Why now, Al and Tipper? Why now?

Al and Tipper Gore are out on open water.  I just hope they both have paddles.

A perfect couple for so many years...what happened? Photo courtesy of Associated Press

If we all lived to be 120, Al and Tipper could be said to be going through a midlife crisis.  Maybe there is such a thing as a three quarter life crisis.  Or maybe they are just plain wimpy and didn’t have the guts to separate earlier, such as 20 years ago. Maybe they secretly haven’t loved each other for the last 20 years, but tricked us into believing they did because love was good for their careers.  Maybe they just didn’t have time to get a divorce. Whatever the reason, they are heading into uncharted waters.  Uncharted for them that is.  I’ve been clinging to an oar for the past seven years and I can tell you that the water, bracing at first, is just plain cold.

Last weekend I accompanied my 11-year old son to a Boyscout family camp north of Santa Barbara in southern California.  My two older children came too.  We even brought our recently rescued dog. There were family campfires, canoe races, and flag ceremonies.  The dads prepared all the food.  And there were many dads, nice ones too.  Why hadn’t I been able to find one of those?

The first night, chatting with other parents at dinner, I experienced a feeling I haven’t had since I was twelve at Camp Timberloft in Wisconsin – a sensation in the pit of my stomach that made it hard to eat, to swallow, even though the food was magnificent. That night as I lay in my tent staring up at the stars through the cottonwood tree the feeling grew stronger. What was it?  I felt like crying for no reason at all.  It wasn’t until lunch the next day that I heard myself telling a perfect stranger that I was homesick. How could I be? At my age? In such a lovely place with my children and dog around me?

But I wasn’t homesick for a place; I was homesick for a way of being, for having a partner who cared about me.  Of course, my husband hadn’t really cared about me, otherwise I would never have wanted to live without him in the first place.  But there was a time when I thought he cared, a time when I looked forward to growing old and making history with someone who loved me.

Once I named the feeling, it started to go away.  I was able to laugh again and participate in the Moms’ song at the campfire.  I had recognized my rightful place in Scout Camp – I was the single parent in the midst of happily married people.  In film school, I’d had to get used to being one of the few students with children; now in Scout Camp, I had to get used to being possibly the only parent without a partner. Everyone else had someone, but I would grow old alone.  Get used to it, I reminded myself again.  And I did.  

Until I read the paper this morning.  

Al and Tipper are separating.  Al at age 62, Tipper at 61.  I was devastated. Then I thought, come on, how could it have taken them so long to figure that one out? Maybe they congratulate themselves on doing the "decent thing," waiting til their kids were grown.  A “nice” divorce for "nice" people.

Sorry, I don’t mean to sound mean.  It’s just that, they, unlike many, had a rich history together and the chance to let their relationship mature and grow stronger with age. Instead, they threw that chance to the wind.  A chance I can never have again.  In the meantime, I’ll to cling to my oar in open water, and just maybe, Al and Tipper will float by.

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