The sign is about to go up. The sign for the this year’s high school musical. This is significant to me, because, as I’ve written before — I remember things, so many things. It’s a gift — and a curse.
The local high school here has a very well-respected music and theater department. Going to see a play at the high school isn’t something that only a parent of a performer would put oneself through. It isn’t a painful two hours required by some familial connection to some pimply faced kid. No, it’s kind of like going to a “real” show. It is actually enjoyable, yet since it is still just a school production, the tickets are cheap. When my kids were little, I would take them to these shows and to other local high schools if they had a decent theater department. It’s a night out, and a way to introduce live theater to children without having to take out a second mortgage.
My kids’ high school usually alternates between a classic musical or one of the lesser known newer ones and they “recycle” ones they’ve done before when enough time has passed.
This brings me to the personal significance of the sign going up. Apparently, enough time has passed that the school has decided to repeat its production of the musical they did when my marriage ended. Let’s say it was The King and I — it wasn’t — but that’s the one I’m going with for purposes of this post.
Over the years I’ve only danced around the actual happenings surrounding my husband’s departure, dealing more with the fallout after he left than the painful process of his leaving. I tell myself I’m saving it for my memoir, but really — I’m extremely uncomfortable talking about it — still. For me, I guess, not enough time has passed for a revival.
Sometimes, though, you just have to raise the curtain — a little.
So here it is. It was about three weeks after he’d told me, “I have to go.” Those three weeks consisted largely of me begging him not to leave me, until one Friday night I finally said to him — “I guess I can’t force you to stay.”
That’s all he needed to hear.
By the next day, Saturday, he had booked a hotel room, and planned to sleep there that night. (Say what now?) That joker wasted no time. The plan was to tell the children on Sunday (aka the worst day of my life). After, he would officially move out.
So Saturday night? Separation Eve?
We went to see a play.
Our family was too big to get seats in one row. Musicals are a hot ticket in town. So I sat behind my husband, we each were flanked with kids. I remember thinking it was a mistake to sit behind him, because I’d have to see him, the back of his head, if I looked up at the play. And I didn’t want to cry. I remember trying very hard not to cry during the show, though there was comfort when the lights went down that my tears wouldn’t be noticed. Too bad it wasn’t really The King and I, I always cry at the end of The King and I. No matter, I had tissues to cover any escaping signs of my emotional turmoil. I always carried tissues with me from that time on. Trying not to cry or be seen crying in public became almost my vocation in the next year.
I remember during the play reaching out in front of me and caressing my husband’s shoulder. I just needed to touch him. I needed him to know I was there. Still. There. Hurting. I remember him acknowledging my touch without looking at me, as if he were saying, “Oh bless her heart.” I remember the awkward Intermission, when small talk with my soon to be ex-everything seemed so wrong and eye contact deemed so dangerous, as it might trigger the tears. I talked with someone I knew in the pit orchestra instead, I recall.
And I remember the play, “The King and I.” I remember thinking this would really be good, except for, you know, my life falling apart.
I was in a fog, a fog of shock, denial and accommodation. I’ve since had some clarity on the subject. And I don’t love him anymore. Haven’t for years. Still, I remember things.
The kids were oblivious. They enjoyed the play, having no idea that their world was going to be completely turned upside down — in a matter of hours.
When the show was over, we all went home and put the kids to bed.
Then my husband left our home to stay at a hotel. I knew that when he returned the next day it would be so that we could tell the kids he’d be moving out and he would, indeed, move out.
But that was then . . .
And enough time has passed (apparently) that it’s okay for the high school to put on the same musical. My kids aren’t little anymore. One is in college. The rest now go to this same high school, which means that I will see that sign every day, multiple times a day, until the show is over.
I used to hope that my kids would get involved in theater at the high school. None did. But, I think, this might be a blessing.
Because I don’t have to go to this show. Because if I did go to this particular production, I couldn’t help but relive that night, the beginning of the hardest days of my life and the long journey since.
If I had a kid performing in the 2015 production of The King and I ?
I don’t think I would handle that well. I remember things. It’s a gift and — oh hell — it’s a curse.
So, the sign will go up soon. Enough time has passed for a revival.
But no one asked me.
It will take all the restraint I have left in my being not to run the damn sign over.
Just Me With . . . a night at the theater. Too bad it isn’t Chicago, about famous murderesses . . . and their men — who had it comin.’
And I’m glad it wasn’t really The King and I, because that is a beautiful show and I would hate for it to be ruined.
Postscript: The damn sign is up now.
My Daddy Moved Out — What one kid said about it at school.
Happy Birthday to My Ex-Husband’s Ex-Girlfriend — Because I remember everything.
