Ex-Husbands Don’t Need To Know Everything

Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. 

So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbour. 

Catch the tradewinds in your sails. 

Explore.  Dream.  Discover

– Mark Twain

It bugs me to say my husband, Fred, enjoyed the theater more than me.  But he did.

It meant he appreciated theater more than my joy of riding the one perfectly placed note in an outstanding symphony.

Either shortens my breath and affects my heart beat.

Fred and me at a Toastmasters Convention in 1968

Fred and I married in 1967 and divorced in 1970.  Both of us still loved one another, but we divorced.  If that confuses you, think of the effect it had on this young bride of three years!

Fred made me promise I would believe him, “I am not able to tell you what the problem is.  But it has nothing to do with you.  I love you.  Because I do love you, I cannot stay married to you.  It would not be fair.”

The heartache caused me to throw my fist into the air as I swore, “I will never allow anyone to hurt me to this degree again.  I will love no man to this depth again.”

That mystery lasted for over 25 years.  It unraveled with an amazing phone call in 1998.  When I trust that no one can be hurt by my disclosing the details, I will do so.  Though not from Fred himself, the phone call made good his promise to me.

Though this could be viewed as a tease, it explains why Fred and I stayed in touch with one another for many years after the divorce.  Both of us ended up in Ontario where we each flourished in our lives apart.  When my London-based career took me to Toronto, Fred and I enjoyed a line-up of fascinating social engagements and dining experiences.  His position with a  Travel Airline, Wardair Canada,  meant his growing circle of friends came from around the world.

We’d been raised in “European-settled” Western Canada.  Therefore, we thrived on the cosmopolitan offerings in this exciting city with its various cultures.

In the early 1970s, I called Fred from London to say I’d be able to spend the weekend in Toronto.  As soon as I came through his front door, brushing off a day’s dust, he said, “I’ve prepared a very simple dinner.  We have tickets to see Hal H………. tonight.”

“Hal who?”

“I’ll tell you while we eat.  Just freshen up a bit…you look great…no time for a shower!”

As we rushed through dinner, raced to his car and sped to the theater, we quickly caught up on mutual friends and the whereabouts of family.  In the 1970s, even a long distance phone call was rare enough that seeing someone in person meant a major thrust to become current with each other.

When I was with Fred, I reveled in not being responsible.  He took care of routes, parking spots and which tickets provided the best seats.  In fact, I didn’t even see this night’s tickets.  Our conversation held a topic span shorter than a Sesame Street show running at high speed.  I never had a chance to ask about Hal.

We just squeaked through the door when the curtain rose to a minimalist’s dream.  In the middle of the stage, at a peculiar angle, sat one dressing table with lights around the mirror.  A flimsy chair pushed partway under the table was surely borrowed from under the stage of a lesser theater.

The actor came out, positioned himself on the chair, switched on a flood of lights, stared into the make-up mirror and began talking.  A reverent hush held the theater in spotless silence.

He reached for a make-up pot.  ‘This is cute’, I thought.  ‘Fred’s brought me to some avant garde production as a big surprise.’  The actor was vaguely familiar, but the respectful silence denied me access to Fred’s ear.

The humour borne of exquisite lines put the audience into explosions of laughter.  Distant familiarity wafted through lines, but I found the application of make-up and transformation into an older man fascinatingly disruptive.

“Ah…Huckleberry Finn…”, Fred whispered well into the performance as the actor was finishing his ablutions.

Suddenly “Hal” stood up and faced us fully.  My mouth gaped as I stared at a 70 year old Mark Twain.  Hal Holbrook had been performing Mark Twain Tonight!

How could I have been so uninformed and ignorant?  I decided it was my turn to keep a secret from Fred.

72 thoughts on “Ex-Husbands Don’t Need To Know Everything

    • Raven, I just read something…it’s worth a try. Scientists have proven that viruses are collected by onions. Cut one up and put half of one by you. A women who had pneumonia did that and the 1/2 was almost black. The scientist checked it out under a microscope and it was teeming with viruses. People can keep cold and flu bugs away by doing this.

      Along with this came a warning – don’t use 1/2 an onion and then try to keep the other half for a later recipe. Once cut, it’s collecting viruses. It’s why onions can seriously upset tummies.

      I could not figure out why my homemade soup would give me tremendous acid reflux. I’d be using up onion halves. I stopped and so did the reflux.

      Worth a shot!

  1. It’s when people who “divorce” one another are able to continue to spend time together . . . remembering what they liked about each other in the first place.

    Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain . . . what a treat!

      • Now he lists about 20 different pieces of Mark Twain’s writing as his source material with the program indicating he chooses which ones he’ll use.

        We saw him this Feb. He came onstage already in costume. Probably doesn’t need as much makeup as 40 years ago.

        It was well done, but the material he’d chosen was so cynical and negative, that I found myself depressed about half-way through the performance. I left the theater feeling sad. Perhaps Twain’s late-life years aren’t for me. I’m glad I have the amicable story of your ex and you to add to my Twain memory.

