Life after divorce has meant a myriad of issues, including parental, personal, financial and familial. I expected this. What I didn’t predict was that I no longer could be afraid to be alone after divorce. Before my ex-husband left, if there was a strange noise in the house, he went to investigate. When there was a snow storm outside and we were snowed in without power, he started our snow blower, manually opened the garage door, and drove to Sears and picked out the best generator.
When a family of squirrels took residence in our attic, partying through the night, he climbed up and rigged a trap to catch the feisty family. Of course, there were many things he didn’t do that fell upon my shoulders (mowing the lawn, planning all holidays and vacations and, most importantly, arguing down our property taxes), but these things didn’t prepare me for how scary it feels to have to be the brave one.
Admittedly, I was always afraid of the dark. I owe a great deal of gratitude that lava lamps made their way back into dorm room décor the year I went off to college. Thankfully, with my first apartment the lighted potpourri warmer was all the rage. When I got my first house and nice TV, I could afford to fall asleep to the nightly news and awake to Al Roker discussing the weather.
However, after meeting my husband, things changed. He needed it perfectly quiet and dark to sleep. At 6’2 and 200lbs, I concluded that he might be more protective than a remote control or hot wax; hence, gone were the days of falling asleep to Letterman and lavender.
Ten years and a divorce later, I have three sons: a seven-year-old and twins who are three. For the most part, they were good sleepers—no night light needed until about a month after my ex moved out. At first, my eldest son worried about safety and began having anxiety attacks. He couldn’t sleep because he worried that someone would break in. He became obsessed with death and all the ways he had seen people die on TV.
My son Logan began to have night terrors and ended up all over the house—sometimes screaming and sometimes peeing (in my new washing machine twice). So, I threw my time and energy into easing their fears.
I had the police officer at the high school I work at come and take a look at my home and make suggestions on easy, economical ways to make our house safer. I installed outside motion lights; I got PVC pipe cut to fit into my sliding door jams; I stopped opening ground floor windows, and I rescued a German Shepherd puppy from the Humane Society. And, for the most part, these things all worked until my youngest, Ethan, got sick…again
I will never forget the first time, pre-divorce, when we discovered his tumor. I had returned from about 12 hours at our local track raising money for Relay for Life. My ex had been caring for our sons by himself for the first time. When I walked in to check on them, I saw fear on his face—real fear. The tumor arrived overnight and measured about 4 inches across, 5 inches long, and 2 millimeters deep. That Saturday we rushed to his pediatrician expecting answers. Instead, we began a long road of questions.
After being sent to one hospital and then to another that day, we finally saw a doctor who could tell us something. He had never seen anything like our son’s tumor. After days of tests, finding another tumor on his right testicle, fearing we were dealing with Leukemia and then rejoicing that the test was negative, Ethan went into surgery with a medical team of eight ready to remove two large benign tumors.
We were told that they could come back; they were atypical. Ethan’s grew on the outside and the inside. We would have to measure the remaining tumor (they couldn’t take all of it without destroying muscle tissue) and scar tissue every month to ensure there was no growth. We left the Children’s Hospital after five days feeling lucky and relieved.
It returned two years later, only this time we were separated. This time, I was the one who discovered the growth and I was the one who was scared to death. But after I broke the news, and we went through the appointments and the preparation for the next surgery, my ex and I bonded. My ex wasn’t the man who hurt my children by cheating; he became my partner in ensuring my son got the best medical attention he needed.
He became my friend and family again, knowing how deep my worries were and how badly I was hurting. And, we made it through again. We even survived a stay in the same hotel room at Mayo clinic because neither one of us was willing to leave our Ethan’s side before surgery.
Last night, my boyfriend told me that he needed space and time; last night my ex-husband called to tell me that the tumor had come back again. All of a sudden, I was thrust back into the turmoil that existed when I felt the weight of going through another potential medical crisis alone.
My parents died when I was young, and so my friends and then my husband became my family. When we divorced, I wasn’t just scared of the dark and all that occurs at night,
I was scared of being alone to handle all that life throws at a family.
I was scared that I wasn’t brave enough;
I was scared that I wouldn’t make the right decisions;
I was scared that I couldn’t hide my fear from my boys;
I was scared that I wouldn’t be sane if something went wrong.
But, I also knew that I was strong enough to beat the monsters away and face that fear, and, I did!
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