Worst Super Bowl, Remembered — Again, because I remember everything
My Cheating Husband was Packing Viagra — I helped him pack.
Six Days of Separation — I was a mess the next week.
I Don’t Love Him — self-explanatory.
When I Needed A Helping Hand — To move his stuff.
I finally got my oldest child off to college. He lives hours away from home now. It’s been a process. Depending on how you I calculate it the process began 18 years ago when I started talking to my growing belly, taking prenatal vitamins and playing music for my unborn child, reading and talking incessantly to him as a baby, or the process can be measured in the last year of making college visits, college choices, buying dormitory bedding or the untold joy of filling out financial aid forms. My particular journey was salted by the sudden yet not completely unexpected visual appearance of my ex-husband — just in time for the graduation celebration and going off to college festivities. See The Unspoken Pain of Sharing Celebrations. Despite the extra anxiety, the kid is safely enrolled on a residential college campus. He won’t be home until Thanksgiving. Going Away To School — And Staying There.
Now that he’s gone I am often asked, “Don’t you miss him?”
And sometimes, I say, “Oh yes, yes, I do.” But I’m faking it.
Really, I’m thinking, “Oh crap. Wait! I’m supposed to miss him? Already?”
He’s only been gone a couple of weeks. I’ve been so focused on getting him ready for college and out of our suffocating suburb and the stupid visitation schedule — I had not counted on the expectation that I should miss him — so soon. I mean I cried the traditional tears when I said goodbye and left my boy to live elsewhere, with people I don’t know. I’m sure I sported the vacant, almost Zombie-like look that the freshman parents had wandering around campus and in the bookstore having been separated from their precious babies. I did all of that.
But then I came home
— and rearranged his room.
Apparently many other parents and loved ones are really grieving about the absence of their college freshman. People are asking me how I’m holding up. And how the siblings are doing. And I am reminded of the episode of Sex and The City when Miranda, who is pregnant, finds out the gender of the baby and everyone expects her show excitement at the fact that she now knows she’s having a boy. After a while she just feigns a show of excitement to satisfy the general public. “I faked a sonogram,” she admits. Sex and the City, Season Four, Episode 15 “Change of a Dress”
And then there’s me. I love my son. I am so ridiculously proud of him. And his absence is felt, that is true. It was kind of weird on the first day of school when there was one less child I had to beg to allow me to take a picture of. But I admit, I am not the face of mother grieving over temporary absence of her son, though I sometimes play the part.
My son, who I sometimes refer to as The Arrogant One, has always been fiercely independent, while simultaneously relying on me to support his endeavors, get things taken care of, and sit in the audience and bleachers and watch him do what he does. He’s been away from home before — going on an annual week-long vacation with a friend’s family and traveling to Europe for eleven days. I remember preparing for the Europe trip, going to a meeting where many parents were asking how they would be able to contact their children while they were away. Other than in the event of an emergency, I hadn’t considered needing to talk to my son during his eleven day trip. It was only eleven days! But back then I started to panic — Was I supposed to be in contact with my kid all the time? Was I missing some sort of mom gene? I had, with the other parents, helped raise the money so they could go on this wonderful tour. Now weren’t we supposed to let them go and have fun without us? Why did I never even consider needing to call him while he was out of the country for less two weeks?
I figured that I’d hear about it when he got home. Turns out I was wrong about that . . . but I digress.
Me: “How was the trip?”
Him: “Good, really good.”
And that was that. Oh I probed him for some additional details, but . . . it was his experience, not mine.
I’ve been feeling that same kind of panic lately when people ask me how I’m “holding up” since my son’s departure. (Wait, I’m supposed to be falling apart?) And when my daughter, the one I refer to as The Quirky One, the one who is very sensitive — almost a Star Trek level Empath, burst into tears saying she missed her brother, I was taken off guard. I consoled her. I told her I knew it was weird not having him here and that it’s okay to miss him and he’ll be home before we know it, but I thought to myself — “He’s really not that nice to you, he told you that you were worthless. Why are you crying for him?” He’s not very nice to his sisters. That’s a fact, and an issue I’ve tried to address. So to the people who feel sorry for him for being the only boy, well, I’m not feeling that. He has stated out loud that he’s more important and smarter and a better person than his sisters, who, in his mind, do not deserve any attention. And sometimes, him being a teen person, he wasn’t very nice to me either. (I’m the safe parent, you see, the one who gets the crap because the child is comfortable that I’ll be here regardless. Sigh.) So there are things — like his assertions of superiority — that I definitely will not miss. Now he’s dealing with the fish/pond thing — everyone on his campus is a high achiever like him and he won’t have his little sisters to belittle to make himself seem more important. And I think it’ll be good for him. Nay, necessary for him.
