My holiday marathon is almost over. I’m standing proud, bone and psychically-weary by my efforts. Nonetheless, exhaustion is fair price for the sense of normalcy that infused my interactions with my daughters, and my ex-wife, Caroline.
The hardest moment, without hesitation, came Christmas Day, mid-afternoon. A 32-lb turkey in the oven. Presents all opened. The younger generation in toy comas. Uncles and aunts all over the place, sleeping, reading, social networking.
In the den, it was just my family, plus our two dogs. I was engrossed in the Sunday New York Times crossword, Caroline attacking the sudoku, the three girls were playing a “What Do You Meme” a card game designed for and by millennials. To give you a flavor of what that means, here’s the rule for selecting the judge.
“The person with the most Instagram followers typically starts as the judge. Unless they bought followers, or use 100 hashtags on each post. If you have a friend who does that, slap them firmly in the face.”
Anyway, there we were. Where we had been for over two decades. Where my wife and I brought our youngest daughter, now twenty, home from the hospital.
It was as if nothing was different. Except for the fact, everything is different. We must have been in the den there for close to an hour, completely undisturbed by the throngs of family scattered about.
Remarkably, I wasn’t wishing I had just woken from a dream and my old life was intact. While I mourn the end of a chapter where moments like that were the norm, I am too excited about my future, about my new voice, to imagine returning to my old life.
So I mourned and savored the moment. Thank you Buddhism and Therapy for helping me learn to appreciate conflicting emotions at the same time.
Today, I’m skipping my ex-wife’s birthday celebration. I called Caroline’s sister, who’s hosting and told her. I’m so grateful for how supportive Caroline’s family has been through all this, particularly her sisters and their spouses. They’re committed to keeping me in the fold and that’s extraordinarily gratifying.
I texted my daughters that I wasn’t coming. My youngest responded, “why?”
I replied, “I just think this is your mom’s night.”
And it is. We are no longer married. We will never be “friends,” not in the true sense of the word. We will be friendly. We will be co-parents. We won’t be the first person we call when we’re sad. Or when something spectacular occurs.
In the evolution of our family, this is a good moment to help my daughters understand things are going to be different. Skipping Caroline’s birthday is a small but meaningful gesture towards that end.
In the meanwhile, I’m giving myself a pat on the back.
If you noticed the screen grab at the top of the post, people are reading and sharing my Elephant Journal article! (Since receiving the email, the article has had over 10,000 views, and over 800 shares!)
Thank you! Thank you for reading it. Thank you for sharing it.
If you haven’t read it yet, no worries!
Stay in touch. Connect.
P.S. Congratulations to me!