Three years ago, he ran away for Thanksgiving. We got in a fight about something. If you offered me a million dollars to tell you what we were fighting about, I could not produce the details of that argument. Like all arguments, I had convinced myself that it wasn’t that serious, I was probably overreacting and that it would blow over. I don’t remember going to bed alone, but that is probably because we slept in different rooms. How crazy is that? We SLEPT in separate bedrooms. At first it started with him sleeping in the back bed because I would kick him out for snoring. At some point, he just started sleeping in there. Eventually, we moved his clothes and all his stuff in there. We had our own rooms. How long do you have to sleep in and live in separate rooms before you realize that you are indeed headed for a divorce? Let me tell you, denial is a sneaky, tricky thing. It tells you life is OK, everyone lives like this, this is just how it is. Until you don’t believe that anymore, and once you are out of denial, you’re out.
Anyways, four thanksgiving mornings ago, I woke up and he was gone. The kids were still asleep and I thought to myself he would be back before they woke up. I started shuffling around the kitchen and began to make whatever dish I was asked to bring to my parent’s house for dinner. I am sure I told myself things like, “he’s just having a rough day” and “he’ll be back before we leave.” The kids woke up in the morning and asked where their dad was. I had no answers. “Will he be coming with us to Thanksgiving, Mom?” I could only muster an honest, “I don’t know.” And on and on the questions went that morning as we drove to my parents house without him. My parents had planned a race that year for all of us to participate. A turkey trot. A fun run for the whole family. And we did it. I ate my turkey listlessly. Cried in the back bedroom. Pretended that this was just all going to be quite alright. People run away for Thanksgiving all the time. He eventually came back home that night saying he just needed to drive. No apologies. No ability to communicate what was going on. Long talks and my never ending pleas. Begging him to fix it. I would help. I was strong. I could fix anything. And then I stopped trying to fix him and focused instead on fixing me and securing a safe space for my children.
There’s something about the holidays that cause them to become mile markers. They are set in stone. They reverberate with the good and the bad. They become the signposts of life all wrapped up in a package of “lifetime memories.” The first Thanksgiving…don’t remember it. Pretty much true for the second, third, fourth and then there are glimpses. Loud voices sitting at a long table. A husband cutting a turkey. A baby. Another baby. Football. It all becomes a blur at some point…until it doesn’t anymore. Now there is the one where he didn’t show up. The one after my brother-in-law killed himself. The one after I left the marriage. And then this years: the one I didn’t have the kids and cried all day. Could not pull my shit together. A shroud of grief draping over me unwilling to let me breathe. The good memories make the painful so much harder. Why does it have to hurt so bad? Why does it feel so hard sometimes? So lonely? So painful?
All I can say is I survived. I got through it. I can do hard shit. I can do lonely and painful and hurting. I can mourn the loss and feel the grief and pain of crushed dreams. I can say this is how I feel and it’s OK for today. I can look outside and find a reason. But better is I can look inside and find a reason. Facing your pain and sorrow and insecurities is hard. Looking at the messed up version of yourself that you hate sucks. But, and there is a but, it causes you to grow. I had easy. I had simple. I had good. And then, then, I had hard. I had agony. I had pain. I had suffering. I can look at each mile marker knowing I got through it. And I’ll get through the next one, too.