By Trent Rentsch
While I have in the past been known to exaggerate in this column, I swear that the following statements and events are true.
Since my divorce a few years ago, my ex-wife and I have found some common ground, and are not only civil, but dare I say it, somewhat friendly. It has been good for the kids, and probably for us as well. I, for one, have a difficult time with conflict—the idea of loathing and despising anyone for the rest of my life just sounds like too much effort, especially considering that 3 (currently small) people will force our paths to cross forever and ever, amen. So, we’ve continued to share family birthdays and certain holidays, even the odd dinner just to take the kids out. I’ve even been known to help out with an odd job or two at the house whose mortgage once held my name. I’m no saint; it just seemed the thing to do, plus it got me over to see the kids.
Things change. I found a remarkable woman who I love and trust completely with my heart and soul. (I must trust her—she has them both safe and sound some 2,000 miles due Southeast of here!) My former spouse has also found a special friend, and frankly, we are both terribly happy for each other. Still, as I mentioned before, things do change, and I have found myself in a couple of… interesting evenings because of it.
Example one. I dropped by to see the kids a few weeks back. The boys assaulted me at the door with cries of, “Trivial Pursuit!!” It was going to be a game night, it seemed. Moreover, I soon realized that the players around the table would make up an unusual dynamic. Along with my children and my Ex and her new friend, her new friend’s two sons and one of the son’s girlfriends were going to join us. It was all fine, even enjoyable at moments. Still, the evening left me driving back to my apartment wondering, “What the hell was that?!”
Example two. My daughter passed the test for her Learner’s Permit yesterday (yes, be VERY careful on the streets of Sioux Falls…). Of course, her every thought process is spent cooking up new ways to weasel more behind the wheel time out of anyone brave enough to ride shotgun. Dear old Dad knew that he was probably going to be facing this horror for the first time tonight, but he never saw the unexpected twists to come.
You see, the idea was that Chelsea, the boys and I were going off on our merry way for a white knuckle trip to dinner, while their Mother would go to dinner with her friend. With the possible exception of having my daughter at the wheel, this all seemed very reasonable to everyone… everyone, except Chelsea. For some reason, she felt that we ALL needed to experience her new wings, and that we should all go out to eat together. Okay…
Again, it was a perfectly acceptable evening, which found us not only braving the trip to dinner, but also to a couple of stores to pick up, who knows what, but the stops seemed necessary. The conversations were pleasant. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. But once again, that nagging question as I steered toward my apartment, “What the hell was that?!”
Really, there is nothing wrong with any of it. It’s a good thing, for the children, for my own peace of mind. I think that it’s a healthy, necessary trait in any creative person, to be open to the unexpected, the unusual experiences that life throws at us. It would be so easy to travel the road so many friends have in the past, just shut the door and wallow in hate and bitterness. But shutting any door means not letting something in, not experiencing everything possible in life. Yes, it’s not always pretty, and sometimes it can feel a little weird and uncomfortable, but it’s also real, and that emotional memory will add a new perspective… and that’s what growth is all about. Close off the world and do the same thing over and over; that’s the recipe for stagnation.
Most of the truly great Creatives led extremely colorful lives, many larger, more bizarre than the characters they concocted. While no one can deny the fact that living on the edge has taken its toll, would the works of Hemmingway, Poe or Shelley have had the same edge without it? I’m not saying that every Creative needs to take up bull fighting or drink themselves into a delusional creative frenzy, but it certainly makes sense to absorb what life experiences make themselves available. The good, the bad, the ugly, it all changes you for the better, in one way or another.
So, until I find a solution to the distance issue that keeps me from the one great love of my life (remember, the one with my heart and soul down in North Carolina? The one who understands all of this, even if we both shake our heads over it from time to time), I will continue to accept these odd little moments when spending time with my children also means spending time with people that I have an undefined and frankly confusing relationship with. These things are good for the Creative soul. Besides, you can’t make this stuff up!