Wednesday, September 25, 2013:
Eight weeks later, Wednesday, November 13, 2013, the sun was low and towards the west, the air was frigid, a bite of winter. I was sitting in a parked car with my son while my daughter was practicing gymnastics. We were talking about school, and how things had been going for him. I had recently received a note from his teacher regarding his schoolwork. I asked, “What’s going on with you buddy? Why aren’t you turning in all your work?” He replied, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Maybe it’s all the stuff that’s happened.”
“Like what exactly? Tell me more about this.”
“Well, you know, Stacy broke up, and Snicker’s died. (Snicker’s was his dad’s girlfriend’s cat.) I just want our perfect family back.”
He started crying. I heard his voice change before I met his eyes, and saw the tear curl from black lashes. He blinked his gaze away from me, and moved around in his seat. My chest rose, I exhaled my inner-hell.
His eyes were heavy, cheeks round like that only of a child. He looked up at me.
“I miss Stacy, do you still miss her mom?”
My guilt was raging, my anger at Susan, building. But my core- instincts were solid.
“Yes, buddy, I miss her so much, I understand how you feel. I’m so sorry you’re sad, we’re going to be ok; we have each other. I’m sorry you’re having a hard time with everything. I know it hasn’t been easy for you. Thank you for telling me. You know I love you, and I’m here for you; and Stacy loves you too.”
“Yes, I know. Mom, are you all good? Or are you still sad?”
“I’m still sad baby, but I’m going to be ok. I will always be ok. I have so much love in my life. I have you guys, God, my family, and friends, and my writing.”
I was fighting hard to stay strong for him. I wanted to collapse in my own sadness, my sadness over what I’ve lost, and for my children’s loss too, but I couldn’t, he needed me, and that was more important. My insides were at war, my fears wanted to blame and justify, but my heart knew better. I looked for the truth. It was hard, but I searched, and I found gratitude, gratitude for his journey, and gratitude for Stacy-for still seeing and having a relationship with my kids.
My little buddy just sat there for minute reading his book before he spoke again.
“I feel so bad for you mom. I ‘m so sorry.”
My body wanted to just drain, but I had to keep it together.
“Ah, thank you so much sweetness child. You are so amazing. I’m lucky to have you and Sadie.”
“You know we love you, right mom?”
“Yes, baby, I know. Thank you. And you know how much I love you too, right?”
We sat with silence, and a loving glance, just my boy and me, and my realization of how sweet and fierce my son’s love is for me. Fucking unreal.
The momma lion in me wanted to rear up and rip her head off for hurting him/them, but that story, the one about her hurting them isn’t real. The other story that isn’t real either is the one where I’m to blame for everything that has ever gone wrong in my children’s lives, the scene where I could’ve, should’ve done something different, but that too is false. I am learning how powerless I really am over their lives.
The only version that’s accurate is the one where we (my children included) are all learning the lessons in life we’re supposed to get, even painful ones, and the story that says we, the adults, did/are doing the best we can at any given moment.
I had been shutdown, and sad for weeks, just going through the motions of raising my children. I did the bare minimum; it was all I could do for a while. I felt guilty for not being a better mom, guilty that Stacy moved out, and guilty that at times I felt resentment towards them. But then here he was, my innocent child telling me how sad he was for my loss. It was arresting that his love for me nears that of mine for him, and Sadie, and startling at how blind I had been to that love for weeks.
This conversation, this intimate moment with my son made my heart burn with pride, the compassion and love he expressed for Stacy and me was such an example of pure love and goodness. He became my teacher. His words restored the innocence that blame, shame, anger, and guilt were trying to steal. His words were like rain coming down to wash it all away.
I told him, “You know that we’re still a perfect family even though we’re imperfect. Our imperfections are what make us perfect.”
He just listened.
I don’t even know if he realized that we were two months out from the day that Stacy told them she was leaving. I don’t know if he knew that we had sat in the car in the same way, yet different. I was quiet that day, quiet and somewhere else; my heart was on fire. I don’t think either he, nor I knew that it was going to turn out quite the way it did.
My survival skills, my intense need to understand the un-understandable, to make sense of the unexplainable is what forces me to open everything up, shake it out and take a second, third, hundredth look. I don’t know or even understand how it all happened, I just know it did, and this day has left me, well, forever changed:
Wednesday, September 25, 2013:
This day came up on me too fast. This is the day we’re telling the kids that she, my love, is moving out. It is one of the first cooler days, the end of a long summer, the first hint of fall, I’m wearing boots to the store, the stock guy at Kroger stowing the milk away comments, “Is it cool enough out there for boots?” I reply, “Perhaps, but it’s definitely cold enough in here for them.” The summer seemed to go on forever, until it didn’t anymore. Today is that day.
