Words of encouragement to help….
As a fairly young woman, I lost 3 husbands…one to divorce and two others, to death. But I never knew “longevity of marriage.” I knew I’d not be the woman re-taking her marriage vows, 50 year later, to her husband, in a packed Catholic church, with grown kids looking on, wistfully…
No, I’m a Serial Monogamist.
That reality does make me, however, a kind of expert at in-laws, and one father-in-law stands out for his meanness.
I got the call one night from his girlfriend’s 55-year-old daughter, pleading with me to make things right for her mother. You see, my father-in-law had rented out an apartment in his triple-decker to her mother, and that woman had moved into his apartment some time later. Now, she did all his grocery-shopping, cooking, cleaning, and laundry. But he still charged her rent!!!
I applied pressure, via my husband, and that practice stopped.
Then, there was the nastiness he did to my family. My husband had died; the kids were 16 and 6. The older one begged off visiting him; the apartment was cramped and stuffy; and he wasn’t particularly nice.
Because she had a packed schedule, I released her from that duty.
What’d he do? The man who was never generous sent costly floral bouquets to our home, one for me and one for my little one. He’d conspicuously left out that older daughter, making her aware of her exclusion.
Now, I’m Old School enough to practice: “Harm my children…harm me.”
Following that, I no longer took my little one to visit him, either.
Those incidents helped me understand his wife’s leaving him, in her 70th. year. You see, she’d been married to him, since her teens, and she wanted some pleasure in her waning years, before she died. She knew she couldn’t do that, if she stayed with him.
It was a brave action on her part. It happened in the 60’s (when most women would have never considered such) and she took a low-cost apartment in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. She relied on payments from their rental holdings in RI to sustain her (and he always held out on her.)
Another odd twist to the story? Her brother was in S.F., too, and he was another maverick– a gay man in a period that frowned on such. As a writer, he revered the classics and theatre. She knew she’d have a friend who’d appreciate her similar interests.
So, she chucked her marriage of half a century and settled down to a whole new way of life, and I salute her courage, because taking on a whole new lifestyle at 70+ must be daunting.
Periodically, we’d get little gifts from her for the baby, Chinese slippers or a fan from Chinatown, packaged in an old shoebox, or snippets of stories from San Francisco that told of her protests for Washington inaction regarding the MIA’s of Viet Nam (her son went down, piloting a plane over Hanoi.)
But I remember her, today, for her bravery. In an era when women had few choices, this older woman left everything familiar, traveled cross-country, and settled in a completely foreign city where she knew only one person.
Her marriage was that bad. The good thing was: She knew it.
If you’re considering doing something similar, maybe her story will embolden you, and then, too, there’s this link, from AARP, that sheds further light on the subject of ending long-term relationships.