There was a time before keyboards and handheld devices replaced paper and pens when an X served as a legal signature on a contract or marked the spot on the map where the treasure was buried.
About the only time you’ll see that 24th letter of the alphabet standing alone these days, however, is in reference to the rating for an adult movie, or lined up three across the label on a bottle of poison in a cartoon.
Ex, on the other hand, has become the go-to manner for how we label people from previous parts of our life, as in ex-boss for a former employer or ex-colleague for someone we used to work with.
It is also how most people refer to their past-tense spouses, which brings us to the point of this column, a salute to exes everywhere and in particular, my ex-wife.
Although our time together began in the deepest depths of love, our breakup was brought on by my inability to muster the maturity, honesty and integrity that form the cornerstones of a good marriage.
The split was the darkest period of my life, a period forever scarred by self-inflicted wounds that remain painful to recall to this day.
Nevertheless, my ex became the inspiration for the first thing I cobbled together in 25 years, other than the occasional Hallmark-like hello in a birthday card or letters to an ex-girlfriend in Philadelphia.
It came about, much like this column, from images I couldn’t shake from my brain during a night where sleep escaped my grasp.
Whether it was fate or something I ate, what I wrote in the wee hours of that particular morning marked the kick out of bed that pushed me on a path to a somewhat successful career as a journeyman journalist.
The poem in question took less than 20 minutes to write, a similar timeframe for the notes I scribbled down at 2 a.m. this Monday morning to deliver this first column of 2020. It goes as follows:
In my dreams I am a famous surgeon,
A masked face inducing you to sleep deeply
While I calmly remove your fear and your doubts
Like some routine tumour.
After the operation I awaken,
Just another mad doctor trapped in the gloom of his laboratory,
Frantically, desperately searching for a cure to the disease
Your leaving has spread through my heart.
So thank you, dearest ex, for the inspiration born on that fateful, fitful night of troubled sleep.
For that, the memories forged in happier times and the gift from the gods that is our son, I remain eternally indebted and grateful.
Whether you, dear reader, look forward to the weekly ramblings, rants and ruminations stitched into the Rickter Scale or silently pray for the publisher to pull the plug, at least we can all agree on one thing.
For better or for worse, you can blame it all on the ex.
Rick Stiebel is a semi-retired local journalist.