Sunday, May 27, 2007

Divorce in the family, Ohio style

My Ohio relatives don't believe in divorce. They get divorced, of course, but they don't believe in coddling the divorced exes of their nearest and dearest. Don't start telling them that there are two sides to every story.

Since my parents divorced, my Uncle Doc's name for my father has been, "That son of a bitch! I'd like to get my hands on him!" Uncle Doc steamed about this for about 30 years, then he developed Alzheimer's and got a mellower outlook.

Imagine his consternation when his youngest daughter got divorced. This was particularly galling since the two families knew each other well and spent a lot of time together, going out to dinner, going on vacation, etc. These activities came to a halt with the divorce and Uncle Doc confided to me that he had never liked "that son of a bitch" (Carol's ex-husband) and that the whole family was "no damned good." He told me that he had always had misgivings and that he had never liked any of them. I guess, retroactively, he didn't. Carol's wedding pictures were removed from the parlor posthaste and replaced by photos of her and her two daughters romping on the beach. As far as the Uncle Doc family were concerned, the girls were the product of immaculate conception. Carol herself maintained cordial relations with him, by the way, even asking him to babysit from time to time. But the official line was, he was a non-person.

My aunt, to the contrary, forgave and forgot, although it took 20 years. When she ran in to one Carol's ex-in-laws recently, , she greeted them cordially and confided in me that they just loved Carol. "They're a nice family," she said. "Except for him."

Contrast that to my father's side, where everyone has had at least one divorce, just to warm up. Even two are acceptable, so why bear grudges? Sometimes you just have to try, try again, until you get it right. So anecdotes featuring former spouses went something like this: "I was married to Evelyn at the time--no,no, it was Maggie--no, Evelyn, it was when I worked for the Acme Corporation and lived in Yonkers, no, that would be White Plains. Anyway...."

I attribute their mellower outlook to the fact that they tend to cluster on the two coasts, where people are more broadminded.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think it maybe less that they are closed minded and more that they take marriage more serious than most people seem to. Instead of criticizing people who believe that marriage is still a sacred vow between two people perhaps you should look at how the institution of marriage has become as casual as the words 'I love you'. I'm from Ohio, and people here are very openminded. I think that there is nothing wrong with having traditional values, it's better than lacking them all together.