January. When the new year dawned, I knew what I had to do. We saw a movie – I didn’t note which one in my calendar – and, as always, I made all the arrangements. Time, date, babysitter. Because that is what I do: everything.
February. We saw Scheherazade downtown. I made all the arrangements. The children enjoyed the show. On the 13th, I saw a lawyer. On the 14th, I did a past life regression. It was my valentine’s present to myself because I knew there’d be nothing else. It was illuminating. I made plans. I went to a writing class. I spent a few days in a writer’s retreat, editing a novel that ended up imploding like a tire that gets a flat on a road that starts out with promise and ends up petering out in the middle of nowhere. No Outlet. Go Back.
March. I went to Pittsburgh by train, gave a well-received presentation at a professional conference, met some previously-imaginary friends and a few weeks later we fought over the vacuum cleaner and I’d had enough. Enough. Couldn’t do it anymore. It’s true: I did this. I am the dumper. I always have been. It’s what saves me in the end.
April. The kids and I went to the mountains for spring break. We stayed in a cabin in the woods, saw Natural Bridge, a kitschy wax museum and Foamhenge. It snowed on our last day. I met with the lawyer again. He drew up a separation agreement. A real one, one his lawyer wouldn’t sneer at. Lawyers. Whatever. Meanwhile, the household continued to hum. I made plans, arranged appointments, found a beach house, arranged for the payment, did our taxes, bought food, carted the kids from one party to another, from one appointment to another, to this friend’s house and that. I never let a single thing slip. I saw a retirement guy who said, yes, I’d be fine. I am fine.
May. The document is signed after his birthday because we shouldn’t mess up that day, should we? No. Of course not. I visit friends, see my therapist, do my job, make note of “grilled cheese day” on the school calendar, clean the guinea pig cage, scoop the cat litter pan, vacuum, plan meals, pick up children from school for this and that, continue to make things happen. Somebody’s got to.
June. More of the same. School ends. Red turns nine and has a party. Girls rip through the house and have a fabulous time. I take Dusty to New York City. We have a blast and meet up with friends known and previously unknown (more imaginary friends becoming real). Coney Island, Staten Island, Times Square, The Met, a birthday picnic in the park. We come home and appointments are made. I see my therapist. The clock ticks.
July. The kids go to summer camp and I keep track of field trips and arrange a car pool for Dusty. I make lunch dates. Develop Dusty’s film. Drive Dusty to parties and pick her up again. I have work meetings. I help establish a new Girl Scout troop. I help a friend who’s had surgery. All the balls are in the air. All the time. I have lived without a kiss or a hug or a “good job” or the warmth of a body older than 13 in years and years and years. This won’t change for a long time, I know, but soon, the crux of the problem will.
August. We go to the beach. I’ve arranged everything. Packed everything. Loaded it in the car. Driven the car. Unloaded it. Prepared meals. Made it happen. I’m alone amongst others. I try to have fun despite it. My kids should not be responsible for keeping me company. It’s not their job. I work around this like I work around everything. I drink too much but not so much that I’m ever, ever impaired. There’s a limit and I still know what it is. I worry about things. I arrange the babysitter who stays home with Red while Dusty is transported back and forth to art classes. We attend school open houses and ice cream socials and buy school supplies and lunch supplies. Lists and lists and more lists. I sign Red up for the Y again for after-school care. Everything costs money.
September. School begins. Dusty starts 7th grade. She takes Latin and Band II and loves them both. Red begins 4th grade with a fabulous teacher. All is well. The clock ticks. The deadline looms. He’s been given a move-out date of 12/31. It looks like he might be out by 11/1. This heartens me. This causes anxiety. The children need to be told. I know I’ll be the one doing all the talking. I always am and I always will be. The burden of this family has always rested on me and will continue to do so until I am no longer on this earth. I am okay with this responsibility. I will admit to being a bit of a control freak in this way. Better to know than not know. Better to wrest control than have none.
October. Girl Scouts starts in earnest. Plans are made. I’ll be leading the older girls through a journey. Which is literal but also figurative. We’re all on a journey, aren’t we? I meet friends for lunch. I have meetings. I see the therapist. I take the kids to the state fair. I buy new glasses. I take Dusty to see a production of To Kill A Mockingbird. Dusty joins the pep band.
November. We tell the children. I tell the children, let’s be honest here. They take it well. Perhaps a part of them knows already. This is not a blue print for a successful marriage, kids. This is not what I want for you. I go to my writer’s retreat for a workshop one weekend. The last hurrah among a few lovely women. He moves out. Everyone survives. Dusty turns 13 and then she and Red spend Thanksgiving out of town with his parents. I spend mine with my sister and mother. My mother says not a single word about my new status, what’s happened. I’m not, in her eyes, a victim. Thus, I must feel no pain, require no sympathy. She isn’t capable of giving it anyway. I’m almost used to that now. Almost.
December. Dusty has a birthday party. I make plans. Crunch numbers. Worry. Stop worrying. Start working on the kitchen – painting and painting and painting. I am alone for an entire week. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been alone that long. Maybe never. It seems crazy but that might actually be the case. Never. It’s great mostly and lonely occasionally. Takes a lot to make me lonely, actually. My kids fill up all the spaces in the house. I am good, living in a balloon that’s lost a bit of its helium is all. I do things. I watch movies. I plan. I start writing again. Here. Not the novel, not the new project, but a bit. This bit. Baby steps. Baby steps.