Letter to my ex husband.

Dear Ex Husband,

OK, you’ve done it… you’ve got our attention. There’s a wide circle of people thinking about you, talking about you, and worried about you. 

Twenty years ago, about this time of year, we were in the middle of a divorce. A lot has happened for both of us since then. For me, after lots of ups and downs, I have settled into a very very happy marriage.

You, unfortunately are now going through your second marriage break up. I’m sorry that things didn’t work out for you and your wife, but these things happen, and when I heard the news I hoped that you would meet someone else and find the same sort of love that I have found. After all, you are only in your early sixties, there’s plenty of time.

What has happened in the last few days has shocked all of us. You have had a stroke. Luckily it seems to be a minor stroke, and with treatment the damage will be limited. It could have been so much worse. Instead of me phoning to tell our daughters that you were in hospital, I could have been breaking much worse news to them.

The first time I ever caught sight of you, it was a Sunday afternoon, and I was going for an interview in the small village where you had been born and brought up. You were crossing the road, wearing your mechanic’s overalls. My Dad laughed and remarked that at least there was one boy in the village! The fact that it was a Sunday, and you’d obviously been working, should have warned me.

We didn’t get together for over two years, but you were part of the crowd of village boys that came regularly to The Mews, the accommodation we student Nursery Nurses shared. We eventually got together at a dance in Brighton. Very quickly we decided we wanted to be married, and so in January 1970 we started our life together.

One of the things I liked and admired about you was your work ethic. When I met you you were working overtime every day, by starting an hour early and working an hour late. I still think that is admirable in a boy of eighteen. 

We had our first baby the same year we were married, and I remember you taking him in his carry cot when you were doing private work. I’d been admitted to hospital. You were looking after the baby, taking him to your Mum’s in the day, collecting him after work, having dinner and then going out to fix cars, baby in tow.

Within seven years of our marriage we had four children, and your Mother was beginning to  express anxiety about you, and our marriage, simply because your work had taken over your life. You were self employed by then, and working very long hours. Fourteen hours a day was probably a short day for you. Your Mum even suggested that I should give you a shock by leaving you, as she had done when your Dad had been working all hours and leaving her with five children to care for. It had worked for them, but I couldn’t think of doing the same to you.

Gradually as your career developed and changed, the long days became weeks away from home, with you still managing to fit in 14 hour days, eating and drinking on the run, and mostly sleeping in your lorry. All your life people have told you that you should slow down. I know you so well though. You are proud of your ability to work on when others have given up and gone to sleep. 

I think you probably managed to slow a little when you first got together with your second wife, but that very soon she too was alone at home with her children far more than she should have been. I don’t know why you and she split up, but I do wonder whether the cracks started to appear because of your need to fill your life with work. Only she could tell me that. Perhaps one day she will…we have a lot in common, after all.

So here we are, and for the first time in your life you have been forced to stop for a while, and it hasn’t been because you have listened to your mum, or your wife. Your own body is at last telling you that you’ve been taking it for granted. You have been a very fit man, still are in a lot of ways, and that will help you recover, but only if you listen. You are in your sixties now, by no means an old man, but you have done what you have always done in the run up to Easter. You have worked all hours, seven days a week, for the last six weeks….Why? So some Garden Centres can be set up in time for this busy weekend, and make more money off your back. You have risked your life and your health for that. Please don’t tell me you think that it’s worth it.

You have so many people that love you and respect you, and to whom how many hours you work doesn’t matter, except when that working encroaches on the time you can spend with them. Your children and Grandchildren need you to spend time with them, not just a couple of hours here and there when you are working in the area, though those extra visits would still be appreciated.

Last year you took some of the Grandchildren away on holiday. They will never forget that week…don’t let it be the last happy memory they have of you.

You are the father of my children. When I heard that you were in hospital I was shocked and upset. I hope that the coming month, when you are not allowed to drive, and when I’ve no doubt your Mother will insist that you take it easy, you will discover that not working is not such a bad thing, that there are other ways you can fill your time.

Get well soon,

With my love always. x

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