Friday, June 30, 2006

In Which Mama Says "8 Days" and a Joyous Hush Descends

We had a play date with D and his friend S this afternoon. We went swimming, played at a majorly cool park, and then went back to D's house for more playing and supper. It was pretty much kid paradise on a Friday night. The moms were pretty happy as well --- talking and listening to the sounds of happy kids as they played.

But as the sun set, Mama declared that JT must get ready to go home. A sadness followed as D and JT offered up the many things they had yet to accomplish on this Friday night. Then Mama pointed out that next Friday night we head north for 8 days of camping. "8 days?" the boys asked. "8 days," their parents confirmed and a joyous hush descended. Within a few seconds the boys began to chatter away about all the exciting things they can do in 8 days.

We departed, but not before D and JT made plans to make lists and to telephone one another to compare notes about all the things they will bring for their 8 days of fun.

And for the second time this summer, during the drive home JT and I saw fireworks. The stars are lining up in our favor and I can already tell that we're going to have a terrific camping trip.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Mama Makes Supper

I like to sit down at the table and have supper as a family. That's how it was in my house growing up and it was a terrific way for us to feel connected to one another. Lisa was always much more desirous of supper in front of the television. That, plus the fact that she was only home for supper a few days a week made it awfully hard to hold on to the tradition. I tried but it was often an uphill battle.

We swam all day today but I was having a hard time getting Lisa's hateful words out of my head. So when we came home, I got JT a snack and then I made us some supper. I made garlic potatoes, fresh biscuits, and I grilled some ham steaks. I even made a fresh pitcher of iced tea. Just going through the motions made me feel better. And who doesn't love a hot biscuit with fresh butter and jelly? I set the table and we sat down together to talk about our day, laugh, and be a family.

My family may be short one member these days but there was still plenty of love at my table tonight, maybe more than I ever thought possible. And that's a happy thought indeed.

Getting by With Some Help from our Friends

JT and B have been buddies since they were three years old. When you're six, that means that you've been friends for half of your life. Impressive, that. Both boys still remember their first play date when J and I let them play in mud puddles and hosed them off before we trundled them home.

This week we have seen B every day because we are at the pool together for swimming lessons. As JT's lesson ends, B's is getting started and so they have a few minutes to hang out and make one another laugh. It's been a nice treat every morning. And this afternoon, we met at the pool again to play and have some summer fun. B brought his friend E and the three kids jumped into the pool and splashed about. JT even tried some floating and he went down the frog slide a zillion times and was still eager for more.

It was a nice distraction on a rough day and a good reminder that friendship, sun and laughter are a good remedy for what ails us.

"Tell JT his Mommy Left Because his Mama is a Bitch"

I've had better mornings.

Last night I sent an e-mail to Lisa and Liz to let them know that I am aware of their relationship, to tell them that I won't lie to anyone on their behalf, to let them know that people are asking questions, and to remind them both that JT is to have no contact with Liz. My message was cordial, as cordial as a message like that can be.

Most of my conversations with Lisa in the last month have been cold, with some anger, and a great deal of defensiveness on her part. This morning she phoned and she was red-hot angry, shouting at me that it was none of my business what she was doing, and telling me that the senior management at her work knows about her relationship with Liz, and that I shouldn't interfere with her. She was at once defensive and defiant, telling me that it's no one's business what she does in her personal life. She even said, "I was careful never to lie to you about Liz."

That careful parsing of her language tells me that she's been working with lawyers just a little too closely.

I pointed out that she drafts the messaging for family and marriage at her workplace and that she could hardly be surprised to learn that some people don't approve of what she's doing. She sang the same old tune at that point: she was just being honest, and that leaving me was the best thing for all of us. I said that JT doesn't really get the nuance that Mommy left Mama, not him. I said that it was hard for me to answer him when he placed a penny in a wishing well and asked me if his wish for Mommy to come home would come true.

That's when she said it: "Tell JT his Mommy left because his Mama is a bitch."

For once, I was the one to hang up on her. A few minutes later, she phoned back to apologize and to say that she just wants to do what's best for JT, and to say that she understood that I was angry and hurt. Indeed. I reminded her of the new bottom line: that we are no longer partners, no longer equal in terms of our responsibility for JT's life. That I am JT's Mama and I will never leave.

Her defensiveness, her anger, and her blustering threats suggest a woman who doesn't feel as confident of her position as she once was. She doesn't seem to realize what a bad spot she is in, and threatening me isn't going to help. She ended our conversation by telling me that she wanted our discussions about JT to be cordial.

I know that she apologized but I just keep hearing that ugly phrase in my mind. It
looks to me that we are a long, long way away from being cordial.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Sun, Sand, Sea, Dean, Dylan, and a Tooth

We went to the beach today with Dean, Dylan and their Mom and it was great fun. The shore was cooler and less humid but awfully breezy, which scared off the crowds and so the boys had the ocean and the beach to themselves ---- a giant sandbox for their amusement.

