It’s always the same. Inescapable. I know exactly what to expect when my children return home from a vacation with their dad. And I brace myself. I must, for me, but more for them. They come in, high, reeling from a week of lavish restaurants, fancy hotels, expensive gifts, but of most note to them, playtime with the guy they adore, and hardly see. They are elated, but now uneasy. Growing more so by the minute. It’s countdown time. The time to say goodbye is fast approaching and every second counts. The clock is ticking. We each hear it in our mind. Pressing. Beating down on us. Taunting. Edgar Allan Poe would be proud.
The house is warm. Welcoming. A home, by any outsider's account. Their dad comes in. He waits, pensively, for his car to the airport. The children crowd around him on the couch, capturing, stealing, one last moment. Soon he will fly away, back to the other side of the world, and won’t return for nearly two months. It’s not fair, they tell me. No, it most certainly is not. Their eyes are sad. They long to have their parents back together, under one roof. A family. But I remind them that can no longer be. Will never be.
The minutes steadily pass. Unstoppable. Unapologetic in their escape. The kids watch TV alongside their dad. He watches. They watch him. I watch all four, from a chair off in the corner. A spectator. Not an actor. I will be improvising soon. Picking up where their dad left off. Comforting, soothing. Apologizing. Oh, how we’ve failed them. No child should every feel such pain. Born so sweet, so innocent. Our instinct is only to protect. Yet now we must compensate. Make excuses. Amends.
He leaves after a tearful goodbye. Minutes later the children run urgently back to the door. Daddy! I pray he has not left. He’s still there. One more hug, one more kiss, they beg. The children hold on tight. I watch. Quiet. Knowing. The door closes with a callous thud. Closed for the night. Silence. Another chapter ended. And, then I hear it. Recognizable. It emanates from the gut, from deep within. Their souls rise up, and they weep.
Mommy, they implore. Why?
My arms fall open, and my children fight their way onto my lap. They are no longer babies, but nowhere near adults. They cry, tears of misunderstanding. Pain. Resentment.
They talk. I listen. I speak. They reflect. Yes, this is their lot. But they must rise. We all must rise.
They are the faces of divorce. I am the face of divorce.
And tomorrow is a new day.