So I guess I could have started with this topic because really this is at the core of it all. Bob and I have consistently and willingly helped each other through big life events and the little things. At first, I think Bob would have probably rather not helped me. He was very angry with me, which is to be expected. But he was the bigger person, putting his feelings aside to make sure his son had a comfortable home to live in with his mom. He gave me a basic set of tools so that I could pound in a nail or screw together a piece of furniture. He bought and installed a high-end bathroom shower door from his business in Ian’s bathroom. And he was consistently there to pick Ian up, drop him off, and spend time with him on a regular schedule without fail or complaining.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked Bob to borrow a tool or small appliance, costume, or really anything else I might need but didn’t have. If I needed a referral for anything – and I mean anything – Bob would always know a guy. In fact I’m pretty sure Bob is the consummate “I know a guy” guy. Whether it is a painter, plumber, mechanic, or limo driver, Bob knows a guy. And he always invited me to use his name. “Tell them I sent you and you’ll get a good deal,” he would say. There was never any hesitation or trepidation. Every request was readily accommodated without ever making me feel like I owed him something or that he had something over me. Probably a good thing since I seem to have fewer things he needs or maybe it’s just because he has everything and knows everyone. But if there was something, I too gladly shared my stuff and my referrals – need a musician or a psychic? I know some of those – and felt good doing it.
Of course, besides being there with the “things” and the referrals, we were there to help each other through life’s ups and downs. I’ll admit I didn’t help him move. But I did help move a lot of sound gear and music instruments between our homes. I babysat his daughter when he and Brandi had somewhere to go. I’ve went to every viewing of every relative of Bob’s who I knew that has passed since we split – even one that I didn’t know very well. I’ve offered help to his parents emotionally and would gladly do so physically if called upon.
And when Bob got in a very bad motorcycle accident in the spring of 2016, I got up as soon as I received the text and never went back to bed. I went to the hospital to see him twice. I consoled his worried mom and sister and ate with them (or actually watched them eat) in the hospital cafeteria. I talked to his stepdad the day after and let him talk me through a play-by-play of the accident which obviously he wanted to tell someone. It only took about 45 minutes. I went to Bob’s house to visit him after he got home just to let him know I cared and was there for him. I told Brandi I’d cover whatever she needed – let out the dogs, bring them dinner, take Gracie, or whatever. That’s how you treat friends. You don’t judge them. Ok, you might. But you put that shit aside to take care of them and realize it could just as easily have been you in the situation. You are there for them and their family and offer your support.
Finally and probably most germane to the topic of this book, we helped each other to be better parents. We talked about the issues parents deal with. The difficulties our son might be going through and how best to deal with them and help him. How to cover the Christmas list? How to pay for an expensive gift? How to help him get along better with neighbor kids? What sports should Ian try? How do we best support our aspiring musician? Who will go to curriculum night? Who’s going to talk to the coach? And of course, we could gush all day long to each other about how wonderful our son is without annoying the other person. You really can’t do that with a non-parent. Not even a step-parent past a certain point.
If you’re reading this blog because you are recently divorced or because you are not having a “happily divorced” experience, you may find all of this to be a lot to take on in your particular situation. All I can offer is to remember the golden rule. You know the one our parents taught us. Treat others as you want to be treated. I promise you even if it feels uncomfortable, the dividends of a positive relationship and moreover positive parenting experience for you and happy childhood for your offspring is SO worth a bit of discomfort now and then. After all, it will certainly be less uncomfortable than when you lived in the same house.