Joerg* is taking the girls bowling every Thursday night now. The girls are really excited about having a regularly scheduled event with him, and I'm happy that they are negotiating a new relationship with him. "Happy" being a relative term here.
On my first Thursday free, I went to find exercise pants that don't fall down when I jog (by popular demand, sent to me telepathically by the b-ball players playing in the court I was slogging around). On my second Thursday free, I went to go hear a performance by the poet Andrea Gibson. It was preceded by an open mic for the undergraduates, at which point I began wondering if the Student Center served alcohol, because there could have been a very fine drinking game going on based on variations of the phrase "broken dreams." Which is not to say that their poetry was not much appreciated, just that it might have been a teensy bit more appreciated with a glass of wine in hand.
As a comfortably married woman, I enjoyed reading well-written romance novels (good recommendations found here, if you don't already know about the many resources to help you glean the chaff from the wheat in the vast and fertile (heh) field of romance novels). As a slightly panicked and depressed woman, left by her husband for another woman, and rejected beyond all doubt, I cannot even contemplate reading a romance. So I was relieved to have to leave the poetry reading early when she announced that she was going to end with a run of love poems. If I'd had my way with the Broken Dreams Drinking Game earlier, I probably could have just had a good cry over it all, but Sober Me left feeling a bit nauseous (and just a little bit like crying). Exploring the feminine emotional life is more than I'm capable of right now.
I wonder if I will ever feel poetic about this? I wonder if I will ever be able to step away enough to try to make something of it all? Something that I can smash into words that don't quite capture it all, but enough for me to feel like I've understood enough to move on? Right now there are so many practical concerns, so many decisions to make, and so much paperwork that poetic is the last thing I'm feeling.
I think about taking notes for an advice book instead. It's pretty well known that lots of marriages with kids with major medical issues don't last. Although I would not have identified that as a current strain on our marriage, I guess that history never really goes away. And I can't argue the fact that when Annika was at her sickest, our relationship was pushed to the breaking point. I've heard stories from other moms of transplant kids, whose own marriages have broken. I wonder if there has been some sort of survey taken on this phenomenon, because, anecdotally, it always seems to be the husband doing the leaving, and there seems to be a strong theme of Greener Pastures going on. Surely someone could gather enough data to offer some sort of practical advice? Figure out what the hell is going on? So far the only trend I'm noticing is that marriages with medical kids last best when it's not the case that one parent is made primarily responsible for child care.*** Also, that it is always the husband leaving for some other possible relationship, and I wonder if statistics don't just make it easier to leave.
My neighbor offered the (yes, slightly tipsy) advice that you should never marry an atheist, because your husband needs to believe that he will go to hell for leaving you for another woman.
I picture my husband weighing the cons, with "Life with Moreena (ugh)" balanced in one hand and "Eternal Torment in the Fiery Pit of Hell" in the other. Slowly, despairingly, he turns his head to me and nods. Go, Sanctity of Marriage!
Of course, I thought the example of my Ph.D. advisor, whose marriage was ended by her husband's affair with a younger colleague, was to tell me that valuing your career over your marriage was a good way to weaken your relationship. And so I did not pursue following her overseas to finish my degree, choosing instead to stay in town and wait for Joerg to finish up his degree. Which has now left me in the same position as my former Ph.D. advisor was in, only without a career. So I probably should ease up on using anecdotal evidence in making life decisions.
So I'm not feeling poetic, and my analytical skills are also very much in doubt.
Which mainly just leaves overwhelmed as my main state of mind. It's easier being really busy when you're not also having to make big decisions simultaneously. Mostly my life was going along a pretty set path, but now that path has splintered into a decision tree with so many branches that it's more of a decision bush.
The girls are slowly coming back to themselves, although they ask me heartbreaking questions on a regular basis. Annika's back to working at school (most days) and dreaming up new ideas before she's finished up with the last project. Frankie is back to asking crazy, specific Frankie Questions (What kid wants to know the specifics of credit-card sharing? Frankie, that's who.) I don't know how all this will affect them, and I'm trying not to focus too much on the negatives. Certainly I can forget about them learning about what it takes to make a lasting relationship (lesson #1: you don't just walk away from it with no warning, and all the subsequent lessons are now moot), but they are now learning about being flexible, adapting to new circumstances, being independent, and recovering from a big hurt. Those aren't bad lessons to learn, and I'll just have to hope that their relationships work out somehow.****
My third and fourth Thursdays were not so free, as Annika and then Frankie succumbed to the mighty Super Tummy Bug attacking GI tracts all over town. Joerg and I might be busy redefining our parental roles right now, but I'm pretty sure I'll always be the one cleaning up after the yuckies hit and making chicken broth soup that gets cold in the cup before it can be sipped down with a straw and a grimace.
This Thursday is the Book Club I had gotten too busy in the past few years to keep up with. I look back and see how busy I was trying to contribute to the financial health of our family, while still keeping up with the demands of my demanding kids, only to have all that hard work wiped out in one awful afternoon. I gave up too much to have it all go away so easily, and yet it has, and there is a lesson there that is not even the hardest lesson to learn.
Here is the one I don't want to learn:
Whatever I do at this point will be both the right thing and the wrong.
Frankie drew a picture of a heart last night with a big blue teardrop in the middle. "Because sometimes love makes you cry," she explained.
* Umlaut dropped by popular demand, but I couldn't help replacing it with oe. I'm going to pronounce it "George" in my head for those of you rooting for petty vengeance, though. It's better (and way more legal) than setting fire to his motorcycle in the front yard. It's also completely appropriate, as I still remember one of our first conversations at our first sort-of date. We were sitting on the floor in the living room of my apartment in the complex filled mostly with happily independent senior woman. Hepburn was meowing to go out, since the happily independent senior woman fed her their leftover chicken, thinking she was a poor stray cat (despite her distinctly non-stray healthy tummy size). I asked him his last name**, and he said everyone always mispronounced it, and I said, "Give me a shot." He wrote it down for me, and I said it perfectly correctly. And he looked at me like I was some sort of genius, like I had just stepped down from Mount Perfection, and told me that I was the first person in this country to get it right. Then we married, and moved here, and had children, and he started to pronounce it the way everyone always did, the wrong way, and I never understood why he would do that. I said, "Hey. I took your name, and it's pronounced this way, not that." Now I'm giving that name back, and leaving my children with it. But they will learn to pronounce it the right way, because it's worthwhile to stick with what's right even if it is harder.
** I went on a date with a guy before I knew his last name? Apparently, I did.
*** True for many marriages? I know it is not what I had planned for our marriage, but we had to make adjustments, given Annika's long health struggles.
**** Surely true for all parents, no matter the circumstances.