Six little words. Six little words were all it took to let Sadness in the door. And last night at this time Saddness she was sitting on my chest, refusing to get off.
Mondays are Max’s day with his dad. For me, they are a rare break. At first they felt empty and alone. I would stay long hours at work or wander aimlessly through the downtown. But lately I have claimed Monday nights as me-time. I write. I draw. I wander with purpose. I eat ice cream. Every Monday I arrive home between 7 and 8. Technically, I am not back on duty until 8. But Max loves having Juan and I in the same place so much. Its now part of our routine. I come home a little early. Juan leaves a little late. We play a card game. Kick a ball around. Watch a movie. The three of us. The whole family. For twenty minutes, once a week.
Yesterday we played a made up game with the Pokemon cards and we asked Max if he was excited about his impending graduation from pre-school. He was thoughtful and serious. “Yes,” he said. “We are going to sing. But don’t tell anyone. Its a surprise for the parents.” We pinky promised the three of us. As Juan kissed him goodnight, he said to him “I will see you tomorrow, mijo. At your graduation.” “Yes,” Max said wide eyed and solemn. “The whole family will be there”.
When Max says “the whole family” he does not mean a carload of siblings, or a parade of grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts. No, for him the whole family means Papi, Mommy and Max. Sometimes when he is feeling generous and expansive he includes Rosie the cat. But usually its just the three of us. Together in one place.
Having the whole family together is something most of his friends take for granted. Its a weekday supper, a Saturday morning, a regular, banal affair. But for Max it is a rare treat to be savored. A holy serious and noteworthy occasion. And I hate this. I hate it with ever fiber of my being.
Long after Max had laid his tired head to sleep, these six little words left me sobbing audibly, mourning all he has lost and all that which I too have lost through this separation–this soon to be divorce.
Because those words signified a deeper truth that none of us dared whisper–Our family is not whole. And this has left all three of us a little worse for the wear.
As I tumble through the never ending days with their up and downs I am saddened and angry that I cannot process the day with the only other person who loves Max as much as I do. I am lonely in my worry about his cough–“Did that sound OK to you?” I ask to noone in particuar. There is only a journal to reflect my memories back at me. No one to giggle with over the silly jokes at the dinner table.
And I know that Juan mourns too. But his pain must be so much worse. For he must feel a deep emptiness that comes from not being there to bear witness to this great life he helped create. Most days he misses so much.
But mostly I mourn for Max. He recently shared with me that he can’t really remember what it was like when Juan lived at home with us. He only knows that he misses it. That it is somehow a little sadder without his papi around.
We are trying, the three of us, to make something new out of the ashes of the old. It will never be the way it was–it cannot be. And while I mourn what is lost, I am proud that we are trying to make something meaningful out of the messiness. I know too many families who cannot be together for their kids–they split up holidays, birthdays, trade off on special events. Their children will never even know what it is like to have the Whole Family There. We lurch about gracelessly but at least we try.
Today Juan and I sat together, side by side and watched the singing, the parading. I cried in the beginning. Juan teared up at the end. Together we heard Max’s teacher talk about how he wants to be a policeman just like his Uncle Sean and we smile at each other knowingly. “Of course,” we say “Yes.” Together we beam with pride. Max beams back at us and points us out to his friends. “Look” he says–“my mom AND my dad” giggling with delight. His friends look at him blankly–they do not know the joy of whole family-ness even though they experience it each day. And maybe, just maybe, Max is rather blessed to learn at such a young age to appreciate such a precious gift.
This morning for just an instant we were whole again. The whole family was there together. Different, maybe not better, but most definitely for a brief moment whole.