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.