        • I find this fascinating, Barb, though I’m sorry you were entertained into sadness! I have observed with my parents and in working with other seniors that one of the battles we have as we age is to not become cynical and negative. I wonder – if Holbrook is typical – does he, in his own aging process, now pick the more negative from Twain’s great repertoire?

          My recollection was mostly of humour – with bits of delightful “down home” wisdom.

    • Yah, and I don’t think I ever stopped loving him, SuziCate. He was such fun. Mind you he went bankrupt twice when he tried to go into the travel business for himself. But then, if we’d been together, my business experience may have helped him. One never knows…

    • I’m so glad for this comment, Charles. Sometimes I think I write too much about my life. But I have loved so many of my experiences. The tough parts just made me stronger. Aunt Bea would understand that!

  2. What a lovely post! It’s awesome that you and Fred remained such close friends. This reminded me of what I believe in .. that everything happens for a reason… good or bad. You sure came out strong. 🙂

    • I feel for people who don’t believe there is purpose to all things. To me, there is nothing pointless in life. My mom gave me the wisdom to decide whether I was going to feel like a failure or glean whatever learning that I could from any disappointment. Little did I know the power of choosing for myself rather than giving that power to others.

      I enjoyed your Sunday photos, Sonel.

      • Oh, the same here! Everything comes down to choices whether we like it or not and even sometimes the “bad” things happen to us just so the good thing can come out of it and I can see you are also someone who doesn’t believe in regrets.

        Love your choice of words and thank you for the compliment. 🙂

  3. Hi,
    That is really good that you stayed friends with your ex, and I also believe that everything happens for a reason.

    How lucky that you got to see Hal Holbrook, that truly would of been a great experience.

    • Though the stage performance was a big hit in the States, I was just barely aware of this actor. At that time, we did not have all the media coverage. A show had to be a really big deal for me to pay attention in those days – I was so very gung-ho with my career.

  4. Hal is still performing? Wow. I’ve seen video of his performances of MT, but never the real deal.

    My ex and i were friends, too. He remained a trusted mentor and the wind under my wings till he died unexpectedly 4 years after our divorce. I still miss him.

    • Guess what, Linda. You were the last person in my conscious thoughts last night. I made a mental note…I’ve not read anything from you in a while and I’m suddenly suspicious my RSS Feed is wonky again. I’m heading over to your place right now!

  5. Fred was very brave to make the break, knowing that it was the best thing for both of you. I’m glad you two remained close.

    • Having all the pieces to the puzzle now, I realize the hell Fred must have been going through. He never could talk about it. I would say, “Whatever it is, please get help.” I had to let go when I became involved with my second husband-to-be. So I don’t know what help Fred ever received. He ended up with advanced Alzheimer’s in his early 40s. I believe this “issue” took him down.

  6. What a wonderul event Hal Holbrook reading Mark Twain. I am always glad for relationships where it’s comfortable, obviously you had that with Fred. I too believe that there is a purpose to all things, we may not find it out until much later.

  7. I see my recent comment wasn’t approved by you, so chances are this one won’t be either … for what ever reason .. but that’s okay … be well and blessed be … cat.

    • Cat, what’s happening?! I read your comment about this post, went to read your post before answering and then I found this message. How strange! Of course I have NO qualms approving a comment from you, my Canadian Sister! I’ve read others having this kind of problem, but I’ve not experienced it to my knowledge. Except I can’t see that lovely comment you left!

    • No, Victoria, I really did trust Fred when he promised that it had nothing to do with me. Plus I had a doctor who was phenomenal. He highlighted all the reasons why I could get on with a life that I wanted to have. He asked me to name one thing that was stopping me… So I threw myself into a career and being a spiritual seeker – all at the same time! 😀

    • This may shine a light, Shakti: The people who have heard this from me have said they feel sad because it’s “unrequited love”. Two people love each other and something comes between them. Ideally, love is supposed to conquer all…

      ps – I was cleaning out my gmail and discovered your response to my note. My apology, Shakti! I will get back to you – likely not today, however.

  8. Oh, that must have been amazing!!! 🙂

    I hope we hear the rest of your love story..it sounds fascinating and heartbreaking at the same time. And as someone who married, divorced, and then remarried her husband, I have a special affinity for these sorts of stories.

    Thank you for your kindness and support.

  9. I like so much that your tone is caring and one of gratitude. Thank you for sharing such a personal story. I like this quote: “Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers. “ Rainer Maria Rilke I think about these words when I have burning questions and it gives me the wisdom to keep my mouth shut at various moments.

    • Fred was pretty wounded, but the wounds weren’t “out there” for everyone to see. He didn’t know what to do with them. (I know this NOW, but he could never have expressed himself that way.)

      Holbrook really was amazing, Lorna, but you may want to read Barb’s comment if you were thinking of going to a current performance.

