Three years ago I lamented that it had been 40 years since I graduated from high school. While only seemingly yesterday at the time, it was a lifetime ago in a very different place with different people.
Today I look back on another event that took place in my life exactly 40 years to the day, today. It was the day I got married the first time.
When I was thinking about high school being four decades in the past, it was one thing. I have little to remind me that of that time other than cloudy memories. I seldom think about it because three dusty yearbooks in a shelf in my home office and a Murray Spartan's football pin hanging on a University of Utah banner above that same shelf are all I really physically have left from those days. Over the years it has gotten to the point where I only keep in touch with a couple of old high school friends and that is very sporadic.
But that first marriage is another thing. The nine years between when I got married at 21 and divorced at 30 changed me immensely. I also have two children from that marriage (and their kids) that are very much a part of my life.
So 40 years ago tonight I was standing in a line shaking hands with a lot of people I didn't know, some of which I was never to see again, as we had our reception. It was a nice wedding and reception. We were very young (although at the time I thought I was very mature). At 21, I now realize, I knew nothing about anything, although I thought I knew a lot about everything. She was 18, having only graduated from high school just a few days before.
It would be easy to call the whole thing a mistake, but when I want to do that, I have to think about what came out of that relationship. The kids mainly, both of whom I adore. But also some other things. For most divorced people it is easy to blame the other person for all your woes, and I did that for a long time. But this many years later, even though it was not easy for us to coexist, I realize a lot of the fault for the failure of that marriage was mine.
Sure I can point to a thousand things she did wrong or things she did that made me mad. But much of why those things happened were because of me. We both made a lot of mistakes.
It's also easy to blame other people for a marriage's failure. Friends sometimes got between us, but it really wasn't their fault either. We let it happen.
And family. We came from very different worlds, particularly in terms of religion. I tried to blend into her families values and beliefs, but it was like trying to scale a 50 foot wall with your bare hands and no seams to hold onto. I just couldn't do it; I didn't believe in what they believed in.
They didn't get in the way; I did in trying to be something I wasn't.
I was a spoiled kid when we got married. It all had to be about me and that wasn't easy for my ex-wife to handle, I am sure.
We had a lot of good times. We did a lot of fun stuff too. But we just didn't fit together, not for a marriage anyway. Not for a lifetime.
There have been times in my years on this planet when I felt like I lost a decade, the 10 years that were my 20s, because of that marriage. But that's not true. What I took from it is still part of me today, despite the fact so many of the details of the good and bad situations have been lost in time.
Without that first marriage I would have been a very different person. Maybe better, maybe worse. Point is that we can't know. Making good decisions about the rest of your life should never be left with immature minds; but we have to allow people to do their own thing every day, because we believe that people have the right to make choices, particularly once they reach what we term a "legal age."
I am no longer sorry that I was married once before, but I am sorry about the way it worked out. Do I wish I had never done it? When I see my oldest son and daughter, I know the result was right, despite all the pain and anguish over things.
The old saying about forgiving, but not forgetting can be true.
But to me, forgiving can be so much better if you just can forget too.