I was down at the local shopping centre last night where I meet my daughters most Thursday nights for a meal of KFC. Yeah I know, I'm over 50 with a slight paunch and shouldn't be eating that stuff, but I've liked it ever since Dad brought it home one night way back in the late 60's when the first store opened in Box Hill. But I digress.
As I was walking towards the food court I ran into a bloke I've known for a lot of years, in fact we used to be members of the same organisation. I see him occasionally and we always stop for a chat. He's lost a lot of weight recently and when I commented he told me that he'd separated from his wife of 30 odd years in the past two months.
It is a story that repeats itself every day somewhere on Earth. He had had enough and left. I didn't ask what the marriage was like but I did say that I knew how he felt. He had been doing his own thing for a few years, pursuing other interests his wife had no time for, he explained how that lack of communication and enjoyment of each others company began to build barriers, and how the molehills became mountains that he couldn't see a way over.
His children refuse to talk to him at the moment and he asked me what to do. Given I've often felt like a failure in that area myself I could only tell him to hang in there, that he needed to keep calling and showing interest in their lives and that if he did that then they would come around. He was their father after all.
We exchanged cards and left with a promise to catch up. But like most blokes, he will probably also suffer in silence, accept the entire burden for the break up himself and not reach out for help when he most needs it. I know how he feels. This is not necessarily an episode of depression, it may be, but it is more likely to be a grieving process. An examination of what went wrong and how things may have been different. At the end of the day we all find our own answers to those questions and when we do, it is possible to move on.
It is a sad fact of gender that men do not have the support networks that women do, that we almost always put on the brave face, and that any crying we do is in private and when we are alone. When all of the blame seems to lie on the one set of shoulders that self imposed isolation becomes even more of a burden as friends take sides, so that the people we may have felt we could talk to are no longer there. So we withdraw into self imposed isolation for a period of time. Self esteem can suffer, judgement can become clouded, we can throw ourselves into work to the detriment of everything else. I have come to believe that the only way out of that miasma is to find an interest, be obsessed for a while if you need to be, but allow passion for a part of your life to creep back in, until the grief receeds, and you are ready to live again.
I will call him in the next week or so to see how he is getting on and to offer a little support if that is what he wants.