And my failure to pine after my college dwelling son might also be a big family thing — one less kid to feed, or who needs to be picked up or dropped off somewhere, or requires some sort of supplies, etc. One less kid to start an argument with the remaining kids. And to me, someone who is the only adult living in a little house full of teens, having one less home means having one less person to ridicule and/or ignore me, and one less person who has no problem vocalizing the assumption that I know absolutely nothing.
So, do I miss him?
I know I’m supposed to say, “Yes, God yes.” I know I’m supposed to well up and tell you exactly how many days it will be until I see him, and the last time I talked to him, but . . . as my own mother used to say when we went away,
“Yeah, I miss them, but it’s a good miss.”
The last thing I said to my son when I left him on campus, when I said goodbye to my baby through tearing eyes was, “I am so so proud of you. I love you. And you know I’ll always have your back. Have fun and learn.”
And, upon my return, one of my daughters asked the definitively more important question,
“Do we still have to wear pants in the house now that the boy is gone?”
“Yes, yes, you do,” I answered.
But it’s not because of him. It’s not about him anymore.
In Sex and The City Miranda did have a quiet moment when she first felt her unborn son move — it brought her to her knees, and that was her first moment of connection. Quiet, and unexpected and not when people thought she should have it. I assume at some point there will be something that triggers me — something that makes it painfully clear to me that my first-born will never really live under my roof in the same way again — if things go well. Then I’ll acknowledge the reality — that this first step into pseudo-adulthood is actually a natural progression to full adulthood, that one day I’ll end up being the mom to call from time to time with news, for advice, and someone to visit on the holidays — maybe someday with his own family. And I suspect, that like with Miranda, it’ll be a private moment of reflection when I’ll truly feel my son’s — move.
But in the meantime, as I sit in his room writing behind what used to be his closed door –with my pants on while relishing in the fact that in my now all girl household we could go pants-less any time we damn well please —
Do I miss him?
Not yet, but . . . it’s early. Give it time.
Just Me With . . . One less child under my roof — until Thanksgiving, anyway.
Postscript: My son has matured immensely. Graduated college, lives on his own in a different city now. He’s a nicer guy. And in his own way, he shows his appreciation for me, my struggles.
*This is a long metaphor or twisted analogy. It may not work, bear with me. You’ve been warned.*
Imagine you were in a horrible car wreck, broadsided by a drunk driver. You were seriously injured. You lost mobility, time, and a sense of hope. You gained scars, fears, and pity.
Imagine you rally, survive, and for some reason, want to punch fate in the throat by training for a marathon, something you had never considering doing before, having usually enjoyed team sports, or the arts.
Imagine you train, battling old injuries from the car wreck, acquiring new injuries from the training,. You run to the soundtrack of self-doubt announced from the voices in your head and repeated on loud speaker when you get home by the real people closest to you:
“You don’t have to do this. You can’t do this. It’s too much. Just being able to walk is good enough. Why run?“
Imagine you also battle financially because of lost time, work, and pain and limitations from the injuries, and a lawsuit that finally settles for minimal damages, because your pain and suffering are not visible or quantifiable. You have, reportedly, recovered from your injuries. The drunk driver was not injured. He was not prosecuted and retained his license to drive and does so without restrictions.
Imagine you sign up for the marathon anyway. It’s the big kind of marathon, similar to the Olympics where runners start and end in a stadium full of people. Most of the real work takes place on a journey through lonely, winding roads, though, with very few spectators.
And imagine running, without a partner, not part of a pack, and certainly without an endorsement deal. No one really gets why you’re doing it at all. You do get encouragement, however, from unlikely sources – complete strangers you pass on the road. They clap, they call out to you,
“You can do it. Way to go. Looking good!”
Imagine thinking that they are wrong, you can’t make it, that no one really expects you to make it, that it is ridiculous to even try and that your time would be better spent on more traditional endeavors for people like you.
Imagine wondering if stopping halfway might be good enough. Imagine knowing that no one would blame you for simply walking it, “It’s the finishing that counts, you don’t have to finish like the real runners,” the voices say. Imagine a cramp, then another, imagine feet on fire, imagine pain in joints that had never been there before.
Imagine continuing to run, regardless.
Imagine entering the stadium after over 26 miles and starting the last lap around the track to reach the finish line.
Imagine feeling suddenly and surprisingly overcome with emotions as the crowd cheers, because some people there know that in the recent past you couldn’t get out of bed — let alone run or race. You also know that some of the cheers are coming from people who don’t know a thing about you, but they recognize a woman fighting not only to finish, but finish in objectively solid time regardless of any personal struggles.
