Tag - divorce

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The Hardest Thing
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Words Like Nets
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Weather Extremes
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Spaces Between Us
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Deja View
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One Year
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Days Creep
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Knotless
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Moving on
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Count Your Blessings

The Hardest Thing

Today, the day the world sits up and dresses in blue, I will sit up too. I will sit up and give you a glimpse: I am a single mom to two amazing beings who confound and astound. It is hard, but Autism is not the hardest thing.

The hardest thing is being both for them: mother, father; sweet and soft; sharp and strong; all of the angles their geometry requires. Hardest is staying calm when the tide comes in with a rush — a skinned knee, a tantrum of protest in the post office line and I am sinking — as alone with this responsibility as a sea stone swept out to drown.

They run and zing, darting like human triangles keening to their own music. Their music is one, although they are each themselves, two sides of a happy sing-song, my sons.

But as a single mom, I bear witness alone.

The hardest thing is letting them be who they are meant to be. The hardest thing is letting them go and hoping that they’ve memorized the soft and sweet, the sharp and strong, and forgive me for not filling in all the empty spaces in between.

Words Like Nets

This. This at the end of a long, tiring day. This, when you simply want to put a period on it, as in, THE DAY IS DONE.

This, when the goal is to slide into the evening with your thoughts and a glass of wine, your children at last asleep. Let’s be honest, looking forward to these moments is what keeps you going some days.

So when one of your children refuses to cooperate and instead keeps getting out of bed after lights out and you see no discernible reason other than he quite possibly does not want you to have alone time, you will sigh heavily and say “Alright, then. Come here. Sit on the couch with me.”

The truth is you are just too tired to keep walking him back to bed.

You ask him, of course you do: “John, what is it? Why can’t you sleep?” You ask him, knowing that it’s futile, knowing that answering requires too much and tools he does not have. And then you spot your laptop. You open a blank word doc and you type:

John, why are you sad? Because… ?

You don’t expect an answer, you don’t expect much, which is why when he leans forward you still don’t realize.

a take to bed

“Take you back to bed?” You tell him you still don’t understand. You try again.

WHY is John sad? 
no sad
Okay. Is something bothering John?
Yes or no?
yes

And you tell him you want to help, can he please tell you more, can he type more?

neat mom sat on bed
sleep mom sad wake up mom
back ward school

What does it mean? Backward school? Go back to school? And he continues:

dad grandma house train
dad number 012345
dad grow plant
home mom
dinner
movie popcorn
bath time
bed time
brekfest
dad no hi
dad air up
dad chikfil a
the muppet show season 3
sesame street surprise watch
moo bow elmo puppet
fair boat
hot air balloon
lunch
fair boat home
dinner movie bed
back to school
lost home ant jt
go home
nose
watch to baby da vinci
jelly fish

This. All of this. You need to de-code and you need to alert the press. This is the longest conversation you’ve ever had.

The day you discovered Sesame Street’s “Divorce: Little Children, Big Challenges” downloaded on his ipad without any help you knew that he was taking it all in and processing. And today you see, god how you see, just how much he has to say.

Words

Weather Extremes

Nothing like a downpour to slow you down. The boys are at school and I sit here while the rain pounds. We are nearly six months in to our new life where there are extremes in weather: sunny skies so blue you are certain no color exists to do it justice. And then there are the days like today. If I close my eyes I really could go to sleep — no joke. The rain pounds but it’s also hypnotic. If Sam were home and not at school, he’d fret “It could flood! What about the wind? Those clouds are low, Mom!” He’d see menace in the benign.

That’s what happens when you absorb every book you can find on wild weather systems. I believe that it’s important to be prepared, but perhaps it’s possible to be too prepared. For some things.

I was not prepared to be a single mom even though I essentially was just that while married. The fact is I did 90% of everything from day one. It’s the little things that remind me how rough the road is solo. It’s their new fascination with their, ahem, bodies. And it’s how their little boy frames are filling out, their legs stretching impossibly towards their future height. It’s how each of them pushes back trying to redefine the lines between us, necessary to emerging into themselves — I know. But it’s rocky and terrain I neither know nor get — hey, I’m a girl.

Soon they will tower over me. I will be their little mama. John will bend down when he throws his arms around me each morning. That’s good, I think, I’ll be little by comparison — better than a diet.

IMG_rain1Yesterday, unlike today, was mild and breezy. All the windows were thrown open to catch it and along with it, perhaps possibility. Their weekly phone call over, Sam sat sprawled on the couch next to me and we talked again about the divorce. We do this from time to time — he wanted me to feel it from his point of view, he said.

“You think it affected you 100 times, well, it affected me a billion times!” and then explained how when IT first started (the fight that ended with his dad leaving) IT was like an asteroid hit his head and then IT (the separation) turned into a cyclone in his body where tornadoes and hurricanes flooded him, his heart, and then IT (the divorce) traveled down to his legs where earthquakes and fierce winds landed in his feet.

“It was tremendous,” he said. It felt like he was alone in a desert — did I know that?

