I have had a hard time getting his e-mail off my mind.
After decades of column writing, I realize that I probably tend to over-empathize with my readers.
That’s why I’m moved by an e-mail from a regular fan.
“I have lived alone for 24-plus years,” he wrote. “ I lived for 21 years with my wife in a bad marriage.
“I would prefer a bad marriage any day to living alone. With a bad marriage, there’s always hope that it will get better. When your spouse bails out, all is lost.”
I can only imagine the side effects of divorce. But I can guess that no matter the relief or the sadness of the break-up, dealing with the ensuing loneliness would be hard to handle.
More and more married couples are experiencing the trauma of separation.
According to studies by Americans for Divorce Reform, between 40 and 50 percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce.
Undoubtedly, the rate would much higher were it not for the dramatic increase in the number of people cohabiting without the “I do’s” of marriage. According to one source, premarital cohabitation increased by 70 percent in the 1990s alone.
Since 1970, marriages have declined by 30 percent while divorces have increased by 40 percent.
According to Divorce.com, more than 75 percent of divorced people re-marry. However, 65 percent of second marriages end in divorce.
So, romance travels a rocky and uncertain road in today’s culture.
Leaving the cap off the toothpaste tube is not the leading cause of divorce. Nor, surprisingly, to me, neither is infidelity.
Speaking of the latter, a friend, commenting on an ex-son-in-law once said, “I liked him a lot. He was a good man from the waist up.”
As one who has enjoyed a long and happy marriage, I can reach out to my reader.
A country music hit by the late Jim Reeves memorializes the pain of a breakup:
I’m just on the blue side of lonesome
Next door to the Heartbreak Hotel
In a tavern that’s known as Three Teardrops
On a bar stool, not doing so well.
A newspaper photo of a Charleston demonstration advocating removal of the Confederate flag from the S.C. capitol grounds, featured in the foreground a man holding a sign reading, “God, take down the flag!”
It crossed my mind that God didn’t raise the flag. Men did. Let men lower it.
The demise of Briggs Hardware Store stirred the nostalgia pot.
When the 150-year-old store was a downtown landmark, News and Observer/Raleigh Times employees used it regularly as a convenient shortcut to Fayetteville Street.
Mrs. James Briggs, who worked at the store far into her senior years, was a close friend. Among other things, she helped me select toys for our two little girls at Christmas.
She always kept a sharp eye out for shoplifters.
One wintry day, while manning the cash register, Mrs. Briggs glanced up to see a woman wearing a tent-like topcoat, edging her way toward the front door. An electrical cord was dragging along the floor between her feet.
Mrs. Briggs abandoned her cash register duties and dashed after the woman, who fled down Fayetteville Street.
Mrs. Briggs checked the merchandise counters and found an electric frying pan missing.
“If only you had quietly plugged in the electrical cord while she was browsing,” I suggested.
My favorite word
Joe Wagner of Durham has a favorite word: ken, which means one’s range of knowledge or sight.
I suppose if I have a favorite word it is nepenthe.
In the early days of our marriage, my wife and I would occasionally receive a $5 check from Mrs. Donald Robinson, a doctor’s wife and community activist who had befriended me when I was a bachelor reporter in Burlington.
In the corner of each check, unaccompanied by a letter, our benefactress always wrote “nepenthe,” ie, a drug banishing grief or troubles from a person’s mind.
We usually spent the nepenthe on dinner for two at the S&W cafeteria then located in Cameron Village. The nepenthe usually covered the tab.