10/9/13

This is what you've missed

Next month would have been our 20th wedding anniversary. Would have, of course, being the operative words. If only, if only. 

If only it had lasted. If only I could have seen what was going on, if only you had been brave enough and kind enough to have talked to me about what you were feeling. What you were missing. What you were wanting.

If only.

But that's water under bridge, now. The memories are shadowy, faded by time and experience. I can't even really remember what it felt like, to be married to you. I'm embarrassed to admit that I can hardly recall the sound of your voice.  

I don't think about you very much anymore. Not like I used to, when you first left. Now, when I think of you, it's like getting flashes of a long-ago vacation, or an old movie. Thinking of you, and how you left, no longer elicits an anguished, "Oh my God" from me. Now it's more, "Oh yeah. That happened."

I did think about you tonight. The dinner table, the one we bought mere months before you took off, the huge and heavy rustic one from Pottery Barn...that table was full tonight. Our four teenagers and a couple of their friends crowded in, hunkered down and devoured a heaping bowl of linguine and garlic bread. The lighting in the room was low and warm, and their laughter poured out over the table and spilled onto the floor and permeated the air like the sweet smoky fragrance of a bonfire on a crisp fall night.

For some reason, dinners like this one tonight, they make me think of you. The sight of my children all together, sitting next to each other and not fighting, hearing them banter and joke back and forth, hearing "Pass the bread, please" and seeing them inhale the pasta...it's a thing of ordinary beauty. 

It's something you've missed, these weeknight dinners. I'm sure you have them now, with your new family. But you've missed these nights, with these kids. 

You've missed these nights, and so much more. You've missed the quiet mornings, watching your handsome sons do homework in the pre-dawn hours (did you know that they do a lot of their homework in the morning? You missed that, too.). Listening to your beautiful daughter hit the snooze on her alarm over and over. 

You've missed saying good-bye to them as they tumble out the front door, you've missed hearing them say "I love you!" and "See you later!". Yeah, you've also missed the meltdowns, the slammed doors and the stomping downstairs and the awful sounds of "I HATE YOU" and "THIS IS SO UNFAIR!". But you know what? That's part of parenting, too. And you've missed it.

I know you're getting a second chance at this fatherhood thing. And you're probably doing a better job this time around. That's good. Good for you, good for your new kid.

But you've missed so much. You've missed years of life with these kids. Our kids. Your kids. You've missed finding out what makes them tick, watching them grow, watching them learn. You've missed out on the frustration, the anger, the annoyance...all of which make the love so much sweeter. 


You've missed this:







And this:




and this:





and this:



and this:



and this:


and this:



You've missed all of those seconds, those minutes. Those days and years. 

They will never be that age again. There will never be another 17 year old Molly sitting cross-legged on a beach. No more 16 year old Henry hamming it up at a Halloween store. There won't be another 12 year old William cuddling with his best friend. Charlie won't graduate from high school, ever again. And none of them will ever be 11 years old, waving sparklers around on a steamy July night. 

When you left us, I was so sad. And after I was done being sad I got mad. And when the anger left me, I decided to drink in everything you walked away from. Everything you decided wasn't worth hanging around for, I embraced it, loved it...I hung around for it.

And I'm so glad I did. 




68 comments:

  1. I haven't had your experience but I am doing my best to remember to take in all the life around me. I don't want to miss a thing. (that line must be sung in true Aerosmith style). Loved this post. Shared.

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    1. And now I am picturing you with a rocker haircut, waving scarves around and screaming into a mic. :) Thank you for reading.

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  2. Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Thank YOU for reading! Glad you enjoyed it.

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  3. I don't understand how any parent can walk away from a child.

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    1. How can they do it? And the sad thing is, he lives about 3 miles away. I did call on him to drive kids around twice this week. So there's a bit of progress :)

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  4. *weep* Will he ever realize? I don't think so. My dad never did. And now he is old and alone. And my mom drank in every moment, like you, and that is why she is old and anxious and confused and frankly annoying sometimes-- and she will never be alone. She is in the hospital bed behind me in what used to be my dining room, and I will change her diapers and give her injections and answer "what day is it?" a thousand times (a day.)

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    1. Wesley, I love you so much. You are like, the pinnacle of what I think it means to be a daughter. And a wife, and of course, a mother. I haven't ever told you that, I guess. No time like the present. You are amazing. And I'm so proud to know you.

      Old and alone. That breaks my heart.

      You rock, my sweet Georgia Peach.

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  5. Oh wow-- this is so powerful. And honest. And the conclusion is what is so amazing . . . that you chose to drink it all in. I love that expression and love that I know you and can call you a friend.

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  6. My dad is missed all these and continues to miss out on the wonderfulness that is my girls. His choice. My husband and I were separated for 2 years in the early 90's (today is our 32nd anniversary) and reconciled and he thankfully learned to be part of their life. He still gets together with each one of them once a month for Father/Daughter time which they all enjoy. I know how precious this relationship is and do everything i can to nurture it.

    Thank all the gods and goddesses your children had YOU. And thank goodness you had them.

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    1. Thank you so much Donna! Your daughters are lucky. And you are a smart lady.

      I am so thankful that I have these kids. Even through the crappy times, like the other night when one of them had a shrieking fit over Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

      Thank you for reading!

