I sat and stared in disbelief at CNN.com
No, I wasn't looking at photos of that horrific oil spill (I mean, I was, and I did stare at that in horror, but I am talking about after that.)
In fact, I was so stunned that I called my mother to see if she had heard the news.
Because as I read the headline, my heart was sinking. And I felt this overwhelming empathy for all involved. Because our family has been there. And it is just...........heartwrenching. And the immediate reaction was to call my mom. Whether to control how she heard, so that she didn't get the news in public, or in an attempt to break it to her gently, or just to gauge her reaction, I don't know.......but I picked up the phone right away.
"Mom, did you see? Al and Tipper Gore seperated."
"No." she exhaled. "It wasn't supposed to happen to them. They were going to make it."
"Yeah, well, notsomuch."
She went to go check the news out for herself, I sat down lost in my thoughts. I was filled with this overwheming desire to send the Gore kids a sympathy card.
My parents marriage ended in a very unpleasant way, after almost 30 years, and coincidentally it happened during the course of my engagement and wedding. The story is theirs to tell, and it is private. I have touched on it before, but I am not even going to go into it right now. The details aren't important. It was bad. It was ugly. It didn't have to be that way, but it was. And it left all of us rattled. I am sure my brothers, who were finishing up highschool and college during all of this, were affected - but I never really got a chance to sit down and talk with them about it - while it was happening, or afterwards when we were all afraid to poke the hornets nest by bringing it up. I had no idea what they were thinking, because I was right in the middle of it all. I heard everything. I had details. I knew too much. I watched it happen.
So when I saw that headline, all I could think was "I hope they keep it respectful, and I hope they keep it private." I don't mean private as in "out of the tabloids". I mean private as in "just between the two of them". A marriage is between two people, and divorce is between two people, and sharing the intimate details of either one with anybody except a paid professional is just not a great idea.
I knew too much.
I don't know if it would have been possible for me to be kept out of the loop. After all, a lot of the really bad stuff came about during a very emotional time, and during a time when there was a lot of communication about dates and plans and money and the future, and there were lengthy conversations about marriage. Mine and theirs. I didn't really get to sit around basking in the glow of newfound love. I was not the blushing bride. I was miserable, frequently sobbing into the phone, not sure if it would be better for them to stay together or split up. Knowing it was none of my business. And angry. I was very very angry. My parent's marriage was coming apart, why should I be getting married at all?
But I was getting married. At least, I was trying to. The divorce was affecting every aspect of my wedding from the budget to the guest list. The situation changed weekly. Daily. One bad phone call could set off a week of recriminations, calls going to voicemail, a silence that was deafening. I was quite sure that the last thing my mother felt like doing while her marriage was crumbling in front of her eyes, was to plan her daughter's wedding. So I muddled through. And that is what I remember.
My marriage was planned in the midst of a divorce.
Every time I hear about a couple who has split up after being married for a long time, I think about my parents, and my wedding. And the phone calls and the emotions - the raw and bleeding nerves that were exposed over and over again. I think about how Sam had wanted to propose, and had been waiting for my father to be around so he could ask him for my hand......and how after one of those horrible tearful middle of the night phone calls he decided that he didn't need that man's permission anymore, that my father obviously had no respect for the institution. So he proposed the next day, after I had called in sick to work, still hysterical that morning, after being up all night with Sami rubbing my back and trying to comfort me, or at least get me to stop crying long enough to sleep. I remembered how my mother made me put my father's name next to hers on my wedding invitations "Mr and Mrs requesting the pleasure of your company", even though I didn't want him there and wasn't sure if he would come. I think about picking out a wedding dress by myself. All alone in the bridal salon - I had called ahead and asked for an appointment at the beginning of the day before they were really "open" so I could avoid all of the mother/daughter shopping teams. I could see myself sitting at the kitchen table on my days off, sorting through menus and trying to choose a caterer, not knowing if we could even afford to feed our guests.
It was not an auspicious beginning, but in actuality it was probably the best way to go into a marriage. We were witnessing a worst-case scenario. We were reminded, daily, of what we were getting ourselves into. We had long and heated conversations about how if either one of us ever felt compelled to sleep with someone else, that we should immediately sit down and discuss whether we should stay married. That cheating and lying would not be tolerated. My husband felt that I was punishing him for things that someone else had done. I just wanted him to know that I would handle things differently then my parents were handling the current situation.
And that, right there, is the essence of this.
Divorce scares you. If someone can be married for 30 or 40 years and then split up.........FUCK. Who stays married, then? Why get married at all? You begin to question everything. Everyone. You want answers, you want to know WHY? And HOW? You want to find the reason. So you can avoid it yourself, so that you can prepare yourself. So you can do it differently. Better. Prevent it from ever happening, in fact.
But of course, if it happens to Tipper and Al, who practically made out onstage at the Convention just 10 years ago, who survived the near-death of child hit by a car right in front of them, who made it through years of campaigns and scandals and stress and triumph........they made it through everything the life threw at them.
Until last week.
Until I turned on CNN and my stomach turned and my heart dropped and I sat and stared in disbelief, and then called my mom. Because when something ends after so long, it is only natural. I know too much about this sort of thing.