They went to work immediately, building sand castles, digging holes, and burying one another. They carried gallons of water from the ocean to the sandcastles in the village they built. They were really quite industrious while K and I sat back in the chairs and enjoyed their laughter and smiles.

As the day wrapped up, JT bit into an apple and a few bites later he announced to me that he'd bit some sand and spit it out. But when I looked in his mouth, another tooth was gone. He was most excited to lose a tooth at the beach ---- literally.

He's upstairs tucked into bed. We've left the tooth fairy a very detailed note, explaining exactly what happened. With any luck, there will be some money under his pillow come the morning.

It was a good day.

Update: The Tooth Fairy reports that the going rate for your second tooth is $5.

Happy Birthday Shelley!

My friend Shelley ( having a birthday today and so I thought it would be fitting to list a few of the things that I love best about Shelley. Here goes:

1. The way she smiles when she sees you.

2. The great way that she loves her son and mine as well. I call my boy muffin-a-puffin sometimes and she calls him my muffin and that always makes me smile.

3. Her spirituality --- the way that it grounds her, comforts her, and comforts me.

4. Her essential optimism.

5. The way that she takes care of her friends. The way that you just know Shelley will be there for you if you need her.

6. The way that she takes charge of her world and works hard to make it better.

Happy Day Shelley!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Over the last few days, I've put things together and realized that Lisa didn't just walk out on JT and me to stay with a friend while she got a plan for the rest of her life. No, she's actually romantically involved with her workmate Liz and that whole "sleeping on the couch" story is a lie. So it would seem that Lisa is fishing off the workplace pier. Nice.

I'm not really surprised, though I am hurt that she's lying about it. It certainly explains a lot. The day that she and Liz got "lost" trying to find Liz's house. The time they went to the dog park, which closes at 4:15 but then didn't arrive back at the house until nearly 7 pm. The night she said that she spent in Albany, NY, despite the E-Z Pass statement that showed she was not in Albany that night but the next morning instead.

It also explains why it was so easy for her to go. She walked out of our house and right into a new house. I'm sure that she's pretending that is her home as well. It seemed so incredibly easy for her and now I know why. Why bother to work on a long-term relationship with the old partner when the new is so exciting, so easy? That won't last, of course.

So in addition to the fact that she was never available, was uncommunicative, and was patently unwilling to help me out in raising our son, I now know that she was unfaithful. Honestly, I had thought she was better than that. It's probably best that I know the truth now, even if it does hurt.

But the very best part of the day was in the afternoon, when Lisa called to ask me to help her navigate her on-line banking. It would seem that she paid a bill on-line from the wrong account, thus over-drawing our formerly joint account. It took my every essence of self-control not to say, "can't Liz help you with this?" But I was polite and I helped solve her problem and then she wanted to talk with JT. But he was at camp, as she would have known, had she paid attention to the note I wrote her with his summer schedule laid out.

How in the world could I have been such a fool for so long?

Monday, June 26, 2006

In Which Our Hero Learns to Swim

JT started swimming lessons this morning. He was nervous and unhappy about my edict that he must learn to swim. He told me last night, "I'll drown Mama and then you'll be sorry." I didn't laugh at this bold announcement. I was reassuring but firm: he will swim.

We went to lessons this morning and it was raining. JT looked glum as he entered the pool. Soon he was sticking his face in the water, turning his arms around, floating and kicking around with the kickboard, and fetching rings off of the steps. His last accomplishment was to jump into the pool (the instructor caught him of course). Then he came running to where I was sitting and announced that he couldn't wait for tomorrow's lesson.

So (happily) he didn't drown. And I'm not sorry. We all won today.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Toothsome Event

Saturday evening, while engaged in his standard stalling practices at bedtime, JT began to wiggle his loose tooth. A few seconds later, he pulled out the tooth and held it up triumphantly. We ran to the mirror to admire his new smile, now short one tooth, and then we found the tooth fairy bear, carefully placed the tooth in the bear's pocket, set the bear under his pillow, and settled into bed to wait for the tooth fairy's arrival.

A few moments later, one small tooth lighter, my big boy had drifted off to sleep. Before I climbed into bed at 11 pm, I checked to see that the tooth fairy had arrived and then I went to sleep. In the morning, JT came into my room and together we went to investigate the bear under the pillow. The tooth was indeed gone, replaced by a $20 bill. I suggested that the tooth fairy leaves a big reward for the first tooth. He was terribly excited. Then we looked in the mirror again to admire the small hole where his tooth used to be.

