The relationship between former spouses is both strange and estranged. My children’s father and I are greatly wary of one another. This man, understandably reluctant to see his children move out of state, played dirty in a most unfortunate way. Instead of being honest, not that any of us expected him to develop that forever-elusive-to-him quality (hence divorce in the first place), he lied about his intentions and actions, dillydallied, sued me, and tried to have me arrested. Things ended fairly well for the children and I, all things considered, but we all bear the marks of the trauma by having a rather cautionary relationship with him. Still, I try to remember he is human. I try to remember that his obnoxiousness and manipulation is a reflection of deeply-rooted anger and insecurity that has never been my job to abate, even though when I lived with him, I thought it was.
This week, broken by new loss, he reached out rather humbly. The dog we raised together, one of two I had to leave behind when we ended our marriage, would have seen her fifteenth birthday this August. Two days ago, Dakota crossed the rainbow bridge in a difficult but loving decision by my ex-husband. We had discussed the symptoms of her impending death and vast discomfort. I had sent all the pictures of the old girl that I had. I then had reminded him that doing the right thing required courage—something I know very well, as the last year of my life required tremendous guts to persist, to fight, and to stand up against him.
I mused this week about the peculiar duality that exists within humans, the ability to hold two opposing sets of feelings, or to think one way and let one’s actions completely override that thought. This man is a difficult man, yet the grief of his losing his dog is a sudden sacred valley, and I was able to counsel him gently. Of course, this was once my dog, too.
I wish I could say that the moment of loss this week would start a new place of peace in our relationship. It will not, however. When the grief for our beloved creature wears to a comfortable memory, he will again find opportunities to express the hostility and desire for control that I experienced for the last several years. I will again have to make hard decisions about how to promote a relationship between him and the children, yet protect them at the same time. He will never see nor understand the effects his behavior has on others. I have accepted this.
In the meantime, our first dog is now gone forever. The night before last, I dreamed about her. We went for walk at the lake near my childhood home. At one point, I went to call Dakota home to me, but she was swimming in cold, extremely choppy, brown waves. I could not enter the water. I knew doing so would endanger me as well and we would both be lost. I stood afraid at the foot of the concrete-stepped wall that separated lake from city, and watched her try to clamor for safety upon a buoy.
Like the marriage I once left, I could not save her.