In August of last year the boys and I finally got a relatively firm date for their Dad’s return home from Afghanistan. He would be back in the states by the 1st or 2nd of October. My plan while he had been gone was to keep a weekly blog, if not daily, of what it was like being the one left behind when a soldier goes to war. Well, as Steinbeck said about the plans of mice and men, that plan went awry. I started a new job, broke my leg, had about six months of recovery time with nothing to do but think and sit, lost my job, and started work on my Master’s (again). I was busy and preoccupied. So, when we got the news Richard would be home within a couple of months I started going through my FaceBook page to see what had happened when since Richard had left back in January of last year. And, I started writing. Blog, after Blog!
I was doing really well and Richard’s return was delayed because of a problem with his knee that required surgery. When he realized that the Navy was planning to ship him to San Diego for that surgery he jumped into his government rental car and drove from Gulfport to Jacksonville to spend a whirlwind weekend in mid-October with me and the kids. It was lovely. There were none of the arguments and bickering like his seven day visit back in March and the weekend was loving, calm and quiet. It felt like a gift. On my birthday he arranged for me to pick up a Kindle at my local best buy and at the end of October he flew to San Diego. Our phone calls, e-mails, and Skype visits were warm and relaxed. I was jubilant about the changes I had made in myself and for the first time in a long time was hopeful and excited about our future.
Then my world bottomed out. On December 6th Richard called me and told me he wanted a divorce. I was devastated. After calling my phone list of support I found my feet and my strength and started to wrap my head around his decision. By the time he came home for Christmas I had met with a lawyer and had a list of terms,to which he readily agreed. He had his surgery and the Navy released him almost a year to the day of when I broke my leg last year. It seemed ironic to me. During that five months he was in San Diego I completed two terms towards my M.Ed. I moved with the boys to a smaller, more affordable house at the beaches, near their school. And, I began the process of separating Richard from our day to day lives and from the circle of my responsibilities. I cried a lot when no-one was looking.
He came home for ten days at the end of April and went through his things, packing up what he wanted. We talked a lot and really did have some really nice times together with our boys during that time. At the end of the two weeks he loaded up his Penske truck (it looked really empty) and after hugging us, praying with us, and crying, he drove away. It still doesn’t make sense to me, but my job is to soldier on. This does seem to be a reoccurring theme in my life, this need to just keep going. My brother-in-law once said to me that life was a series of highs and lows. We learn from the lows, we celebrate the highs, and in between we just keep plodding on. So I plod.
In typical Richard fashion the responsibilities for his decision rest with me. He is off living his new life in Tennessee. So, needless to say the final ties are still in the process of being cut. For me, it’s more than just the legal stuff required to end almost 14 years of marriage, it’s the stacks and stacks of little things. I still have a BIG box of nothing but paperwork that needs to be sorted and shredded. I’ve started it three times, and make a dent, and then run across that first receipt from the first real furniture we bought together. I start crying and shut down. I still have a BIG box of photos that I need to go through and scan copies of things I know Richard will want to give to him. Other things that need to be wrapped in tissue and photo paper and stored for my boys for later. Cards and letters we have exchanged with each other over the years. If a receipt reduces me to tears how do I even begin with tangible memories.
Last week Richard’s uncle posted some pictures on FaceBook he had found from a visit we had taken to Miami when we first moved to Jacksonville back in 2002. There were pictures of the four of us with the Abuelitas (great grandmothers) and a one of just us and the boys, but the one that reduced me to quivering bowl of jello was a candid shot of me and Richard. He had seen his uncle with the camera and had come up behind me and had spontaneously grabbed me. We were both there, 10 years younger, laughing into the camera. I was thinner, he had more hair, and I remembered that at one time we had been very happy. I had kind of forgotten that. For so long, neither one of us had been happy.
Circumstances can be horrible things. They can isolate, devastate, and alienate. Circumstances played a big part in killing our marriage. We both did not handle life’s curve balls well. It took both of us to break us. Do I believe we could have fixed us? Fixed ourselves? Absolutely! But, Richard doesn’t and I am figuring out what it means to be a single mom. In the midst of this, we are friends and continue to be the best parents we can be as a team. I guess that’s the very best I can hope for at this point and I continue to take consolation in my faith. “For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity. Plans to give you a future and a hope.”