He swoops in off the bedroom ceiling, a shape-shifting demon with a taste for my heart. The ghost of my past, the ghost of “what might have been,” he is my life partner now. We are together, inseparable. And it sucks.
Divorce was never something I particularly wanted. And even now I’d be lying to your cyber face if I told you that I’m okay with it. Because I’m not. I’m not okay with it. Not with any of it really. I am a single father now, and I’m having a lot of trouble adjusting to that. I want to fall asleep to the old days.
So many nights come and go and all I want is to lay there in that bed again and laugh with the kids’ mom about how funny 4-year-old Henry was today at the park. I want us to relive how brilliant our 6-year-old Violet appears to us when she stands in the kitchen and tells us one of her beautiful stories. Together, I dream of us watching Charlie, our little man of just a year and a half, as he wanders around the early morning kitchen, pulling stuff off the shelves and wreaking sweet glorious havoc down all over our coffee time.
But those days are gone.
And so what I’m left with, what we’re all left with, man/woman/and children, is this storybook that still exists, but only in torn up pages tossed carelessly around the room.
Parts of me think that I ought to just get on with it. With all this divorce happening these days, why would anyone ever listen to the way I feel and give a damn? They’d probably think I’m weak or maybe too romantic or something. “Get on with your life now,” a lot of people would tell me. “What’s done is done, dude.”
It isn’t done for me though. I don’t care what anyone says, it simply isn’t done. I was born once long ago when my mom brought me into this world. Then I was born three more times when I watched my kids be born themselves. So don’t tell me to just move on. Some people find it easy to forget all about something as epic as all those real and wonderful dreams that come along with the birth of your babies. Some people can move right past the idea that this was going to be a family forever.
Then other people, people like me, I guess, we can’t do that at all.
There are days now when I will be standing there in the middle of my three kids, just standing there watching them joyously tear apart the playroom in this little rental house I’ve landed in, and I’ll suddenly feel this fist reaching up from out of my guts. It’s the ghost again. He’s brazen as hell, reaching his hand up from wherever he hides out down in me just to mess with my heart again. He squeezes my ticker hard like a tennis ball. He flicks his fingers on my heartstrings just to remind me that it’s all so real.
Yes, marriages end all the time. But maybe the idea that once held you together, the plan for togetherness through thick or thin, maybe that stuff doesn’t really end, you know? Maybe we’re just bound to be haunted by the notion that perhaps this little family of ours wasn’t supposed to end up like this at all.
Maybe we messed everything up. Maybe we lost ourselves in the thick of the kids, in the haze of our learning to live as parents and lovers and friends all at once.
Maybe we got confused enough to bolt.
Maybe we were scared of all the times we’d been scared.
And so maybe, just maybe, the only thing we really divorced was tried and true happiness. The kind that only ever comes to those who never give up on the things that matter most.