Taking care of our ex-husbandsJan 24, 2022 03:33PM ● By Cappy Hall Rearick
My mother’s cousin, Ginny, had a taste of glamor back in the ’50s when she worked for Ralph Edwards, the creator and host of the popular television show, “This Is Your Life.”
Each segment centered around a different person, sometimes famous, sometimes not, but a guest was caught off guard by a grinning Edwards shoving a microphone in their face. While cameras rolled, the host took the guest through the highs and lows of a life well-lived. Most of them were tickled to death to be a part of a show that allowed viewers a peek at celebrities.
Mother said Ginny’s job consisted of looking into the lives of each of the guests. She was a background researcher, a big deal for a gal from the Mississippi Delta with only a high school education. She was good at her job and Mama said, “Money-wise, Ginny did okay.”
But success and money are not what this story is about.
At some point, Ginny met Bob, they married, and eventually divorced. Much later, after Bob was diagnosed with cancer, Ginny brought him home and nursed and cared for him until his death.
I have no idea why she did what she did, but I’ve thought about it a lot. Maybe he had nowhere else to go and/or no one else in his life he could call on. I want to believe that Ginny remembered the love they once knew, and although they had been unable to make the marriage work, the once-shared love never completely died.
I was reminded again of Ginny’s story after learning that my Aunt Polly followed in her cousin’s footsteps when she suggested that her own ex-husband come live in her house.
Years ago, after Aunt Polly and her first husband were divorced, she remarried. After many more years, her newer husband died and she embraced widowhood like a champ. Her daughter, an angel if ever there was one, lived with and cared for her mother while at the same time caring for her father who lived five hours away.
Not long ago, Aunt Polly’s ex suffered a stroke. My aunt told her daughter, “Go get your daddy and bring him here to live with us. We’ll stay socially distant so we won’t bug each other, and you won’t have to make that long drive every week to see about him.”
Is there something embedded in our family DNA? I’ve got two ex-husbands so I don’t want to go there.
I was moved by the kind of family geniality I’d heard about from my mother when she spoke of Ginny. Polly’s compassion for her ex-husband’s plight went beyond kindness and asks the question: Are decisions like hers being made by other seniors today? Is there a commonality between some ex-husbands and wives (of a certain age) who once found it impossible to live together, but are now living out their less-than-golden years in the same space?
If so, my questioning mind asks, what must those days be like? Do they spend hour after hour reliving the good times or do they rehash all the reasons they got divorced in the first place? Do they find themselves nitpicking like they did so often in the past? Perhaps they have mellowed out and, along with their grown children, now sit around and talk about the old times, laughing at themselves as well as things they never found the least bit humorous in the past.
I can’t help but wonder if some of Ginny’s DNA trickled down to my Aunt Polly. Long since divorced from Husband Number One, is Polly finding out that shared history is better served up alongside the one who helped to make it? She and her ex are not as sharp as they once were. What if a Ralph Edwards wannabee showed up and shouted the familiar words, “This is your life,” at them?
I suspect a great deal of their shared history would surprise them both. Even so, my sweet, funny Aunt Polly would laugh the loudest, enjoying every moment of the redux even if she didn’t remember them. I can only hope that some of the DNA embodied in my aunt’s good humor and compassion has trickled down to some of my chromosomes...except when it applies to my ex-husbands.