Another step in the journey through my parent's divorce...
::He Left It For Me::
Stepping off the school bus, I know that today is the day. I’m not sure what I had expected: grey skies drearily drizzling rain? A large moving truck to haul away his things?
Three months had gone by since I was let in on the truth of my parent’s dying marriage. I knew it was ending. I knew he was leaving for someone else. I had spent the last few months emotionally tossed back and forth in the waves of the storm. Night after night, I fell asleep to my mother in her room while my dad was on the couch. It was all my mom could do to wake up every morning and go about her day. There was a lot of yelling. A lot of slamming doors. A lot of wondering where they'd scampered off to, and whether they would come home. There were times I thought maybe he’d stay, that they would work things out.
But most of the time, it was only waiting for the inevitable.
Inevitable arrived today.
No boxes were left on the front step, as he is apparently a meticulous mover. I walk through the front door. No movement. No sound. Somehow, in this life-altering moment, I am alone. I expect things to feel different. But, the light hits the floor from the window the same way it does every afternoon. The pillows sit on opposite ends of the couch, just like always. And yet.
He is gone.
I stand at the bottom of the stairs, staring up. For months, I had waited for the inevitable: for the decision to be made, for him to pack up, for him to leave. Now I stall. I stand at the bottom of the steps, hesitating. Waiting. Because even after all this time, I’m not ready to face it. I know once I make my way, step by step, to the top landing, I would have to walk through their bedroom door. I know once I open the door, all the familiar furniture would be there: the bed, the dresser, the bureau.
But the dresser would be empty.
And then his leaving would be inescapably real.
I lift my left foot and place it on the bottom step. I follow with the right. Like this, step by step, I make my way up the staircase. It might have taken me an hour. Possibly two. Step by step, I make my way to the fate at the top of the stairs, behind the bedroom door.
Arriving at my destination I find the door is slightly ajar. My heart is racing, my mind is numb. I force my arm to lift to the door knob. I will my hand to grasp the brass hardware. I make myself breathe.
The door creaks open slowly, inch by inch giving way to what hides inside. The room, the furniture, the drapes, are all the same. Seemingly untouched by the weight of today’s events. I envy this, wishing I could be the unaffected carpet or the aloof night table. Nothing about them will change. Everything about me has turned inside out.
Because he is gone.
I make my way over to his dresser and open a drawer. No neatly folded shirts, no perfectly pressed pants. He packed it all up and whisked them away to his new life. A life away from us. My eyes feel heavy, a wetness forming at the corners. I close the empty drawer and walk over to the closet. I mentally prepare myself for what I will find behind the door. It would not be empty: her dresses would still be hanging sullenly, her shoes would still be scattered along the floor. But there would be a space where his work clothes used to reside, gaps on the shelves where his shoes used to sleep.
I stand in front of the open closet, perusing the scene I had already drawn in my mind. Exactly as I had pictured. Somehow, half full disturbs me more than completely empty. I have my complete confirmation: he is gone. I have faced the inevitable. So I politely close the door, and turn to leave, when I see it.
On the cream bedspread, a spot of garnet catches my eye. I stare blankly for several minutes, emotions spilling over my heart. His hat sits neatly on the bed. A brimmed headpiece emblazoned with my high school logo which I had given to him for Christmas several months earlier. It was my hope he would wear the hat to school events over the next few years, proudly cheering his daughter on. And for a moment, I believe:
He left it for me.
I want to believe this is true. I want to believe that my father chose this talisman as a way to speak to me. To reach out. To hold on. To tell me he was leaving, but he wasn’t far away. To tell me things were different, but everything would be okay. To tell me he would miss me, he could never forget me.
I want to believe he left it for me, so I would always know he loved me.
But as I stare at the maroon form sitting on the bed, I know he has forgotten it in his haste to leave.
The brightness that had sparked in my chest darkens. The tears threatening at the corners of my eyes spill down my cheeks. I barely hear the loud bang of the bedroom door slamming shut behind me. At the top of the stairs, I stand facing the descent. I know by leaving the room and shutting the door, I’ve turned my back on a former life. At the bottom of the stairs my new life waits to greet me: a life with divorce, a life with anger, a life that is unsettled, a life with questions unanswered.
I make my way down the stairs, wishing he had left the hat for me.
I wonder: if he had, would it make a difference?
I’ll never know.
To catch up on previous Divorce Memoirs (Maybe and I Knew) or to read other posts in the Divorce series, you can find other posts here. More of the series to come next week.
How has divorced touched your life? What is your story? Leave a comment and tell us about your journey.