Self-aware leftovers: The forgotten victims of divorce

[A quick note about this post: Over the years, my wife has mentioned that this column — which I wrote after my divorce 10 years ago — is one of her favorites. It’s also the first column of mine that she read. And yet, she still went out with me…]

_DSC0009 copy There’s nothing funny about divorce. At least, not until you have time to gain some perspective and accept the fact that staying up until 2 a.m. reconfiguring the salt and pepper shakers on your dining room table is just part of the healing process.

Like vacuuming the kitchen tile and mopping the living room carpet.

Or getting excited over having extra closet space while at the same time avoiding that space as much as possible.

After a few months, I suddenly turned around and realized I had moved forward. As strange as it sounds, I think it started the day I threw away the last of the leftovers from when my ex-wife and I were still together.

Granted, they had been in there for quite a while already. Possibly even as far back as Cinco de Mayo, though I couldn’t be sure since the contents appeared to be a member of an unidentified fifth food group.

My point is, as I stood looking at that swollen plastic container of [food editor, please help me], I realized it symbolized much more than my inability, as a single father, to keep my children safe from a biological attack in their own kitchen.

Inside that container was something that had started out with lots of flavor; something good and enjoyable.

Something we had both contributed to.

And over time it had gotten lost somewhere behind everything else; was shuffled around; had things stacked on top of it.

It had probably even been checked for freshness a time or two and, regardless of how much it began to turn, had been placed back into the refrigerator until, eventually, I found myself standing there holding it — and knowing it had been going bad for a while.

Naturally, I hesitated to open it. Not just because of what it represented. But also because in the back of mind I knew there was a chance — however slight — that it contained enough bacterium to become self aware.

In addition to dealing with this rather delicate emotional moment, the last thing I needed was to find myself fighting off a salsa-based spore creature in my kitchen.


Open it, I did.

There was a burp, and a brief moment of panic until I realized it was just my Tupperwear saying:

It’s about time…(burp!) I couldn’t hold it much longer..!

While there are plenty of other remnants of our married life together, for some reason this unremarkable, very ordinary (except for its appearance) part of our past seemed especially poignant in that moment.

However, that moment passed.

Specifically, right around the time my son walked in and said, “Dad! What is that SMELL! Geez!”

And with that I held the container upside down and watched my leftovers disappear into the trash can. I then moved the trash onto the back porch.

Then the back yard.

And eventually the curb, on the next block, where it will remain until Monday, when my trash guy will be attacked by a self-aware salsa-based creature.

I’d like to thank all of you for your letters and emails, and for your patience in letting me serve up leftovers while I got back into the swing of things with my column.

It’s nice to be back.

[And my thanks to all of you, dear readers, for allowing me to share this moment in time with you from 10 years ago. And to You, my Lovely wife, for every moment since.]

(You can write to Ned Hickson at, or Ned Hickson c/o Siuslaw News, P.O. Box 10, Florence, Ore., 97439)


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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

44 thoughts on “Self-aware leftovers: The forgotten victims of divorce”

  1. Yours is one of those blogs where WordPress won’t let me “like” with the like button. I just wanted you to know I liked this and I needed to read it, so thank you.

  2. As a divorced person, I relate to this post and found a wee lump forming in my throat.. For you it was “salsa’, me a Gap dress shirt, never laundered that still hangs in that “space” ,not so much for melancholy reasons, but who in their right mind throws out a $95.00, worn once Gap shirt 🙂
    great post!!!

    1. [Smile] Thanks, Lynne! I tell you what, I’ll send you $95 worth of salsa and you send me the shirt. Based on your writing, I can tell you have good taste. And I have a salsa recipe that tastes good 🙂

  3. Effective post, helps us see our humanity, says wonderful things about you as a dad, your blog reading wife (Phew! It was hard to come up with a good way to differentiate.), and life in general. Very touching, thank you.

    1. Haha! Thanks so much. And trust me, if you had just said “wife” I would have known exactly who you’re talking about 😉 But I appreciate you making the effort to distinguish the two — very thoughtful. Thank you for your kind words.

  4. This is a really great post with a perfect analogy, and I can relate. You are a brave man to see it through to the end. I’m am not so attached to my Tupperware that I am against pitching the swollen mass into the garbage without peeking inside.

  5. WordPress won’t let me click like either – have to do it from my reading list. Anyway, I’m digressing – I also very much understand that phase and I love the analogy you’ve made. I also love how you refer to your blog-reading (yes, I stole that from elroy!) wife – having been in that position myself I also wanted to make the distinction.

    1. Thanks, Lynette 🙂 It seems the comparison of a rotten relationship and food strikes a chord with a lot of people! Fortunately, the signs of a loving relationship are also just as easily recognized, which is even better. Thank you for taking the time to bypass the “like” barrier and drop me a line.

  6. Love it. 🙂
    Not your divorce, I hasten to add. But there are definitely some new species living in my fridge at any time.

      1. I don’t know. Some new species on the planet may be good for it. They could turn out to be polite, friendly vege monsters.

  7. How odd that I just took a break from writing my post for tomorrow to read this. I am writing about my divorce as well, and how much strength I gained from leaving. Thanks for sharing your story and I’m glad you are happy and moving on.

  8. Ned, this is spot on! It is exactly how things feel when you’re life is torn apart, but some part however miniscule remains. Well done!