Imagine the emotions taking hold so suddenly and with such intensity that it causes you to stumble as you take your last steps. You stop dead for a moment and put your hands on your knees, trying to catch your breath and blink away sweat and tears.
Imagine seeing out of the corner of your eye, a flash of color? Another runner trying to pass? Is your mind playing tricks on you? Are the cheers for the other runner? You raise your head, wipe your eyes and try to sprint, hoping that your pumping arms will convince your legs to rise from the dead, but you have so little left. Still, you begin to run, the end is in sight and the crowd, pardon the overuse – is going wild.
Imagine right before you cross the finish line being wrapped in a blanket — covered by the flash of color that had come alongside of you. The flash of color from the driver, the same drunk driver who had broadsided you and put you in the hospital.
Imagine looking up to see his fist raised in the air and his smile as you are reluctantly led across the finish line by him, being robbed of the opportunity to cross on your own — which you would have done, which you could have done, had you been permitted. Had you not been intercepted. Had you not been broadsided, again.
Imagine seeing your unwanted escort in running clothes, but without a bead of sweat. He did not run 26.2 miles. He was just one of the thousands in the crowd, and, from the smell of it, he had recently eaten a hot dog.
Imagine the crowd on its feet, those who know the story — cheering you not for finishing the race despite the odds, but for your obvious show of public forgiveness by allowing the embrace of the drunk driver who had taken so much from you and caused you so much pain.
Imagine the front page newspaper story, showing a photograph of you in visual defeat, being assisted across the finish line by the man who inflicted the injuries you fought so hard to overcome. Imagine looking at yourself as you’ve now been memorialized to others, as a woman lost without his assistance, a woman who could not have finished on her own. Your mouth is open, seemingly in a cry of gratitude, but you know that is was a cry of despair that no one heard above the roar of the crowd,
“No! Let me finish. I can do it. He didn’t run. He wasn’t there. I did this. I did this!“
Imagine the newspaper headline:
They did it! They did it! They did it together!
* * *
Imagine my son’s graduation from high school, with honors, and six college acceptances later, headed to a very selective college — accepted there because of his grades, test scores, challenging course load, essay, and leadership in many extra-curricular activities in both the arts and athletics. His accomplishments, not mine. But such accomplishments were not achieved in a vacuum, or even from a partnership, but achieved in a home atmosphere of encouragement, physical, psychological, emotional, and visual support created by me (and my supporters), coupled with a belief that we are just as good as everybody else. No excuses. I wore myself out making it possible for him to have opportunity and yes, the expectation, to achieve.
But now that it’s time to celebrate, imagine being hijacked at the finish line by the guy who, on one snowy night long, long ago said to me, his long time wife and mother of his five children, simply, “I have to go.”
Imagine sharing the podium with a runner who didn’t run — and who, previously, had broken both your legs.
It’s not uncommon for distance runners to vomit after a big race.
Just saying . . .
Just Me With . . . graduation festivities around the corner.
Could somebody get me a bucket?
Related: Misplaced Praise of a Father
My oldest is going through the college application process. It’s stressful. I’m not sure whether he’ll get his first choice, I’m not sure how it will all work out with financial aid/scholarships, etc., but that is my stress. I want him to concentrate only on getting in somewhere, somehow we’ll figure out the rest. He and I agree on one thing. The goal is for him to go to a residential college and live on campus, preferably hours or even a plane ride away. I know there are many different ways to get a college education, from living on campus to strictly online. And I know it’s a personal and family and financial decision. But I want my son, and then later my daughters, to go away. It’s largely because of the divorce.
For years the children have had to navigate a visitation schedule on top of all of their many activities. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The cute little visitation schedule that divorced families create when the kids are little turns to a burden when those same kids hit middle school and beyond, especially if the kids are involved in sports or other school activities. You can divide time all you want, put at some point there are many other demands on those same hours. You think you can’t split the baby? Try splitting a teen. When kids get older, parents are no longer in control of their time, other people and institutions set your kids’ schedule, and let me tell you, they don’t care about the custody order. But for us, when something pops up on the calendar, our first thought for years has been, “Wait, is that a Daddy day?” The schedule has given the children an added stress that’s frankly getting really old.
Also, though I was able to keep the kids in the same schools, we had to move to a neighborhood that carries a bit of a stigma (understatement). It’s safe; it’s just not very nice. The kids had no choice in this. I barely had a choice, except as a compromise to keep them in the same school. It was an obvious compromise, just like so many things in our daily lives, occasioned by the divorce. My Ex-Husband has remarried, and I’m assuming happily remarried, but for the kids that carries with it an obligation to meet and mingle with an entirely new extended family. It’s not that there is anything wrong with the new people, it’s just yet another community that the kids are unfamiliar with, did not choose to join, and to which they have no connection. It’s an addition to already divided time.
