with Karli Larson
The transition from stay-at-home mom to divorced-and-working-full-time mom can be challenging, and sometimes very lonely. Throw in a few cats, an ancient dog and one very brave boyfriend, and life gets downright crazy. Join me as I talk through my thoughts and struggles, my miscalculations and my triumphs. We're in this together, you and I.
When I'm not writing here you can find me over at work on the TisBest Philanthropy blog.
Late on Christmas Eve, what to my wondering ears should I hear but the sound of SNARLING GLADIATOR CURS UNDER THE TREE as I attempted to get my wee lassies asleep. Turns out my old red dog broke a tooth (canine tooth, natch) on my other dog’s face. Spurting blood. Exposed root. Awful pain. This was not the plan. SANTA DOES NOT TAKE THE REINDEER TO THE VET ON CHRISTMAS EVE!
These are the times when I miss being part of a marriage, because a marriage—when it works well, as ours once did—is a triage team. Now the decisions are all mine to make, and to make fast.
Emergency vet care necessary, I decided. On trusty Kia! On bloody Nina! On frantic Jenny! To the vet on Christmas Eve to inject vast amounts of painkillers into poor Nina, to hold her over for emergency surgery on Christmas Day.
Last year around Christmastime, I had just gotten out of the hospital, for a broken mind and a broken heart, instead of a broken tooth. My insides were as thin and painfully delicate as wet rice paper, and I was afraid with every step I took that I would tear in half.
This year, I laughed amid the chaos, I laughed as I charted a speedy course. Manic laughter? No. There was something of my essential self in it, something of a younger me in the helpless giggling, in the holy crap you have GOT to be yanking my chain, Kris Kringle.
I was happy to hear her. I’ve missed her laughter.
Back from the vet just before midnight, I set out cookies and milk with bloodstained fingers (nice!), I soothed wakeful children, I tended to both wounded dogs, I dug into hiding spots for presents. I shook my head at the absurdity.
I tried not to think about what was. I tried not to think about D, how we would have conquered this together, what a shared memory this would have become. The would-have-beens will kill you, I think. I tried only to think about the now of it all. Laugh. Laugh through this. What’s next? Just do the next thing. And the next.
And nothing says funny like blood-spattered prezzies under the tree. In Polish, “dog’s blood” is a particularly nasty swear word, and thinking of my long-dead Polish relatives surveying gifts smeared with just that—well, the concept kept my mind off the divorce, which was a bonus.
Sometime well past midnight, into Christmas, with one drooling, tranquilized dog passed out by the lit tree and its Stonehenge of presents, I stopped to take in the landscape I’d created. I stopped to breathe, the tentative inhale of someone used to expecting breath and pain to come together.
Just breath, this time. No pain, for the moment. Sleeping babies who are no longer babies—upstairs. Cookies, check. Carrots for reindeer, check. Breakfast and coffee ready for morning, check, check.
I went to bed. I went to bed alone, but I did not cry. Crisis managed. Check.
I felt something like pride stir in my gut, but it was humbler than that—pride’s gawky younger sister, all elbows and knees and acne, winning first prize without anyone much noticing. I did my best.
Christmas was beautiful. D joined my family for a few hours. We exchanged gifts, friendly if awkward hugs. D and I are a different kind of team now. I wish it weren’t this way, still. I don’t know when that feeling will cease. But when I hear horror tales of fearsome custody battles and spiteful words, I see how fortunate we are, for the girls to see their parents treating each other with respect. We are doing our best.
Santa neglected to leave the $800 in my stocking to cover my dear old dog’s dental extraction, but my dad came through, paying the bill on his way out of town. Thanks, Papa, who also stayed with the girls while I rushed the dog to the vet on Christmas Eve. Thanks, Mama, who texted me an emergency list of exactly where everything was hidden—and knew because she’d spent hours wrapping for me. My parents—although no longer together either—were doing their best.
I had help. There will always be help for me. And for that, I am very blessed indeed.
I am loved. I know this. But it doesn’t always stop the grief from seeping back in. Knowledge is never an antidote for grief. Grief is an urgent visitor, demanding attention. If not heeded, it will find another way in besides the front door, making a mess in the process. I am learning to leave the door open for grief, but at the same time, leave the windows open for laughter in 2010.
I am not finished grieving my marriage. I am still grieving being part of the team that D and I once created, the team that I thought defined me so well.
My timeline is no one else’s: that’s what I gave to myself on Christmas Day, and for the New Year.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot? No. I don’t think it’s in me. To forget. So I will no longer apologize for grief. It takes more energy to apologize for it than it does to say, yes, I know, you’re still here, and that’s all right. I won’t negate you.
Meanwhile, I will continue to make my way, feeling it all. I’ll chart new courses in 2010, be my own triage team, and my own head cheerleader—and maybe take a few courses in emergency canine dentistry, just in case.
Happy New Year, all you lovelies.
Subscribe to blog via RSS