    “I said good day, Sheriff!” – Bobby Hill

  9. I didn’t like your post as much as loved it… Gave me a measure of hope?!? I still can’t adjust to my marriage ending after 16 years… It will be 2 years coming up… And he was a horrible man the past 10…. Major alcoholic and violent. But now 13 hours away, sober and a new girlfriend. I have full custody and restraining orders against him and alcohol leaves a horrible taste in my mouth. (That and the food I find under my 13 year old boys bed) But I can’t move forward. I was lied to for so long. I don’t know how I’d ever trust anyone or worse myself… How could I trust when my judgement and all my friends was so off with this one man?
    I will try to find a way to drink a glass of wine without the memories and a way to get my kid to not horde food under his bed… 🙂

    1. We are all unique. Therefore, despite any similarities, all our relationships are unique too.
      You’re in an enviable place – you get to redefine yourself on your own terms!
      Everyone is allowed to feel sad sometimes just make sure you balance it out with happy stuff too (and keep away from Ned’s Salsa!) :o)

      1. I’m not sad… I have the best part of our marriage… My 3 wonderful kids… the youngest a huge challenge… but still I got the better deal on that. I just get tired of being the only one making the decisions at time… I get lonely at times… I have a fulfilling job helping people heal from injuries… but I make what I made when I was single 18 years ago and now have to support 3 kids on that… Life is just really hard… But I love life! and we have so much peace!

    2. I’m so very sorry you had to have that experience. My first marriage lasted 15 years before it finally ended, the last 10 or so were pretty dismal. Nothing as horrible as what you experienced, but a lot of unhappiness and eventually a complete disconnect. I suggested marriage counseling, especially after we had our first child, but she didn’t want it and just buried herself at work. Eventually, on my 40th birthday, she told me she wanted a divorce and already had a place and a lawyer. Said she needed to be her own person and find herself. I kept the kids and the house in exchange for inheriting all the debt — a worthwhile trade in my opinion 🙂 There’s a line from the movie “Her Alibi” when Tom Selleck is talking about his ex-wife who left him: “She said she needed to grow. I assumed she was fully grown when we got married.” Don’t be too hard on yourself about what you perceive as a lack of judgement. Being lied to is not a fault of your character, and neither is wanting to believe. Don’t let him take away — or make you question — the things that define who you are; you just need to find someone who can recognize and appreciate them. A tall order it seems, but one worth waiting for. Btw, I have a hoarder, too. To stop it, I just stuck a roll of my dirty socks in there 😉 Hang in there.

      1. Thanks for the encouraging words… I have to agree… keeping the kids is worth it all 🙂 The kept me from becoming a co-dependant because he was an adult and needed to take care of himself because these 3 babies needed a parent to take care of them. They keep me grounded.. like when I think “hey I should take that guy up on his offer…” and I turn him down… I think the keep me grounded… The also keep me from sinking too low that I cant regain my composure… they know when to lift me up… because when they do they get the best focused mom ever… My almost 13 year old son calls me the coolest mom ever… i get wild driving through 2 feet of snow in our expedition and he laughs the whole time… my daughter loves to do my hair and get me dressed up for things… and Kodi well he just loves me. That is the best ever… Worth everything to me.
        Hmmm! I think my son has dirty socks in there himself… Mine could not compare… His could stand on their own and walk themselves down two flights of stairs to the laundry room… 🙂 But I could threaten to make quiche every day of the week if he doesn’t clean it up… He hates quiche… maybe that would get him to clean it up? If that didn’t work then I’m at a loss… he is not afraid of anything… quiche and mosquitoes… only two things he hates~

        1. Quiche and mosquitoes… We can work with that. I’m thinking a deliciously frightening mosquito quiche 🙂 And, yes, my kids, who were 12 and 5 then, saved me and kept me focused, inspired and hopeful — and still do. Most of the time… 😉

  10. You explain it perfectly. It’s almost like mourning a death. You walk around in a daze until the salsa rears it’s biological life-form head and you are forced to deal with it. I look back on those early post-trauma days and marvel at the salsa-evicting moments and say “damn, girl you handle THAT monster like a pro!” but at the time it felt like a panic-induced reaction to a potential zombie attack. Sadly, although nearly 14 years have past the salsa-monster keeps rearing his ugly head to engage in nasty ways. It is no longer scary or surprising, just tedious 🙂

    1. You’re so right. You definitely have to keep an eye on that salsa 🙂 Making it back from that devistation is something I still shake my head about sometimes. It also made me a stronger person and more determined to redefine myself again after it was over. I let a lot of myself get burried over the years in order to keep the peace — prolonging what I now see was inevitable. When I started dating again, I left any bitterness behind, knowing whatever relationship I found was going to be affected by whatever I brought with me. All I wanted to bring was myself and my two children. I’ve been remarried for six years now, to the absolute love of my life — who came into our relationship just like me: determined to start over again as herself, along with her two children. Though the salsa remains at bay, I still think about it from time to time, if for no other reason than to remind myself of where I was, and how fortunate I was to arrive at where I am now. I still like a good lime salsa, though 😉

    1. Thanks so much Michelle 😉 Given that this column is the one that caught my wife’s eye, it’s my personal favorite for obvious reasons (I almost typed “personal raisins,” which is just weird…)

  11. Your post made me think of the divorce I went through some 15 years ago, with the help of expensive therapy (bottles of scotch) I had managed to forget those traumatic days, months, years. Curse you Ned

    Actually I was talking to the ex last Christmas and she said ‘At least we didn’t use the kids as ammo during our divorce did we” It took a while for me to realise she was discussing our explosive divorce…. obviously her therapist was better than mine.

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