As I’ve progressed through the process of separation continuing into divorce, women will frequently ask me, “How are you doing?”. My standard answer is that I’m doing fine. To which they reply “well, it’s coming” as they give me a look that says they pity me and are thinking, “Oh you naive fool, you don’t know what kind of pain lies ahead for you.”
These women never spell out to me what the ominous “it” is that’s coming—just that it is something hard. I think this past 48 hours I have gotten my first real dose of “it”, as I have spent Thanksgiving alone with no family to visit.
The thought of spending Thanksgiving alone didn’t concern me at first because I am a loner. Generally speaking, having the house to myself is a huge treat. I can sit in my favorite recliner, type more than one sentence without being interrupted, watch R rated movies without worrying about the kids seeing, etc…
So the idea of spending Thanksgiving alone really didn’t scare me at all. The older I get the faster the time goes by. A year is a frighteningly short period of time nowadays. It seems we just had our last Thanksgiving a couple of months ago…so what do I care about missing this one? Besides, there are too many damn holidays anyway. One is hardly in the books before another one is here.
Given my lack of holiday sentiment, I am surprised that “it” has bugged me more than I expected. I know women get emotional when they pack certain pictures, or certain keepsakes that have sentimental memories attached to it. As a guy I didn’t think that would be a major factor for me. I mean, I am not a heartless bastard, so breaking up my family of two decades is emotionally heavy, don’t misunderstand me on that. But I’m not going to overwhelmed by waves of sadness because of insert momento here…I’m a dude! Dudes don’t do that!
Or so I thought. I was wrong. “It” has kind of gotten to me.
Like I say, it is always a treat to have a quiet house to myself. So I got home from work Wednesday and it was deathly quiet. I sat in my favorite recliner and it just didn’t feel the same. My favorite lamp next to it was missing. Hell, all the lamps in the house are already packed up.
The house is dark and lonely.
My therapist says that men are conditioned to feel three emotions: anger, lust, and happiness (but only a little bit of happiness). She says, as a result, that we will redirect other emotions towards these three.
I’m sitting in my favorite chair and it just doesn’t feel the same. I get up to pour a scotch (now Johnnie Walker Black instead of Dewars) and my favorite lowball glasses are gone. Packed away. FUCK! Drinking scotch out of a plastic Xaxby’s kiddie cup just isn’t the same as my nice lowball (old fashioned) glasses.
Then I start to get mad. Why did she have to pack this stuff up so early? She still has two more weeks to go, why is she packing up all this stuff already!? I mean it is one thing if we aren’t using it. But why pack up the stuff we use day-to-day! So I am pouty and mad over nothing—a stupid lamp and a stupid glass. Big deal.
Something else was missing. I walked downstairs and saw empty blankets on the floor. Smelly empty blankets right where the dog is supposed to be. This damn black lab we rescued worships me. We have a major love-hate relationship. I move the SOB’s blankets out of the way, and he will put them in his mouth and drag them where he wants them. Right where he can lie down and keep a vigilant eye on me.
He wasn’t there. And that tail that thumps the ground every time he sees me wasn’t there either. I am apparently conditioned to expect to hear that black lab otter tail hitting the ground as it wags at the mere sight of me. That is when it hit me. This is “it”.
I was sad. I was sad that my wife was moving on. I was sad that a phase of my life was ending. And I felt guilty that of all the things I have going on, the wagging tail that wasn’t there is what sent me over the edge. It wasn’t the missing children, nieces and nephews. It wasn’t the turkey and dressing. It wasn’t football. It wasn’t pecan pie. It wasn’t throwing ball in the yard. It wasn’t packing up pictures, jewelry, souvenirs. It wasn’t any of that stuff…
..it was when I walk downstairs, I am supposed to hear that wagging tail. I am supposed to hear that tail start slapping the ground like a beaver. It is his hopeful smile that is always there when I walk in the room. The tail that wasn’t there got to me.
There is no getting around it. The missing lamp and the missing glasses symbolize a lot. My wife is moving on. She is strong. She is not going to wallow in pity and a cry about 18 years of water under the bridge. She is moving forward with stubborn determination no one else on the planet can match. She is getting ready to start her new life.
Too late to turn back now. I had better find the strength move forward too.