I met a policeman last week. He has been divorced 8 years and his youngest child just turned 18 after graduating high school. His child support orders are through, over!
He spent a little time discussing the divorce process with me. He and his wife each had their own lawyers, and they each spent quite a lot of money going through the paces that their lawyers advised. He’s a cop and she’s a teacher, so a lot of money to them has long-term implications. It doesn’t get replaced in the next bonus cycle. But, neither of them knew anything about divorce, so they did what they were told to do, and fought when they were told to fight, and let the Judges rule about how they would divide their parenting time and their retirement accounts, and their personal belongings. Even talking about it this many years after the fact, he seemed sad and remorseful about the way he and his wife had spent that year of their lives.
But, not bitter. Not angry. Just like someone who had gone down the wrong road in a maze, and was now out the maze and on with his life. We talked a little about his kids, where they go to college; what they study, how often he sees them.
On the topic of visiting days and holidays, there was a lot of the word “we.” As in, “we have them all home every year for Thanksgiving.” I imagined his new wife or current girlfriend was the other half of that “we” and that she was probably a good person to embrace, and be embraced by this man’s children from a former relationship. But, as he kept talking, it became apparent that the “we” with whom these kids spend their school vacations are their parents. Both of them, Mom and Dad; long divorced Mom and Dad.
“Oh,” he assured me, “we don’t see each other every day, or anything like that. We each gotta’ have our own lives.”
“Every week,” I asked. He stopped and thought. No, probably not.
“Every month?” He did not have to stop and think. He just said “Of course.”
I had to ask, “Why do you ‘of course’ see each other every month?”
Then he got a little sheepish, as he admitted that he still goes by her place on the first week of the month and pays her child support. There are no children and the court order had ended, but he knows that she relies on that money to pay her bills and make ends meet. And he couldn’t face himself if he cut her off just because the last kid was out of the house. “What kind of dad, what kind of man, would I be?” he asked me.
I told him he is a good man. He knows he is. I don’t know how long he intends to go on giving his ex-wife money. Maybe she knows enough to be saving some of it for when he no longer has the ability just to help her because he wants to. All I know is this: for now, he gets to be part of the Mom and Dad who spend every holiday and visiting day with his kids, he is welcomed in his ex-wife’s house whenever they feel like seeing each other, and – the most important part of all – he can look himself in the mirror and like what kind of man he is.
What We Love: Bad marriages and bad divorces all end, one way or another, but good people are always good people.