Subtitle: Go right ahead and wish me, and every other single mom you know, a Happy Father's Day. Thank you.
Yep. Here I sit, it's almost 10:00 p.m. on Father's Day. I sit here with angry sad thoughts in my mind and a big glass of wine in front of me (with some ice cubes..dear God am I 90 years old or what?). I started the day with a positive outlook, with a spring in my step. With hope.
Hope that this would be a good Father's Day. I hoped this for my kids, and I hoped it for my ex-husband. The high road is a tough one to navigate some days. It's awfully easy to take a shortcut down the other way. But for the past couple of years, me and high road...we've become travel companions.
I want my kids to have a relationship with their father. I REALLY DO. For very altruistic reasons, of course: they need a dad, he needs his kids, they all so desperately need each other. I also have some less-pure reasons, reasons of a more selfish bent: I need a break now and then. I want him to do some, ANY of the parenting. I want a day off from teen angst and bickering siblings and driving duties.
Bottom line is, these kids need their father.
They didn't see him today. A couple of them called him, and received no response. I debated, for a long time, whether or not it is my job to nudge him. To remind him. In the end I decided no. It's not my job.
I have no doubt he celebrated Father's Day. His shiny new wife seems to me to be a very traditional sort of gal, one who doesn't let holidays or milestones go by without due celebration. Last year they had a Father's Day pool party. Today was a gorgeous, postcard-perfect day in Minneapolis. A lovely day for a poolside soiree.
I picture him unwrapping a gift from his 5th child, the one he actively parents. The one he sees every day and loves and takes care of like he used to tend to our babies. A necktie, perhaps. Maybe a gadget of some sort. Swim trunks? A framed picture of Baby #5 to keep on his desk at the office? I can see him reacting to the gift with exaggerated enthusiasm, eliciting a sweet gooey smile from his adoring son.
And then I think of how his first four children spent the day. I think about their individual reactions to my nagging: "You should call your dad." And: "Have you heard anything from your dad?"
Each child had a different response. Charlie absolutely blew it off. "I called him earlier. Gotta go!" he said over his shoulder, on his way out to go watch his girlfriend's softball game.
Molly questioned me. "If it was Mother's Day, and none of us called you...how would you feel?"
I answered her honestly.
"It would break my heart, Molly" I said. She looked at me, and in her beautiful 17 year old face I saw the face of the sweet toddler Molly who used to sit on her Daddy's lap and twirl her hair in the same offhanded way her father did. She still twirls her hair like that. Like him.
Henry shrugged it off. "You really think he cares, Mom?" he asked me as we sat on the porch together. A surprise thunderstorm had popped up out of nowhere and we were enjoying the cool breeze that accompanied it. "I'll see him on Tuesday. Maybe. I'll ask him what happened today. And I'll wish him a late Happy Father's Day." Henry, the man child who just started shaving. The boy who tries so hard to be a Good Son to both of his parents. The storm passed quickly, and the sun began warming up the porch again.
And William. William is the one who incites the anger in me. All of them, separately and together, make me want to grab Big Daddy by the collars and shake him until he wakes up out of whatever mid-life coma he's in. But William...
William is hardening. My baby. The one who was so little when Daddy left. The one who was so quiet and easy going. He's still innocent and childlike, but now there's an edge. An edge that is new, and sharp. I don't like this hard-candy-shell that's forming around my baby boy, and I'm trying with all my might to keep it from advancing, from getting tougher. But it's not easy. A boy needs a dad. William needs his dad.
"William, have you called your Dad today?" I asked him, as he was helping me put some groceries away. "I tried" he answered, his voice neutral and smooth as buttercream. I doubted him. Asked for proof. He got his phone and showed me the two calls he made to his dad.
"He didn't pick up. And he hasn't called back." The neutrality of his voice was gone and I heard something there that was familiar, but sounded so foreign coming from this kid.
It was the sound of someone realizing they're being written off.
William has been making questionable choices lately, he was starting to hang out with a kid, a broken kid that I want so desperately to like and take care of but who sets off every alarm in my Mommy Security System. Another mom told me she'd heard some rumors about this boy, about a few of our boys and I put William on lockdown. Made him my very unwilling sidekick last week. Then summer hockey started, thank God, and my angry, confused little man was worn down, falling asleep before nine and not waking until ten the next day.
He wanted to spend time with some friends tonight. I talked to the moms of the boys and we concurred: it was okay. We went to the grocery store, William and I, and bought some frozen pizzas for him to bring along. When I dropped him off I wanted to hug him but I held back. Instead I said, "Do you have your phone?" He tapped his pocket..."Right here." he said. I smiled. "You call me in the morning, okay?". He smiled back at me and then, my little boy hugged me. "I will, Mom" he said.
So I sit here tonight. I looked at Facebook and saw all the pictures of happy Dads and happy kids and had to shut it off. But not before I read something that struck a chord in me. A Dorothy Parker piece I'd never seen before. Somehow, it seemed to fit my mood, seemed tailor-made for the sourness I felt in my throat. For the defeat I felt in my heart.
by Dorothy Parker
When I was young and bold and strong,
Oh, right was right, and wrong was wrong!
My plume on high, my flag unfurled,
I rode away to right the world.
"Come out, you dogs, and fight!'' said I,
And wept there was but once to die.
But I am old; and good and bad
Are woven in a crazy plaid.
I sit and say, "The world is so;
And he is wise who lets it go.
A battle lost, a battle won--
The difference is small, my son.''
Inertia rides and riddles me;
The which is called Philosophy.
I read that, and something in me folded. I had been so pissed, so disappointed, so hurt on behalf of my kids. So freaking sick of the permanent stain that divorce has made on every mother effing aspect of life, even something as benign as Father's Day. I had wanted to maim and cry and yell and throw things and then....
And then I didn't.
"The world is so; and he is wise who lets it go".
I let it go. I let it go for my children's sake, for my sake, and for the sake of the man who may or may not give a crap.
Our lives used to be a solid color. Maybe a pretty blue. Or a soft green.
But now they're plaid. A crazy plaid. And we are going to have to learn to be okay with that.