My twenty-four year-old son stood in front of me and said, “I’m going to propose to Sara.”
Of course I was excited for him. I loved Sara and they loved each other. But in my head I yelled, “nooooooo. I’m not ready!” I was okay with my son getting married, but I wasn’t ready to witness the beginning of his marriage so close to the end of my own. It was just six weeks earlier that his dad and I had agreed to divorce.
While his sister opened her laptop to show him her “Weddings” Pinterest page, my body tensed with the realization that my son’s wedding wouldn’t look anything like I had previously visualized. Would my ex-husband and I sit at different tables? Would we dance with each other? Would he bring a date?
Loneliness and heartache hit me for the thousandth time that year. To console myself, I played healing mantras in my head:
“You don’t know the future,” I heard my therapist say.
“Stop fantasizing,” my friend Jill would have said.
And the most helpful advice given by my brother, “you don’t have to make this decision today.”
Three months later, my son was engaged and a wedding date was set. Over the next year and a half, I rented my own apartment, dated a few men, celebrated my daughter’s college graduation, and moved her out to Los Angeles. I even went to a friend’s wedding in Chicago, one where my ex was in attendance. While the new couple exchanged their vows, I escaped the venue to the street.
“I can’t do this,” I cried on the phone to my divorced friend.
“Yes you can,” she assured me. “I know how you feel. It’s hard. But you’ll get through it.”
Eventually, my ex-husband found me outside crying while I tried to keep my mascara from smearing. He looked concerned but uncomfortable, paralyzed with no clue of what to do—not even offering a superficial, back-patting, ‘there, there.’ At that moment, I remembered why we weren’t together anymore. His inability to comfort me gave me new strength like Batman when he put on his cape. I wiped my tears, straightened my dress, and said, “Let’s do a shot.”
As difficult as that night was, it prepared me for my son’s wedding. Instead of visualizing the fantasy, I foresaw the reality: if my husband and I had been still together—watching the beautiful smiles and listening to the loving vows between my son and his bride—I would have been blind with anger as I compared it to my own marriage of disappointment and resentment. He and I had been lovers like that once too, but those days were long gone.
Now I could envision a different kind of day—one with joy and pride, standing next to the father of my son, watching our son start his new life with his wife, knowing that our new relationship as a divorced couple was better for both of us.
The day of my son’s wedding, my ex and I did sit with each other, surrounded by our long-time friends in a room filled with our families and loved ones. Naturally, I was emotional, not just about the wedding, but with joy of seeing the people I loved most all gathered in one room along with me celebrating this great event.
I gave my son and his new wife a toast and killed it. I laughed through the Mother/Son dance with my handsome, brilliant, and talented son. And then I hiked up my dress, kicked off my shoes, and danced with everyone and anyone until it was time to go home.