Distance Makes the Heart

My kids left yesterday to spend half of their spring break with their dad. There is nothing in the world more bittersweet than having the house stay exactly as spotless as the housekeeper left it 24 full hours ago.*

There are traces of them everywhere: the humming of the Wii left running, the smell of teen spirit wafting from my oldest's bedroom, the T-Rex frozen in time on the Whiteboard of Glorious Correction and Societal Alignment for the Advancement of the Revolution, whom I've named Fupa. Because shut up. 

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The fact that I can't figure out what to do with myself when they're gone tells me that it's important they go. The fact that I have spent 12 straight hours in this same spot on my couch hyper-focused on work in the first day they're gone tells me that I need them to go. 

Minutes take hours and hours pass in the blink of an eye. I check my phone and my watch and my phone again for text and right at the moment I stop waiting for them the phone finally rings, and they are short-spoken and distracted on the other end of the line, somewhere on the road between this life with me and that one with their father. I am relived. They are perfectly happy. They don't need me the way I need them. They are going to be just fine.

I have to get through six more days of this quiet, but I only have six days left of this quiet. I try to remember to save each extra fragment of time these elongated minutes give me, because it will be an even longer time before I hear this silence again. I close my eyes and try to conjure the things I like to do when I have any option in front of me. The smell of bath salts, the way the hair behind my ears clings to the cold of nighttime air, the taste of a cocktail at the audaciously early hour of 8pm.  

I break the silence, turn the TV on, and catch up on all the shows the show I like. I work and work and work and work and work and am grateful for the luxury of time to see something, anything from the beginning to the end, without once having to make the impossible choice between my children and anything else.

I pass each of their rooms and whisper goodnight to them, just like I do every night and I imagine I will continue to do so long as I am able. I crawl into my bed and drown myself in the tiny sounds I can almost never hear - the creak of the house, the chirp of the crickets, the buzz of the streetlamps. I cherish this fleeting eternity without them, and in their absence I am reminded that my choice to be some small part of their lives has always, and will always, supersede my obligation. 

(And no, I cannot believe I have a housekeeper, even one who only comes every two weeks. I have a ton to say about it that I just may, someday, but if you want to read a really thought-provoking post on the subject, click here.)

Write

I got this text message today from my friend and great mentor:

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Sigh. 

I was telling Jim last night in bed that I actually miss blogging, it's been so long. Of course, I followed that up this morning with reading all of ShitFoodBlogger's tweets to him. Yes, I'm aware I'm doing Bedtime with Busydad wrong. 

The best I've got right now is that I heard this NPR piece about memory yesterday (or maybe it was the Christian radio station. They're always tricking me into listening to their shows, with their nearly-secular news bits and catchy and slightly emo pop Jesus rock) and it made me realize that I need an actual doctor/scientist/expert to explain to me why it is that I can't remember how many years I've been alive or the names of the three people who dug their way out of my Holiest of Holies, but I can right now without even THINKING about it recite the name of each book of the Old Testament to you, in order, or all the words to Cool It Now (even the raps, yo), or the entire 1988 McDonald's menu song (now in two breaths; getting old is hard). 

Audre Lorde says that everything can be used, except what is wasteful, and I suppose I'm still young enough that I haven't yet had to figure out how I'm going to need the lyrics to New Edition songs, but old enough to know that being able to recite all the books of the Old Testament out loud in order may just come in handy sooner than I'd care to admit. (I never did get my free McDLT for singing the whole damn menu song, though. I think I'll write a letter. I hope that counts, Deb.) 

What I do know, however, is that I can't start sentence with But anymore, which makes blogging quite challenging, and also that everything has changed so much since the last time I really, truly *wrote* on this blog that I don't even know where to start with it all. Our memories are terribly and hilariously subjective; each shift of angle, of experience, of perception changes them with radical unpredictability. I believe that you have to write what you know, and what I've always know is this pile of remembered shit I've drug around with me like the most unwilling sort of companion. 

I know it because I haven't been willing to let myself know much else. My husband gave me nearly nothing, and I held on to that almost-void with all the strength I had. But now (that was hard, but I did it) I'm one four-hour online parenting class away from not being married to him any longer, and I'm okay with that. Somewhere in this down/quiet-time I've found my peace with him, with all of it, and let go of that wonderfully familiar nothing I've been clinging to. 

