One doesn’t get through life without wishing for a few “do overs.” Here is one that came to mind recently.
I was about 29 years old, and still quite naïve. My husband and I had been married nine years, but hadn’t started our family yet due to finishing our educations and the interruption of the draft during the Viet Nam war era. Although we did not have children, we were active in a young adult church group in Cincinnati, OH and most of the couples had kids.
I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but we found ourselves going over to the home of another couple in our group who had decided to divorce. Because we had been married longer, apparently there was some assumption that we might be able to offer “counseling.”
This young couple had been married three or four years, and had a six month old baby and another child less than two years old. Not having had children myself, this information didn’t really register. I remember sitting together on a couch with the young mother. Although I don’t remember what I said, I am confident it was something very “churchy,” along the lines of keeping your vows, sticking it out, etc. I don’t recall that she said anything in response. I remember her looking tight lipped at her hands balled in her lap, a slender woman with dark curly hair. She shook her head slowly back and forth, not in a distressed way, but in a determined way.
I moved on and spoke to her husband. (I guess my husband was also speaking with each of them individually, but that is not part of my memory.)
We stood in the kitchen, and he was a nice looking dark-haired man, his round face flushed with unhappiness and perhaps weeping. He choked out a few sentences in a voice close to tears, but one thing he said has remained with me.
Here is what he said, “My mother raised four kids and she always washed the aluminum foil and reused it.”
Yep, you heard it right. The discordance of what he said still remains with me. I didn’t have the experience or the smarts to know why that sentence didn’t ring right. We left that young couple and they went on to divorce.
Wherever they are now, we are all around 70 years old. I think back to that day and wish I could have a do over. Aluminum foil. His mother washed the aluminum foil and reused it. I should have said, “Damn it, man, your wife has a six month old and a toddler. Reusing the aluminum foil is the last thing on her mind, so get over it.” Instead I found nothing to say.
To her, I should have said, “How can I help you? Are you at risk? Is your husband threatening or abusive?”
Now, I know what guts she had to say she was going to take her babies and make it on her own. That took great strength. It would be another twenty years before my husband and I agreed to end our marriage. And I admire her polite determination in the face of meddling from someone she didn’t know at all. I hope she did well on her own. I hope her husband reordered his priorities. Unfortunately, we don’t get “do overs” in life. Are there some “do overs” you would like to have? Share your thoughts with me on Face book or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the future, I may share some of your “do over” wishes.