John Edwards

John Edwards Healthcare Forum

For some reason, the hot rumor of the day is that former Democratic presidential hopeful, John Edwards,  proposed to Rielle Hunter, the woman he had an affair with during the 2008 election campaign. He allegedly popped the question over the Christmas holidays – which incidentally followed hard on the heels of his estranged wife Elizabeth’s slow death from cancer.

It might be a good time to point out that Edwards and Hunter share a two-year old daughter from their liaison and that Edwards and his wife had been separated for some time before her death. Whatever the state of their relationship may have been, she did allow him back in her house during her final days for the sake of the three children – two of them quite young.

The other day, the press made a semi-big-purely speculative-to-do over the fact that Elizabeth didn’t mention her almost former husband in her will.

Ah-ha! They crowed. She gave John the big FUCK YOU, YOU CHEATING ON ME WHILE I DIE SLOWLY BASTARD!!

To which I say – huh? Who includes her soon-to-be ex-husband in her will? And kudos to her*, by the way, for jumping on the will revision so quickly. Most Americans with children don’t even have a will let alone think to revise it when their circumstances change.

But there was no reason for her to include him unless he was in need of funding to support their children and, clearly, he isn’t.

The world is so keen on retribution. As if going from “golden boy” to has-been probably hasn’t shattered enough someone who’s spent his life being praised, gloried and handed goodies that most of us can’t even begin to imagine. Attention-whores on his wave-length don’t function on the same “any publicity is good” level that the Snooki’s and Lindsay Lohan’s of the world do.

In any case, using her will, or their children, to strike out at him wouldn’t have been worthy of praise. Only stunted, selfish people make pawns of their kids, and I applaud her for not being like most people in this regard.

But much more, it seems, will be made of whatever Edwards decides to do about his relationship with Hunter. As he is kind of in ambiguous widower territory – being separated and a cheater and already a media pariah – his future actions are sure to be a series of lose-lose-lose.

Even if he were to don sackcloth and smear his exposed flesh with ashes to make a knee-scraping pilgrimage to whatever passes for a holy place in his world, the public will still find his actions wanting.

That’s to be expected when one has lied to and humiliated his family, friends and supporters. But though his douche baggery is plain in my opinion, I am not a bit surprised by what he did.

Factor out the reality that men in power positions often succumb to the temptation that they are “all that ” and “entitled”, he was the spouse of  someone who was terminally ill. Having been in those shoes, I can say that it changes the relationship and sometimes the people involved.

My experience is coloured by the fact that my late husband also had dementia, and our not being able to connect on a mental and spiritual level was very isolating for me. I shouldered all the burden for decisions on every conceivable level and I often resented the fact that he wasn’t “available” to bounce off anything of import. But that aside, when you suddenly find yourself more and more caretaker and less and less partners that is a serious relationship imbalance. Add to that the fact that very often, the well-spouse is treated by others as someone whose problems are not serious enough – in comparison to the ill-spouse – to be worthy of empathy, sympathy or even acknowledging, well, disaster recipes have started with fewer ingredients.

Elizabeth’s cancer went super-nova during the 2008 Democratic primaries. Managing a terminal illness and running for office can’t be all that compatible – though the two swore they were up to it. We all think we are up to it.

Hubris is a universal affliction of those stricken and their loved ones. It’s an odd warrior mentality coupled with high school team boosterism. A weird American thing? North American thing?

When the news of his affair with the obligatory “love child” broke, I shrugged. Caretaking spouse cheats. There is no news in this. When one knows that his/her widowhood is inevitable thoughts of the future creep in. They just do though no one would admit to that out loud. Some people will act out and on those thoughts.

As Will deteriorated, all I had left was a choice between living in my memories or planning for the future. I chose to spend most of my inner-space time on the future because the past just seemed like some sort of hell dimension that pulled me towards self-pity and pointless mourning. I did think a lot about whether I would fall in love again someday and towards the very end – when it looked like he might rally and live a while longer in his vegetative state – I began to wonder if I could put my own needs on hold for another year.