“I did not,” I said, “but I suspected.” I thanked him for sharing how it was for him and asked if it’s hard to keep all of that extreme weather inside.

He admitted it is. “It’s hardest for the kids.”

This boy is 8 going on 30.

And then, “Mom, will you get married again and give me some more siblings? Please?” I explained how 1) that would require non-existent candidates and 2) someone who already has children (“A sister, I want a sister”), because my child-bearing years are finito.

I didn’t think it the right moment to say I can’t imagine ever wanting to do that again, so instead I took the easy path: “Who knows?” The way his face lit up, I would do just about anything for him. (Just about.)

There is no manual for this life, no guide for getting it right and it makes me sad that my boy can lay it out for me like this: he is prepared for the extremes: he knows firsthand the havoc that can be wreaked by that which is bigger than him. He did not see the low clouds heralding his parents’ divorce, he did not know he lived on a fault line, that the earth could move like that or tornadoes form out of thin air.

And now he does. He is prepared for the worst and I suppose I am now too.

IMG_rain3

Spaces Between Us

We are on our way to meet your dad and it is a trek. We’ve done all the prep: schedules and social stories for John and long talks about our feelings and careful treading through the what-ifs of divorce.

(“What if you see each other again and fall back in love? Those what-ifs, the ones that live large in your heart when you’re a child of eight, when your dreams are full of them. I know.)

You are excited.
And nervous too.

This morning you bound out of bed in your clothes, smiles on your sweet faces. It is easy getting out the door.

But on the way, John, you start to yell and I know something is not quite right. You ask for the bathroom so we head there and I am surprised when you pull me instead to a seat and hug me. I stroke your hair. “John, are you excited to see Daddy? Yes or no?” Yes, you say. “Are you sad too? Yes or no.” Yes.

I tell you I will call you and you can call me. “Yes or no?” Yes, you say.

We sit there for a time and then you softly sing, my for-so-long non-verbal boy, I love you, you love me, we’re best friends as friends can be… I stop breathing for a moment, listening to all that lives inside you come rise to the surface.

* * *

We say goodbye on the cold concrete. I hold your faces and kiss your cheeks, press each of you to my heart and say goodbye. I tell you to have a great time, I’ll see you next week.

And now?
You are there,
I am here.

My love for you lives in the spaces between us. It travels down Route 95 and knocks on your window. Are you awake too?

I am not me without you, I am this new me. We’re still getting to know each other.

Deja View

The silence smacked me down this morning. The quiet of an empty house, my babies gone — it’s his weekend, you see. I stood at the kitchen sink and looked out the window, a mug of coffee like a hug. The memories come unbidden as we prepare to leave this place. I remember being a new mom and being scared of you both, so soft and precious and small. Before you were big enough to bathe in the pink tub upstairs, I’d bathe you here in this sink, then dry you atop a mountain of blankets on the countertop.

Of course that was like, three thousand baths ago.

I look out at the faded blooms of my garden and remember watching your father mow the lawn. Hot and sweaty and resolute because he hated chores like this, hated working in the yard, hated the ties that bind.

When we moved into this house, I was as big as one—seven months pregnant and ready to pop. The walls were peach and I thought it would kill me to be surrounded by the color of putrid fruit, so your father painted them white. Clean walls, a fresh beginning.

I don’t know how well you can ever really know someone and perhaps this is the lesson here. You must grow up and know yourselves best so that you have a compass. Count on each other.

I remember when the rhythm of our days included a 25-minute walk after lunch. The two of you would light up when I’d get the stroller ready. So many memories and although it is bittersweet to leave this place, this place we’ve called home for eight years, a place I’ve called home for 24 years — I am okay. More importantly, my dear sons, we are okay. Adventure awaits.

One Year

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes.
How do you measure, measure a year?
In truths that she learned,
Or in times that he cried.
In bridges he burned,
Or the way that she died.
—From Rent, Seasons of Love

One year. One long year measured by tears and anger, pain and sorrow and yes, love. You could not take that away — it blankets and comforts me when the chill of you blows in and I am stronger for it. Two boys, amazing beings I could never have imagined and will ever adore. Autism is nothing in the face of this. Divorce and the end of us is nothing in the face of this. This is pure and honest.

When one door closes, another opens. I’m so glad to close this door, this door on one year, one year without you.

Days Creep

When your marriage ends you look within. You struggle, you grieve, you mourn what you thought you had and then you mourn that you never did. Days creep, creep by — every minute drips with heaviness. Once there was never enough time — now the days are long, the nights longer and sleep is something that happens for other people. You awake at 3 a.m., 4 a.m., rise and pad through the rooms of your home. You stop in your boys’ bedroom doorway and listen to their gentle snores.

You cry a lot and often.

You stop eating. You lose an unbelievable 20 pounds without even trying. You can’t even cheer the silver lining of misery. The long days stretch to weeks and then months. You are in the thick of it and it is crazy time. CRAZY time.