“Wait, where are we going now?” is something my kids have to deal with a lot.
So yes, fly, fly away, little bird. Go and study and stay in one place.
I support my son trying to get into a school where he would have to live on campus, one that is not close to home, where he will not have the ability or expectation to come home on weekends. I want him, for the first time in his life since childhood, to live and STAY in a community of his choosing and not commute between two or more worlds. I want him to make friends and have the ability to hang out with them whenever he wants, without regard to his parents’ schedules.
Right now, my kids are living in a very artificial world. Usually, for two parent families or single parent families when the other parent is not in the picture, a teen is not required to spend Saturday night with his or her parents and siblings. Normally, a kid is not required to travel to another house for a three-hour dinner on a school night unless they have a valid, acceptable excuse not to go. In our house there are days that my kids leave the house at 7:00 am and do not return until after 8:30 pm on a school night and then start their homework. Don’t get me wrong, family time is great. Having dinner together is important, but as kids get older on which days that happens and how much time it takes should naturally change, without getting lawyers involved. The way it is now? Not natural.
And as my son ages out of the required visitation schedule, I do not want him to be anywhere nearby where he’ll either feel pressure to continue to honor the visitations or guilt when he doesn’t. Imagine if he was living at home while his younger siblings still went on the visits. His not going would be a statement. His choosing to go would be a statement. I don’t want him to have to make statements anymore. I just want him to study and grow as an adult and connect with family because he wants to, not because he’s required to, or is afraid of the fallout if he doesn’t. I want him to be able to make plans for consecutive weekends. (Gasp!) And I don’t want him to need a ride or a car or permission or explanation. I want him to manage his own schedule without regard to the custody order entered into when he was elementary school. And I don’t want him to have to adapt to new people, extended families, and sketchy neighborhoods that were the choices of his parents– not him. It’ll be the first time he’ll be on an even playing field with fellow students of similar abilities. He’ll actually live where he fits in and won’t have to commute elsewhere to put time in different communities. I want him free from being defined by his neighborhood, his parents’ marital status, or an old court visitation order.
I want him to be somewhere where no one is expected (or required) to spend time with either parent.
My son is troubled. He’s a complicated, quiet young man. He’s anxious to go away. He understands the difficulties of the home situation more than he talks about and he plays the game. He picks and chooses when to approach his dad about a change in the schedule, knowing that asking too often will make his dad angry and might draw a “no” when he really needs a “yes.” My ex-husband is sometimes less open to the kids choosing to spend time elsewhere unless it is a sanctioned school activity. He takes it personally. In response to the boy’s request to go to an end of the season sports party (they’d won states — yay!) on a “Dad Day” my ex-husband texted me, and said,
“He’s going to have to miss things to spend time with me. The kids need to know that.”
Well, no more. I want the boy to live in a community of his choosing, day and night, a community that reflects his interests, his abilities and his personality. And one that values his time. Of course I’ll miss him and I’ll look forward to him coming home on holidays and some breaks, but I think it would be a breath of fresh air if, for the first time, when Mom or Dad want to see him, we will have to carry our behinds to him, on his schedule, that is, if he’s available.
Just Me With . . . a little birdie planning to leave the nest — or should I say “nests.”
All of this reminds me of when I went away to college many moons ago, and my ex-husband, then boyfriend, still scheduled my time with him. See, The Night I Became Cinderella.
My Ex-Husband had pissed me off again, with a modified Nanny text that illustrated the fact that the inconvenient visitation schedule is my obligation to uphold and his option to ignore.
I’m sick of it.
To the inevitable comment that “at least he seems them, ” I refer to Misplaced Praise of a Father is Not Good Manners.
The whole thing sucks. No other word for it. Well, there are other words but that’s the one I’m going to use.
I was pissed. Actually, I don’t even want to talk about it. There are so many things wrong right now and I have so very few acceptable or advisable or helpful responses or resources. I’m exhausted and overwhelmed. Five kids ain’t no joke. Yes, sometimes things get to me, despite my blessings. I’m human, and often treated like much less.
To cool down I went for a drive. Well, I drove and parked. First I parked at the kids’ school, then the grocery store parking lot, then the bank lot, then on the street outside of a pizza joint. When I remembered that I hadn’t eaten in almost twelve hours I figured food would help my mood. Since I was alone I figured I could treat myself to dinner at a diner. The diner would be open for another hour and a half or so and there were some people still there so I went on in.
