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For the last time…

April 19, 2005

The question Julia and I have been mulling over for weeks is “if you do something for the last time, knowing it’s the last time, is it any better than when you don’t know?” This isn’t a new question, people have been asking it for years. I think that when you learn that having done something was the last time you were ever going to do it, you realize how much you took it for granted.

My divorce was finalized last Monday, and I got the papers in the mail yesterday, so I’m officially single again. Having that realization sink in really hit me hard. I wasn’t ecstatic about it, but rather, very sad. In fact, I cried for an hour on Friday afternoon when I heard from the court that it was done.

My birthday is tomorrow and the chain of recent events have made me realize the timeline that I’ve been on. Last year, just after my birthday, I learned that my husband was having doubts about our marriage. This year, just before it, my marriage is officially over. That’s when the thoughts of “the last time” came running into my head. Last year was the last time that I would ever celebrate a birthday with him, and I didn’t even know it. We didn’t do anything big, I didn’t want to. The big deal was that he made me dinner, which was all I wanted. He didn’t cook very often because he hated it (and to be quite honest, wasn’t great at it, most of the time). So the fact that he made an incredible meal of chicken parmigiana (at my request) meant a lot to me. Little did I know that he made the meal while mulling in his head if he even wanted to be married to me. It was a nice low-key birthday, just the way I wanted it. But had I known that it was the last of its kind, would I have wanted something different, something more?

We used to have this little ritual; I started it the first time that we ever spent apart after we moved in together. He was going to Kansas City for work, and I wrote him a note for each day he was going to be gone, each telling him that I missed him and and loved him and that I couldn’t wait to see him again. It was hard to see him go, and I cried a lot the day he left, but knowing that those notes were tucked away in his suitcase waiting to surprise him, made me feel a lot better. After time, the notes graduated to a full-fledged excuse to pour money into Hallmark, one of my all-time favorite places in the world. It then became a little about leaving the note, a little about finding cute or funny love cards to write them on, and a lot about the fun of exchanging them and looking forward to the surprise of opening each card each day. The week that he told the girl he’s with now that he loved her, he chose to take a vacation to sort out his thoughts. Last night, I came across the note that I had written to tuck into his suitcase before that trip. The last of what we called, the “trip notes.” I hadn’t even finished composing it because my ex-friend, knowing what was happening that night, called to comfort me. I think back to the last time we had exchanged those notes for real, on good terms, a mere six months before, and wondered, had I known that would be the last time that those notes weren’t filled with sadness and hope that we would work things out, would I have even bothered?

Of course, a small thought of my ex-friend reminded me of the last conversation we had as friends, just a few days before the alleged incident. We hadn’t really talked in a while, just our daily BS that we usually exchanged, so that night was really great, just the two of us having a real heart to heart once again. We talked for hours. And little did I know that it would be the last time we ever talked. Had I known, would I have talked to him for longer? Would I have shared with him many of the things I never said, for various reasons? Would I have spent the time talking to him, knowing that it didn’t matter in the end?

Yet when you do know it’s the last time, I don’t know that it’s any less painful. I know that the last time I left my condo, the last time I locked that door, would be the last time, and it killed me. I cried so hard I could barely drive to Julia’s house, where I stayed my last night in Seattle before my move. Earlier that night was the last time that I saw my ex; a few nights before, the last time he ever held me and the last kiss we ever shared. The last time I saw my former in-laws, I knew I’d never see or talk to them again, and it killed me.

As I write this, on the last night of my 25th year of life, I still wonder why some endings hurt more than others, and how different some of them might be knowing that it truly is the last.

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