Far more quickly than I could have possibly imagined it’s the four-thousand one-hundred and sixtieth week of my life. My goodness. How time does fly. According to the calendar, I’m old, people my age are referred to in newspapers as elderly. But that’s not even close to correct, and I’ll bet I could find a million women and men my age (and older) who would prove it over and over.
We are all around you. Having a wonderful time. Loving life and accomplishing more than we would ever have suspected we were capable of. Many of the trials, struggles and seeming failures of life are finally placed in perspective with surprising results.
I had no goals, other than those of most women from my time and world; marriage, children, keep a good house and maybe learn how to play bridge. There were no other dreams or expectations. Discovering my own hidden gifts and talents and bringing them to fruition? Not in my wildest dreams. But dreams do end and waking up can be the best thing that ever happened to you. Even though the only way you’ll know it is by looking back over your shoulder. A long time later.
Getting a divorce is like having open heart surgery without any anesthetic. But how I felt then is so not how I feel now. Then, there was one terrible afternoon when I literally wanted to blow my soon-to-be ex-husband, the father of my five children, right off the face of the earth. Oh, I hated him!
Alas, once was not enough. A year after the first divorce I fell madly in love again. Or perhaps it was lust. I really don’t know, to tell the truth. After living together for five turbulent years, on the very day I had decided that it was over, dang if he didn’t show up with a wedding ring and a romantic proposal. Flowers and all. Of course, I said yes.
Four turbulent years later, one rainy Saturday afternoon I asked him if he wanted a divorce. Before I could even get the entire word out of my mouth, he was up and out of the room. “Yes,” he said as he walked away. “Yes.” That was not the response I had hoped for.
It took four more years to get over that one. The first year there were tears every day and sadness so pervasive sometimes I didn’t know if I could breathe for another few hours much less a lifetime.
Over time, the tears lessened. But the longing for him (or someone) hadn’t passed. I slept on the couch, the bed was far too big and way too empty. The thought of being alone for the rest of my life was unbearable. Unfathomable.
But dating? Well…I suppose I expected too much. Or did I? Was I unreasonable to expect someone who wanted to know what I thought, dreamed, liked, disliked?
Truth is, most men in my age bracket are used to being center stage, with the helpful little lady to cook, do laundry, iron shirts, and watch endless sports shows while she cheerfully waits hand and foot on the old fart.
I had been forced by circumstances I didn’t want and hadn’t chosen to discover my own independence, self-reliance, and to fill a well-stocked tool box. Life snuck up on me. After a few years, I found myself waking up in the morning feeling happy. I had five wonderful grown children and seven practically perfect grandchildren. I loved my house, decorated to my feminine taste, with lots of pink and pale yellow and mossy green. I had friends, lots of them. And I even had a job that I was very good at. Best of all, I discovered I was a writer. To my mind, that’s akin to suddenly discovering you are in the lesser echelon of Gods and Goddesses.
A few years later I intentionally chose to forget the painful parts of that second marriage. I left it all behind in a heap late one rainy night on the plaza in the ancient Italian city of my ancestors. Now all I have to remember are the good times. Thanks to him I’ve had the wonder and delight of seeing almost all of Texas. I’ve seen the Hill Country ablaze with masses of brilliant bluebonnets and orangey-red Indian paint, the desert and mountains of Big Bend, starry skies beyond imagining, the Piney Woods, and the table flat West. And I loved every minute of it. Every woman ought to have one torrid romance in her life and I’m delighted to report that I had mine. I wish him well.
Then, last year the first husband came back into my life. He was dying. Alone in a nursing home. I couldn’t let that happen, no matter how sourly our marriage had ended. I sat by his bedside every afternoon as he lingered on. One day he said weakly, “I’ve been wondering what I did with my life….”
I called the kids and gave them their marching orders. Be at the hospital at 10 AM on Sunday, no exceptions, no excuses. They arrived in plenty of time, and I lined all five of them up at the foot of his bed. Then I woke him gently.
“Wake up, honey, and take a look. There. That’s what you did with your life.” Five fine people, three handsome men and two beautiful women. Accomplished, smart, good people, excellent parents. We knew, in a flash of insight, we’d done all any human being can hope to do with a life. We were happy that day.
Every visit we talked about the wonderful trips we had taken, the many special times we had together, and I told him over and over that I was glad he had been in my life. And I truly meant it.
Two days before he died he whispered, “You are so beautiful…”
I will remember and treasure that moment always. From the thrill of new love almost sixty years ago, to disappointment, despair, fury, and finally indifference, all the way back to love again. Who could have foreseen that?
I never married again. Not because I couldn’t, but by choice. First, I was my father’s daughter. Then a wife. Then again a wife. Only late in my life did I take the time to discover who I really was and what I was made of.
And it turns out that the view from the eightieth floor is wonder-full.
Ginnie Siena Bivona has worked in many facets of the publishing industry for more than 30 years. Currently, she produces self-published books through her company, Lone Star Productions. Ginnie is also a published author. Her first novel was Ida Mae Tutweiler and the Traveling Tea Party (pub date 2000). On March 7, 2009, a made for TV movie based on the book premiered, Bound By A Secret, starring Meredith Baxter, Lesley Ann Warren, and Timothy Bottoms. It has been on TV many times since the first release and to date has a viewer count of many millions. Recent releases include a collection of short stories; The Secret Lives of Ordinary Women, and Reality Check, the Work of a Part-time Poet. In addition, she has written two cookbooks, a humorous cookbook titled The Seductive Chef, A Cookbook & More for Lovers, and she co-authored Top Texas Chefs Favorite Recipes with Sharry Buckner.