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 Match.com, 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?