Sis fell down the stairs on Friday night. Not just two or three, but almost the whole flight of stairs. Those of you with children know how it goes.Yyou think they are right there (I was running a bath for her) and before you know it, you hear a thump (thump, thump, thump) and a wail. Or (as in this case) no wail, which was even scarier. She was sprawled at the bottom of the stairs with a goose-egg on her forehead and the wind knocked out of her. I blew into her face to startle her into taking a breath and she got one single gasp. Her body jerked a little but she still couldn't get air. Seconds passed by like full minutes and in the instant before I went for the phone to call 911, she finally got a deep breath and really let me have it. Even then, she was a little bit limp and didn't want to sit up or open her eyes for a few minutes. Anyone with young children probably remembers their first frantic call to their Pediatrician when Jr. smacked his head a little too hard. Being a mother to Bubba, I am well versed in warning signs to look for after a head bonk. Even after Sis had shaken it off and was running again five minutes later, I kept an eye on her and kept her up an extra hour or so to make sure her pupils remained the same size, that she wasn't going to vomit and that she could keep herself awake, etc. etc. Despite the baby gates I have up and the caution I usually try to take with her, it was my fault and I felt horrible, but she was fine.
A lot ran through my head in those few seconds that I thought I might have something serious on my hands. My first thought was that I was alone with the kids and I didn't know where my phone was immediately. I mentally tried to calculate the time I would need to call 911, plus try to revive Sis if she passed out. The second thought I had was that I was furious at J for not being there. Not only not being there, but I imagined that he must be out playing on his Friday night "off." Surprisingly, I have only felt that level of anger a handful of times (for him anyway. I will freely admit to hating The DLS about 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time, I just feel extreme contempt for her.) After what has gone on in the last year, you might assume that anger would be the primary emotion, but it's not. In my head, Anger is the one eating lunch in the locker room to hide from the bullies like Humiliation and Grief and Shock who generally beat the daylights out of it. Guilt is a sneaky little tag-along that likes to kick me when I'm down. Anger may yet grow up to be big enough to hold its own, but doesn't come out all that often. Yet.
More than one person has expressed their concern to me because I am not angry enough. I have had my moments, but honestly I just don't have the energy for anger right now. It is not a restful emotion and it keeps me awake at night. I believe it would spill over into how my kids see me and see us interact and I have a hard enough time keeping my head above water emotionally anyway. But in the moments I do get mad, it is because something brutally reminds me of how much J has changed our lives forever. It was MY fault Sis fell down the stairs and even if J were still home, there is a good chance it still would have happened sometime. There is also a good chance that it could have happened while he wasn't at home. The point is that he has removed the option of ever being there if we need him in that kind of situation. While my kids are with me, I can almost always count on being alone for any emergency. For a few minutes, I was really scared and not the least of it was how I was going to get help, plus be there for Sis. I was mad because wherever he was and whatever he was doing that night, he was doing it as a result of his choice to not be present with us. He chose to leave me the big things, like what to do if one of the kids gets hurt or sick, as well as the millions of small things, like always having to take three trips to carry in sleeping children by myself when they fall asleep in the car or doing the bedtime routine alone or the constant battle with manners and chores. I have never been so tired as in this past year. Completely aside from the emotional drain, the physical toll is like nothing I have ever felt. I know a few of you can sympathize. Every moment that the kids are with J or in bed is taken up with appointments or tasks that I can't manage with three of them under my feet all day. I go to bed exhausted and guilty with the feeling that my work is not done. I'm trying to be a good mom, but I am more tired than I feel I should have to be. I am more burdened with the things that are small yet add up and should be joint burdens (i.e. working dental insurance into the budget, yard work etc.) On moments like the one with Sis on Friday night, I don't just feel jettisoned as his wife, but also as the mother of his children.
Nine years ago tomorrow, at 10 a.m., J and I were married in the Logan Temple. A year later, we got to spend the weekend of our first anniversary together in South Carolina since his graduation from Basic Training fell on the same weekend. We had been apart for 2 1/2 months and would be apart 2 1/2 more. He wrote to me that being around me strengthened his spirit and that he looked forward to eternity with me every day. This time last year, I was on my way to California to spend our anniversary apart after a summer of assurances from him that he "just didn't love me." Given the previous few months, it didn't feel right to be celebrating a marriage he claimed not to cherish. However, he did joke that this year's anniversary might find us in Bora Bora (one of our dream vacation spots). I still had a lot of faith in him then. A week later, I found out about the girlfriend and a few days after that, he was gone. This year, I am still legally married at the moment (no divorce yet) and there will be no notice of the day from the man I married, who is currently with another woman. I am trying really hard to re-think of my anniversary as the day our family began as opposed to the day we got married. Because regardless of him trying to tell me that it was all a mistake, I have three perfect little people that remind me that it could never be that. Tomorrow, I am going to celebrate my children and their existence. I know that I will find myself being alternately angry at J and missing his presence in our home and in my life. I will be trying hard not to think of our wedding day and the way he used to look at me. I will try not to cry when I spend yet another evening on my own and crawl into bed alone as I have for almost a year. I will try not to think of our past anniversaries and the things he said to me about love and eternity and being so lucky to have me. I will try to forget that he has taken from us the only chance we had at being a normal family. I will try to remember that next year will probably be easier. I will keep in mind that any day, even a painful one, only has 24 hours in it and it can't last forever and it can't kill me.
I will be glad when it is one more thing behind me.