A definition of ‘rapprochement’ is – the re-establishment of cordial relations.
Last Saturday night, at the very least, cordial relations were re-established between my ex-wife and me after 22 years of acrimony and minimal communication.
I attended a wedding party for my son and his wife. It was held on Tamborine Mountain in the hinterland of the Gold Coast in Queensland at a secluded venue surrounded by rainforest.
Much to everyone’s surprise, my son, Harvey, and his partner, Amy, ‘eloped’ last October and were privately married on the beach at Byron Bay in New South Wales. The wedding party was a belated celebration of this event.
Harvey had asked me beforehand if I would like to make a speech at this, otherwise, very informal function. Public speaking isn’t my forte, however, given Amy’s dad was going to say a few words, it seemed appropriate that I faced my fears and represented my son’s side of the family.
However, it wasn’t just my nervousness about facing an audience that was on my mind. I was also aware my ex-wife, Harvey’s mother, would be there, together with other members of her immediate family. We haven’t seen or spoken to each other in nearly 20 years and, during that time, I know I have been harbouring a lot of conscious resentment and, at a deeper level, suppressed guilt over the melt-down of our marriage. Feelings I suspected she reciprocated.
After the marriage collapsed, my ex-wife and our children, Harvey and Hannah, moved away from Melbourne to a small country town near Noosa north of Brisbane. Circumstances didn’t allow me to see much of them as they grew up, although we communicated regularly over the phone, by mail and later by email.
Harvey and Hannah would have been a bit twitchy and apprehensive about their estranged parents coming face to face after such a long time, being aware that each of us still blamed the other for what had happened in the past.
When I started composing my speech I wasn’t consciously aware of what direction it was going to take. However, I realised that 20 years of holding grievances was serving no useful purpose.
Anyway, here is an extract from my speech.
“Although we (Harvey, Hannah and I) didn’t see much of each other during that time, we kept in regular communication and, I would like to think, our relationship – although long distance – remained reasonably close.
Much credit for facilitating this goes to Noeline, their mother, who also deserves full credit for the way they have turned out. I am very proud of them.
Thanks so much, Noeline.”
As I was reading through my notes on the drive to Tamborine Mountain, I realised what I was really saying to my ex-wife was - – “Noeline, I’m very sorry for hurting you. Please forgive me for the mistakes I made.” Okay, I admit what I actually said was far short of a plea for forgiveness, but I thought it was at least a step in the right direction.
My speech was well-received by my children and my ex-wife’s family. And I was surprised and delighted to receive a warm hug and thanks from Noeline who was quite emotional. I assured her that what I had said was straight from the heart. She has always been very intuitive and I’m sure she understood the true meaning behind my words.
So, last Saturday night, rapprochement occurred between my ex-wife and me. However, I believe it went way beyond just re-establishing cordial relations. I sensed we truly forgave each other for our past mistakes and, as a result, we finally let go our grievances. Perhaps the burden of guilt we have both been carrying for so long has at last been lifted?