Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Closing the Book
This year has been really significant for me. Yes, we moved and that always has some significance, but there are much bigger issues I have been facing this year.
Back when I was a single mother, I prayed for the strength to reach my forty seventh birthday. I had neither time nor money, so all I truly wanted was to not kill or maim any of us, keeping us safe until the kids were grown, which happened to be right after I turned forty seven. I didn't know back then I would be happily married to Michael. I didn't know we would move 1200 miles away from everything we had ever known. I didn't know I would be writing full time from home, an extravagance by any means, for a woman who didn't have a college education, let alone any experience writing professionally. Back then I had simple wants, needs and wishes. My only real wish was to be an O.K. mother, so the kids would have the future they deserved. Danny was already gone by the time I started wishing to survive until I turned forty seven. Having left me alone with the singular responsibility of raising our kids, I felt there had been a cruel joke played on me and the kids. I never envisioned myself as doing a good job, I always thought surviving was the only priority.
Once Michael came on board, I then saw a different goal, of sorts. I had been married to Danny for nine years. By year seven, things had really started to fall apart. We were growing apart and had little tolerance for the very things we had thought endearing, when we first met. I had worried once Michael and I married that we might fall victim to the same failure. What if I hadn't learned all that I was supposed to? What if I had worse habits than before that would lead to the demise of another marriage, showing the world once and for all, that I was not capable of long term commitment? I had thought when I was young, I was not the marrying kind? My family and I had treated it as a joke, even putting my infamous quote on my engagement cake at Danny's and my party, "I am never getting married". What if never getting married were the best decision I had ever made and doing anything different would ruin Michael's life? The new goal was to be married to Michael longer than I had been married to Danny. That goal was ironically met in August of this year, when the sixteenth rolled around and I had officially been married to Michael longer than I had been married before. We celebrated our ninth anniversary in June; by August we had been married nine years and two months. In my pea sized brain, all I could think of was "Whew!" So I can be married to someone without wrecking things. I am capable of loving someone, long term, whom I didn't give birth to. The relief I felt from having reached my imaginary goal which was quite real to me.
The last goal or page turner for me was this month. It happened yesterday, in a quiet, unassuming kind of way. Yesterday was the anniversary of Danny's death. It has been thirteen years since he passed away. It seems like forever, yet I can recall every detail of the day I got the call. I remember that day as if it were seared into my brain like a cattle brand. Most years, I try hard not to think about it. The kids handle it different every time it rolls around. Some years we cry together, some years they go to their separate corners and mourn, and some years we act as if it never happened. Yesterday was a combination of all those things. I thought early in the day, the page on Danny had been turned for me. Yesterday marked for me the time frame where he has been dead longer than he was alive for me. I knew and loved him a shorter time than I had grieved his demise. Maybe now, finally, I can give both he and I some rest. I forgave all of his indiscretions long ago, but I still had me firmly on the hook for all the wrong I had committed. I dangle myself high in the air, watching as I continued to writhe in the pain I had caused us both. Yesterday was my goal day to let myself get off the emotional steel barb and just get on with my life. I will always love him, forever grateful for the kids and the way they have his traits, genetics and sarcastic wit. I will remember him with kindness, forgiveness and love for the rest of my days, but I will live the remainder of my life focused firmly in the here and now. It has taken all thirteen years to unwrap my fingers from the guilt, shame, mourning and regret. But now I feel the need to step out of the shadow of his death and show my gratitude at having survived this long by living fully, giving freely and loving hard.
I did not change over night. I didn't evolve in a month long reality show. It has taken years to unravel my mistakes, missteps and ego driven misconceptions of who I thought I was. This year was my pay day for years of work, finding out what my purpose was, who I should hitch my wagon to, and where my heart should go next. Every day my first thought is, "Stay in today, tomorrow will take care of itself. If I live in every moment offered, then I will have no regret." I wish I had had loftier goals for myself than survival, but the truth is I did survive, the kids survived and Michael assure me that he isn't going anywhere without me.
Every book has an end, a last page that we re-read to make the words resonate. This is the last page of the book of Daniel for me. I will cherish every word spoken and inferred, I will remember him with warmth, laughter and love, but I will not be reopening chapters that have long outlived their usefulness anymore. I will finally let both of us off the hook.