Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ex = My Best Bud?

My Ex – My BFF
Love? You bet. Live together? No way. But we’re awfully good at the art of emotional rescue and nonsexual healing.

by Anne Goodfriend

Take this, Britney, Heather, Christie: My ex-husband, David, is my best friend. Forever.

No celeb-style divorce for us – as “fifth Beatle” Billy Preston sang, “Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’ …” – although it did take 5 months for David to move out after we painfully agreed to part.

And it took as many years before we started meeting for lunch occasionally. Along the way, I met Bill: We fell in love immediately and mythically, and, although we were both altar-shy at this stage of life, we finally moved in together.

Meanwhile, David was miserable; evidently, as I found out much later. He’d given up trying to meet someone. That dismayed me, because he’s a good man with a big heart who should be paired – just not with me.

Bill understood our friendship; in fact, he and David liked each other a lot. We’d go to the Dairy Godmother together for frozen custard, and Bill would cook wonderful dinners for the three of us. We often went to hear David’s band play their blues-flavored rock ‘n’ roll.

David continued to pour his heart out to me over our sporadic lunches, while I tried to boost his spirits. We often remarked on what a deep friendship we had despite our failed marriage and how we had remained the parents of our longhaired dachshunds, who probably kept us together longer than we should have been. He’d taken custody (he was better able), but I visited, and the four of us hung out happily. When Teddy, the elder dog, became severely ill, David asked me to go along to put him down. We cried together and swore we’d always be there for each other.

Many of our friends and relatives wondered at how close we grew post-divorce. They’d never heard of such an epilogue. While some exes remain civil “for the children,” how many have morphed into fast friends? Surely more than we two, but it’s rare in my experience.

I’d been jobless for 6 months when Bill, knowing that my health coverage was about to run out, gallantly proposed. Although we’d decided from the start not to marry – having been burned before – I accepted, not only for the insurance but because we were rock-solid certain that we were the loves of each other’s lives. As Bill said to Frank, his best friend since childhood, “After all, it’s not as if I don’t love her and want to spend the rest of my life with her.”

David’s happiness for both of us was clouded only by his lack of a partner.

Fast forward a year, after countless job interviews. Scrolling the listings, I saw that the Pulitzer Prize-winning Virgin Islands Daily News needed an editor.

“Hey, wanna move to St. Thomas?” I called out to Bill.

“You bet! Go for it!” he yelled back, and the wheels began to spin. No doubt in Bill’s mind: All he wanted was to fish in the sun, semiretired, while copywriting for the Daily News. The day we accepted our new jobs, we celebrated our first anniversary. The next day, we flew home and prepared to report for work in 8 weeks.

David was against the move, not only because we’d be so far away but because he felt that, as a city girl with Brooklyn in her bones, I wouldn’t thrive there.

Bill and I agreed we’d get full physicals before moving to an island with decent doctors but nearly nonexistent hospital care. Bill procrastinated and had his exam just 3 weeks before we were to use our one-way tickets. Five days later, his specialist diagnosed stage IV lung cancer.

The Caribbean was no longer in our future.

It was at this point that David stepped up to the plate. Bill had no family, only friends from work and Frank. But it was David who visited at least weekly (especially for Sunday baseball games). My family and our friends dropped by once in a while, but David was the most constant companion Bill had other than me, and they grew to love each other. They even managed to bridge the gap of rooting for rival teams, the Red Sox and the Mets.

On a September afternoon 4½ months after his diagnosis, Bill died while I was out. The only comfort was the doctor’s assurance that it had been instant and painless, a sort of explosion that couldn’t have been prevented even if he had been in the hospital.

After 911, my first call was to David. He was the first by my side as I stood, in shock, answering questions from the emergency personnel who swarmed in. He held me, comforted me, cried with me. We loved and mourned Bill together in a moment more intimate than we’d ever shared as spouses.

Nearly 2 years later, I met Don, and it was David whose thumbs-up I sought.

That’s about when David met his darling Jodi. They came to our wedding reception, delighted to celebrate with us, and we hope someday to dance at theirs.

Inevitably, David and I see each other less often now. But nary a week goes by that we don’t e-mail or phone. We’re still the closest of friends; I still bear his name. We have each other’s backs and always will.

Chances are, we’ll be rocking beside each other on the nursing-home porch. Madonna, eat your heart out!

A freelance writer and editor in Arlington, Virginia, Anne Goodfriend marvels at how fortunate she is to have loved and been loved by the brave, kind men who have shared her life.

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