It seems like it was just yesterday that those teeth were first coming into his mouth. But the new smile, short just one tooth, is as beautiful as those first toothless grins were six years ago. As we came downstairs for breakfast, he started to wiggle his other loose tooth. That mouth of his might just be a summer goldmine!

A New Kind of Family

On Saturday night, A & M met us for supper at Fuddrucker's. We ate some burgers and fries (chicken fingers for the boy, of course) and enjoyed one another's company. I'm still coming to terms with the new landscape of my weekends. I always loved those family times and I miss the threesome that we once were. But I enjoyed myself last night, and JT was most entertained by the pirate puzzle book that A & M brought him. We talked and laughed and shared our lives. Just like family.

I awoke this morning so profoundly grateful for the friends who make up our new family times. They make me laugh, they love my boy, and they always remind me that a new kind of happiness awaits us at the other side of this pain.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Another Saturday Visit

Lisa and JT had their longest visit yet this weekend ---- almost 6 hours. When she arrived he was upstairs getting dressed and I asked her, "How do you stand not seeing him every day?" She looked at me, surprised that I asked, and then said, "I wish I could see him more." Then we waited silently for the two of them to leave.

What I wanted to say (but didn't) was, "you used to see him every day without ever appreciating it." After all, we are talking about the woman who missed the kindergarten Mother's Day Tea without expressing even a moment of regret about doing so. Who didn't attend a single school field trip this year, who rarely supervised the daily homework. This is a woman who never minded that she sometimes had to work late and sometimes saw JT for less than 60 minutes a day. I didn't understand that either.

I realize that we do not share the same values anymore. I ask myself if we ever did. I just don't know. It would kill me not to see my sweet boy every day. I count on the lifeline that he provides me. The sound of his voice and the beauty of his laugh make me smile every day. I will always be here for him. Always.

While they were gone, I talked with my sister, called my friends A & M, painted my toenails, and had a rest. Then I made my weekly transfer of funds to Target, picked up some new jammies and a swimsuit for JT, and bought us both some new washrags, a fuzzy blanket for cuddling on the sofa, and a new bathmat (thanks to A & M for the gift card that bought us those treats). It was nice to be out and doing things, though it will take me a while to get used to replacing unstructured weekend family time with this new schedule of enforced separation.

In a few weeks, JT and I will head out of town for vacation with our friends the R-K family. We are both looking forward to it. JT won't see Lisa while we are gone but he doesn't seem to mind.

It's hard to stay connected to someone you only see for 6 hours a week.

Friday, June 23, 2006

A Sad Reflection on Me

I would read any consumer e-mail in the world if the subject line mentioned a tote bag. My favorite catalog is the yearly Vera Bradley catalog of floral bags. On occasion, I have been known to feel the same about shoes. But mention a free tote bag and I am bagged......seriously, I embarrass myself.

Earlier this year, I gave WNYC a nice big donation and I could have gotten a Johnny Cash CD for my troubles. But I chose the tote bag.

I know I have a problem, but I just don't care. Yesterday I used a Borders gift card to get some new books and this lovely, stripey new bag to hold those books. It's a tidy clean bag that calls out "happy summer." And this morning I am determined that it will be exactly that. With some new books and a new bag, how could I not be happy?

6 More Things.....Mean-Spirited Edition

Disclaimer: I am feeling mean and sassy this morning so this is a tad nasty in tone. Those of you who are kinder than me should stop reading now, so as to preserve your image of me as a decent person.

6. I can quite pretending that Lisa was a good cook. She makes an okay pie, though the crust is almost always soggy in the middle. Her cookies are good enough, though anyone can make the recipe, but nothing else was all that special and now I don't have to pretend that it was.

5. No longer have to endure the fact that she doesn't listen to directions and could not find her way out of a plastic bag. Two years ago, she missed the turn to her hometown and when I pointed that out, she got angry at me. But I was right and she was lost. Again.

4. No longer have to watch television while I'm trying to fall asleep. And she wonders why she has insomnia all the time.

3. No longer have to pretend that she wasn't woefully ignorant about politics. She was and is largely uninformed when it comes to local and national politics. Just a few weeks ago she told me that there were 9 judges on the New York state version of the state supreme court (there are 7 - as is the case for most state supreme courts). She wouldn't even think about foreign affairs, not to mention talk about them intelligently. Now that is someone else's problem.

2. Socially inept is the phrase that comes to mind. When I had affection for her, I would help her through her social awkwardness, sometimes I even found it sweet. Now that is someone's else problem....someone else, by the way is also socially inept. So they will make a great pair.

1. No longer need to fake it and pretend I like the things she wanted to do (yeah, those things). Never wanted to do it, sometimes even resented it. Used to pretend for the sake of the relationship (and by the way, that was rarely reciprocated). Won't be pretending anymore. 'Nuf said.

