Not long after I got home from the hospital my lawyer’s secretary called me. I wasn’t sure why; things that are so obvious to Italians are sometimes not clear to me at all. Dutifully, I went to the appointment and as she ushered me into her office, she explained I was there to read and sign the final divorce agreement.
I read it over, and there weren’t too many surprises. I probably could have picked nits but I was tired and ready for it to be over. February had worn me down, and so had the winter months of infrequent, dull negotiations in which we trudged to a point where everyone had given up enough that an agreement could be reached. Besides, after my ex had been so helpful and generous while I was in the hospital, it seemed pretty tacky to drag the painful process out over something as trivial as what time he needs to have the kids home on a Sunday night and how often they are to talk with him on Skype.
My lawyer always says we are the easiest couple she has seen, which makes me wonder. If an easy divorce is this wearying, what must a difficult one be like?
Or does she say the same thing to everyone?
No matter, I signed. I was glad to be done, although we won’t officially be divorced until closer to the end of the year. It takes so long here: after three years of legal separation we became eligible to file for divorce. It is now close to four years since we split and we have a few more months to wait until a hearing is held, when a judge will ask us if we agree to the terms of the agreement, we say yes and go home and wait for the ruling, which should come no earlier than September.
In her office, my lawyer checked that I had initialled each page of the agreement, then she put it in a thick manilla folder on which someone had written our last names, mine and his, together, but separated by two backslashes //. I felt a little heavy in the chest when she closed the folder. Oh. So that’s it.
It is good that the process took so long. I think I might have had doubts or regrets about some of my choices if it hadn’t been so slow and tedious to get to where we are now. I had plenty of time to think things over, turn them this way and that, wonder, then feel the reality of the choice and see how it played out in my life, how it affected the boys, and then wait a little longer, just to be sure.
A friend of mine who does not have children told me she thought I was making a big mistake by having him around so often for holidays and other importants events for the kids. “You’re NOT a family!” she said. “You’re only confusing your children!”
I couldn’t see why she was so upset: my kids seem fine. Confused about what, anyway? She seemed more confused than we are.
Often the expectation is that what comes after love is hate, and that if a couple splits it is because they can’t stand each other anymore. But isn’t life more nuanced than that? Aren’t human beings more complex? It has been my experience that the end of a marriage is long and wearying, and divorce, if you have children, is not the end of your relationship. Until death do you part? HA! They should save that for the birth of your first child.
We are a family – not the one we’d had in mind when we met and fell in love, but a family nonetheless. I’d even argue that in some ways our separation has made us better parents. Whereas before, we saw the boys as these marvelous creatures we had made, now we see ourselves as the deeply flawed parents they inherited, which only makes us try harder to get it right. Neither of us is eager to mess up parenthood the way we did marriage.
That said, I am sick of this divorce. I am sick of thinking about it and I am sick of it being there in my life, like a big unpleasant lump I turn around and bump into. But then, I also kind of dread September when it will all be over. Because: and then what?