My ex-husband is a selfish guy. I know this not because of the way he treated me in our marriage. I know this not even because of the way he treated me in our divorce. I know this because of the way he treats other people. Yesterday was the funeral of the son of mutual friends – mutual friends that I have stayed in touch with and that he has not. Not because I won them in the friend lotto of divorce, but simply because I’ve stayed in touch and he has not. But the funeral came around and my ex-husband showed up to the service.
This morning, our friend, the mother of the boy, asked if my ex came to her house afterwards. I didn’t see him, I said. But today I got an email from him, saying that he had left directly after the service because he was “too broken up” to stick around. Too broken up. He couldn’t have been more “broken up” than our friend. She was present and devastated and profound in her strength. He couldn’t have been more “broken up” than those who were close to the boy. I don’t doubt that he was upset, don’t doubt that he was moved and grieving. He loved this boy – this sweet, broken boy who overdosed at the age of 22. But in a world of pain and grief, in a community of people coming together to help a mother deal with the death of a son, you show up. You get over your own pain, your own grief, your own hurt and you pull it together long enough to show up. That’s what friendship is. That’s what love is. That is what it means to be truly present.
None of us knew what to say to Pam yesterday. None of us really know what to say to her in the future. I saw her at lunch today and conversation moved from the mundane to the profound and back again a hundred times over the course of twenty minutes. But you show up. That’s what friends do. You show up and you say the right thing. Or you say the wrong thing. Or you say nothing at all. But you show the fuck up. Because that’s what being a grown up is all about.
Sig Other shows up. Compassion is not his strong suit. Sensitivity to others is not a natural fallback for him. But he has extraordinary presence in the face of adversity and pain. And he knows how to show up. Over and over, time and time again, he shows up. At weddings, at funerals, in good times and in bad, he is there – for me, for my friends, for his friends, for family. And this is one of things I love about him most. I consider myself ridiculously lucky that I picked wisely this time out and am partnered with a man who knows that showing up is more than half the battle.