The Pain She Inflicts Upon Herself

So Lisa shows up just before 6 pm last night to take JT to supper. I have a vision of the impatience and tension that will characterize this meal. That's certainly what things were like when the three of us used to go out to supper. But she looks eager to see him and he's willing to go.

When they return almost 2 hours later, he bounds into the house in a festive mood. He's happy to see me, shows no grief at her parting. She stands at the door, suddenly left out of the family tableu. This isn't her home and we aren't her family anymore.

She takes the things I have placed in plastic bags for her. I know that I should say something kind, ease her pain, tell her that it will get easier. But I don't need to provide that comfort anymore. In fact, in leaving our family she was saying that she didn't want my kindness, no longer needed my comfort.

So I gently, but firmly, shut the door as I quietly say to her, "This is what you wanted."

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Life Together......Coming Apart

Lisa has asked to have some of her things. Rather than allowing her to come into my house to get things, which feels like such a violation, I asked her for a list. I've placed the things that she wants in a few plastic bags and she can have them when she comes to take JT to supper tonight.

It's sad to have our life together torn asunder and to place her things in a couple of plastic bags. But I tell myself that it's what she wants. And I try to make peace with the hurt that she's caused.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Good Day

This picture pretty much says it all. Sometimes, happiness boils down to a tie-dye shirt, a laughing Mama, and a fudgesicle from the ice cream truck. We had it all today.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"I Wish I Had Some Magic Power"

The scene: bedtime on Tuesday night

JT and Mama, lights out, music on. Mama scratches JT's back while JT snuggles with softy, his green blanket. We had been watching "The Chronicles of Narnia" earlier in the evening; planning to finish watching it in the morning before our playdate with Max.

JT: I think that the lion is going to get killed.

Mama: Why do you think that?

JT: Because I saw it on the preview, I think. But the little girl has magic power from Santa and she will save the lion. I wish I had some magic power.

Mama: You do? What would you do with your magic power?

JT: Oh, I would heal your heart. I love you Mama.

Making a Wish

Lisa introduced me to the idea that you should make a wish when the clock read 11:11 or 2:22 or get the idea. Since we moved into this house last year, when the clock has been prepared to grant my wish, I really haven't had anything to wish for. I had a healthy, happy child, a loving relationship, and we were living in our dream home. So the discovery of a 3:33 moment would give me a happy pause to reflect on how good my life was.

But suddenly I have found that the loving relationship was a figment of my imagination. My partner is gone; and seems to be happily engaged in her new life while JT and I catch our breath and try to cope with our sadness. Today, on the way to the grocery store, I saw that the clock read 2:22. Time to make a wish, I thought. But what to wish for? The list is suddenly long: a break from the pain? room for new happiness? healing? the power to forgive Lisa? someone new to love? The list ran on and on. I settled on peace and the grace to manage each day.

But it just seems so sad to suddenly have such a long list of wishes.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Measure of a Life

Today was a funny day in so many ways. I got a tiny glimpse of how Lisa views herself and I was embarrassed and sad for her. I realized anew that my friend A really gets it. I cut the grass by myself for the third week in a row and realized how much I enjoy that household chore. I swapped babysitting time with my friend W and enjoyed the way our children played with one another. I felt a little lonely as I planned JT's time at camp without Lisa to help me bounce around ideas. I spent some time daydreaming about an upcoming vacation that I see as an opportunity to put some time and distance between JT and me and the hurt Lisa caused. I made happy plans for the rest of my week.

And here at the end of the day, I feel just a little bit hopeful about the future. On the phone tonight, my friend T repeated a line that Dumbledore says in one of the Harry Potter films. He says, "the measure of a life is not the talents you possess but the choices you make."

JT and I are learning to live with the choice that Lisa made. It isn't easy and the wound is still pretty raw. I wonder if she will ever understand the enormous hurt she has caused. I wonder if she sees in her choice the distance that will slowly divide her from JT. I ask myself if she knows what choosing a new life with a new woman will really mean down the line. I try to make peace with the fact that I will never know the answers to these questions.

And as JT and I are starting to make choices for ourselves, starting to put our life back together, I am deeply aware that the choices we make will be the measure of our lives.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Today We Talked

She came to the house to drop off the dog and I made her talk with me. I know that she doesn't want to talk anymore. I'm sure that one reason she left was to avoid talking with me about her problems. Now she feels there is nothing to work out so she really doesn't want to bother. But I still have some questions and so much to say, things I really need her to hear. And so I made her listen to me and I asked her to answer my questions.

It felt just a little less hostile, though I didn't really learn anything new. She stood by the door, literally and figuratively trying to get away. She says that she left because it was time to be honest. She hadn't been happy for two years; she doesn't think that nine years ago we fell in love. She was young then and didn't know what love was, she claims. She says that soon I will realize that she did the right thing. She says that she was just being honest when she quit our family. She says that she likes and respects me, even loves me as a friend. We make better friends than partners, she believes. She says that she's happier now when she looks in the mirror. It sounds like it was instant for her: walk out on the partner and child and be happy at last.

