Long Time Gone

May 15, 2013

It’s been a long time! I was busy writing a paper so I could finally graduate from my Master’s in Mental Health Counseling program. I did it! It has been a very long road and during the four plus years I was going to school, I got divorced (which took over 3 years), fell in love (which took about 3 days), ran my first (and only) half-marathon (which took 2 hours and 23 seconds), and jumped off a telephone pole (which took 3 seconds). I had two kids graduate from middle school, one graduate from high school and go to college, made new friends, moved out of my home of 19 years, bought my first house, started writing again, and got a job. You’re probably wondering about the telephone pole.

Going back to school was life-saving. Sometimes, it was my respite from the insanity of trying to divorce my alcoholic husband. When I first started school, I had only recently gotten my husband out of the house, but he kept coming back, unannounced, to alternately woo and threaten me back into submission. Of course, no one at school knew any of this. No one knew that when I left my house for my evening classes, I worried that my husband would turn up at the house and scare our children. I worried he would come back to the house and refuse to leave. He was always drunk when he came over, and I always put myself between him and the children, in an attempt to shield them. What would happen if he came when I was not there?

About a month into the semester, my girls and I were driving home from the barn when we saw ambulances and police cars surrounding a vehicle in a parking lot just up the road from our house. Standing in the middle of it all was my adult stepson; he was next to his father’s car and he was crying. I stopped my car and told the girls to wait, to not get out of the car. I was afraid of what they would find. The EMTs were pulling my husband out of his parked car. He looked dead. Apparently he had been on the way to our house. Maybe he knew he was too drunk to make it up our stairs. Maybe he wanted to sit in his car and drink some more. Whatever the reason, I’m glad he never made it to our house. Instead, he had pulled into the tennis court parking lot and, at some point, called his son, who then called 911. The policemen told me that they had found him unconscious in the car. During the few minutes that I spoke with the police, I knew my children had seen something frightening and confusing. When I went back to the car, they cried and asked me, “Is Daddy dead?”  I tried to reassure them that he would be okay, but really, I wasn’t sure. As I drove them back to the safety of our home, and it was safe, for he would not be coming that day, I intercepted my 10 year old son and his friend who were on their way to discover the reason for the sirens. I lied to my son, telling him that I did not know what had happened, but later, I knew he knew, and I looked into his tear-filled eyes and told him the truth.

What do these moments do to a child? I wonder, because, as an adult, I continue to be haunted by these memories. I write of these memories here so that they have a place to live, instead of in my head, and I feel a little freer. Free from the idea that my children and I are trapped in our history. Because the truth is, bad things happen. Most of us do not have perfect childhoods, do not have two perfect parents. When I look at my children, I see that while they have their wounds, they are, in fact, strong. Stronger and wiser, braver and kinder than they might have been had they not lived through these challenges.  I work on seeing them not as victims, but as the heroes they are. We are a family of heroes, standing up for ourselves and each other. And we are going to be just fine. Better than fine. We are going to be awesome.

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