This weekend I learned that our two close friends are getting divorced. They have a young son.
For me, divorce is like a kind of death. It's the ending of two lives together, a relationship that has perhaps been long dead, now formalized. My reaction was to hold my wife tightly that night.
I feel for the boy. I remember talking to his parents recently about his future education. They're considering putting him in the French School. Perhaps in later years he would go to France for a broader eduction. I remember thinking the usual snide thoughts about the real kind of education he would receive in France. It's an expensive proposition. Perhaps a simple, solid marriage between his two parents and public school would be far more valuable than a child of divorce learning French at an expensive school somewhere. Perhaps.
But dad wants to be free -- to travel, to be unshackled and to untie the weights he feels bind him to the ground. They consider their differences irreconcilable. I hope this is for the best -- it might be if the alternative is a miserable marriage on daily display to their son. As it stands, they lead secret, separate lives around the boy.
Looking at my parent's era, marriage seemed like it was a more stable, enduring union. There was less divorce then. Marriage was ordained by God more than man in those days. But I also know a lot of people from that older generation through my friends. The marriages are largely intact, but I've detected no shortage of angst among many of them, now that they are elderly. I can see the bitterness in some of these people's eyes. Perhaps they are wondering what lives they might have had if they'd been with someone else. More of these older people maintained their vows, but in so doing they may not have been true to themselves. It's hard to say.
Among my 40ish year old friends, my wife and I have felt isolated. There are very few marriages among our friends and peers that we feel we can look up to. She and I are very happy with our daughter. We love our family life, and each other without condition. But that seems rare among our midlife friends. We feel like a little island amongst all this marital disquietude. Is this unique to my generation?
The grass is always greener somewhere else. Whether married or not, I think it's in our nature to imagine the other lives we might've had. But the grass we stand on, here and now, is what matters. Regret is inescapable sometimes, as much as we might dislike that word. These people are my friends. I love them. What a cold day this is.