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His eyes showed concern. He said that we needed to talk.
"I don't want you hurt by the process. You should be healed and separate."
I have to say, I was surprised by his intensity and choice of words.
This is very important.
I want the get to be good for you.
It is a powerful experience.
On some obscure level I already knew this. I can't tell you why, but for along time I sensed that the get, this unique Jewish divorce, the one my husbandwas so anxious to complete, was something very special.
PartI - Before the Get
Almost immediately after our separation, my husband began to spend serioustime with a woman I knew. A professional acquaintance of mine. Someone I liked.We had recently spent a great weekend together, and when she called, on thatfirst night after the retreat, I thought it was to make plans for dinner or amovie.
"I think your husband is going to ask me out," she said on the telephone. "Wemet at services and I really want to know what you think because it doesn't seemlike you and I can remain friends if we begin to date."
The word jolted me.
It was too soon.
And. . . .
After our special weekend together, I was excited at the thought of a newfriend. Friends were worth a lot these days. A lifeline to continuation. Theykept you above water when the predominant feeling was drowning. She and I hadjust spent three days together pouring our hearts out about lengthy marriagesand recent separations. During the annual religious women's retreat, we turned acasual relationship into a bonded experience. There was a definite connection.We talked about my husband, our relationship and what kind of a person he was. Ishared things with her that I had told no one. She seemed so interested.
Her pain was obvious during our weekend together, as she also shared detailsof her failed marriage. She wanted to know what I thought about the woman herhusband was dating.
"How could he fall in love so soon? We have only been separated two months.If I hear one more person tell me how wonderful she is, I'll scream."
I knew the woman her husband was dating and I liked her. Without much thoughtI said, "Better her than some bimbo."
"A bimbo would be easier on the ego."
I did not agree.
I know I wasn't thinking clearly when I responded to her telephone call, as Itold her that I honestly believed that dating my husband would be okay. Denverwas such an incestuously small community. It seemed understandable that she andmy husband found each other. They were both lonely and newly separated, withthirty-year marital histories. I thought it was good that I liked her. I wasjust unprepared for my husband to begin to date. After all, we were just separated.I had no plans for them to fall in love.
# # #
I didn't know much about my husband's life. At his suggestion we had littlecontact. So strange. One day there exists a powerful connection. Assumptions offorever. Then nothing. This was not like our previous separation when I hadasked him to leave.
# # #
I asked him to move out. We needed distance. His rage was simply too intenseand it frightened our daughter. I never thought of it as abusive. It was justthe way things were. It surprised me that I felt an immediate sense of reliefwhen he left. My husband's experience was different. The aloneness wasintolerable for him. We had contact several times a week. I complained.
"Isn't this about distance? We talk and spend more time together now that weare separated."
During that first separation, he called often at two or three in the morning."I need you. I love you. Help me through this terrible night. Please."
I eased him through those awful times. I never thought of telling him not tocall. He was in too much pain. This was a time to work things out. It was notpunishment. Now, two years later, this separation felt very different.
# # #
He moved out the day before I flew to Chicago. I thought about not going. Acelebration seemed alien at this moment, but staying home seemed wrong.
Over the years, my sister and I had supported each other during our children'ssignificant life experiences. There wasn't much family left, and we weresisters. Her significance in my life was not simply about sharing geneticmatter. She was someone very special to me. Not going felt too self-indulgent.
The event in Chicago was my niece's high school graduation. The fatacceptance envelope from Amherst had arrived a few weeks earlier, making thisgraduation weekend a very special celebration. Most certainly a time to behappy.
It seemed terribly self-centered to hand my niece a graduation present, giveher a big hug and then tell everyone that my husband just moved out. No oneexpected him to attend the graduation. He never liked our trips to the WindyCity. So I decided to tell no one about the empty bed waiting for me at home.This was a time reserved for joy.
As happy as I was for my sister and her special family, I have to say thatthe weekend was really hard for me. Three glorious days of celebration seemed toaccentuate my loss and arouse feelings of jealousy. This new sensationfrightened me, as envy was an emotion to which I never related.
The source of my feelings did not arise from material possessions, such asbeautiful homes with magnificent lake views. This coveting was about family andeverything I had taken for granted and accepted as a given. Suddenly, the simpleact of sitting down to pancakes and eggs while discussing the day's plans seemedluscious. Sadness overwhelmed me as I thought about the possibility of a futuredefined by a fragmented family. Leaving Chicago was not going to be easy.
