Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Portrait: Divorce, Connecticut

I know most women won't argue with me when I say that even if you can't find it on a map, divorce is a state. Its a location, or, really, a dislocation. I should say upfront that it isn't my divorce, and this isn't my story. Its my mother's. My mother is 62; she was married for 28 years before things fell apart. She is beautiful, strangers say it, but she is alone in the big house that she and my father built as their dream, back when their kids and their marriage were young.

I don't want to talk about my dad, about their divorce. Any divorce after that many years, with children, and the economy... Marriage is hard and my father was constantly not getting the types of jobs he wanted, chasing a financial dream that he couldn't reach. I guess sometimes people reach for something other than their spouse to make them feel successful.

The divorce took a lot of time and money. It was final right after Lehman crashed; the financial ramifications and the court system meant somehow that my dad takes crazy vacations to the Turks and Caicos and my mom, for a while, was working two jobs. She keeps saying he needs work, if only so she can get alimony, but she knows about the vacations.

I know how much worse it could be. My friends and their parents, all over the country, are losing their jobs. People are losing their homes. My mom has her house and a job. But at 62, she has this terrible pain in her heart and she doesn't have health insurance, not that that would fix it.

That house isn't going anywhere. She keeps hoping upon hope that it will sell, but no one has the money for the mortgage these days, not in what used to be hedge fund Connecticut. No one will rent it, and she doesn't have the money for other options. She is going to start taking in boarders.

Because they own the house outright, she is stuck in a mausoleum to their marriage. The same pictures are on the walls. The house is still both of theirs by law, but she lives alone in it, and as long as its still theirs, he has say over what she does with her home. He isn't supposed to show up there anymore, but he owns half the place, and apparently hasn't forwarded all his mail. She is divorced, but he is still in her life. She walks around this house filled with years of memories and so much pain. Thanks to the economy, even though she isn't his, her home still is.

- S,
New York, USA