It’s not that I had plans to take out an ad on Craigslist or put up a profile on, but I’d been wandering about the world obviously alone for nearly two years and men were beginning to take notice. And I noticed them noticing.

In the end though, Will had little time left. Just a month and not long into 2006, I was really a widow instead of just sort of one.

But I can understand where men like John Edwards or Terry Schiavo’s husband might have been in their thought processes because I think most people with partners who are dying have let themselves, at the very least, think about loving again.

However, Edwards’ reality is one of a barely married guy who hadn’t been with his wife in a couple of years and was involved with someone else when she died. It’s not heinous that he might be thinking about remarriage because he probably already was.

It doesn’t diminish his grief, which is likely considerable. He and Elizabeth were married a long time and there are children and history involved. He might be a douche, but it doesn’t preclude genuine feelings of loss and regret.

But it doesn’t mean that he won’t move on quickly. Men, generally, and some women, move on quickly. I don’t have patience with folks who are appalled by this because mostly, the outrage centers on artificial etiquette rules and their own personal preferences that refuse to allow the widowed person to be the best judge of their own best interest.

The children though? What of them?

Children have always been appendages of the adult lives they are attached to. They have never had input and that’s probably best. Adults who run their families by majority rule based on the assumption that children are wise and mature as opposed to self-interested, autocratic know-nothings deserve any misery that results, and that includes being saddled one day with adult children who will rule their lives like Russian oligarchs.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the rumors pan out, and so what if they do? It’s hardly anyone’s business outside the immediate Edwards family. If people can’t offer congratulations on the heels of their condolences, they aren’t worth having in your life, in my opinion.

*I am not generally an admirer of Elizabeth Edwards. I feel she got off way to easy for her part in covering up his affair during the primaries. She went out and stumped for him, knowing he was a liar and that his participation in the Democratic bid that year – in any way – could have cost the Dems the White House. Can you imagine Pres. McCain right now?

John Edwards is a fraud. I recoil from that show of his in horror, watching that twenty questions act of his peel people of signs and information that he uses to convince them he can communicate with their deceased loved ones. He is about as physic as my daughter’s cat. Sylvia Browne is another charlatan who shouldn’t be pandered to by talk show divas or publishers. One gem that she vomited forth is particularly telling. She was asked if our loved ones think about us or worry about us after they are gone. Ms. Browne replied, “No, they are in heaven and they don’t care.” Aside from being utterly insensitve and as blunt as a board upside the head, anyone who has received signs or visits from those who have gone on knows that Slyvia is not a psychic either. Back in the days when I was trying so desperately to have a child, my best friend and I went to a Psychic Fair. I sat down with a couple of them. One used a regular playing deck of cards and the other a Tarot set, but they were both completely wrong. I have had more psychic moments than either of those women, but I am sure they are somewhere taking money from innocent people right now and giving them nothing but showy garbage in return.

Last night Rob’s oldest daughter, Farron, came out to the house for supper. Like her dad (and me too I admit) she was late. I don’t think any of us manage to be anywhere we say we are going to be on time anymore. It’s a rare occurrence when I am not walking in at the last minute when I am not outright just plain tardy. Supper was a bit rushed as I had my deep water exercise class, but Farron assured me she would still be around when I got back.

When I returned, Rob, Farron and myself sat in the living room and listened to Farron discuss her man woes. She is not quite twenty-five and as I remember that time myself, men woeful or joyful is just about the center of the universe as far as preoccupation of thoughts, time and energy go. Eventually though the topic turned to the house. Our house is haunted. Truly. Farron had just made a comment on how the dishwasher’s noises sounded ghost-like and Rob brought up my last spirit encounter.

