When I was in the hospital, having just popped a small creature who looked shockingly like a garden gnome out of my delicate girl bits, I held him for a spell in the quiet, darkened room as the doctor finished delivering the placenta and doing whatever it is that doctor’s do to your crotchal region after a baby is born. I held my second son to my breast and looked up at his father, stars in my eyes (okay, it was painkillers, but who’s counting?) and said, “I won’t ever have to give this one back.” He nodded, a smile twitching the corners of his mouth, his labor-long headache long since dissipated.
“No,” he replied, “we won’t.”
We were referring to, of course, the weekenders our eldest son had occasionally with the other OTHER side of his family. While we both knew that these were not only necessary, but important for our firstborn, it was heartbreaking to watch him leave each Friday and return overstimulated and exhausted on Sunday. Those days in which he was gone, it felt as though part of our hearts had gone with him – probably because they had.
When the divorce card got played, the first thing my mind jumped to was not “I’m going to have to find a real job,” nor was it, “will anyone ever love me again?” No. It was “what about the kids? I can’t leave my kids again – some days, they’re all that keeps me going forward.”
I knew that moving out; being unable to pay the mortgage, these had implications that were far-reaching – I’d have to, as previously stated, get a real job and learn to be alone after spending my entire life with another person around. I’d have to scrimp and save and cut coupons and figure out one makes “Ramen Bake,” I’d have to spend nights in an apartment so quiet that the on-switch on the heater would make me jump half-out of my skin. But most importantly – I’d have to leave my kids some of the time.
Now it’s not like I planned to be all thwap-thwap-thwap INCOMING helicopter parent once my second son popped out. I’d briefly considered attending college with him, but that’s mostly because I figured he’d never properly become potty trained, and frankly, someone had to teach the kid how to do keg stands, and his father, well, he was a Normal Rockwell painting, while I sat in the very back of the classroom, playing games on my phone, figuring out how many days, exactly, I could ditch before my grades dropped.
But I never really thought about the possibility of being separated from my children before it was the right time. I mean, I wouldn’t go to prom with the kid (PROBABLY), but I did expect that I’d see them most (read: all) days until they hit THAT point.
I was, of course, as I am so often, wrong.
I can accept that my nine year union dissolved – we both deserve our happy, neither of us is “at fault” because, well, as my therapist says, “divorce requires two people, just like marriage,” and Dave and I are more than amicable – we’re friends. We owe that to our children.
This weekend marked the end of the dreaded first week, the week that found me sobbing like a whiny baby on the couch as I watched and re-watched episodes of trashy television, which, Pranksters, I’m going to tell you, should be a prescription for all that ails you. And shit, it’s better trashy television than my wedding video, of which, I have to say, I don’t own, because I refused to spring for a video no one would ever choose to watch willingly. I didn’t want to be that newlywed that showed every single person who came to my home the wedding video, pointing out “the good” parts. Because hello, boring.
Amelia, thrilled out of her wee mind, came by on Friday, forgoing her normal McDonald’s dinner with her brothers, and spent the night. Alex came over on Saturday, proclaiming that this would be “the best day ever,” because he got to *gasp* sleep at Mama’s house. And as the children predicted, those were the two very best days I’ve had in a long time.
Yesterday, they returned to Dad’s house, and I was left, sitting alone with my trashy television, the silence of my empty apartment thumping in my ears.
I looked around, tears in my eyes, at all of the things in my big girl apartment. The bed and the couches. The end table and lamps. The zombie gnomes in the bathroom, sandwiched between a mushroom nightlight.
And I realized, for the millionth time that week, that my house, my house without children, it is not a home – it’s just the place where I live.
And that sort of sadness, it’s nearly impossible to shake.