Today would have been my mother’s seventy-fourth birthday, had she not died of pancreatic cancer three and a half years ago. Eight weeks ago, my father died of lung cancer at the age of seventy-six. And just under a month ago, my husband asked me for a divorce.
Last weekend, he moved the rest of his stuff out, leaving dents in the carpets where his bookshelves used to be, and deep grooves in my heart where the little, kindly routines of our lives were supposed to intersect.
I wake up wanting to tell him about that weird dream I had, or an idea for how to get the cat to stop drinking out of my bedside water glass… and I stop short, remembering.
What do I do now with all the little in-jokes, the puns, the cutesy phrases I made up just to make him smile? How could I ever again look at the dedication page of BLISS, where I thanked him so effusively for being my partner, without feeling like a schmuck?
The reasons for the split are all valid, even if the timing was awful. But that doesn’t make my feelings now any less bewildered, my panic each morning when I wake up and realize I’m on my own diminish. No mom, no dad, no emergency contact.
Well, me and three cats who don’t care if their person is grieving.
You better get up NOW, two-legs, and put kibble in that-there bowl. Never mind that it’s 6am and you just got to sleep at 2.
So I’m sitting in what was supposed to be my dream life, kind of shell-shocked, trying to figure out how I’m ever going to feel joy again. Trying to understand where everything went so wrong, and knowing it wasn’t the fault of some mustachioed villain, unless you want to call life itself a villain. Trying to write a next chapter, literally as well as metaphorically, and failing utterly to imagine a happy ending.
I can’t control cancer. I can’t control other people’s behavior. And honestly, right now, I can only control mine about a third of the time. I sit down to write, and I just weep. I try to be graceful or gracious about the split, and I end up acting like a twit and saying passive-aggressive crap that purely appalls me even as I fail to rise above it. I put one foot in front of the other but half the time I’m drowning in quicksand no matter how furiously I slog on.
I see the daffodils in town begin to blossom and their yellow crowns make my heart clutch. My mom was a flower fanatic, and each year around her birthday when the forsythia and the tulips and the daffs and crocuses would reemerge, she’d gloat like she was personally responsible. I wonder what she would say to me now? I think she’d be mad that I’ve managed to alienate my handsome goyishe husband. Tsk her tongue at me for hiring an accountant to do the estate taxes instead of handling them on my own.
Would she be proud of me at all in this moment? I honestly can’t ever recall her saying such words to me. (It was always, “Oh, you got an article published in the Huffington Post? That’s great… but too bad they don’t pay!)
At least I know I’ve done as much as she could have, given the same circumstances, and that’ll have to suffice.
As for my dad… right now if illness hadn’t intervened, he’d be gearing up for April in Paris with his new girlfriend, planning to enjoy some good cheese and wine and art and hobble down the left bank best he could on gimpy legs. Instead, the new, monogrammed Tumi suitcases he never got to use sit in my closet, waiting for my next venture.
Whatever that may be.