The other night, the kids and I were finishing up dinner—leftover baked ziti. An uninspired but efficient meal. I find the daily meal more like the daily grind. C. was the one who cooked, who took pleasure in the preparation of not one! (for the kids) but two! (for the two of us) evening meals. I need a recipe hours beforehand, and the ingredients precisely lined up, and a carefully plotted timeline, which is to say, I’m exhausted by the initial pan of baked ziti before I even begin.The kids thoughtfully chewed the microwaved ziti and steered the conversation to some voice-changing App Sophia had on her phone which they found hilarious. Then Alexander sighed, stood up, and walked into the kitchen with his almost-emptied bowl. He clattered around in the kitchen, the sink turning on and off, then came back to the table and sat down.
“Hey!” I said. “What did you do with your bowl?”Alexander turned serious. “Well, I was thinking about the divorce, and how you no longer have Dad around which means you don’t have a lot of help. So I decided I needed to take on more responsibility and help out around the house. So I scraped the rest of my food in the garbage and rinsed out my bowl.”
I wanted to cry. I wanted to throw myself at him, scoop him up, tell him he didn’t have to worry about being responsible for anything and that this was all on his Dad and me. I wanted to tell him he was the sweetest boy in the world. So I did.“Alexander, I could eat you all up you’re so sweet. That’s about the nicest thing anyone has said to me in ages.”
He just nodded matter-of-factly and asked to be excused from the table so he could go play his Nintendo DS.Responsibility. Divorce thrusts it upon you whether you like it or not. Sometimes I find myself caught up in panic and fear, I’ll be stopped at a red light or standing in the shower or waiting to pick my kids up at school, any of those small, empty moments can fill with panic and fear that I will be overwhelmed by the single task of this now single’s task that is mine—budgeting money, paying bills, making dinners, planning for a future. Learning to be responsible—to clear away my own plate which will make an easier life for myself and kids—that is the task at hand. Just today, I dropped my car off to get snow tires. This was not an easy decision as snow tires run about $600, money which would be useful in other places during these lean times. However, since I have to drive back and forth to Erie several times a week now for classes, which means through the horrendous strip of the snowbelt which makes for precarious winter driving, I decided that it was important that I stay alive and on the road so I could make it home and reheat more ziti for my kids.
For twenty years I had a companion beside me off of which to bounce ideas, to offer half of a “yes” or “no,” to build the fence around a life that was ours and then to mend the fence when it was torn. Now? I am standing on a wide open plain, and my future feels uncontained and unbridled. For some reason, however, the opening scene of The Sound of Music keeps flashing in my mind: Julie Andrews (Maria) standing on the top of a green hill, her arms open wide, body turning, taking in the world. I might be scared, but I’m filled with anticipation at what lies beyond the fenceline.