I was blonde with Dennis. I’m a brunette now, for a few reasons. I don’t like looking backward being reminded of who I was with him. Also, my daughter who was in cosmetology school did my hair for a nominal fee but now lives in Boston, so to save money I do it. I can’t stand any measure of roots showing so that means every 3-4 weeks I commit chemical malpractice on my hair. I had gone to the salon asking to be a shade darker. (I had a gift certificate) I came out with darker and red hair. I don’t like the color and have been trying to improve on it, but over the last few months the roots were lighter than the rest. It’s comical really. Every time I look in a mirror I’m startled. Same thing when I look at myself and see who I am – post Dennis.
My point. Yesterday I was at my son’s soccer game. It was a cup game. The lead ref had a larger girth than my 48″ waist when I was about to give birth. I thought, “Come on, it’s a cup game, can’t they send someone who can do the job.” I judged him, on the spot, by his appearance. I assumed he couldn’t do his job. Me, who claims to be an advocate for the underdog. Me, who knows what it’s like to be judged. Me, who can relate to being on the fringes, on the outside looking in, never part of the “in” crowd. Especially after becoming widowed. My excuse – I was feeling the shunning. I reacted in kind. You see, I’ve never been the mom who was at every soccer game. My ex, my son’s father, had my son’s activities and I had the girl’s. I wanted them to have the father/son thing. With six kids we had to divide and conquer. He’s never been to my youngest daughter’s cello lessons or dance class in another state every Monday or choir practice. Get it? So I never made the relationships with the other parents. They probably assumed I didn’t care. Even at after parties etc. I couldn’t connect. My ex and I are very opposite. He holds the crowd and the attention. I was in a bad marriage and held back. Once we were divorced, there were only one or two moms who would even speak to me, yet it was because they had to.
I was devastated when my friends, mainly from church, dropped me like yesterday’s news. One woman told me the women would let me around their children, but not their husbands. I was crushed because I was now looked at as a threat when I had been esteemed as a role model. I’d been a pillar of example, part of what everyone thought was the perfect couple and family every Sunday as we paraded our family of eight. Life changes in an instant. I went from one extreme of abuse to being treasured by a good man. Dennis and I went to my church, but we lived together and for that I was chastised as well. We had more truth, love and commitment in three years than my legal and God-endorsed marriage of 26 years ever had. I married that man every day. Dennis and I managed to get to a few of my son’s games, so the parents were aware of my relationship with him, but we kept to ourselves. After, when he died and because of the way he died, the deliberate isolation and avoidance was palpable. I have never felt more like a leper, like I was contagious, than at church and these other family institutions.
I showed up at the game yesterday as the divorcee in the convertible with another new hair color. So the looks, the oh-my-goodness-what-has-she-done-now glances, and the deliberate exclusion hurts. I’m sure their imaginations are much more vivid than the reality of what my life actually is. They don’t see a mom who regrets not having been there for so many games. They don’t see a woman broken, on the edge of despair who was sobbing moments prior, trying to put on the public face of I’m tough and I deserve to be here. Nor do they know what it takes to get there. They don’t know that I have been in survival mode for the last 7 years getting divorced, moving 3 times, having a child with a potentially life threatening illness, dealing with a combative ex daily and in court, all while being a full-time student. I thought life was finally turning around for me. I had a good man who loved and respected me. I was anticipating, looking forward to building a new life with him and my children, only to have all that shattered. They don’t know how hard it’s been just to get out of bed every day, let alone be thankful for each breath. They don’t know how consuming grief is for me and my children. They lost Dennis too and I grieve for them, for all that should have been. They don’t know that I’ve sold everything I can to pay for tuition, including my motorcycle because my desire for the open road died with Dennis. I didn’t inherit his name, or any insurance. I just helped pay to bury my best friend. They sleep next to their spouses. They have support. They have takeitforgrantedness. I don’t. I like to think I have gained wisdom. I like to think I’ve become a more sensitive person in spite of my hardships, but after yesterday I have to admit I acted like a person I don’t want to become. I’m ashamed.
The stigma of suicide is suffocating. The disenfranchisement of unwed widows is relentless and death changes the way you live your life. That’s why I bought a convertible; with all wheel drive, with trunk space for groceries and a back seat deep enough to feel confident my grandson will be safe in while in his car seat. Because I’m that radical divorcee whose fiance commit suicide and I change my hair color like underwear and I must be wild and crazy, living the carefree single life. Yeah right. So Mr. Referee, I offer my apology. I saw what I was looking for until I chose to see a man who invested in kids. A man who made conversation with everyone. A man who seemed to have a sense of justice. Please forgive me for my shallow perception. I was wrong.