Wednesday, August 9, 2017


You can all relax now, I've officially identified the most ridiculous part of being a parent: comforting your precious babies through the voluntary absence of the other parent.

I've probably said this in the past, and I used to see my Dad once per year, for a month in the summer.  I'd miss him fiercely all year, then feel trepidacious leaving the comfort zone of my mom.  I'd love being there, a state away, with my Dad.  I was so grown up.  I did things I'd never do in California, mostly that meant being by myself for stretches of time unheard of in my Mom's care.  I could go anywhere, do anything, plan my day and then do something else. No one was there to say no, or yes.  If I rode my bike allllll the way across town, then there I'd be, with the consequence of now needing to pedal all the way back.  When it was time to load me back onto a California bound plane I would be stressed outright.  We'd be late, my luggage barely being tossed into the plane's belly, the front desk person throwing annoyed looks.  I'd be stressed because if I was late my Mom might decide that this was the last unacceptable flaw to my summer visits and I'd not be allowed to see my Dad again.  I'd be stressed because my Dad's roommates and friends would be standing there in the airport in their river shorts and ripped/no shirts, scraggly and tanned, to say goodbye to me too and I didn't want them to see how sad I was.  How near I was to bawling.  I was so very sad to be leaving my Dad for nearly a year and I hated missing him.  That feeling, it's a very specific one, and it's impact hadn't punched me in the face in long while. 

A year and a half ago this very feeling showed up on my child's face when her Daddy told her he'd be no longer living here.  You should know that this feeling is the worst feeling I had as a kid- complete helplessness.  It is wanting something that is vital to your life force, something that you are incomplete without, and having people you love take it away.  It's incomprehensible.  There is a tight squeeze around my heart- it pumps harder, my throat closes up, painfully and I sweat.  My feet chatter on the ground and I can't stop chewing the insides of my cheeks.  I talk about random things.  Nothing makes me feel better.  Suddenly here it was again, this time on the face I love the most.  I was looking at myself, losing my dad and feeling like this couldn't be so.  Then all of the reasonings and thoughts to make the situation be less devastating pour out of her, because there must be a mistake.  We adults must have overlooked the obvious solution, if we could just let her fix/mend/behave these wrenching consequences away.  I'm not sure I've ever been so angry.  Besides knowing that divorce was not going to be a part of her life, I'd never imagined needing to defend my daughter from this old feeling.  I was in a panic, enraged, desperate to get her past the moment where the world changed.  I later wrapped my whole body around her, having coached her into some measured breathing, still feeling the tremors of a meltdown move through her, and I imagined all the yuck of the world trying to get past my cocoon, trying to stain her loving heart.  In my mind I succeeded in all the right ways, but the worst offender wasn't outside, he was in.  And I have no say in that.

She is having these attacks of reality more often lately.  She lays in bed, holding back scathing accusations at the world about not seeing her Daddy enough, and eventually they spit out of her bright red, crumpled face.  Two or three words at a time I get the story.  I agree with all of it: the unfairness, the un-understandables, the inquiry as to why.  She told me last night that she felt like she was going to explode.  She told me tonight that it felt like, "I cracked my head open again, only my heart feels cracked not my head".  I see it in her eyes and in her defensive body language.  She is in it.  She's there, where I was, and she is feeling so helpless and out of control and longing.  I squeeze her and she wraps her legs in knots around mine.  Maybe if I squeeze her just so, it will wring all of this ick out of her tender heart.  I keep her there until she is asleep.  Heavy.  Twitching.  At peace.