I called her #1.

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I called her #1. She called me #3.

Like seasons inhabiting the same garden, #1 and I married the same husband at different times. She was his spring, blooming with hope. I’m his fall, as we ripen into winter.

He’s no longer the man she married fifty years ago. Life smoothed his corners and softened him a little. But he still throws water over pigeons, stands on the horn at traffic lights, and puts empty bottles in the fridge like he used to, as #1 and I glance at each other and laugh.

No longer. #1 died yesterday, and my world got emptier.

She was kind to me, twenty-some years ago. I came to America with a kid and two suitcases to join a husband I barely knew. We had some rough times, and we needed a friend. She took us in like she did her many strays.

We stayed friends even when her relationship with her ex went sour. They shared fifty years of friendship broken by fights that not even their divorce could end.

I haven’t seen her in a year. We lived far apart, and our last visit didn’t end well. I went to bed to let them talk, and I woke up to find her gone. Her shoes, their toes touching, were still where she’d left them. They fought; she left without saying goodbye, and I still wonder how she made it home.

I loved her sharp sarcasm, dark sense of humor, and love of animals. I loved her sprawling Vermont home that made mine look tidy. She collected everything: old magazines, Ukuleles, her dog’s hair to make a sweater. Her home was rich with memories, though not with places to sit. One time we showed up with wine. We stood drinking around an old MG, watching the llamas roam around disaffected cars and a hen scratching the dirt to teach her chicks how to look for worms.

We had a lot in common, #1 and me: our love of food, wine, and animals, our interest in psychology, our dark humor, our husband. We were close friends.

Whether you like it or not, you have a lot in common with your spouse’s ex. You must like similar people since you chose the same partner. They’ll know a lot about your relationship, since they walked in your shoes, got the blisters, and lived to tell the tale. They’ve been through it all: the toilet paper hanging backward, the moments of doubt, the harsh words, the failed expectations. They’ve been there.

#1 and I, we were lucky. Buffered by #2, we never had anything to fight over. I didn’t envy her, she didn’t envy me, and we understood each other without words. We shared a smile over our husband’s head whenever he said something we both found outrageous. But it’s over now.

Never again will I feel the warmth of her hug, inhale her earthy smell, and laugh at her stories about our mother-in-law before she became our mother-in-law. Never again will I have a sister-wife who knows how it feels.

She passed away, and my world got emptier. Just like it did years ago when my ex died. His name was Romeo, and I miss him. After we finally called it quits and got over our anger, we rediscovered why we got together in the first place. He was my best friend until he died.

So what’s your point, you ask?

Get over your grudges and befriend your exes if you can. Treasure them while you have them. They are part of you in so many ways: part of your life, your children, your memories, your unfulfilled hopes. Your world will be emptier with them gone.

 

Rada Jones is an ER doc in Upstate NY. She lives with her husband and his deaf black cat Paxil. She authored three ER thrillers, Overdose, Mercy and Poison, and “Stay Away From My ER” a collection of medical essays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “I called her #1.

  1. I love this soooo much. Thank you for sharing….so well written….and timely for me. Wish I could hug you now and, maybe, wipe a year or two.
    Stay well, my friend.

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