Lately, I can’t stop thinking about something my mom told me last year.
We were driving from one end of California to the other, to see my uncle for what would be the last time. Her hands were on the steering wheel, and I was looking past her out the window. The sun was setting over parched farmland, coloring everything in amber honey and blinding us as we drove.
My thrice-divorced, recently remarried** mother was telling me about her prayer group. A weekly hour of husband-bashing and despair-sharing around a coffee table with cut fruit and hot tea – the korean housewife equivalent of a book club. She told me how these women shared similar frustrations and sometimes even alarming concerns about their relationships. It was their safe place to contemplate divorce and silently judge each other.
“I’m still a part of this prayer group,” she told me, her eyes fixed straight ahead at the semi rumbling three car spaces ahead of us. Ever since a string of traffic violations and a revoked license in the 90s, my mom is a very cautious driver.
She turned her head quickly towards me, though, as she said, “All those women are still married.” Her tattooed eyebrows arched into upside down v’s, her face a mixture of astonishment and unacknowledged shame. Out of all those women, after all those hours of shared confidences and aired grievances, she was the only one who had actually divorced her husband.
I know her intent in telling me that story. Her plea for me to stay. To stick it out – even though she hadn’t. Because it doesn’t feel nice to be the only one in the group who leaves. Because one can hope that rough starts and middles can have a happy ending. Because everything is clearer in hindsight.
I asked her if she regretted it now, all these years later. Did she regret leaving my father?
She responded swiftly, without skipped beats or room for questions,
*I’ve never seen We Are the Millers, but apparently that’s a thing.
**I hate that someone’s life can be reduced to a few choice words.