It's hard to believe that it's been eleven months since my daughter's ex-husband walked out on her and their then five month old baby son. The little butterbean is 16 months old now, and thriving. We got to spend some time with him this past weekend.
My daughter appears to be thriving too, but I know the hurt goes deep. It doesn't help that her ex is, according to Facebook, in a relationship. He's dating someone who posts about what an awesome boyfriend he is.
I do have to wonder about a woman who dates a man who walked out on his wife and baby, who was unfaithful while his wife was pregnant. She may not know the latter, but the baby is empirical evidence of the former.
Maybe it will help my daughter let go and move on.
A few months ago, I asked her if she'd thought about dating. Her answer was, I'm not ready. Something about the flat way she said it made me decide not to ask again. She will tell me when and if she wants to.
I do understand not being ready so very well. And I know it won't be easy, with a toddler. Her ex has the baby 8 nights a month. My daughter uses those nights to catch up on work, do laundry, and take care of all those little things that she doesn't have time to do the other 20-odd nights a month, because she's feeding a baby and playing with a baby and bathing a baby and reading to a baby and putting a baby to bed. And then I imagine falling into bed herself.
When she is ready, I have to believe she will find her way.
In light of the harm done to my daughter and the courageous way she has rebounded and rocked the single mom thing, I allow that the despair I suffered in the story I've been recounting might be considered overblown and melodramatic. I will always acknowledge and honor the pain of those who've suffered more egregious damage and borne it more stoically and bravely than I did.
But my story is what it is. I felt the feelings I felt. I'm recording the story as it played out, for no other reason than that I feel like telling it.
A few days ago, I saw this quote on Facebook.
When you can tell the story and it doesn't bring any pain, you know that it has healed.I looked it up, and it's attributed to inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant.
There was a time, more than a year after Marty left, that I realized I was 90 percent healed. I thought I might never manage that last 10 percent, and I was OK with that. I was grateful that I'd come so far.
And look at me, I'm telling the story now. And while I remember the pain, I no longer feel it.
After three months of no contact, on December 27, 2001, I got an e-mail from Marty. It started like this.
Hi, Liz.... Just wanted to wish you happy holidays and hope that you’re well and happy....There was a little stuff about work and about his divorce being final.
It ended like this.
Here are a couple of photos – one with the boys at Thanksgiving dinner, and another of me by Oswego Harbor, one of my favorite places in the world.... A greeting card of sorts, I guess.The last time we talked, he had told me his relationship with Mary was still as unresolved as ever, and that they weren't currently speaking. But he clearly didn't consider it to be over, despite the fact that his personal ad was back online from about three weeks after he pushed me away.
Fondest wishes and hugs to you.... Marty
Until now, our phone call in early October was our last contact. One of the things he said during that call was that he didn't enjoy hurting people. At the end of the call, I told him, you know I love you (a mistake, I know), and he said, you know I care.
Then there was silence.
So it came as a shock to to get the email from him. And I have to say a part of my heart was gladdened.
I knew it might mean nothing more than that he was bored and lonely one night and thought about me. Or maybe he wanted to reassure himself that he was still desirable to me and then he could push me away again.
The remote possibility that he realized he made a terrible mistake and wanted to come back was probably just my ego running amok.
So, why was I having cold sweats and shakes?
While I was still deliberating what I wanted to do about it, I got a second message from him, on December 29. It was short, silly, flirtatious.
Obviously, for whatever reasons, I was on his mind.
On December 30, I sent a reply. I didn't beat around the bush. It started like this.
Marty,And it ended like this.
Thanks for the holiday wishes.
So, you went to New York - how did things work out with Mary?
Take care,I posted about it on the support forum.
I wonder what he will do with that.How sure of myself I sounded.
I wonder what I will do if he calls and asks me to see him.
I wonder how I will feel if he doesn't.
I think I will be OK if he doesn't. I'm used to that by now.
But if he does, what am I going to do?
Yesterday was such a beautiful day. And all I could think about was that it was the perfect day to go to the zoo - and I wanted to go with Marty. I just wanted to walk around and look at the animals and maybe sit in the sun somewhere and have a cappuccino and not worry about anything serious like long-term relationships and love and loss.
Just for comparison, I pictured the same scenario with Mark and it felt totally different.
I don't know what is going to happen, 99 percent probability, nothing. More likely than not he's bored and lonely and wants to reassure himself that he still has me in his power. Whether he does or he doesn't, I am damn sure not going to let him think that he does.
Nothing in my life before like this that has gone wrong ever got turned around and went right. Does that mean it couldn't? No.
But it would take a huge amount of work to rebuild trust. If he does want me (which is extremely speculative) he is going to have to work harder than he has ever worked for anything in his life.
And if he doesn't, well, I think I am pretty immune to being hurt further by him. I can take this attention he is choosing to pay me now as some richly deserved salve for my crumpled ego and go on about my life feeling a little lighter-hearted.
On December 31 I got my answer. It started like this.
Hi, Liz.And it ended like this.
Things with Mary are, to borrow your Chinese curse, interesting. We are in touch, we still love each other, and the distance is the issue.
I wish and hope to move home again some day, sooner rather than later, and maybe we'll have a chance to become a real couple again.
Meanwhile, we do our best to hang on. On any given day, that can feel sad, happy, great, miserable..... you name it.
I hope it doesn't seem strange to you that I wrote... It has been a remarkable year in my life, and I have to say how well I think of you all of the right and bittersweet ways one can.It was over - all over again.
It pains me to think of the hurt I caused you - you are a lovable and sweet woman who deserves happiness on your own terms. So, at this time of year, I found myself thinking of you and wanting you to know our memories are warm and happy ones for me.
Happy New Year!
Damn Marty. Damn me.
I didn't think it could still hurt so much.
I posted this.
So it ends now. One more river of tears, one more getting up tomorrow and starting my life all over again.That night, New Year's Eve, Mark came to my house with a ring box, an engagement ring. I wouldn't open the box, wouldn't even look at the ring.
Three days of hope, hope that I didn't even allow myself to recognize as hope until it was blighted. I slept with hope in my heart and woke up with hope and now I find myself back in the darkness.
Surely three days from now I will be back to where I was three days ago. Or maybe I will be even better than I was three days ago.
But right now I want to cry until I come to the end of all the tears in the world. And I want to call him and tell him how much it hurts, I want to drive over and knock on his door and look him in the eyes with my heartache and bottomless sorrow and love and tell him he has made the most terrible mistake any human can make and not leave until he knows it.
But what I am going to try to do is nothing.
I was sad and sick at heart, and I was weary of resisting his relentless desire to hold me and to make love to me.
I wouldn't, couldn't marry him.
But what the hell did it matter whether or not I let him touch me.
Marty wasn't coming back.
"Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed
Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed
Whatever colors you have in your mind
I'll show them to you and you'll see them shine.
Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed
Stay, lady, stay, stay with your man awhile
Until the break of day, let me see you make him smile
His clothes are dirty but his hands are clean
And you're the best thing that he's ever seen.
Stay, lady, stay, stay with your man awhile
Why wait any longer for the world to begin
You can have your cake and eat it too
Why wait any longer for the one you love
When he's standing in front of you."