Then one morning, so many months later (eleven!), you wake up and the clock says 7:10. You are sleeping again and the first thought that assaults you is not the shock, not the sadness, not the pain — finally. Instead you think about the day ahead, lunch you’ll have with a dear friend, a walk in the park. And even though you are still in the thick of it and will be in the thick of it until you are pronounced Done, you get on with it and you thank your lucky stars that at least you are alone, at least you are no longer a bit player on the stage of a lie.

You are done being a puppet in his drama. You are like a bird with a broken wing — you can’t yet fly, but at least you are intact.

Surely the end of every marriage that ends is unique. Obviously none of it is pain-free. Holy fuck, is there pain. But some people drift apart, some people are on the same page, some people see it coming.

You were blindsided. The truth you uncover is unfathomable, impossible, and flies in the face of every I love you. You remember the day you took vows in front of everyone you loved and while marriage is hard, no doubt, you worked at it and assumed the man you chose, who chose you, would work at it too. You assumed because you trusted. You did not know, how could you? — that your trust was simply his carte blanche.

Along the way to this morning — this morning when you awake to sun pouring in your window at 7:10 — you will learn many things, not the least of which is that some people deserve an Academy Award. They’ve charmed their way through life; taking, always taking, because it’s easy and they can.

You vow never ever to trust like that again. More than a decade of deceit, of platitudes and false moments. How you loathe the fact that this will always be part of your story. You are hurt and you are mad and you ache for your kids whose lives will forever be altered by these events.

But most of all, you are strong. You always were. And in the way that counts most, you are free.

Knotless

We are off at the beach, sandy and sated by the sun. Being here is healing me day by day, even if this place, like most, is riddled with memories of a life long gone. How do you summarize 14 years of your life, what kind of burial do you give it? I sit by the water and offer chunks of it to the sound. The sunlight ripples on the water and I imagine my old life drift away, dappled and unrecognizable.

Later I lie in the hammock under a canopy of trees, the sky immense and clear. John races around me, up and down into the garden, while Sam reads in the grass (The Evolution of Man!). So much is possible but still impossible is to forgive in the absence of remorse.

I think about what I knew and what I know and the two blend together into one big knot and all I want is to be knot-less, to be stripped of all I knew and all I know. You can’t stay away, you’re drawn here. He’s no prize, I want to tell you. Who does what he did and for so long. Who does what you did and for so long? Well, then. I guess you’re each other’s prize.

In the meantime, I hold my children close and try to love the hurt out of them. Some days I think I am that powerful. Other days I know the truth. What else is there to do then, but to work this knot, worry and work and pull it. Try to untie it, turn it over and over, until the knot is undone, until I am undone and in the undone-ness, done with you.

Knotless.

So here we are at the beach, sandy and sated by the sun. We create new memories. John runs barefoot through the tall grass, his long legs wet with dew. He stops and turns his face to the sun, does finger puppets in the air. Sam goes fishing with my dad and despite the frustration of waiting… waiting… is so happy when he catches his first tiny fish. I watch my two long-legged boys, so full of love and joy and know that even if undoing this knot takes days, months, years — they are my prize.

Moving on

Tonight cackles with the past. I walk through these rooms, this house, this shell and remember bathing you side by side in the pink bathtub, rumpling your hair with towels of stripes and frogs. Back then you slept at the other end of the house in beds under tents, the end where the fire broke out four years ago tonight. Such sweet little boys (of course you still are!), but you were only three then. I remember how you piled onto my lap to read a goodnight story, your hair soft and wet — your father on one side, me on another.

We love you if not each other.

I kiss you both goodnight and tell you how very proud I am of you, how independent you’ve both become. Sam, you see my face and say, “Does it make you sad too?” and I tell you that indeed it does, but that it’s happy-sad, a mix.

I realize, with a start, that this is it exactly. “Do you know how much Mommy loves you?I say. [THIS big, as big as the universe…?] you answer with a question. “Even bigger,” I reply and you laugh.

Later I watch you sleep, your faces pressed into pillows, almost eight. I know it’s pointless to ask, but how did time creep up on us like this? The things this shell could share if sharing were possible. Here we are then, a family of three roaming rooms on our way to somewhere new. I am haunted by the memory of who you were, who I was. This shell, this shell that is no longer a home, has many secrets to tell but I’m no longer interested in the telling, just the moving on. 

Of course in the moving on, there is the telling.

Count Your Blessings

I’m not sure when I stopped paying attention to what was playing on the radio — no, that’s not true. I stopped once I had kids and was more concerned with what dangers lurk outside — as if I monitored it all, I could keep my boys safe. NPR, news stations, weather and traffic updates.

I’ve started listening to music again. Adele? Love her. How did I live without her?

Throw your soul through every open door
Count your blessings to find what you look for
Turn my sorrow into treasured gold
You pay me back in kind and reap just what you sow.
—”Rolling Back the Deep”

I think the toughest thing I’ve faced as a mother was John’s heart surgery when he was a baby. And although autism has been a rocky ride? It is this holiday season that takes second place. Count your blessings, and I do. I must. I’m so grateful for family and friends who swoop down and envelop me with love, and for each of you who reads — thank you.

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