My daughter just returned from her grandmother Rachel’s funeral. Years ago, Rachel was my MIL. I never stopped liking Rachel, but I lost touch with her after her son and I divorced. She told my daughter she missed me. She also told my daughter that she did not believe all the hateful things the EX told her, my children, and anyone else who would listen.
The really bizarre thing is that Rachel had given me her one and only compliment just before I left the EX for good. Apparently, I had finally molded myself into the creäture she thought I should become.
The summer before we split, I put up several dozen jars of tomatoes, green beans and other produce from the garden the children and I had grown on a 1/2 acre plot. I had made our clothes for the following fall (the compliment had to do with my skills as a seamstress). And, I had done myriad other things housewives were supposed to do.
Meanwhile, I was working on a bachelor’s degree at a college a good half hour away, and managed to do all my homemaking chores and take care of my three children who were being bussed to schools located all over the county. I tried to take over as a leader of a Cadet Girl Scout troop a half county away from my home at my daughter’s school. I was also driving my kids to Catechism classes on the weekends.
The EX was drunk every evening, on those evenings he was home (Later, my friend Sherry informed me that he had a girl friend; he admitted this years later to his children).
Finally, one night, about half way through the semester, I must have finally reached the end of my rope, because I told my EX I wanted a divorce, and by the first of December, I had moved out of the house in the countryside, to an apartment across the street from the college I attended in Fredericksburg VA, and moved the children into city schools which were already integrated as had been the military schools they attended when we lived in base housing in Hawaii.
That same weekend we moved, I took the children to the Episcopal Church and never again attended Mass. I loved the Catholic Church, and separating from it was the saddest day of my life. Years later, I attended the meetings of a Catholic singles group with the futile hope it would lead somewhere, but they were such a sad group of people, I stopped attending meetings after a while.
My sister went through a similar experience with her EX, but she filed for an annulment with Rome. The Church granted her annulment largely based on the conditions in our home of origin (I was a witness), which did not prepare us for adult life. Today she is a Catholic in good standing.
I stuck with the Episcopal Church until it completely fell apart a few years ago. Since then, I have investigated many religions but found none that could hold my attention the way the Catholic Church did.
I thought about that again this week as I do whenever someone dies. My MIL was a Methodist and attended a church in Thomasville NC where her daughter’s BIL was the minister. All the deceased family members are buried in the church yard according to my daughter. My deceased family members are buried in Alabama, Tennessee, NC, Virginia, Wisconsin and Michigan. The ancestors from before the Civil War are buried in Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Europe. I have visited many of their graves, and always have the same question. Where do we go from here?
A graveyard in the Cotswalds in England (1995). Above, a scene in the French Alps. (1998) (Photos: Schmidleysscribblins)