Originally published April 18, 2014
Woke up this morning with a “story” in my head, demanding to get out. I “wasn’t allowed” to eat or get dressed or turn on my computer until I’d written this down, long-hand, in the notebook beside my bed. I’m still not sure if I’m “writing” or “channeling” them. Either way, I have decided to keep a journal as they come to me.
The nature of the stories is changing. Previously, I was shown a scene and was imparted with information about how the person died. Now, I am getting feelings and translating them into words.
Most of these “narrators” do not tell me their names, and I don’t ask. I like the idea that they could have lived almost anywhere in the world. This makes their stories more universal. However, going forward, in order to be able to distinguish one narrator from another, I have given each a one syllable name. I have made the names purposefully vague and cryptic so they do not imply any geography or ethnicity. They are indicative of nothing. Please do not read anything into them.
From time to time, however, I am given a name or other identifying information. In those cases, I include that with their story.
I debated writing down my feelings when he finally left me and the boys, but by that point, I had no feelings left.
I suppose if I felt anything, it was relief. I was exhausted from trying to make it work. Years and years of forgiveness and sacrificing my own needs to the needs of the relationship. I knew it was going to be a long, hard slog, raising two young boys on my own, but at least we’d all be pulling as one unit, in the same direction, instead of working against each other, draining each other of happiness, sucking each other dry.
In the long run, the boys would be happier, too. Br was an angry and selfish man. The boys saw him in the clear pure way that children always see the obvious truth. Their dad was an insecure bully and though the kids had no respect for him, he was their father and he still had the power to hurt them. He wasn’t worthy of their respect, but they still wanted his. They thought, in their innocent way, that if he could just stop the anger in his head long enough to really see them for the terrific little people they were, he’d realize what he stood to lose. Then he’d change and everything would be OK.
Maybe I hoped for that, too.
Br was very good with words. He was a real poet when it came to asking for forgiveness. An irresistible force. But no matter how many times he promised to do better for us, no matter how many times I reached deeper into my soul to find a little more love for him, he would invariably disappoint us and hurt us again.
It was better apart. He would no longer have to face, on a daily basis, what an utter failure he was as a husband, as a father, as a functional human being. He just didn’t have the energy any more to try and be someone better. I thought my love, our love, would be enough to change him, but none of it did any good.
The kindest, most loving thing he ever did was to leave us so we could forge the bonds of love, stronger, among the three of us.
And so we did. We were bound in a way that I suppose many single-mother families are.
I could now devote my full emotional attention to my boys. They’d always craved more of me. They were happy and relieved to finally have it. They healed me, they did, with their humor and insight and childlike wisdom that so often brought things into perspective when I felt as if I were spinning out of control.
When my youngest was in the second grade, I forgot to attend his school play. I knew it was coming up, but forgot about it the day of. I was overwhelmed at work. I’d been working 12 hr days for the past few weeks and had barely gotten to see the kids. My mom sometimes watched them. Some nights, they went home with friends. Sometimes I paid for a babysitter — a girl who lived down the street.
When I came home that evening and realized what I’d done, I was horrified, sick and full of shame. I could barely look at myself in the mirror.
The play was on a Friday afternoon. Saturday morning, I came down to breakfast, eyes swollen from crying at the mess I was making raising my kids; feeling sorry for myself because of all the pressure on me.
I sat my baby down with the intention of begging forgiveness, as his daddy had done of me so many times. It was a scene that my kids had witnessed too often in their short lives.
“I’m soooo sorry, baby…” I began.
And in the sweetest, most loving voice, that little boy said to me, “It’s OK, Mommy. I know you feel bad about my play. I know you are worried that I think you don’t love me, but I do know how much you love us because I can see how hard you work to take care of us. A school play is just one day but a job is every day.”
I can barely describe the relief and love I felt at that moment! Just seven years old and he already had more love, more understanding, more wisdom than most adults.
Maybe that’s a stereotype – kids of divorced parents growing up, emotionally, very quickly. It’s a kind of Hollywood trope that such kids are preternaturally wise beyond their years. But it does seem to happen that way in real life quite a lot. Now I know the reason why.
They are literally old souls, or perhaps more accurately “more connected souls”, born to people like me who need some spiritual guidance. They are the spiritual adult to their biological parent.
In those days, I had no time to think about spiritual matters. I was working long hours, topped off by parental responsibilities. In the very early days, there was the additional stress and nastiness of a messy divorce.
Br had started drinking again, in earnest now and without brakes. When we were together, he would fall off the wagon from time to time, and that was bad enough, but now he wasn’t even trying to stay sober. On several occasions, he didn’t make it to the lawyer’s office for meetings. When he did, he was usually at least partly drunk or hung over.
Whereas in the past, I might have tried to reach in and “save” him or at least make the effort to understand the psychic pain he was trying to self-medicate away, I no longer felt him as a part of me. He wasn’t my emotional responsibility anymore. If he drank himself to an early grave, I wasn’t even sure I’d feel sorry. I simply had no emotional energy left for him. He’d frittered away all my concern and love for him. If and when he ever needed it again, there would be nothing left in reserve.
Ironically, when I died years later, he was still alive, albeit not so well. The boys were already grown. My oldest was married with a new baby girl, who I was so happy to get to meet before I left.
My husband came to my funeral and sat in the back. He was sober then, but years of alcoholism had taken their toll. He looked 87 not 57.
Our youngest child was the first to speak to him. He was moved by his father’s genuine tears.
“Your mother was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he told him. “but I wasn’t good enough for her. I had to leave, otherwise I would have destroyed all of you.”
He was right of course, and I was glad that he understood it. My boy nodded and gave his dad a hug, because he knew it, too.