I took a booth for comfort. No reason to perch on a stool when there were so many empty tables available. I was thankful no one I knew was there. I was not feeling like small talk. Overhearing one waitress complaining that she was so tired and that her shift was just too long and another waitress complaining that she’d only made $9 the whole day, I made a mental note to leave a decent tip.
I enjoyed the quiet, the children can be, let’s say, over-stimulating. (That sounds so much better than saying my offspring can be a pain in the ass, don’t you think? Don’t worry, I’ve withdrawn my application for Mother-Of-The-Year.)
I ordered and resumed my texting and tweeting.
When I looked up all the other patrons had gone. I was the only one left. Basically, the restaurant was staying open just for me.
I took dining alone to a whole new level.
I ate quickly and gave a fifty percent tip on a cheap meal. I was calmer by the time I got home.
Just me with . . . NO ONE!!!!!! I mean it. Nobody at all. Whatever.
Yes, my children think that I’m an alcoholic. It came up one night when my girls were in my bedroom. I try to keep my bedroom nice, as a retreat for me. I didn’t realize that it would attract my female offspring. They keep their rooms like hoarders-in-training but come to my room to relax. It’s just not fair . . . but I digress . . .
One night when they were lounging in my room one daughter told me she thinks I’m an alcoholic.
“What? Why?” I asked, completely shocked.
“Well, a recovering alcoholic,” she clarified, and further explained, “I’ve never seen you drink.'” She pointed out that she’d seen my sisters and my best friend drink but, “You never do, Mommy.”
“Even Daddy drinks,” she added. I must have made a face of some sort because she quickly said, “But not too much.”
She went on, “But Mommy you never drink so I figured — you can’t. And you never have alcohol in the house. What grown up never has alcohol in the house?”
Well damn. The kid has it all figured out. Her sisters chimed in and agreed. “Oh yeah, I thought that, too,” said one. “Me too,” said another. The one I call “The Quirky One” just smiled.
“But I’m not an alcoholic!” I protested.
“Recovering alcoholic, mom,” she corrected me.
Sooo. My kids think I’m an alcoholic because I don’t drink. Yup, It’s very difficult to prove that you are not a recovering alcoholic if someone thinks you are.
Am I going to have to throw a few back at the dinner table just to show my kids I’m not a drunk? Bring a six-pack to the High School Football game maybe? Down a Bloody Mary at breakfast?
Damn kids don’t know my life.
The truth is, except for the college years I’ve never been much of a drinker. My ex-husband was absolutely and totally against drinking, see My High School Self and The Night I Became Cinderella. I didn’t make my own decisions about it, Instead, I followed his lead since he had very strong opinions that theoretically made sense. He had come from a family that had been plagued by substance abuse. Most of his siblings have had issues, serious issues. Even his mother, her first and second husbands, and his estranged father reportedly had bouts with addiction. He’d seen some bad things caused by alcohol or drugs and feared the propensity for addiction might be hereditary. I’d seen the effects on his family and vowed never to expose my own children to that lifestyle. So he and I were going to be different. I didn’t drink, except at college where I drank behind his back with my college friends whom he never really liked. After we were married we only kept alcohol in the house for holidays. Bottles of hard alcohol collected dust on top of the cabinets until they were wiped clean and set out at Christmas. We were definitely not a “wine with dinner” family. My husband and I shared a few drinks over the years, but by and large I completely missed the typical partying or bar hopping of youth and the happy hours of the young professionals. Then came the pregnancy and breastfeeding years where I had to abstain anyway — so it’s been years since I’ve been any kind of drinker.
No matter, after double-digit years of marriage and five children my husband left me. I could do whatever I damn well pleased.
Unfortunately, at the time that meant taking anti-depressants.
Fact: You’re not supposed to drink when taking anti-depressants. So, I didn’t. I follow directions, you see. I’m obedient like that. No drinks for me while I was on the meds.
No matter, after a very difficult “discontinuation period” (aka “withdrawal”), I’m off the anti-depressants. Technically, or should I say, medically, I can drink now. Hooray, hooray!
But I still don’t drink.
First, I’m a complete lightweight. After not drinking for years, I can’t hold my liquor. Half a drink and I’m tipsy, and not in a good way.
Second, since I roll solo most of the time, I’m always my own designated driver so . . . can’t drink.
Third, now is not the time to start having alcohol at home, not with a house full of teenagers.
And fourth, I’m the custodial parent of five children. I’ve got responsibilities, I can’t sit at the local bar with friends every night. That ship has sailed. I missed it. Damn it.
So yeah, I’m free to do what I want now — except that I’m not, not exactly, not really. Story of my life . . . but I digress . . .
