I don’t know why I didn’t figure this out before tonight but the knowledge has me reeling. When I left my Hex-husband five years ago, the divorce process exacerbated and hastened his mental health decline. It honestly never occurred to me that by leaving him his care would fall and fall heavily on my children. I had to get out to save myself and keep my sanity. I have struggled but mostly I have conquered my fears and thrived.
My son lives with him and has been estranged from me since I left. But now I am reframing his dropping out of college and not getting a job as being the primary caregiver for his mentally ill father. My daughter has had to shoulder a lot of the care and worries constantly about her father. She is less worried about me and knows I have a strong support system of friends, co-workers and most importantly, my family. It sounds like his family has not been involved and the kids are on their own trying to keep him safe. So damn painful to hear. And this just never occurred to me. My babies are taking care of their father and he is so ill that he doesn’t see the damage he is causing. Stifling my son’s growth and burdening my daughter. He isn’t being helped by his current therapist and obviously he is in much worse shape than I imagined. I am just so sad. And there is nothing I can do to help.
This week has been filled with several fun events with my beau Henry. Last weekend we spent a glorious autumn afternoon and evening at a local farm. We got lost in a corn maze in the shape of Taylor Swift, slid down slides like children and ate kettle corn while watching fireworks. It was a magnificent, magical day. Perfectly perfect.
Last night we joined 50 or so friends for a hayride and bonfire at the local pumpkin patch near where I live. Henry took some vacation time and we were packed and ready to go before our anticipated departure time. The host of the party, a teacher friend with two kids, took the ribbing about his excessively planned out directions and multiple emails in good fun and the evening was fabulous. We settled into two large hay wagons and began the evening with a nighttime ride through the not so spooky ground of the farm laughing and telling stories and making new friends while also snuggling and gazing up at the deep dark starry night. The wagons dropped us off at our bonfire site and the fire was already blazing. Grilled hot dogs and various goodies that make up the fun of potluck was enjoyed by all and the soothing and mesmerizing fire lent a familiar ambiance and memories of wood fires from the past.
We had electricity at our site and the brother of the host set up his dj equipment so we rocked and boogied and danced in the moon light and fire light. The weather was beyond perfect with only a few layers needed to be toasty and warm. The kids ran around with glow sticks and I wondered out loud how my thirteen years at this school had yielded several marriages and a cropful of children many now 5 and 6 years old. Henry and I were the newest couple and teased affectionately and he was once again impressed by the circle of friends I have. Under the waning moon I thanked God for my blessings and wonderful abundance in my life. It is well with my soul.
For teachers there is no week as horrible as the week containing Halloween. It is like a disease that infects children’s brains and fills them with thoughts of costumes, parades and lots of lots candy. Also known as lost instruction time week, this year it was coupled with a radiant glowing full moon which has been known to turn the nicest class into the equivalent of three squirrels in a coffee can. Despite all attempts to remain focused on schoolwork and in spite of some schools eliminating celebrating Halloween with various forms of Fall Fests or Harvest Fairs the electricity in the schools was palpable. Not helping is the tendency for normal adults to suddenly break out in outlandish costumes and spontaneously combust at parties and various events.
To which I say hurrah! Kids should have fun and be indulged with candy nights and fake fangs. It makes the horrors of real life a bit escapable and in the era of cramming learning into the leftover bits of time between assessments a bit ummm child-like. I have the fondest memories of my childhood trick or treating time and my mother trying determinedly to have us eat something before blowing out the door to beg for sweets. I grew up in the distant past when you could let your children roam freely, eat candy from our buckets without fear of needles or pins or poison and when an apple was a frequent treat or homemade popcorn balls. We knew all the neighbors and they knew us. As we bounded over the lawns and eagerly approached the door there was no fear, no thought of our request for treats being denied and certainly no one knew of the dangers of obesity, gluten and red dye. We were carefree children spilling out our booty on the living room floor and organizing it by candy to begin a fast and furious bidding with my sisters to exchange milky ways for snickers and candy corn for blow pops. It was all so innocent.
It was still fairly innocent and fun when my children were young. Traipsing around in homemade costumes loving sewn or designed by my mother, Maam, the wizard of costumes on a dime. Watching as my children divvied up their winnings and lamenting that they both preferred gummy worms over chocolate and their father exacting a trick or treat tax that mostly consisted of Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups or Nestle’s Crunch. I often wondered who enjoyed the holiday more them or him…..and recall one year when he was disappointed that both kids were worn out after a long day at school, the school parade and class party and wanted to curtail the number of neighborhoods raided in favor of heading home. I think the tax was higher that year!
But now we have teal pumpkins to warn off treat givers, or children carrying signs that they were dairy-free vegans and would only accept organic treats. Where has the innocence gone?
Have we gone too far?
Sometimes out of nowhere, unexpected, unbidden, unwanted I get sad. Not the crippling sadness like when I was seriously depressed but the sads. I know enough about myself to take action and call a friend or put on my sneakers and go for a long walk. But sometimes, just sometimes, not often, more rarely than not; I just let the sads drape gently around my shoulder. I curl up in my bed and sleep or pad from room to room unable to concentrate on reading or doing anything with much purpose until I end up on the couch wrapped in a cozy blanket staring blankly at the wall. I take my medication, I walk the dog I just don’t do much else. It is like a vacation from the pressing life around me. A time out. I can wallow for just a while. Then I shake it off, take a shower, breathe deeply and resume being me.
Sometimes I just get the sads………..
The summer has drawn to a close and I have returned to work but for this weekend I am relaxing and counting my blessings. The last several weeks have been a whirlwind of spending time with my boyfriend, finishing up two graduate classes and celebrating my birthday. This was a big one-55! And the first birthday in ages celebrated with a boyfriend and a happy hopeful heart. I’m not afraid of my age; in fact I am proud to be where I am and what I have achieved especially in the last five years since restarting my life. Life is amazing. The twists and turns have made the journey all the more interesting and rewarding.
As a fun tidbit I was treated to my birthday cake by a manager at Wegman’s. As I was going through the checkout I was making small talk with the cashier and mentioned it was my birthday and he zapped the cake off my bill. Free cake! And even better my girlfriend Angie was in town from Florida and so along with Henry the three of us lit candles, sang Happy Birthday and I made a wish and so far it is coming true!
This weekend is a three day weekend for Labor Day and next weekend is also a three day weekend for Rosh Hashanah. Henry and I are driving up to his parents in northern Vermont. I get excited just thinking about spending the time with him in the car and deepening our connection. And Vermont in the fall is always a treat.