I listened. I made a few sharp remarks, mostly having to do with the fact that no one ever gets happy by causing as much pain as she has caused. I told her that forever I will think of her as walking out on JT, the beautiful, sweet boy we once raised together. The child we promised never to hurt. I made it clear that being friends is not something that I envision for us; that we'll never find out if we make better friends than partners. I told her that I would have helped to see her through this unhappiness, for the sake of our child and the life we shared. I told her that she broke my heart.

I'm realizing now that she isn't ever going to face up to what she did. Though my friends tell me that she'll regret it some day, I'm not sure that's really true. Having avoided some hard conversations about love, honor, and commitment, about the real nature of joy and happiness, she's happier now. She took the easy path out. She may never realize what she is missing out on. She's never had much appetite for self-exploration and that isn't going to change now. She's not as unhappy today as she was a few weeks ago and that is enough for her. She doesn't have the courage to really figure out what her problem is. Her so-called honesty has some real limits.

But I keep thinking that you reap what you sow. I will talk and explore what happened. I will think about my feelings. I will treat my heart and my son with gentle care. I will be happy again some day and I will find that happiness without hurting the people who love me.

Basket of Love

A and M, who have been terrifically caring of me and JT in these last few weeks, gave me this beautiful basket on Friday night. I waited until I had a quiet moment on Saturday to open it. Inside were snacks, some things to read, beautiful candles, and a gift card to get me started on changing my bedroom. It all made me feel loved and hopeful. I found some new things to cook in the cooking magazine, some things to do in my garden and bedroom to make me feel better in the house and garden magazine, and in it all a glimpse of a happier future that is simply waiting for me to find it.

I know that healing will not follow a linear path, that some days will be better than others, and that some hard days still lay ahead. But I am looking forward and making plans, and that feels good and hopeful.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Anger Management

I woke up angry. I hate that feeling but I can't seem to control it. I woke up angry that my weekends, which used to be filled with family activities, have now been reduced to splitting our time with JT. It's not really splitting our time, of course. She gets a few hours on Saturday. I get the rest of the weekend; I get the rest of the week. I get the rest of his life. I am JT's Mama, the person who handles the daily business of living. She is Captain Fun, the person who chose to leave, and comes to visit for a few hours each weekend.

When she arrived, he was finishing his breakfast and watching some TV. He told her that he had borrowed a new Lilo & Stitch movie to watch. She said that she watched a Lilo & Stitch cartoon while she ate her breakfast this morning. He didn't seem impressed but I found that rich. How often did she sit down and watch a cartoon with JT when she was living here with us?

She tried to make idle chit-chat with me, like we were friends. She actually asked me how my week had been. I was speechless, which rarely happens to me. It was like she thought I could forgive her for what she's done. She's told people that we will be friends some day; she's told me that. Clearly she really believes it. All I can think is that she really doesn't know me at all.

He put on his shoes and they left. I'm still angry and I'm also sad. Who thinks that a child wants to live like this? Who thinks that a few hours of fun on Saturday makes a parent? Who thinks that their happiness must be bought at the cost of this pain, this hurt? Does she think he doesn't know what she's done?

I keep thinking that I don't know her anymore. And I realize that if we were strangers and we met and she told me that she had just moved out of her 6 year old son's home and left her partner of nine years, I wouldn't want to know her at all.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Taking Care

JT is beginning to navigate the boundaries of his changed family. When Lisa sometimes calls to talk with him in the evening, he takes the phone and then tries to tell her about his day. He's only 6 and he's not used to carrying on a real relationship via the phone. But he tries. Afterward, he seems a bit sad and tonight he told me, "I don't know what to tell her." I told him to tell her anything that he likes and that she is just happy to hear his voice.

I don't know if that was the right answer because I honestly don't know what she expects. I have no notion how she feels about not seeing JT every day. The idea of not living with my son and not seeing him every day leaves me utterly breathless. I couldn't do it. I wouldn't do it. I would just miss him so much. I don't know how she survives.

After we had read our nightly chapter about Ramona Quimby, JT turned on his night time music and I turned out the light. Then my lovely boy curled up next to me and lay his head in my lap. I touched his face lightly and told him all the things that I love about him: his soft slightly chubby cheeks, the way he makes me laugh, his smart brain, the way he looks when he smiles, his kind heart, his big brown eyes. I also told him what a good job he does taking care of his Mama. At that, he sat right up and said, "You do a good job of taking care of me, Mama."

That brought tears to my eyes. I pulled my big boy onto my lap and we just sat there in a big hug, taking care of one another.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Key to my Heart

If only it were this easy to fix the lock on my heart.