But this is what kills me — my formerly anti-social, teetotaler, judgmental ex-husband is now the life of the party. After years of telling me that drinking was wrong, that he was afraid of addiction, that he didn’t think kids should be exposed to alcohol — now he drinks and to our kids, he’s the normal one . . . but me? Me?
Hello, I’m Mommy and I’m an alcoholic.
Just Me With . . . a drink in my hand. It’s coffee.
It begs the question: If my girls think that because they’ve never seen me drink I must be an alcoholic, what do they think about the fact that they’ve never seen me date? I mean, their Dad has found love and remarried. I, on the other hand, have not. I abstain, or so it may seem. The girls probably think I don’t occasionally enjoy the company of a man (or keep one in the house) because I’m either: (1) still heartbroken about their Dad, or (2) have herpes.
Humph. Offensive, either way.
Related: Getting Off The Meds
Although my husband and I were regularly engaging in “the physical act of love” (channeling Ross from Friends), whenever he wanted, and I mean, I really mean — whenever he wanted, see Sex On Demand, let’s just say that such activities did not require a huge time commitment.
I had suggested that my husband talk to his doctor about it, but he declined. No, he would not. No.
Fast forward to after my husband “broke up with me” and moved out, taking surprisingly few possessions, saying he’d come back for the rest. As I discussed in When I Needed A Helping Hand, I didn’t want him to keep coming back to get his stuff so I decided I’d pack it up for him–not to help him, but to help me. Like mothers often say to children — “in or out,” he had chosen “out,” despite my begging, and I mean, I really mean — begging him to reconsider. So, I thought I’d help the process along if for no other reason than to keep him from prolonging it.
One night, after the kids were in bed, behind my closed bedroom door, my sister, a friend, and I packed up his shit. At one point I pulled out one of his suitcases he’d used for his last trip, an island vacation which I’d recently discovered he’d taken with a lady friend. See My Worst Super Bowl, Remembered. I intended to use the suitcase to pack some of his things.
The suitcase, I noticed, still sported the airport tags.
It also contained some papers, which I read.
The papers turned out to be receipts for my husband’s prescription for Viagra, well actually Levitra, a “sister” (or should I say ‘bro) erectile dysfunction drug . The prescription had been filled in the week prior to my husband’s romantic island vacation with his sweetie.
What the . . . hell?
I read it, showed it to my sister and friend. They both said, if I recall correctly, “Ew.”
There it was, in my hand, evidence that my husband had pursued the best that modern western medicine had to offer in order to enhance his sexual relationship with another woman, the woman he was not leaving me for, or so he said, though they had secured an apartment together and that’s where all his things were no doubt going.
Lucky girl . . . she got his stuff, and his stuff on steroids . . .
Looking back, I remembered I’d previously discovered (and suppressed) facts in support of this information — facts that suddenly made sense.
His doctor had called the house to confirm an appointment.
I had wondered: Why? Why? When we were going through this god-awful thing, was my husband making doctor’s appointments? I was the one who was sick, wasn’t eating or wasn’t sleeping and was constantly crying — why was he going to the doctor?
The pharmacy had called to tell him his prescription was ready.
I had wondered: What is he taking? He’s not sick! He’s a mean son-of-a-bitch, certainly — but he’s not sick!
Later, after his stuff was packed and gone, at some point in my post-separation cleaning frenzy –I’m the polar opposite of a hoarder, when I’m upset I throw everything out — I’d found a letter from the insurance company, dated right after the romantic trip time, stating that yes, based on his doctor’s recommendation, the unnamed medication in question would indeed be covered by insurance.
I had wondered: What? Had he paid the full price for the Viagra in order to get it before the trip because insurance hadn’t kicked in yet?
According to the dates and bank receipts which showed a $200 plus expenditure at the pharmacy on the eve of the island trip, yes, yes, he had.
Ouch. But it all made sense now.
I wanted to scream, “Did he tell his doctor that he needed this medication for use with his girlfriend and NOT his wife? DID THE DOCTOR KNOW THAT LITTLE FACT?????”
Not that it mattered.
I tried not to think of his chemically enhanced love-making to this woman. She brought him newness and adoration, he brought . . . drugs.
I packed his crap a little faster after this discovery, as I recall. Just a little bit faster.
And I think I washed my hands.
Just Me With . . . a medical discovery.
After everything was packed I called a friend When I Needed A Helping Hand.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in receipt of what I now refer to as “Nanny Texts” — when my ex-husband gives me instructions on the preparation of the kids for an event he’s taking them to.
— Have the kids wear clothes, shoes.
— Make sure they shower.
— No t-shirts or shorts.
— Have them ready by 3pm, this should give you plenty of time.