# # #
He was a law student, I was an elementary school teacher. We had no money.None of our friends had money. It didn't seem to matter. I don't rememberwanting a whole lot. It was the sixties. In those days my wardrobe consisted oftwo pairs of Levi cords, one or two skirts (my uniform at work), a couple ofturtlenecks, a sweater and desert boots.
Our parents helped. My husband's mom paid for law school. My parents paid formy dental work. With that assistance, the income from my teaching salary, eventhough it was quite small, was enough.
The cost of living was not very high and money never seemed to be a realconcern. We drove one car-a light-blue squareback Volkswagen-and gasoline costtwenty-five cents a gallon. We lived a simple existence. Our life was prettyuncomplicated and, of course, we were in love.
We paid $125 a month (including utilities) for a one-bedroom apartment at the Logan House. Our neighborhood, Capitol Hill,didn't have a good reputation, but we never thought of ourselves as poor. The $2Chinese dinners at the Lotus Room never felt like a sacrifice.
After one year of marriage, we almost bought a beautiful Tudor-styletwo-story brick home at 19th and Niagara. The neighborhood was changing (peopleof color were moving across Montview), and prices were low. The elderly ownerwanted $17,000.
We loved the house and thought that living in an integrated neighborhood wasa great idea. After all, it had only been a year since we were in Boulderholding hands and singing "We Shall Overcome" with James Farmer. Those were thedays of freedom riders and Selma.
If we bought the house we could afford the monthly payment of $142, but ifthe furnace or dishwasher broke we could not absorb the additional expense. Asmuch as we wanted that wonderful house, we passed on the opportunity to buy. Thepossibility of financial pressure frightened us.
We never lived beyond what we could afford. We paid cash for everything. Itwas our tenth year of marriage before I had my first credit card. I paid thefull balance each month, never understanding the meaning of "finance charge."Our parents taught us well. Money was pretty much a non-issue in our lives.
# # #
As I walked through the Denver airport concourse on my way home, ripe withthoughts of my sister and her family, I became consumed with emptiness. A coldchill came upon me as I imagined my daughter's graduation the following yearfrom Manual High School. Reflecting upon the past few days of celebration inChicago, I wondered whether our daughter would sit between her parents atgraduation dinner.
Why didn't we talk about this before he packed his bags and walked throughthe door? Had we really thought about what it would be like for our daughter? Ordid we assume "She's older, she can handle it"? The separation toyed withsomething precious-our family.
While moving slowly through the airport, my eyes fixed on couples andfamilies. Children running to parents. Wives greeting husbands. Boyfriendsstanding with a single rose. It was like being pregnant and noticing for thefirst time that the world was filled with children. This became a slow,excruciating walk as my eyes caught a paired, coupled world.
the world I knew.
The train at the airport became a metaphor of transformation. The jingle overthe speaker system that always sounded a bit like Las Vegas, and the voices ofjournalists Reynelda Muse and Pete Smyth, would never be the same again. Ireturned to Denver a very different person.
# # #
As the taxi pulled away from the curb at our home, Bellaire, I realized mydaughter was away for the evening. Nothing strange about that. She was at theage, developmentally, when parents were not exactly favored companions.
Our timing for a separation was not exactly great either. This was not goingto help our daughter as she began the rigorous college application process.Competition for good schools was fierce. She worked hard in high school and sether sights high. It was good that she didn't have to worry about college money-apromise from her father. The pressure to maintain grades in advanced placementclasses was intense. Now when she needed a solidness around her, the world asshe knew it was being altered drastically.
My daughter and I had always been close, but now she was, appropriately,pulling away and establishing her own life. I did not expect her to greet me atthe door with "Hi, Mom. Let's order pizza and you can tell me about yourweekend."
It probably was her plan not to be home when I arrived from Chicago. As muchas she loved my sister and her family, I don't think she was interested inhearing about the wonderful graduation weekend. I understood. Her previouslysecure world was crumbling and now being defined by uncertainty and fear. In herreality, listening to stories about happy families wasn't exactly therapeutic.
Selfishly though, on this watershed evening, I wished my adolescent daughterwas at home. Even if she were not exactly excited to see me, I simply needed ahug and some companionship. This was strange, as generally I loved my timealone.
On this particular spring night. . . .
I wanted to be anywhere but alone at Bellaire.
(c)2001. All rights reserved. Reprinted from The Getby Elise Edelson Katch.No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system ortransmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of thepublisher. Publisher: HCI, 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach,FL 33442.