We sat on a bench pointed toward the sea like two women twice our age. I clutched my binoculars in one hand ready to spy anything (or anyone) worth my interest and I tsked the young man out on the coastal rocks by himself. She marveled at the constancy of the ocean waves and how they made our troubles seem small and remote. We fell into easy silences and I scooched closer to keep her warm.
We have been side by side friends since we were twelve years old. We struggled through puberty and big eighties hair together. We bravely took the stage together in high school and sang an a cappella version of an Indigo Girls song and to this day we still pretend it wasn’t a disaster. We stood behind each other as the other said “I do,” not knowing our first marriages would thereafter fail. We both birthed two daughters and have worried, cried, celebrated, and giggled in joy over motherhood. Now we bemoan midlife changes to our bodies and the empty nest that is daily inching closer.
For thirty-six years we have seen each other through every mood and now know without words what the other needs. Her husband jealously jokes about her other soulmate, but when she recently went through one of life’s difficult obstacles he lovingly said, “Call Angela, you need her.”
My younger self dreamt that my spouse and I would be untouchable in our snow-globe-like-world, resistant to imperfections and changing feelings. I used to think that a wildly romantic love would morph into a magical marriage and be the big love of my life.
I was wrong.
Of the many lessons my divorce revealed to me, the most profound has been the dismantling of my belief that the most fulfilling love must be romance or marriage based. When my marriage failed, I thought perhaps I was unlovable. I wondered why my signature traits of loyalty, stubbornness, and undeterred optimism had not been enough to sustain my marriage for more than the decade it lasted. I felt deeply flawed and broken. I grieved the loss of a hand to hold into my gray-haired days.
In the stillness of the aftermath of my divorce over a decade ago, I see the greatest loves have been the blood-born unconditional loves I share with my daughters and with my parents and the big love Genelle and I have nurtured over nearly four decades. I could not have known at twelve that I chose her and she chose me to grow up and old with together. We never had to stand before our friends and family and say “I do,” declaring that we would love and cherish each other over the smooth and rocky terrains of our life paths. But we did.