Thanks to A & T for the help with my house, for enjoying my cooking, for showing my boy how very much he is loved, and for making me laugh.

Update - Sudden Epiphany:
In the midst of my Sunday afternoon chores, I realized one of the reasons that I changed the locks. I wanted to be the one to take some action, to make a decision. This whole nightmare has unfolded at Lisa's command and all I have been able to do is respond. But I changed the locks; I made that decision. So it's ironic that my doing so would make her angry. How does she think all of her decisions thus far have made me feel?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

This is What Summer is About

This afternoon Krystalle came over and whisked JT off for a few errands while I worked out. The next thing I knew, they were back with squirt guns. They filled them in the kitchen and then rushed outside. They raced back and forth from the front yard to the back, shooting one another with the water pistols. It was a ferocious battle. And it was fun.

Krystalle has been a lifeline in these last two weeks, turning up at our house with her good spirits and happy smile. Today she brought me a new CD of music to listen to. Last week, she wrote me a lovely letter and brought peppermint tea. She showed me how to start JT's video game in his playroom and she understood when I needed to write it down. She doesn't mind if I cry and she knows how to keep me company. She makes things easier for both me and JT and she's reminded me about the things that I always liked about essential optimism, my sense of humor, my independence. She's a woman of action and words, helping my boy and me to heal. She is truly a gem.

Monday, June 12, 2006

On the Outside Looking In

There is an old Mary Chapin Carpenter song that always made me sad to listen to when I was single. She sings, "I see them walking hand in hand and my eyes stop to linger on those golden wedding bands wrapped around their fingers. I'm standing on the borderline, outside looking in." I was a happy and satisfied single woman, though I sometimes longed for the connection of someone to love and that feeling of being half of a whole.

I had that connection for nine years and I loved it. But I am suddenly alone again and I feel a bit untethered. Today I went grocery shopping and I swear that every person in the store had a ring on their finger. As I filled my cart with food to feed my son and I for the next week, I was profoundly aware that my finger is now empty. I used to wear two rings on my left hand. One was given to me in August of 1997, a lovely antique engagement ring, an unexpected gift from Lisa on a summer evening. I received the second ring in February of 2000, a band of diamonds and sapphires that was given to me after I had our baby. I wore them with pride and a feeling of security. I loved the way they made me feel.

Last Tuesday night I took off those precious rings for the last time and placed them deep in my nightstand drawer. I have other rings to wear of course. But it's not quite the same. All of a sudden I am on the outside looking in.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

All Those Last Moments

I woke up this morning and the parade in my mind was of all the last moments that we had with Lisa. JT and I didn't know that they were last moments, of course. Did she?

Did she know that breakfast at Cracker Barrel for Mother's Day was the last time our family would go out as a threesome? Did she know that Saturday, May 27th was the last time we would have sex? Did she know that Thursday, June 1st was the last night JT would run to meet her walking home from the train, that it was the last night that she would read JT stories and tuck him into bed? The last night she would sleep by my side? Did she know that Friday, June 2nd was the last time that we would sit at the breakfast table as a family? Does she remember these dates herself? Does she care? I could go on and on, though I am trying not to.

In March, we made a family trip to Disneyworld with our friends A and M. I thought that we had a great time. The very last night at the park, as the fireworks burst from above Cinderella's Castle, and JT sat on our laps, Lisa slipped a ring on my finger. It was so romantic and sweet. I cried with happiness and I felt at that moment that my world was safe and perfect. When we came home she told me that she had nothing to look forward to now. I was surprised that she felt that way. Did she know then that she would be leaving?

She told me last week that one reason that she was leaving was because we didn't complete a second parent adoption. The main reason we hadn't done so is that I felt we needed to have some serious conversations about commitment before we took that step. She had once sought to leave us before and I needed to know that those feelings were really in the past. Those weren't conversations she was willing to have. Now I know why.

Our world together had been about the values that we shared, about JT and one another, about our home, and our garden and our friends. That is still my world, of course. Despite her absence, my values haven't changed. But I don't recognize the Lisa that I loved in the Lisa that she has become. And I keep asking myself if I ever really knew her at all.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Finally, A Good Omen

Today was graduation and while I attended the ceremony, the M family looked after JT. After graduation, I joined them and we all had supper together (though three-year-old D gave me an odd look when I called it supper and then informed me "it's dinner.") The kids played and the adults relaxed and we had a very nice evening.

On the way home, as we drove through Middlesex, there were fireworks. So I pulled the car over and JT came up front and we watched the show. Fireworks are always pretty magical and they had the desired affect. JT and I oohed and ahhed and lived in the moment. I shut my mind off to the unhappiness of the last few weeks and just enjoyed the show, watching the fireworks from my son's eyes.

