When I was 19, I married my high school boyfriend. I’ll call him “the Ex”. I’ve talked about him briefly before. We had 1 little boy together (my Z) when I was 20 and by the time I was 23, we were divorced.

The Ex was the kind of guy that was easy to hate. He was a workaholic, literally working some days 18 hours, and had little time for anything else but his ambition. He had severe OCD and his mother had been diagnosed as bipolar (we know where Z got it from…). I suspect the Ex was bipolar too (after watching Z), he was just never diagnosed. He was a crappy husband, always screaming at me about something and belittling how I looked or the “fancy” words I used. He was also a crappy dad. He didn’t have time for a kid and so therefore largely ignored Z. When I decided to go back to college to pursue my degree, he was threatened and jealous and insecure. I decided I’d had enough and moved home with my mom and dad, taking Z with me.

The Ex quickly remarried and had another baby. Wife Two was a raving lunatic. Z hated going over to see them because the Ex was always working so he only spent time with Two. We amended the visitation to include only one weekend per month in exchange for dropping the child support to a VERY minimal amount (less than $100 per month). He and Two quickly became my nemesis. They were the people you loved to hate. Didn’t pay child support on time, bitched about every single thing, were just mean people. Most people have someone like this in their lives, right? Someone who provides you with an endless supply of good conversation amongst friends. This was the position the Ex held in my life. I held my bitterness around me like a security blankie because I was on my own raising a child and working on my college degree.

It was around this time that I met my current husband. He stepped in as a dad to Z where the Ex was miserably failing. He attended all of Z’s soccer games, tball games, etcetera. About a year into our relationship, the Ex and Two divorced. The Ex had a come to Jesus moment where he realized what a crappy person he’d been to me and to Z. He tried to become involved and make amends to both of us. He apologized to my husband. I accepted his offer of friendship and forgave him for the harm he’d done. What I didn’t realize was that I was again creating a security blankie for myself. I got to have a relationship with the Ex on my terms, where he felt abjectly sorry for everything he’d done. Our dynamic fed my own desire to punish him for everything he’d put me through by knowing he felt guilty each and every time he saw me.

Of course, the child support didn’t increase, nor did the visits. He didn’t even call his son in between visits. There was literally no contact. At his core, the Ex was a self-involved man who had no time for anyone else but his ambitions. He had started his own company which was very successful. He was driven and it was evident. But he was still a crappy dad and a crappy friend. It was during this new “self discovery” time that the Ex met wife Three. Three was a nice girl who had a very small little boy. She had been widowed and was looking for a sense of security. The Ex was able to provide that to her, being very financially stable. She didn’t mind that he was gone all the time so their relationship worked. She also didn’t mind that he was friends with wife One and she and I bonded over the absolute insanity of wife Two.

Things existed in this continuum for a couple of years. My husband was Z’s dad and didn’t mind (or quite understand) my odd relationship with the Ex. The Ex called me a lot because he had attacks of guilt a lot. And he needed to connect with someone who really knew and understood him. I was that person for him. His parents had long been deceased and I was a link to his past. Our odd friendship worked for us both and I didn’t realize how much I valued its place in my life until it was yanked away. 

The Ex came to see me in October of 2010. I had just had my 4th and final baby and everything was great in my world. But not so for the Ex. He had cancer, you see. Terminal. In the brain. Less than 6 months. These words echoed around in my head over and over. I urged the Ex to make arrangements. Draw up a will. Write his children letters from him. Bequeath certain things (his high school letterman jacket, trinkets). But the Ex was angry. He was so angry at life, at knowing he was going to die. He went out and bought a Corvette that he was only able to drive one time because of the surgeries he decided to have, even knowing he was terminal. He went and bought a new home for Three and remodeled it for her so she would be comfortable when he passed.

I visited with the Ex often. I saw him for the last time about a week before he died. We sat and talked about our lives. He apologized to me repeatedly and told me how much he loved me. He told me he knew I’d be a good mom to Z and that my husband was a great dad to Z. We cried together about the paths our lives had taken. I left that day feeling peaceful with him. He died a week before his 35th birthday.

After he passed, I learned the Ex left Z and his other child with NOTHING. Not even a letter telling them how much they were loved. Not even his letterman jacket or the quilt his grandma made. Three got everything. I was shocked. I had expected so much better of him than what he did. My own expectations of the Ex left me so angry with him, there were no words. I was angry on behalf of his children. I was angry for myself in believing that the Ex would do the right thing when he never had in the past. Stupid me. I couldn’t even take my anger out on him because he wasn’t there. I felt so guilty being angry at a dead man and that made me even angrier! I had moments of such anger at him that when I was driving in my car alone I would yell at him how much he’d let me down, let his kids down, and ruined his own memory.

This May makes three years that he’s been gone. Three years of dealing with the odd mixed emotions of losing my own version of a security blankie. Three years of dealing with extreme anger at him that he left his kids behind without anything at all. And, secretly, three years of missing him like crazy. This last part has taken me completely by surprise. But he was the guy you loved to hate. The guy you could talk about endlessly. He abandoned his kids in death, even though he had advance notice. He was also a friend, a blast from my past, my first husband, half of the biology of my precious Z. And he’s gone forever. It has taken me three years to realize that all of the emotions I have about him and his death are normal. I’ve stopped yelling at him in the car. He can’t hear me anyway and I’m quite sure I just look like an idiot to anyone who happens to see me. I feel like I am finally adjusted to his death and just quietly miss him and our odd relationship.