I Could Have Told You What to Expect

In the final scene of the movie Torch Song Trilogy, Anne Bancroft talks with Harvey Fierstein about what it is to lose one’s spouse.  To set the table for two instead of one, “because you forget.”  To throw away groceries “because you forgot how to shop for one.”

“I could have told you what to expect,” she says to her son.

I didn’t know what to expect when Lee and I dissolved our marriage.  I still don’t.

Tomorrow I receive a Jewish divorce, a Get.  And then I will immerse myself in the Mikvah, the ritual bath.  I had no idea this process would unleash such strong emotions in me, but it has.

My civil divorce was final September 17, 2012.  It fell on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.  And my friend Michael’s birthday.

I knew the divorce was final even before our mediator contacted me.  I could feel it in my bones.  It seemed poetic.

When I received the legal documents in the mail a few days later, I felt sick and sad and confused.  But now, I am just plain leaky.

The woman who runs the Mikvah called yesterday to remind me of the process.  No makeup.  No nail polish.  No contact lenses.  Nothing between me and the water.

She instructed me to bring an unopened toothbrush.  And she reminded me that the Mikvah, for whatever occasion it is used, is a physical marking of the separation of time – separating what was from what will be.  Those words choke me up every time.

I remember asking my Rabbi for a Get.  I wondered if he thought it was silly and antiquated.  He said he thought it brilliant and profound.  And that “a spiritual presence was with you at your wedding.  Why wouldn’t it be with you at your divorce?”

I know that this Get will further sever my tie to Lee.  A 15-year attachment and partnership I have never known before.  And I’m fairly certain that it will free both of us to become who we are meant to be.  And yet, every time I speak of it, explain it to someone, a fresh wave of tears spills out of me.

I don’t know what to expect tomorrow when I read the words of the Reconstructionist Egalitarian Get – before my Rabbi, my Cantor and my friend Mary Jo.  I don’t know what I might feel when I emerge from the water.  How could I?

But at this time tomorrow I will know.  Just like I know about the spoiled groceries.  And one day, someone else might know too.

 

 

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Sing to Me

My friend Slade’s voicemail says “Sing me a song…And make it pretty.”

The first time I sang into it I was in Charleston, SC – where we met.  I was visiting my birthmother on what I then  believed was the occasion of her passing. 

I was in the parking lot of the hospital, walking to my car.  His request surprised me.  I tripped over my words, muttering something like, “Um….Um….I’ll sing this for my birthmom. ”

“The moment I wake up.  Before I put on my make-up.  I say a little prayer for you. .. Forever. And  ever.  You’ll stay in my arms and I will love you…” 

It felt really good.

I am not a singer.  However, since receiving that initial “invitation” to share my voice, I’ve been singing quite a bit to the people in my life.  I don’t plan it.  It just happens.

I told my birthmom about singing into Slade’s voicemail when I returned to the hospital later that day.   She liked it.  Then I sang her the Supremes.

“Ain’t no mountain high enough.  Ain’t no  valley low enough.   Ain’t no river wide enough, to keep me from you.” 

She told me about the time that she and her husband were on the same plane as Diana Ross from Charleston to Detroit.  It kind of became “our song.”  I sang it to her again as I walked backwards out of the hospital room in my blue gown and gloves on the last day of my visit.

My birthmom didn’t pass.  She is very much alive.  And I’ve sung to her over the phone as she has been moved from hospital to hospital to rehabilitation center.   Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.”   Suzanne Vega’s “Gypsy.”

I felt a little silly, but I couldn’t help myself.  I told my friend Lynn about it.  She reflected that, for her, it seemed a beautiful way to just “be” with someone when there is nothing left to say.  Like the way they play cards in her family, as a way of just “being” together.

Permission.

Last night I got a call from a young woman I know.  She is pregnant and planning to give her son up for adoption.  She is pained and extraordinarily conflicted – torn wanting to keep this child but also wanting what is best for it.   She wanted to know about my experience.  How I felt about being adopted.   If I had ever resented my birthparents.

 “Never.” 

I told her my story.  And I told her how my relationships with my birth parents have changed since they became real in my life – living, breathing, wonderfully imperfect human beings.

And when there was nothing left to say, but she was still crying and scared and alone, I said “I’ll sing to you.”   And I did.