I should run an aside here and explain that Rob didn’t tell me about the house and its “inhabitants” until quite a while after Katy and I moved in. Still, the first time we visited before moving up here, I had a feeling the house was haunted. I was a bit curious about the possibility because Rob’s late wife died here in the room down the hall which is now our joint office. I knew from my own experiences after Will died, and from a few Rob had told me about concerning Shelley, that spouses tend to hang out a bit for a while following their passing. Partly concern and maybe a little bit habit, it’s my feeling that they need to hang onto us as they adjust just as we need to hang onto them. That first weekend visit, I saw a figure standing in the corner of our bedroom when I awoke for no reason in the middle of the night and I had the distinct feeling that I was being watched the few times I went into the basement.

After we moved in the basement feelings persisted until I felt almost as I did when I was a young child being sent down to the freezer to retrieve some thing or other for my mother to prepare for dinner. I also saw the figure in our room again. Once right next to the side of the bed by Rob as he slept. The incidents came to a head in the middle of the night when Katy awoke, came to get me and when I took her back to her room she insisted that someone was standing on the other side of the room. This was not long after the “honey” incidents. Katy would come into the room wherever I was and ask me what I wanted. Of course, I hadn’t called for her but she would tell me that someone was calling “Honey” to her. The figure in her room was the last straw. Some otherworldly person could mess with me all they liked but had better leave my child alone. My late husband got quite the talking to by me in that instant and reminded that he had a child to look after and what was he going to do about this? Katy hasn’t had a ghostly experience since.

After that, Rob came clean about the house. The incidents dated back to when he, Shelley and the girls first moved in. Apparently the house had been moved from a spot in the city on the old prison grounds. Jordan, Rob’s younger daughter, was also a victim of the “honey” calls though the spirit actually called her by name. She also had told Farron that there were other creepy incidents in the basement. Mostly a feeling of being watched. My downstairs surveillance ended one day when I finally got angry and told whoever it was to just knock it off already. It wasn’t my last incident though. That was the one Rob wanted me to tell Farron about. I was sitting in the office, working on a blog piece about last wishes. It was right after our trip up to Beaverlodge for Uncle Raymond’s – Shelley’s uncle – memorial. Rob had decided to bring Shelley’s ashes along and place some under the tree in Raymond’s yard where the two of them had gotten married. It got me thinking about my last wishes and where I wanted to end up, but as I was finishing up I got stuck. I couldn’t figure out how to end the piece and toyed with the idea of writing a bit longer piece than I had originally intended when suddenly, someone shoved my chair from behind and I hit the desk. I took that as I sign that I was done and quickly wrote a few sentences and published. I should note here that my chair is a typical desk chair with wheels but I have a habit of sitting on one leg and letting the other dangle or rest on the tripod legs. I wasn’t moving or rocking. My feet weren’t even touching the floor and as far as I know, there aren’t any earthquakes in Alberta.

Rob’s experiences go back to before Shelley’s illness even. He would hear a tinny radio playing 1940’s type music. After Shelley died, he would hear voices as he was dropping off to sleep at night. Lots of voices. Like at a party. One night, he heard someone loudly call his full name. He has had experiences with Shelley too, as I have had with Will, but some of the things that have happened can’t be attributed to our late spouses.

Katy’s room is the one Farron used to sleep in. Farron related a tale of the attic door being open every night despite her repeated closings and of scratching sounds in the ceiling which she thought were rodents but Rob assured her wasn’t possible as he has never seen any of the telltale rodent signs in the attic space.

I personally believe there is a next and probably even an after the next place that we all travel to after our time here is done for the moment. I think that we probably spend eternity looping these places and existing in different forms but with essentially the same group of fellow travelers or “souls”. My knowledge of quantum physics is pretty limited, though it fascinates me, and I can’t explain in any concrete way they reason that some of us are able to “break” through the barriers between existences and some of us can’t, or maybe chose not to. What came first or what comes next is nothing to be afraid of anymore than you should fear getting older or any of the transitions that come along in this life. Change is just change to greater or lesser degrees. And, of course, it is inevitable.