The snowy season began a little early here in Indianapolis, with the first snowfalls in late December. We had a white Christmas for the first time in years. It snowed three times before I was able to shovel my driveway. The more my little car packed down the snow, the more it slipped and slid on the driveway’s slope.
As I cleared the driveway, I reflected on all the snows I shoveled during my childhood. South Bend, where I grew up, gets serious snow; in the winter, it wasn’t unusual for my brother and I to shovel the driveway and sidewalks four or five days a week, sometimes more than once a day. On snowy school days, the minute we came home Mom issued us our shovels. We sometimes complained – why couldn’t we just rest for a little while first? Why couldn’t we wait for Dad so he could help us? Mom always explained that Dad worked hard and so we were going to give him the opportunity to rest when he came home. She asked us to imagine how good he would feel to find a cleared driveway and sidewalk waiting for him when he arrived. She said that this was one way we could show Dad that we loved him.
I began to chop up the packed snow. My sons were at their mother’s, 20 miles away. I had a little pity party, wishing that I had had a happy marriage, the kind where my wife sent my sons out to clear my driveway before I got home. I would have liked to relax after work like my dad used to! But more importantly, I wished we had been a healthy family that could teach my sons valuable lessons about demonstrating love for others. Instead, while I was married we modeled acrimony and strife. Today, their mother and I model fragile détente.
I lamented the raw deal my sons got from their mother and me.
I know that every family has its rough edges and bad times. The family I grew up in was far from perfect – I could tell you stories! But we functioned reasonably well and there was love in our home. That love still binds us together; our shared values and our family way remain a source of comfort and strength. I wished that and more for my marriage and family.
But something good is coming out of this. While I was married I tended to create conditions similar to those of my upbringing whether or not they worked for my sons and wife. But now that I don’t see my sons every day, I can’t create those conditions. I have had to become creative in how I raise them, which leads me to continually evaluate and refine my approaches. I think I am more in tune with my sons’ needs and better able to meet them than I ever was while I was married.
Unfortunately, no amount of creativity will let me model for them how a man should love his wife, at least not while I’m single. Maybe I’ll be fortunate enough to remarry well, to someone my boys come to love, and show them before they’re grown and gone.
Another adjustment I had to make post-divorce was having so much time at home alone. Read that story.