Posted on | March 29, 2013 | 14 Comments
When I first found out I was getting divorced, I spent many hours listening to Coldplay’s “Fix You” and “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol. I would just sit and stare at the wall, letting my parents care for J and just listen, choking on my tears. I must have played both of those songs at least fifty times a day, wondering when and where and how and why. I vividly remember one moment, me at my computer staring into the screen with my father sitting on a chair behind me. I could feel his eyes trying not to watch my shoulders shaking as I swallowed tear after tear, willing them not to come out. I remember him clearing his throat as though he were going to say something and then thinking better of it and turning away. There was nothing anyone could say to me that would keep those tears from falling. To this day, I can’t hear either of those songs without wanting to curl up in a small ball and rock ferociously until the pain goes away.
It’s hard to remember those hours and days and weeks that followed the decision to end a marriage, to end MY marriage. It’s hard to remember the hurt and horror that followed the slow and agonizing physical disappearance of the man I thought would be there forever. So much of my life now is still wrapped and intertwined with his, even without him here. There are still phone calls and texts and emails. There are Valentines to make and Father’s Days to celebrate. There is a little boy who has his father’s chin and nose who wants desperately for me to talk about and to his Daddy on his behalf. And so I do.
Every day holds a reminder of what is no longer there… of who is no longer there.
Even though he left, or maybe because he left, I am the keeper of his memory. I am the keeper of the memories that brought and held us together. I am the keeper of the stories, the keeper of the moments, the keeper of the times we had by virtue of my role as keeper of our child. Every single one of my days is spent remembering him in some small way… sharing a video of our son via text, instigating a Skype call for J to tell him about his day, telling and retelling a story about him to the adoring ears of his son.
When I first found myself alone, staring at the empty bedroom we used to share, I thought that time would erase him from my life just as seamlessly as he’d removed the bedroom furniture, just as carelessly as he’d strewn my clothes in the closet floor, just as completely as he’d disappeared into his own apartment. I thought that if I just waited long enough, he would disappear from my mind and heart and leave me free, finally. But when children are involved, there is no freedom from the one who hurt you. He is allowed to hurt you again and again, through his absence at Father-Son breakfasts, through his unanswered phone calls from his children, through his very existence somewhere, some place else. Though your heart no longer cares for him, it cares so deeply for the person, the people he helped to create that his every move is a punch in the gut of who you are now. Any weekend trips he takes, any kid-free vacations he has, and even his very lifestyle that seems to scream out “NOT A SINGLE PARENT” or maybe, sometimes, “NOT A PARENT AT ALL.” His very happiness with his life is a constant reminder that he broke you, broke your dreams, all so that he could be this particular shade of happy.
I’m not going to lie and tell you that it’s easy.
I’m not going to lie and tell you that being a single parent will bring you constant and irrepressible joy.
Because it isn’t. Because it doesn’t. Because it is a struggle every day to balance what you need and what your child needs. Because it is a torrential downpour, every day, of the agonizing choices between being a woman and being a mother. And for every time you succeed, there are a dozen failures. For every time that you get it all right, there are sixteen dozen “Got it all wrongs.” For every moment when I feel content and happy with my life, there is another one lurking just under the surface screaming “NO!” and “THIS ISN’T FAIR!”
There are so many times when I want to give up, when I want to throw up my hands and announce that maybe I’m not cut out for this either. Maybe my Ex should take on full responsibility of dressing, feeding, washing, teaching, loving, loving, loving on this difficult but adorable child of ours. Maybe then he’d see and understand and appreciate what I do on a daily basis because he is not here. There are so many times when I think I can’t smile through one. more. story. about how amazing a singer his Daddy is or how much his Daddy loves him when all I really want to say is “IF HE LOVES YOU SO MUCH WHY IS HE NOT HERE TO HELP ME WITH ALL OF THIS?!”
But who would that help and who would that hurt. In the long run, this is for the best, for all of us… even in those moments when it still doesn’t quite feel like it. Even when Coldplay comes on the radio and I’m transported back to that half-empty apartment with my half-empty heart. Even then, even now… some two years later when most of him has disappeared.
But in those moments, I do what we single parents have to do, what we must do for the love of our children and for the long ago love of those who helped make them a reality. I choke down the words and dust off the memories, keeping on keeping up with keeping my Ex a part of our lives.