I arrive to an empty house with bags of groceries hanging from my arms; food, my attempt to control the uncontrollable-with a home cooked meal of mashed potatoes and salted, baked chicken. I’m grasping for anything here. I figure comfort food might help ease the discomfort of what was to come. I didn’t’ know what else to do, and I needed to do something, but sometimes even-stick to your ribs-, feel good food doesn’t help. I feel helpless.
My physical body is busy putting items away, peeling potatoes, preheating the oven, boiling the water, salting the chicken, but the rest of me is somewhere else. I refuse to believe this is happening. She can’t really be leaving. How can she leave us? This is a mistake, something isn’t right. The water is running, the pot overflowing, the shadow of shade is moving in the back window. The oven is warm, I feel weak, and my knees want to buckle under the weight of my pain. I push the feelings away; she can’t hurt me. She’s hurting me, the timer goes off, the back door opens, and she appears. I have one hour left before I have to get the kids. I want to vomit.
“Hello.” One of us says. “Hi.” says the other. She asks me, “How do you want to do this? How do you want to tell the kids?” I can’t respond. I’m sick. “What time will you be home from taking them to gymnastatics? I don’t think I should stay after we explain everything to them. Tonight should be about them.” I’m frozen with the horror that’s numbing my extremities. I finally speak, “We’ll be home around 5:30. I guess we can tell them then. Are you sure you want to leave tonight? You can have the bed and I can sleep with Sadie.” I don’t want her to go. I want her to stay with me, stay and deal with the fallout of her leaving. But she is right. It needs to be about them tonight. I want to crumble, but I have to stay strong.
She replies, “Yes, I don’t think it’s good for me to stay. It might be confusing for them.” My soul is torched, I’m on fire with emotions, but I’m not going to let her watch me burn. I lock my emotions behind a firewall, “Ok, well I don’t know what to do, whatever works for you.”
“I’m going to tell them that my tenant moved out, and that I’m moving back to my condo. That I tried living here but it just didn’t work out, and that it’s better for me if I live there.” I literally can’t stand it, I want to explode, just burst into flames and disappear. But instead I put my chicken under the broiler and stir the potatoes.
She leaves me standing alone with my emotions, my dinner preparations; she leaves me standing behind a closed door about to lose my mind. I hear the shower running, I pour the water through the strainer and melt the butter. I watch as it dances around the pan, melting and sizzling into separate corners, from a solid to a liquid. It is too much for me.
She appears, dressed, she doesn’t walk down the hallway towards the bedroom in her towel, she changes in the bathroom, and from this I know everything has changed. I can’t take it anymore, the realization overpowers my body, and my senses; I can’t fight anymore. Our eyes meet, they look through me, distant. I ask her, “Can you make the potatoes? I can’t do this anymore.”
I grab my phone and walk through time to my bed. I tear the covers open and throw myself down, pulling the blankets up over me. I call a friend, chocking, he answers, I’m tripping on my words; they are all over the place. “We’re telling the kids tonight. I can’t stand the pain; I want to bargain, I’m bargaining, I can’t believe she’s leaving. Why is she doing this? I don’t want her to go. No, no, no, no! It can’t be. Why? Why God? Why? This is mistake; she’s making a huge mistake. She’s wrong. I don’t want to tell my kids. I don’t want to do this to them. They love her. I don’t want her to leave us. She can’t leave us.” My friend, patient with me, listens. I continue, shouting now, “I don’t want what God has for me. I want Stacy. I don’t want anyone else. I am hurting so much. This is so hard. I should’ve been better. I should’ve been more accepting, and more grateful. Oh God, I’m bargaining. This is my fault. I hate this. ”
The tears, they’re coming, they’re suffocating me. I’m under the blankets hiding. I feel the comfort around my body, cradling me like a mother’s arms, my head is buried deep in my pillow, and I just keep talking. My friend can’t understand me. I don’t understand me, and she’s still in the kitchen cooking our dinner.
She’s watching the dinner, and I have 15 minutes left before I have to get the kids. Today is Wednesday, she told me on Monday but I haven’t come to terms with it yet. There is so much to say, but I can’t say a word. I’m confused, and in denial. I don’t understand what happened. It all went down so fast like a hit and run, I’m left stranded and dazed on the side of an empty road.
To Be Continued