A Year and a Day

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Life in the Third Degree.

A year and a day. That’s how much time has passed since I cringed and looked into my husband’s eyes and told him I saw him for what he was and that I was leaving him. A year and a day, and it’s been a lifetime ago, one that’s passed so quickly.

Working Through Grief

Over the centuries, “a year and a day” has come to mark a passage, more of a rite of passage than just a passage of time. Handfastings, sort of a pagan wedding, are often for a year and a day as are certain phases of dedication or initiation in some spiritual traditions. One of my favorite folk songs that I was raised on and often sang to my daughters as they slept in the car on long ride—sans their father—to their grandmother’s house speaks of a woman sitting on her true love’s grave and mourning for 12 months and a day, another tradition of the era.

I can’t say that the past year has been spent in mourning like the lover at the grave. To me, it seems the mourning was all before the divorce. Most of it. It wasn’t spent in celebration, like the lovers in the handfastings, though there were certainly times of fresh joy in this year. It seems most akin to a year spent in initiation, more of a spiritual and personal awakening.

Outsiders who don’t know me probably think I haven’t “moved on.” I spend time alone with my kids and my close friends and with myself rather than with the sex monkey of the week. I’m not spotted out and about, painting the town red or magenta or whatever the appropriate color might be. Friends who initially didn’t want me to date for a while have now decided they’re nervous that I haven’t found a second husband. It’s been a year, they tell me. It’s time to move on.

My moving on has been internal, and that’s the way it needs to be for all us, in my opinion. Internal first.

My ex seems to be moving on as well, though it seems more external to me. I’m told he has a new girlfriend he tells the kids he met a month ago. I’m told they’re living together and have been for longer than he says he met her. It amuses me that my children aren’t supposed to realize Daddy’s girlfriend is living with him.

Why do I get the fun of explaining why her car is in his garage, why she gets a key to the house and they don’t, why her razor is on his lavatory and there’s leg hair in the tub, why her panties are on his floor? I had no idea my children were so stupid that they couldn’t figure this one out….

But I’m truly glad he has someone else now to focus his energies on. Truly. It’s one less thing to weigh me down and he’s nicer to the kids around her.

Yet, after our teen called to clear it with him that she had plans with a friend on her night with Dad—with someone who’s helping her with trust issues in the wake of her issues with her father—he spent the next phone call poor-mouthing to her sister about how he never gets to spend any time with them but was going to be an hour late picking her up on his night with her.

Yes, it’s still all about him. Still. Not about what our teen needed. Not about how devastated she’s been that she said something thoughtless and hurt a friend and had no clue how to make it better. He ended the call to our other daughter in a pissy mood.

And wow, did all those memories flood back! Bad mood on the phone. Cutting words. Manipulative words. Angry words. And me not knowing what mood he’d be in when he came by to pick up our younger daughter. Would he be happy in front of the new girlfriend? Would he cover his bad mood so she wouldn’t see? Or would it be cut and slash at the door?

My chest tightens and my heart races just at the thought of it, and I’m so glad that in most of the past year and a day, I’ve not had to deal with his daily abuse. Sometimes I need things like this to happen just to give me a contrast and remind me how much better life is now.

But other things remind me, too, as I move forward in my own way. The Treat and I are talking again, mainly through a flurry of text messages sent between meetings and meals and extremely busy lives. I wince at the thought of my cell phone bill but I’ll take out a loan if I have to, as long as the level of conversation stays this invigorating and insightful and inciteful.

We’ve been carrying on a rather personal conversation for the past week, throughout the days and evenings. It’s deep and intimate and terrifying. Some of what I’ve said has been so close to the bone that I’ve been certain he’ll come back and tell me to go to hell. Or not respond at all. Ever.

The latest topic of discussion is how we as humans look for certain things in a mate, especially the things we can’t have, as uberversions of a parent and often get clones of a parent or worse. Today it hit me what I look for: I recreate my father in emotionally unavailable men whose love can never be earned no matter how hard I try because they don’t love themselves or love without condition. Yes, I’m damned.

And this is where I sink down to my knees and stare at the carpet. For as much as I enjoy these little conversations with The Treat, I have to wonder if he, too, is emotionally unavailable or if in fact, anyone really is emotionally available.

But the worse thing I think of is what my daughters might look for mates: uberversions of their father.