  10. I love your writing, I love your story telling, and I love you for what you wrote on my blog today. It’s been a terrible no good very bad day 🙂 but you just made it worthwhile. Thank you, friend. And thanks for this: “My QiGong Master tells us our love turns illness into butterflies that we watch fly away. ” I will remember that.

  11. I have great respect for people who’re able to remain friends with exes. It speaks a lot about their maturity.

    It’s always insightful to read about your personal experiences, Amy. You colour them so well with wisdom in retrospect!

  12. Hal Holbrook! How great is that!

    And how great your story! You speak of Fred in such a nice tone. That is so refreshing. Too many people who divorce speak ill of one another, with such anger and bitterness. It’s quite sad.

    My husband and I divorced, then we remarried EACH OTHER! We just couldn’t stay apart. He really is my best friend and my soul mate.

    • Thank goodness both of you came to the realization that you wanted to be together. When we can have our best friend as our love, does it get any better? Thanks, Pam for telling us a wonderful part of your life!

  13. Sigh. I remember my ex-husband (father of my 2 girls and also wounded but didn’t know what to do with those wounds, as you say in a comment, above) telling me that ‘there are many different kinds of love.’ At such a young age, I did not feel this to be true. For example, I’m pretty sure he was still having sex with his ex-wife. And I’m the monogamous sort who believes that if you’re going to get married, it’s kind of understood that you don’t do that sort of thing.
    But indiscretions aside, I have learned that there ARE different WAYS of loving – and I’m so happy we live in times that accommodate them. To keep in touch with your ex like that touches me. My daughters have managed this as well with their exes. It speaks highly of you all. And though I feel compassion toward my ex, his girlfriend has kept his heart sequestered from me due to her own numerous issues. So be it – I still wish them well.

    • I’m so sorry you had to experience such betrayal, Bela. I can’t think of anything worse to experience as a wife.

      No, Fred wasn’t being unfaithful. It seems unkind to be so mysterious, but I am not certain the coast is clear.

      Infidelity…I have watched people who claim to believe in open marriage. In those cases, there was really only one who enjoyed the concept – some spouses didn’t even partake in the so-called freedom. In all cases, the couples split. With 2 couples, all 4 have remarried and they are tighter than ticks with their new spouses. Hmmm.

      When we have history with people, it’s so valuable being able to maintain a connection. Fred was taken by Alzheimer’s, supposedly, and was bedridden for over 20 years until his death. Our connection was maintained through our best man from our wedding.

    • Hi Snow Girl. The weather for the Edmonton area looks a little chilly still so I imagine you still have that white sheen about the land. One day I’ll have enough info to know if I can safely speak up. There’s a mystery within the mystery…just to keep your writer’s heart pumping. I honestly am not being a brat, Kathy…

  14. Hal Holbrook…I am in awe :)….also saddened by one of the comments about a later date Hal being cynical and negative…

    The discerning, sagacious and humane manner in which you let us in your life always leaves me in a feel-good zone Amy…God bless you for these learning curve glimpses…

  15. Amy, I completely understand being divorced and still loving.

    What a fabulous story! I can’t believe you got to see Holbrook in Twain. We did get to see part of it on TV. Such a long time ago, eh. Luck you! and you deserved the good time. Hooray!


    • Hey Inner Chick…glad to surprise you in a delightful way. I just read you latest post and, since you asked, shared a suggestion that I hope can be even a little helpful.

  16. Hi Amy .. I’m pleased you were able to divorce in harmony and continue living independently that way .. you must have had fun together … but life happens – I love the link with Hal .. and that transformation into Mark Twain – must be fascinating now thinking back …

    Interesting how we can interpret things later in our lives .. great read – those days!! Cheers Hilary

    • Hilary, my absence is not intentional! My RSS feed is on the fritz so I will have to resubscribe to your post. I’m not receiving notices of blogs that I’ve RSSed. So I need to visit you and catch up!

      • Blogger/Google has messed me up completely – I get your comments to my gmail .. but everyone elses (ie Blogger blogs) they stopped arriving to my inbox – out of the blue .. it’s a real pain. So I lose this repartee – which is great to see and sometimes to be able to reply to and have ‘a conversation’ … got to work a way round somehow ..

        Cheers for now .. Hilary

  17. Ah, Amy, you have a way with truly intriguing stories…I can’t begin to understand your divorce or how you must have felt, but am so happy to hear that you remained friends. As for the show, it sounds fascinating…and pardon my ignorance too 😉

    • Since you are in South Africa, you are easily forgiven for not knowing Hal Holbrook! In fact, Mark Twain (Tom Sawyer – Huckleberry Finn stories) was likely not required reading for you.

      For a time, the separation shredded what I believed life and love meant, but I knew time would allow me move beyond doubt and distrust. Yes, I’ve been cautious about where to place my heart. So was there purpose? Now that answer would need a visit over a cup of tea, Naomi! 😀

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