While I’m away, readers give the advice.
On romantic gifts: When my husband passed away a few years ago, I could count on one hand the number of times he had given me flowers or candy, the typical “tokens of affection,” although I had certainly mentioned that I would like to get some, as my friends did. However, on the first bitter, blustery day after his death, I was reminded that for 20 years I could also count on one hand the times I had scraped my own windshield, headed for work in a cold car when the outdoor temp was below freezing, or pumped my own gas in the sleet or snow. Those loving gestures — unasked for and, I confess, often taken for granted — were my roses and chocolates.
Lucky in Love
On knocking holiday-scheduling stress out of the stinkin’ park: I am a grandmother. I will not insist on any visits. I will not place guilt on my kids. Or theirs. Hey everyone, wake up in your own beds. If you want to see me, invite me over. I love you, your house, your food, your traditions.
And if you don’t want company, I will lovingly accept your choices. You owe me nothing. I have a full and healthy life.
I respect that you NEED to build your own family memories. Trust me, they are the glue that will hold you together later. Life gets hard. Really hard. Turn toward each other, not your mommy and daddy. The torch needs passing. Accept the blame and the accolades. Decorate. Make some magic. Childhood is a blip. Don’t spend it dragging kids from pillar to post. Sprinkle some fairy dust around your own house. Make it smell wonderful with YOUR favorite foods. Invite non-threatening loved ones. On your terms.
Have a blessed and beautiful time. Love is contagious.
On the effects of divorce on extended family: What I remember so painfully about my divorce is that when I called my mother, she would cry. My mom’s needs were so glaring, she couldn’t address mine, at least not right away. I was emotionally bankrupt and calling her for support! I wasn’t able to lend it to her in turn! So I let her know, kindly and with great love: If you’re going to cry when I call for now, then for now, I can’t call … I can’t be strong for both of us!
Then I called my aunt and I explained the situation. My aunt understood immediately and mobilized some separate support for my mother. She was able to lean on those people, and then I could lean on her again.
The divorce blindsided and devastated me … and its ripples hurt my family, their hopes for me, and their wishes and expectations that I would have happiness and security in a relationship I’d been taught to trust and respect.
The happy ending is that time did its thing. The divorce certainly taught me more than I’d ever have learned otherwise about compassion, frailty, patience, and love. While I wouldn’t say necessarily that I’m happier now than when I was married, I can say definitely that I like myself a whole lot more now, and I wouldn’t change my life for anything in the world.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at washingtonpost.com.