By the by, all of the kids are teens, and pick-up time is technically at 10am, though often the kids have activities that prohibit early pick up. On this day, however, they did not and the Ex had been informed of this.
As to the directive, “Have the kids wear clothes,” obviously he’d forgotten the word “nice” — he wanted them to wear “nice” clothes. But still it was funny. Sometimes I just read or show or forward the Nanny Texts to the kids to minimize my work as the middle man, so there is no mistake as to what he is requiring, and that it’s coming from him, not me. This time I simply showed the text to the kids, missing word and all.
One girl quipped, “Well, I always manage to wear clothes.”
Another girl said, “Yeah, I was planning to go naked.”
My Ex-husband was taking them to a graduation party of his oldest friend, let’s call him Jerry. Jerry is much older than we are and was actually my ex’s teacher in Middle School at one point. They became friends later as adults. Jerry had been a man approaching middle-age, single, and impossibly neat. People who did not know him well thought he was gay — “not that there’s anything wrong with that” — but folks in the inner circle knew that Jerry was very much like the Jerry Seinfeld character — not quite marriage material, string of women, classic commitment issues.
Jerry had been the Best Man at our wedding and years later when Jerry, a long-time bachelor, suddenly married a woman he’d met on a blind date, my then husband gave the toast. My husband was even (temporarily) named as Godfather to their first-born, and we both visited and held the hours-old baby in the hospital. Jerry’s second child is only seven weeks younger than our first and we have the cutest pictures of the two baby boys together. We were always at all of Jerry’s big family gatherings– kid’s birthdays, baptisms, Super Bowl parties, and when my husband and I started having kids and birthday parties and such, Jerry and his wife and kids were always in attendance. Jerry only came around on special occasions, though, my husband didn’t want him at our house to just hang out because he didn’t think our house was nice enough.
Back when my husband announced his plans to leave me, I suggested that he talk to Jerry about it because maybe he needed to talk to someone other than the two women who had his ear: me and his girlfriend. I thought that the opposing dueling arguments from the two women who have a huge stake in the matter were just canceling each other out.
Well, actually, no, the girlfriend clearly won those rounds, but I digress . . . . My husband refused to confide in Jerry, though, saying that he knew Jerry would just try to talk him out of it and tell him it was wrong.
Alrighty then. Anyhoo . . .
Apart from his club activities, my husband had few friends, Jerry was the only one, really. So it was expected and appropriate that when the marriage ended Jerry and his family would remain friends with him, and not me. I’ve not seen or heard from Jerry or his wife since my husband moved out many years ago.
I actually don’t know whether they socialize regularly now. My Ex-Husband has reinvented himself in many ways.
However, my now Ex-husband was going to attend the Jerry’ s first-born’s graduation party. He would attend with his new wife, their children and our children, who had been directed to wear . . . clothes.
After the teen drama at home about finding the proper clothes, the complaints about why they had to go to this thing, that they don’t really know these people, blah blah blah . . . they managed to get themselves (with my prompting) ready only slightly after the 3pm deadline. But no matter, the Ex didn’t show up until 4:15pm. While they waited, one girl said, “I hate it when he does this,” and her twin, who didn’t even start to get ready until 2:50pm, said, “I told you I’d have plenty of time.” In true Ninja Ex fashion I escaped before he arrived, going to a different graduation party alone. See I Almost Crossed One Of “My Bucket List of Men To Do”
And off they went.
The Nanny Texts piss me off, but I’m used to it now and I know how ridiculous they sound. But later I realized something that did feel weird, though — that my ex-husband and our kids were attending this party with his new family, among people who knew us when our kids were babies and when I was visually present.
Now I certainly didn’t want to go to the party. God no, I didn’t want to go. Nor did I expect to be invited, of course. It just felt a little strange that my (appropriately dressed) children were going to be there (paraded) with the Ex-husband and his new family celebrating with people with whom my ex-husband and I had shared many major life events. It was hard to believe that that hours old baby I had held (and I think it was the first time I’d ever held an “hours old” baby) was graduating high school.
I don’t know, it felt kind of like I’d been photo-shopped out and new people photo-shopped in and that no one would or could acknowledge it, despite all that we shared in the early years.
Just kind of weird.
When the kids returned, though, one of them said,
“Mom, some lady told me to tell you hello.”
I’m not sure who it was. It didn’t matter. It made me smile.
At least someone remembered that I am here . . . or was here . . . or had, at one time, been there . . . or . . . whatever.
Just Me With . . . The Nanny Texts
If anyone is wondering why I did not simply curse my Ex out for the Nanny Texts, my failure to engage with him can be explained in blogs like:
The short answer is that it wouldn’t help. I pick and choose my battles.