On Doing the Right Thing

I just finished reading another wonderful Jodi Picoult (I just learned that you pronounce it “peek-o”) novel entitled, Sing You Home. I am a total Jodi Picoult fan and have read most if not all of her books. I’d say this one appealed to me a lot and parallels my life in several ways.

I was married for nearly 27 years to a man who I thought was my partner for life. About 9 years ago I uncovered an affair which was devastating. We separated because he didn’t want to give up the person he was having the affair with. A year later, he decided he wanted the marriage and said that he’d ended the other relationship but I found out differently and made the decision to divorce in late 2006.

At about the same time, my first love and I reconnected – he found me on the Internet (go figure!) Anyway, after several months of emails, phone calls and visits, I decided to move to Florida (ancient history now) and found part-time work while I finished my college degree. And then the bottom of the American economy fell out. I’ve become a “long term unemployed” who is making the best of life by building a business that I hope will sustain me in the near future!

Divorce is a strange experience. I never (ever, in a million years) thought I would be divorced. We find ourselves in odd situations for the benefit of the children. Being divorced is not easy. In many ways we’re still a family but everything has changed. Negotiations abound. Recently, my ex has decided to renig on an agreement and stopped paying our daughter’s college loan. Somehow, in the divorce, this loan became my responsibility despite the fact that I had always said that we’d help with the repayment of loans if we were able. Anyway, I’d be delighted to pay the loan if my situation were different. I fully never expected to be unable to find adequate employment for such a long time. I have trouble understanding why, with no warning, no phone call, no text, no nothing, he simply stopped paying the loan. By the time the collection calls began, the loan was more than 30 days late and a week until the next payment was due. And at the end of April we sat across the table celebrating our son’s 21st birthday and he never said a word.

While we were married and the children were young, he had a period of unemployment and I used my “inheritance” to support our family. I didn’t think twice about it, I didn’t ask for anything in return. I did it because it was the right thing to do. “My” money provided us with a down-payment on our first home, renovated another home we purchased and then sold for the mortgage the first time he became unemployed, and provided another down-payment on our home in Ohio when he found employment again. “My” money. “Earned” after the loss of my father. But given openly and freely to help our family. Now that the tide has turned, I’m unemployed, and he’s got an inheritance that could help with this loan if he so chose. Rather, it appears that he is choosing to hurt me. I’m not sure if his intent is to destroy my relationship with my daughter or to ruin me financially – why else would he not have told me that he was going to stop the payments? What he doesn’t seem to see is that he is also hurting our daughter in the process. I am at a loss … Five years later, is he still so bitter that I left the marriage (not like there was a choice when he couldn’t be faithful) that he wants to see me miserable? His parents left everything to him and asked him to “take care of the kids” and his nieces, too. They would want him to take care of their granddaughter. They valued family (at least their “blood”) and I believe that his father, in particular, would be most ashamed of this self-centered behavior.

All of this circles back to the book … don’t worry, I’m getting there. I don’t want to give away the end of the story but suffice it to say that you won’t be able to put it down. Picoult is a phenomenal word smith and addresses what may be her most controversial subject yet, gay rights with a bit of evangelical religion thrown in. Her character development is outstanding and I always find myself caring for the characters in her books … even if I don’t always agree with them. I think Picoult handles this issue with dignity and honesty.

The world we live in is not a perfect place but the choices that people make every day can make it better. Kinder. More caring. I can’t help but believe that we feel better about ourselves when we behave in a caring way toward others … when we do the right thing. I hope my ex will help his daughter and will work with us to find a solution that will be a “win” for each of us. Dealing with issues with an open heart can make the world a better place and allow families grow and heal.

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