We the wise of my mother’s
many children thought we knew what was best for her. The family meeting topics
included our father’s chronic alcoholism, his refusal to seek treatment, and
our concern for our mother.
With the passage of decades,
the memories are vague. I can’t remember whether my mom wanted to see a lawyer,
whether she surrendered as she did to so much of what life dealt her, or if she
silently went along to simply avoid an argument.
What I do remember is her
The lawyer’s office was dark
in the afternoon light and his large wooden desk covered with untidy stacks of
paper and opened books. He was round in the middle and looked old and serious
like I thought a lawyer should. His suit appeared not quite as though he had
slept in it but also not like it had felt the press of an iron that season.
I wasn’t yet in law school,
but had enough in savings so that when the attorney said the fee was a hundred
dollars I immediately volunteered to pay it, with a combination of pride,
protection, and embarrassment.
I don’t know what ever
happened to that divorce, except that it never happened.
My parents’ marriage went on
for many years more until my father’s drinking and smoking and broken spirit ended his life,
leaving my mother widowed after nearly four decades of marriage.
Mom lived for 23 years after
Dad’s death. I never thought to ask her about that divorce that never happened.
What I do know is that my mother was not where I was when it came to making a
She was fifty something with
an 8th grade education. Mom had never lived alone nor learned to
drive. Her three to eleven shift at Bergan
did not inspire faith she could be self-supporting. Most of all, Mom was a
When I faced the divorce
decision, I was living in a different time, a different place, a different
world. I was thirty something with a law degree. I had experienced living alone
in my cozy attic apartment as a coed at Drake University.
I owned my own law firm. I had only two children whose father I knew would
faithfully support them. In one form or another I had been breaking the tenets
of the Catholic Church for well over a decade.
When faced with the choice
of divorce, Mom’s view was through a different lens than mine. No doubt she saw
her best, if not her only path, as remaining with the one man she had ever
loved, the man with whom she bore eight children, the man to whom she made a
Neither my mother nor I ever
expressed regret about our choices. Both of us went on to find love again. Both
of us lived happy lives after choosing our path.
Just as my mother and I were
in different worlds when we made our divorce decision, so is each person who
sits across the desk from the divorce lawyer for that initial consultation.
Only you know what is right
for you. Trust that you do when it comes time for your divorce decision.