the Galàpagos Islands. This was an experience I never would have seized on my own–a gift of our marriage.

We traveled together to Ireland, too, again with South End friends. In hindsight, this was when she had already decided she no longer loved me. Perhaps on the Galàpagos trip, too. There was companionship, which I thought good enough. It didn’t occur to me that love was slipping away.  It looked so real.

 

Another time we explored the Oregon coast together, my first time.  Looking at my photos from this trip, early in our romance, brings me back to a time and place where I know I was loved. It was real, then.

Together we decided to get a dog–our little rescue doodle-dog Bebe. He has been a loyal companion and joy.  I will miss him deeply.

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My wife encouraged me to challenge myself to swim the eleven-mile width of Lake Tahoe. She helped plan the training and was one of my two kayak pilots on the swim. At her suggestion to improve my stroke and endurance, I joined the USF Master’s swim team, which has become an important part of my physical life here. I will miss my friends on the team when I move back East.

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Yoga. Pilates. A plant-based diet (mostly.)  All introduced to me by my wife—lasting enhancements I will carry with me into the future. Thank you.

I know there are more reasons to be grateful–sentimental bonds.  Reasons not to regret. For me these were foundational blocks upon which our life together was built. They made all the other, disappointing, aspects of our marriage less important. My wife has said we lacked equity.  For me, not so. Equity is built on more than years.

 

I wish our marriage wasn’t ending.  I wish my wife could have seen the same foundation I saw, a solid rock on which to rebuild our relationship.  It’s not in her DNA.

These are places where I ache to go again.

My life has been enriched by her–and for that I am grateful.

I try not to tear up thinking about these things.

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5 Comments

  1. Ranie

     /  June 5, 2019

    You have much life still to live! You have a richer fuller life and many friends from this period! New adventures await!!! Ranie

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Reply
  2. My wife has corrected my memory about our first swim together in Tomales Bay. In fact our first swim was at Chicken Ranch Beach, and all subsequent swims were at Heart’s Desire.

    Reply
  3. Your candor, vulnerability, specificity and wisdom and ultimate desire total the most nourishing way forward are deeply uplifting and admirable Niland Mortimer

    Reply

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