Family

In a Family, Small Moments Aren’t Always Small

IMG_3483My husband’s ex-wife and I have an interesting relationship. She is a conservative midwestern Christian woman and I am the progressive Jewish New York City actor guy who married her ex-husband. It’s the kind of relationship sitcoms are made of. Sitcoms, reality shows, and plays like No Exit and A Streetcar Named Desire. Really any plot that takes people who should never meet, puts them in a claustrophobic space from which they can never escape, and watches as their forever intermingled fates explode against one another.

Having said that, I should point out that there have never been any pyrotechnics in our relationship. She has always been perfectly civil to me. Even that makes it sound worse than it is. Frankly, she has just always seemed deeply uncomfortable around me. I have never sensed that she was resisting me personally as much as the idea of me. The idea that someone would be a husband to her ex-husband. The idea that gayness might enter her world in such an intimate way. I always sensed that she was uncomfortable with the idea that the world maybe isn’t as black and white as her Bible would have her believe.

But 17 years is a long time and those years have thawed our relationship. I doubt we’d ever be friends if we weren’t connected through my husband and their children, but still, we seem to have reached a place of comfort. Gone are the days when, before cell phones and caller ID, she’d call our apartment to talk to Rick about one of the kids and I would pick up the phone to hear a stilted voice and witness, audibly, her spine stiffen as the silent prayer that Rick would pick up went unanswered. Gone is the strained and monotone, “Roger? How are you? Is Rick there?”

Cut to last weekend.

Rick and I were in Ohio to see his family and to celebrate the many wonderful things going on with them, not the least of which is one of their sons’ engagement and their daughter’s pregnancy–a pregnancy which marks Rick’s and his ex-wife’s leap from parenthood into grandparenthood. It’s an exciting time for everyone.

One evening, while we were out getting ice cream, we ran into Rick’s ex and her husband, also out to cap off their muggy Ohio summer evening with a sweet treat. I leaned in to give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek and said, “Congratulations!” Without missing a beat, she replied, “You too.” It was so easy, so natural, that it utterly betrayed the 17 year journey we have been on. The simple acknowledgement that there was something for me to celebrate as well, that I am a part of this family, that I have been here to mourn the losses and shoulder the bad times as well as celebrate the good ones, was astonishing to me. At this point, she recognizes that we are, quite simply, a family, even if it doesn’t match the exact vision any of us used to have of what a family is.

Is there a lot she still doesn’t get? Absolutely. Will she still vote for people who vow to make my life, the life of her ex-husband, and possibly the lives of her future grandchildren more difficult? If I had to guess, I’d say yes. But I feel that her simple “you too” must be noted. It was surely noted in my heart and in my knees that nearly buckled from shock.

I have never asked for her approval. I have never needed it. But after all this time, it’s nice not to feel like a stranger in my own family. Every now and again, it’s nice to be reminded that the most powerful weapon we have at our disposal in terms of full acceptance is simply living our lives openly and honestly. That simple “you too” has given me hope. Who knows, maybe in another 17 years I’ll have her voting for Bernie Sanders.

PHOTO CREDIT: ROGER ROSEN

Tags: , ,

4 Comments

  1. That was beautiful, Roger. Thanks for sharing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*