I enjoy my lawyer. She is catholic, has two kids the same age as mine, doesn't mind if I swear, and is simply brimming with common sense. She gave me a hard talk two days ago about letting go, about recognizing when plans change radically, about making choices in an unfair situation that aren't based on emotion but on a recognition of reality. Also, she is big on cost-benefit analyses.
So I need to take a few of these early morning writing sessions to think. Everybody already knows that being left out of the blue for another (younger, I can't let that one go) woman when you have two young kids, one of whom is frequently sick, and when you've worked all your life, but never at a full-time job with benefits, is going to be hard. Everybody already knows it's unfair. Everybody already knows that you're really sad, and now that the first month has passed, veering more toward really angry. Everybody already knows this story because it's happened to them, or their mother, or their best friend from college. It's not new or unique or even particularly awful, relatively speaking, although it feels that way to me most of the time.
But there are things that not everybody may know, such as the fact that we have a new kitten! And while kittens are always hilarious, ours is extra hilarious (probably because we are in sore need of extra hilarity around here). Yesterday Cleo ran to the window and began barking in her Big Dog voice at a little weiner dog walking by with its owner outside. Tinkerbell the 4-lb kitten shot from the living room to peer out the window beside Cleo, just in case she needed back-up.
Oh, the amusing ferocity!
And have I mentioned that when she stands to look out the window she stands just like a little meerkat? She crosses her front paws in front of her chest, like a girl at her first dance, wearing a dress without pockets and unsure of where to put her hands and still look lady-like. Then she swivels her head back and forth with a serious expression, because that is the great thing about cats. They always look serious, no matter what. It's why we project so much dry humor on them, I guess.
It's probably also why Annika keeps trying to dress her up, because Cleo just looks pitiful when Annika dresses her up. It's hard to imagine a princess with sad sad eyes and droopy ears, but our kitten makes for fine angry royalty.
Frankie was excited about getting a kitten because she was too little to participate in the naming of Cleo, so the puppy-naming was all Annika's choice. Cleo was part of a stray litter of puppies, and so she didn't even have a name (besides maybe The Black One) when we got her, but the kitten had been kept at the Humane Society for two months before we adopted her, so they had given her a name already. Frankie knew that she could change the name, especially given that cats are not especially attached to such nonsense things as "names," but the kitten the girls chose was named "Tinkerbell" at the shelter, and Frankie decided that that was actually her perfect name.
I'm not sure if Frankie only took this route so that she could later argue that she hasn't technically gotten to name a pet yet, and so she is still owed that right in the grand cosmic accounting of fairness that is continually updated by my two children.
Actually, I'm pretty sure that's exactly what she did now that I think about it. I'm constantly suspecting that Frankie is smarter than I am, but don't tell her because she suspects it, too.
So, yes, we have a kitten and she is adorable, and now everybody knows, too.
What I don't know at this point, and maybe nobody else knows, either, is why this has happened. I mean, yes, there's the story and all, with its awfulness and betrayal, yada yada yada. But there has to be more to it than that; there has to be something I did or didn't do and that I am having trouble facing. And I'm not sure at this point if it is even worth facing or not. That would have been the hard work of marriage counseling or therapy, but now I have the hard work of divorcing without too much anger because we have kids, and recriminations are not helpful in that case.
Tonight I sat with Frankie and we started to read "Mom's House, Dad's House: for Kids" together. We didn't get farther than the first pages, where there was a pencil-drawing of a house being split apart with a dark rain cloud hovering over it. Of course there was a path leading to two houses with the sun peeking through, and then to another two houses with the sun shining fully down.
I was expecting logical Frankie to say, "Wait, you mean we're going to have four houses now?" But instead she teared up a little and said, "I don't like the pictures in this book."
So we put the book away and I said, "OK. Let's talk, pumpkin." And I promised her that she could ask me anything, and that I would not cry because I was feeling better and stronger now, but that it was OK for her to cry because being sad is a part of life. I told her that maybe I would cry again some other time, but that would be OK, too, because stuff that is hard just makes you feel like crying, but you keep going and then you're through the other side.
Then we talked. And I realized how much it meant to her that her daddy had come tonight to her holiday program, to watch her be a Sugar Plum Fairy. And I had to admit that some day she will realize what a big deal it is that he agrees to wear shorts and a polo shirt in order to be an official at her swim meets.
So I told her that this was not all her daddy's fault. That it was true that it was a big surprise to me, and that I didn't know that daddy was unhappy with me, but that I did some stuff wrong, too. Being Frankie, she asked for specifics. Of course she did.
It was not my favorite conversation in the world, but Frankie went to sleep more easily tonight. Cost-benefit analysis: Win (my lawyer really is a smart woman). And it makes sense: no kid wants a Bad Guy for a dad, or a Poor Victim for a mom.
I've been going back through my entries, trying to figure out what happened and when. I don't think I'll find it there, but I've been reminding myself of some things I had forgotten that I knew. Like that I once knew how to grab moments, and magnify and expand them until they were more than just a moment, until they stood for a decision about everything that was to follow. Even if you forget that decision, and have to keep making it over and over again.