For several weeks after Trini's last day at 42nd and Treadmill, I replayed those last five minutes over and obver again, wondering what I could have done differently, how I could have gotten her to stay. The answer, of course, is "nothing"; she had a heck of an offer across town, and she'd have been silly to turn it down. For a moment or two, I was insane enough to go looking for rings.
Yes, one of those rings. But she'd never have accepted, and in my saner moments, I realized that it was a rotten idea in the first place: my life is winding down, while hers is just starting to accelerate, and while this sort of mismatch goes over well in places like Hollywood, it plays less well inside my head. Finally, "I'm damned if I'm going to ask this poor girl to bury me," I said, and that snapped the fantasy in two.
And suppose there could have been things worse than burial. Suppose those billions of memory connections I've been keeping intact all these years start to unwind, and instead of forgetting things that happened 24 years ago, I forget things that happened 24 hours ago and then 24 minutes ago. Could I put someone through that? I could not.
But maybe I'm worrying too much. After all, she could always dump me in favor of someone still functional, right?
This week on his television show Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson said a man would be morally justified to divorce his wife with Alzheimer's disease in order to marry another woman. The dementia-riddled wife is, Robertson said, "not there" anymore.
One could argue, I suppose, that Pat Robertson isn't all here anymore, and hasn't been for some time:
Few Christians take Robertson all that seriously anymore. Most roll their eyes, and shake their heads when he makes another outlandish comment (for instance, defending China's brutal one-child abortion policy to identifying God's judgment on specific actions in the September 11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, or the Haiti earthquake). This is serious, though, because it points to an issue that is much bigger than Robertson.
Aren't most issues much bigger than Robertson these days? I said five years ago that if Pat Robertson did not exist, it would not have been necessary to invent him. Besides, we have the alleged example of Newt Gingrich to guide us:
For almost three decades, Newt Gingrich has been dogged by a single devastating anecdote from his past, one that has been repeated in the national press hundreds of times and that has arguably come to define his political persona. After being elected to Congress in 1978 on a family values platform, the story goes, he visited his wife Jackie, who was in the hospital recovering from an operation for uterine cancer, and demanded that she discuss terms of their divorce. It's a story that, remarkably, Gingrich disputes to this day.
Jackie Gingrich Cushman, Newt's daughter from that marriage, also disputes the story, so let's say it didn't happen quite that way. Still, Gingrich remarried, and that marriage eventually unraveled:
In court papers filed Monday [27 September 1999] in Georgia, lawyers for Marianne Gingrich said the former speaker has "willfully failed and refused to answer virtually each and every interrogatory concerning his personal and professional relationships as well as the finances of his marriage."
Bisek (surprise, surprise) eventually became the third Mrs. Gingrich. Would I be wrong in speculating that there someday might be a fourth?
I'm sorry. I can't treat this matter quite so lightly. Perhaps it's residual guilt from the collapse of my own marriage decades ago that's resounding in the back of my head, but I'll be double-damned and pickled in brine if I'll put someone through that wringer again, even if it means I end up crossing the bar all by my lonesome.
Or, you know, not:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
(With thanks to Christopher Johnson.)
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Copyright © 2011 by Charles G. Hill