By Cary J Hansson
It’s been seven days (not seven hours) since he took his love away. And of course, now I can do whatever I want. And because I can’t sing it like Sinead, I will write it like me.
I haven’t been to any fancy restaurants, in fact seven days and seven nights later, I can’t even remember what I did on that first night. If I had a glass of wine? What I watched on TV? What I talked about with my son and daughter? What we had that first dinner? That first evening I knew he wouldn’t be coming home.
I know I watched the clock too much, hearing the ghost echo of the door-code that should have signalled him coming in from work.
I know I tried to picture what he was doing, and where he might be.
I know I cried myself to sleep. The bed. The ridiculous size of it now, and the smallness of my pillow.
The first morning? I did what I always did. Got up. Made a cup of tea, went out onto the deck and listened to the birds, his presence replaced now by a heavy loneliness that was always ahead … Arriving before me, whichever way I turned, meeting me head-on as I walked through my home. The familiar, you see, can become the uncomfortably strange in the blink of an eye. The left-hand side of the settee, where he always sat, the hook on the bedroom door where his dressing-gown used to hang, one cup, not two, next to the teapot.
I’ve worked. Very hard. Whenever and wherever there have been a few hours spare, I’ve methodically set about my to-do list, ticking off job after job. And that feels good.
I’ve done my Heather Robertson HIIIT workout at home. (She’s brilliant. Here’s a link: https://www.youtube.com/@Heatherrobertsoncom)
I’ve done a few fasts, and a few meditations with my app. All of these things have, at various points, kept me afloat and I’m thankful that I’m old enough and wise enough to understand this. To be able to see clearly (and in a way I’m not sure I would have, thirty years ago) where the path forward is, and how to get on it.
I’ve taken my son here and there. I’ve made a few dinners, done one large grocery shop, made arrangements to go out with a friend, and then cancelled.
I’ve taken two long baths, even in the heat of summer. I’ve started a new book: a thriller, which is not my style, but under the circumstances a page -turner is required.
And then on Saturday my son decided that the situation felt less ‘weird’ and that he was ‘interested’ in seeing Pappa’s new place and yes, was ready to spend the night there. So I dropped him off and came home and worked and worked and worked, and when I couldn’t work anymore, that’s when it hit me.
The utter emptiness of my home. Again.
I’ve been here before, you see. Fifteen years ago when I separated from the father of my older children, I’ve always remembered the first weekend they went to stay with him. The harsh reality of what divorce sounds and looks like: silent rooms, empty beds. I never imagined I would be in that situation again, but on Saturday night when I stood in the doorway of my son’s bedroom and looked at the space where he should have been sleeping, that’s when this wrecking ball which has been gathering weight and momentum all week, floored me.
But crying is good. It really is. It’s cathartic and by its very nature, transitory, and when it was over, Saturday had seeped into Sunday and the rest of that rainy first weekend was saved by a combination of all of the above and a ridiculous, but compelling, reality show that my son loves and that was easy to lose myself in when he came home.
And now, I’ve even taken him on a drive-by to see our new flat and was buoyed by his reaction. He’s excited. A new school after the summer, a new ‘cosy’ home (his words). At twelve years old it’s so much easier for him to live in the moment, to not dwell on impossible futures. Me too. That’s my mantra too now, because learning to switch your mind off, is like putting a leash on the manic puppy tearing around the house, chewing up the carpets. And at fifty-six I’m training my mind, to think more like a child again. I refuse to ‘over-think’ things, I won’t ‘dwell’. I will concentrate only what excites me, on what is good and positive.
And so here I am a full week later.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still snatching pockets of privacy in which to weep, still wondering where he is and what he might be up to. But already the ghost-echo of the door-code is fading and I think this is what fuels those pockets of grief more than anything.
We’ll always be best friends, he said to me a few weeks ago, but even then I knew it wasn’t true.
Don’t you understand? I wanted to say. We will grow apart. Everything that we had, will fade and eventually vanish and we will become nothing more than acquaintances to each other, nodding politely and engaging in small talk when we meet at family occasions. And no one can stop this because over time people grow apart as surely as rivers.
He will start something new soon. And for a while he will go to speak, and my name, not hers, will be on his lips. Nearly always he’ll be able to stop himself, and maybe sometimes he won’t. But it’s only a pattern and eventually, what is strange and new, will become familiar and this echo, the echo of my name, just like the ghost echo of the door code, will also fade.
And this is what I’m mourning. The loss of what was once so special. Does nothing last?
Don’t even try to answer that. It’s too sad and I refuse to turn this into a pity-fest.