As we were driving home the other night, I kept replaying the gas station scene from The Bridges of Madison County in my head. You know, the one where Meryl Streep’s character is sitting in the car while her husband is pumping the gas. She sees Robert Redford, the man who has asked her to run away with him. Redford is also the man with whom she has had an affair and with whom she could have a completely different life. She reaches for the door handle, almost prepared to pull it and to run out on her life to begin anew. Almost. She can’t do it. With tears in her eyes — because she knows what she is giving up — her hand drops from the handle when her husband returns to the car and they drive away.
It has been a long time since I last saw the movie and there were parts of it I didn’t agree with like, um, the adultery… But that scene in the movie has stayed with me. For me, though, Robert Redford would not represent a man I’ve slept with (because there haven’t been any since my husband), but he would represent an opportunity for a new beginning, a different life.
This is an odd topic for me to write about because I would never have expressed these thoughts before. It’s kind of comical, almost like I expect angry black crows to fall out of the sky and to begin attacking me or that I think a fiery explosion might wipe my whole family out in an instant, simply because I’ve allowed myself to wonder what it would be like to have a life that isn’t so difficult and, dare I say it, painful.
I never had these thought before. I grew up in poverty and was teased for it right up until high school started. I experienced important and traumatic losses at early age. I grew up without a Dad — after living with a Dad who was abusive and drunk most of the time. And blah, blah, blah… The point is, I have never been a stranger to struggle or compromise or death or pain or loss. But I never questioned my life or my choices or how other people’s choices affected my life. I never looked at any of it with regret or disdain. It was my life, for better or worse. If there was something I didn’t like about it, I would work hard to change it.
I didn’t have any real regrets… Until I was in the midst of a chemo combo that made me feel like I was inches from death. I was so sick and needed to be nurtured and cared for and needed a partner to hold my hand — or, at the very least, someone who didn’t feel the urge to fight and argue with me or the kids all the time. And then when I had the bilateral mastectomy and the hysterectomy, I tried to pretend these surgeries didn’t bother me and that I could roll with the punches. And I did. I just handled the pain and the immense sense of loss that accompanied losing these body parts, especially to cancer and especially at such a young age. But inside I longed for a spouse who would hug me and tell me that I was still pretty, still a woman. I needed someone to tell me that he loved me. I kept thinking that for years I had weathered all of the ups and downs of our marriage, his deceit, his mood swings and so much more — and all I really wanted were a few kind words and to be hugged. But I guess some things are just too much to ask for…
So as we drove home the other night and I thought about how stressful the previous 36 hours had been because of his bad temper and his unpredictable mood swings, I looked at the door handle and thought, “I am done with living this way and I want out.” I wanted out with all of my heart…well, almost all of my heart.
But I couldn’t do it. Especially when the only place I wanted to run to (other than Hawaii) was my home… to change the locks. Now it would be just plain silly to jump out of my home-bound car to run home. Right?
With the same locks…
With the same husband…
Thinking about what it would be like to be dealing with cancer if I weren’t married to someone who was rooting for the cancer to win instead of me.