Photograph 11/1/21

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

There are those who say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so why am I writing 750 words about this one?

Sometimes you don’t know the story behind a photograph.  A friend of mine posted one of her sons who was apparently on an outing with a young woman who was about the same age.  We’re talking, oh, maybe ten?  Probably younger.  I’m so bad with guessing ages.  Anyway, these two were on a ride somewhere.  It was a very nice picture. 

The young woman was his stepmother’s daughter.  Here’s the story.  My friend married a divorcee who had one daughter with his former wife.  This particular daughter is a teenager and I’m thrilled that she gets along very well with my friend.  My friend then had a hoard of children in an apparent effort to make her own baseball team.  From what I have seen, her stepdaughter (or “daughter” as she appropriately refers to her) seems to absolutely adore all of her step siblings.  As a family, they all seem very happy which makes me happy.

But what of the first wife?  This young woman with my friend’s only son (I’m guessing he’ll grow up to be overly protective of his sisters) is the daughter of her husband’s first wife.  Apparently, she called up my friend one day, said she was heading to wherever this park was and asked if he wanted to come along.  This is the crux of this entire post.

See, to me, this is such a healthy, and fabulous, extended relationship.  Since my divorce, I’ve not heard from my wife or any of the four sons I so briefly tried to help raise.  I have friends with ex-husbands who are trying to sabotage their relationship, or worse, their reputation.  Sometimes marriages just don’t work out.  It’s sad, but it happens, and when a divorce occurs, the norm (from what I have witnessed) is anger, and usually very hateful behavior. 

From what I’ve seen, this more frequently stem from the man, although not always.  I know of a woman who literally tried to get her ex-husband arrested.  I can’t speak to how women are, but men tend to be narcissistic, and have exceedingly frail egos (although they hate to admit it).  I’m not sure that I fully understand, but even when they have affairs, and run off with the women with whom they are cheating, they’re still petty and angry.  It makes no sense to me since, apparently, they “won”.  They got the woman they want, and yet they’ll still try to make their first wives look horrible in the eyes of their children, and will harbor anger towards their first wives, the wives they themselves left.  I think it’s because, even with a new lover or wife, divorce is always a loss, and although it’s a loss on both sides, men take loss very hard indeed.  They know it’s a game they lost and because of that, they feel the need to lash out.

And yet, here is my friend, with a relationship with her husband’s first wife that is so strong that she felt like she could call her up and invite her son, who is no relation to her, to spend the day with her daughter who is no relation to my son’s boy.  It was such a beautiful photograph, and, because of this, the beauty was far deeper than just two children enjoying the day together.  It exemplifies the kind of civility that we just don’t see much of anymore.

I wonder if I had something to do with this.  This friend was romantically entangled with me for a while many years ago, and when it ended, we obviously remained friends.  Close friends, in fact.  As it turns out, she was living in an apartment and the woman who lived in the apartment below her was one of my students.  They hated each other.  When they came to realize that I knew both of them, I began hearing how bad the other was periodically.  One day, I said to my friend, why don’t you just go and introduce yourself to her, and explained that although I didn’t know her well, I do know that this student had stood up for me in a minor incident at the university.  When she finally did introduce herself, and the two of them spoke, they became very good friends, the kind of a friendship that is close enough to be truly frightening to a man who is the teacher of one and former lover of the other.  But good friends.

I wish more people could be like this.  How many misunderstandings, and how much friction occurs because of people’s pride?  How often could things be resolved with an introduction, or enough maturity to overcome a common lover?  I wish that this photo could be shared, because it could not happen for many families of divorce. 

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