I don't need nothing anymore.

I don't even want it.

That's a pretty big deal, for me. 

I have all these posts in draft - stories of this new life that we're building, new memories we're making in a new place with new people where the slate is clean for all of us, where we can decide what we want to be now, where we are equally as excited and terrified of the possibilities laid out before. It's hard to write it out, largely because I don't know a single thing about it yet...but I want to. 

I heard Jim say to one of his clients the other day (and I'm paraphrasing) that what bloggers have that no other form of media has is emotional attachment; our readers are a part of our narrative, they are invested in the stories of our lives. I remember what that was like, feeling like my story mattered to more than just me. I'm going to try to start writing this new story, with these new players, in this new place that I don't know, but I'm excited to discover.

This Week in Gratitude

The first time I saw my kids' father, he was sitting in the solarium at a Bennigan's in suburban Denver, where I worked and he was about to. I will never forget that moment - the clothes he was wearing, the jewelry around his neck, the angle at which he leaned in his seat, and the way my ovaries lept out of my abdomen and tried to drag him back inside with them. It wasn't attraction, it wasn't nerves, it was my 20 year old body saying MAKE BABIES WITH THAT NOW. 

It took him a really long time to acknowelge my existence, and a longer time to tolerate my presence, but something deep inside of me, something I was wha-hay too young to understand at the time, knew from the first moment I saw him that I was going to have a lot of children with him one day.  

Seventeen years worth of moments later, he and I are teetering somewhere between not acknowleging each others' existence and barely tolerating one another's presence again, but what we have that we didn't have then is three perfectly amazing children between us, and while maybe I don't actually like him anymore, and he doesn't actually like me anymore, I really am glad that my ovaries got what they asked for, and we - he and I - made these extraordinar(il)y (ridiculous) people together.

I watch him with our children in his new-found sobriety and as much as I wish they'd had more of this, more of him, when they were younger, I am so happy they get him now. I am so glad he didn't manage to drink himself to death, I am so glad that they get to know the father I chose for them to have, the man underneath those demons he had to battle his way out from under, and maybe still is. 

I am grateful for the way he loves his children, for the silly things they share even though I am no longer a part of them. I am grateful that he is working so hard to be present for them, to be an emotional support for them, to be a healthy and productive man so that they will have a father in their lives for as long as a normal child should, until he grows to a ripe old age surrounded by grandchildren and/or grandpuppies, depending on who's future plans you're working off of. 

Almost every alanon person I've ever met had also at some point wished their qualifier dead, and I am so grateful that those late-night wishes made over my tears and his gugrling, gasping, nearly-asphyxiating body were not granted. I am so glad that that I was so very wrong about so very many things, and my children, his children, our children get to know that their father is wonderful, good, and so very madly in love with them. I am so glad that they will come to think of his stuggles with alcoholism as an inconvenient bump in the road of their lives, because they will love him, and be loved in return by him, on the other side of this journey. 

I see glimpses of him in their faces all the time - mostly when they are annoyed as all hell with me, but also when they are completely captivated by some new thing they are learning, and when they read or hear something so funny they laugh until it hurts. I hear him coming out of their mouths, in bursts of intellectual snobbery and cuttingly-sharp sarcasm. They are as smart as he is, as hilarous as he is, and at least one of them is as tall as he his, plus a hellofalot.  

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The easy thing, in the throes of this divorce stuff, is just to hate him. Mostly what I hate is what I let myself become with him, and that oh right, a lot of that was your bad pill is an awful one to swallow. I don't know that I would bother to swallow it, were it not for these kids. Hating him is easy. Remembering the shit is simple. I'm a professional people hater, born without a forgiveness gene. Our kids, however, force me to be gentle and kind when I am talking about him, and that forces me to remember the good while I tally up the bad.

I'm not saying I have this all right - I was nothing shy of a flamming bag of shit to him today when we switched kids for his visit, and I probably will be about the same to his face into the indefinite future. And in a lot of ways, it's desevered. But when I look at these three children whom I love more than any one single thing on this earth, and I see him bursting out of their hair and their eyes and their fingernails and their voices, I remember that once upon a time, I loved him that much, too. And in a lot of ways, it was desereved. I am reminded of everything lovely and captivating and and endearing about him, and I am grateful that it was him, they they are of him, and that my children get to have him as their father.