At one point he turned to me and said, "it's going to be a good summer, Mama." His capacity to love has always astounded me and now I must add to his list of accomplishments his willingness to seize happiness where he can find it.

We drove home to our beautiful house and went upstairs to put on our jammies and read stories. My friend L keeps telling me that I'm going to have a beautiful life and I really want to believe that.

I think that those fireworks are a good omen.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Mama's Brave, Sweet Boy

On the day he was born, I sat and rocked JT for hours and I told him about his life --- about his two moms, his home, his dog Sam, and all the hopes and dreams that I had for him. Mostly on that day I promised that I would always love him and that I would do my best to ensure that he had a happy life. I didn't pledge to protect him from all the pitfalls of life ---- no Mama could do that ---- and it wouldn't be realistic. In fact, one of life's skills is learning to navigate the problems. But I did promise that I would never hurt him.

I feel a little bit like I broke that promise this afternoon. Lisa came over at 4:30 and in our last act as a family we sat together while she told JT that she wasn't going to live in our home anymore. He looked stunned, asked if she was serious, and then he rolled into a ball and sobbed. We hugged him and promised him that we will always love him. We talked about the fact that she will still come and see him but that he will live with Mama now. We all cried.

And then she left.

In my wildest imagination I could never have thought this would happen. I wanted him to grow up in a family of loving parents who loved one another and loved him. He isn't going to have all of that now and I feel very profoundly that we have failed him. I know that Lisa is unhappy but it will take me a long time for me to understand why she believes her happiness must be bought at the cost of leaving JT. I may never understand it.

I am here to pick up the pieces. And that is literally the first thing that I did. When she walked out the front door to wait for her friend to pick her up, I went upstairs to find my boy curled in his bed with his blankies while tears ran down his face. He crawled into my lap and we cuddled and talked about how our life will be without Mommy in our home. I reminded him how much we both love him. And I told him over and over that Mama would never leave.

He's worried about both of us. He worried that Mommy doesn't have the clay mouse on her dresser. He's upset that Mommy doesn't love Mama anymore. He asked me if I would find him a new Mommy who would love us both. He's angry and sad and he told me so.

At the end of the night as I tucked him into bed, JT remembered that we hadn't talked about our favorite part of the day. Doing that is a tradition in our family. It is a testament to his brave and optimistic spirit that JT could ask that question on a day such as this. A day that he will never forget. I said my favorite part of the day was getting our pool passes for the summer. He paused and then he said, "the whole day.....except for the part where Mommy told me that bad thing."

I wish that we could take back the hurt.

The Package

My friend M summed things up perfectly when she said that the sadness I feel is like this giant package that I am carrying around. It's bulky and heavy and I don't want the package but I can't seem to lose it. I look around and see that no one else has a package like this. And I want to be like them, but I can't, not yet anyway. Slowly, the package will get smaller and then one day it won't be such a burden, and then finally, it will be just a tiny piece of lint in my pocket. I know that getting rid of the package can't be hurried and that it won't be an entirely linear process. I know that my many friends can help me to carry the package on days when it's just too much. I am truly counting on time to heal my wounds.

Each morning when I wake up, the first thought in my conscious brain is that my life has fallen apart. Then I lie there, hoping to make the pain go away. Most days since she left I have awakened at 5 am, crushed by the sadness. I've tossed and turned for the next hour and then it's time to get up and care for JT and get on with the business of living. The early morning seems to be the worst and in a certain way, that's okay. I know that once I get up and get moving things will be better.

This afternoon we tell JT that Mommy is leaving, though I expect that he already understands that she has left. He hasn't mentioned her since the two of them spoke on Tuesday night, so he clearly knows that something is up. He's still his quirky, happy go-lucky six-year-old self and this is a tremendous relief to me. My goal tonight is for him to ease into an acceptance of what has happened. I want him to fall asleep in his own bed, surrounded by his blankies and lots of love. I want him to wake up secure in his world.

I don't want him to wake up with a horrible package to carry around. I'll carry it for him and then one day we'll set that package down and make room for the unexpected joy that life can bring.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

So Many Unanswered Questions

The partner whom I thought I knew so well has turned into a virtual stranger in less than a week. Last Friday morning she kissed my cheek, told JT that she loved him, and then walked out. She hasn't been back since. Did she know then that she would call me from the train on Monday morning and end our nine-year relationship? Does she really believe that she can get happy by walking away from her son and our life together? Is she really telling people that we separated? Does she not know that she walked out on us? Did she think that "working on it" could happen without conversations and self-exploration?

The questions go on and on. They swirl in my mind like so many storms. Was I wrong about her? Did she ever want to build a life together? What does she really value? What does she believe? Clearly she doesn't love me anymore. Does she even like me? Will she be there for JT?

Day by day I am trying to make peace with these questions. Some I will explore for years to come, I guess. Some I will need to fold up and put away. Tomorrow, in our last official act as a family, I will watch her tell JT that she is leaving. In my wildest imagination, I never thought she was capable of leaving a six year old child with a broken heart. I don't know if I can ever forgive her for doing it.

There is no question about my love for my son. Today is his last day of school and he's excited about the summer and the prospects for sleeping in and long days at the park. He and I are already moving forward, making plans for our summer. Together, we will make plans for the next school year and for years and years to come. So, in the midst of all this uncertainty, he is my anchor and I will be his rock.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

What I Won't Miss

5. The way she never ate much of the terrific food that I cooked (and that irrational dislike of cheese).
4. The way she made our family rush because she couldn't relax and enjoy the small moments that make up life.
3. The grasping way she sometimes made me feel.
2. Her inexplicable anger.
1. Getting hurt and getting hit.

What I Will Miss

5. A warm cuddle in the dark of the early morning.
4. Laughing together.
3. A pat on the backside.
2. The way she once made me feel beautiful.
1. Help with the housework.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Three Days

There is a Pat Green song called "Three Days" and one of the memorable lines from the song reads "love can do a lot of healing in just three days." I like the song and that idea. It's a version of the old maxim that time heals all wounds. I need to believe both ideas right now because it's been a rough three days and I'm ready for the healing.

Last Friday my partner of 9 years began the end of our relationship with a terse e-mail announcing that she couldn't come home for the weekend. I next heard from her on Monday morning --- three days later --- when she called me from the train and we had one of those awkward conversations that you dread from the moment it begins. At the end, she had left the relationship and our family. I think she believes that we were heading for this for a long time and that she is just the one of us who had the courage to call it off. I think that's she's been unhappy for many more years than I have known her and that though JT and I want to try to help her heal, she just can't face the honesty that requires. So she's telling herself that this is best for all of us and she's breaking the ties that bound us.

Soon, we'll have to tell our little boy that his Mommy is moving out of his home. I cannot even fathom how he will respond to this rupture in his world. I imagine that he sees it coming. Mommy hasn't been around much in the last three weeks and when she has been here, she's been crabby. But knowing it in your mind is not the same as knowing it in your heart and I ache for the pain this will cause him.

My Dad keeps telling me to take one day at a time. That's good advice and I'm doing pretty well with that method. My family and friends have been an absolute safety net. My son amazes me with his wisdom and love. I know that he and I are much loved and that we are not alone. And I keep telling myself that someday I'll have three days that will bring a little healing.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Just Out of the Oven

Every year as graduation approaches my school has a night for the seniors to say thank you. Graduating seniors, their families, and the faculty and staff of the school gather together and enjoy some good food and companionship. The Headmaster makes a few remarks and then the night is turned over to the kids. One by one they stand up and say thank you --- to their families, their friends, their teachers and others at the school. Sometimes their remarks are carefully scripted, sometimes they plan what to say at the last moment. But it always comes from the heart. All of a sudden they aren't just kids anymore. They are young men and women with self-confidence and poise and they are taking time to say thank you. It's a lovely transition to the adult world they will soon occupy.

It's the best way to end the year because it makes me so proud of my school community and the students, teachers, and staff with whom I spend my days. My first year at this event, one of the teachers remarked that it's like watching fresh bread come out of the oven. You've worked hard to make that bread and now you get to watch the product of your labor. That sums it up quite nicely.

This year's batch of students has really touched my heart. I am as proud as a baker can be.

My Safety Net

When I was growing up, my parents had some friends, Kara and Dee, who were my family's safety net. Together with their daughter Megan, we were a group of 7 who felt like family. We met them when I was in the 3rd grade and our kitchen caught on fire. It was a new house and K & D were the only neighbors we knew. My mom sent my sister and I across the street to their house while the fire department put out the fire. From then on, our families were fast friends. I always felt like I had a second set of parents and another sister ready and waiting to be my support network. It felt good and steady. Nearly 30 years later and a half a continent away, I know they would be there for me in a minute, as I would for them.

Making those sorts of friends is one of the things that my parents taught me and wherever I have moved, I have been able to do this. You never really know when you may need to call upon the safety net of friendship. But it's good to know that the net is there should you need it.

I've had a sudden rough patch in my life in the last few days and like my family, my friends have been there for me – steady and sure. I got to work on Tuesday morning and W could just tell that things weren't right. Within seconds, I found myself with a shoulder to lean on and a reasoned voice to see me through. Others followed suit and they have been there every moment that I have needed them. I feel so profoundly grateful.

I'm still uncertain of a lot of things right now. But one thing is certain: I have this very visible safety net to help me see things through. And I am so very, very grateful to have them.