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  7. Absolutely gorgeous. Such deep emotion beautifully portrayed. I'm going to go hug my kids now and drink them in too.

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  8. His loss. His unbelievable and unimaginable loss. I can't fathom how someone could choose to not be with their children as much as possible. They are young for such a short amount of time. I'm heard so many times, children are resilient, they'll get through divorce. And I'm sure that's the truth but how can a parent choose to not be there to tuck in those who share his DNA each and every night? How can you choose to not accept those hugs from those little spaghetti arms any chance you can get? Disturbed Mo Fers they are, only interested in their own selfish wants.

    I loved this post Jenny. I'm drinking in my kids too. Every look, every ordinary meal we have together. I think - this is life and it's enough to make me happy. My douchebag STBX obviously thought differently. His loss, his warped sense of priorities.

    Hugs to you, you found your voice through all the pain.

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    1. Oh Kay. Thank you. Can you imagine, even for a minute, not being part of your kid's lives? It blows my mind.

      Here's to those of us who know what's important :)

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  9. So very true - I wonder if they ever realize what they walk away from? Perhaps they can't or the pain would be too great. The greater privilege and joy comes to you indeed.

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  10. Brought tears to my eyes. Beautifully written. We have to savor every minute, don't we?

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    1. Thank you so much! Yep. Even the sucky minutes.

      I appreciate you stopping by.

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  11. So powerful, Jenny. I had a husband who walked away from me too, and I'm thankful I didn't have any kids to experience his temper, his pain, his hurt. I can only imagine how hard it has been for you and your kids.

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    1. Thank you Kristin. It was/is hard, but we have managed to squeeze in a lot of life. And some fun stuff too :)

      Thanks so much for reading!

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  12. This was so beautifully written, almost like poetry. I've never experienced this, and as a 19 year old I hope that I don't, but the vivid language you used to portray this all made me feel as If I too have experienced your pain and love.

    Great post. :)
    https://www.facebook.com/amabaduofficial

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    1. Thank you Ama! You are the same age as my son. Glad to see a youngin' here :)

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  13. Wow. This is such a beautifully written, heartfelt post. I've never read this blog before, but I will be from now on.

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    1. Oh thanks so much Natalie! Glad you stopped by :)

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  14. Beautiful post - brought tears to my eyes...

    I have two small kids and am also divorced due to infidelity. It's relatively early days (and my kids are very young), so I hope my ex stays involved for their sake, but only time will tell.

    However, your first paragraph... I worry you blame yourself too much for what happened. What about what YOU were missing, what you were wanting in your marriage? Aren't you happier without him? I know I am... I didn't realize how unhappy I'd been until we were apart. Your ex cheating had nothing to do with you and everything to do with him being selfish and immature. There was nothing you could have done to prevent it... nothing you could have done to please him enough.

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    1. Thanks so much Erica.

      Yeah, I tend to take the blame for EVERYTHING. The end of the marriage is no exception. He really did show his true colors in the years that followed the divorce, which has made it easier to accept. He would have cheated, and left, no matter what I did.

      I too hope your ex stays involved. My kids have fared extremely well without having a close relationship with their dad, but they will most likely always wonder what it would have been like with him in their lives.

      Thank you so much for reading, and commenting.

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  15. Love this. Your kids are so damn lucky to have you to hold them up while their other parent has let them down.

    Love. Love. Love.

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  16. This is all flavors of awesome. Yep, he sure has missed a lot, hasn't he? And like you say so well here...he ain't never gonna get it back. His loss, for sure. Goes with being the loser he is, I guess. You, on the other hand, my friend, are a winner in the truest sense...and this post is yet more proof of your winner's attitude. Those kids are winners, too. Considering their mama's been there for them constantly, that's no surprise!

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  17. Yes, yes, and yes. My husband of 17 years filed for divorce on my twins' second birthday. He's taking a vacation with his girlfriend this week and missing my 8 year old son's birthday party. He can't remember what time my six-year-old daughter's ballet class is. And then he has the nerve to say to me, "You're always so on edge. Do you ever enjoy life?" I looked at him and said, "I love my life. I only get stressed when you're around. The rest of life? The kids and I sing and dance and play and cuddle and learn and have flipping tons of fun. All. The. Time."

    My kids are the most beautiful creations ever and I can't imagine a moment of my life without them. The kids never ask for him. But when they're with him for visitation, all they do is ask for me. I will live a good life despite him just so that my kids can grow up happy and healthy and loved every damn minute of their lives. Always. Always.

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    1. OMG. On a birthday? I'm so sorry. What a dick.

      And I'm howling with laughter over "Do you ever enjoy life". That's priceless. And your answer is even better.

      I'm right there with you, sister. Live a good life despite them. That's what we're doing. And aren't our kids lucky?

      Thank you so much for reading, friend.

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  18. As I reach for my tissues, I can't help but pity the fool. You are an amazing lady, and have done a knock up job picking up the pieces. Your kids were dealt the short stick in terms of a father, but when it came to mom, they got the whole tree. They are blessed.

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    1. Thank you Tricia. I have a lot of self-doubt when it comes to my parenting, but deep down I know my kids will come out on the other side okay :)

      Miss you! Thanks for reading.

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  19. You're an amazing mama - and woman. Drink them in. Drink them in. xo

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  20. I love this. not because I love that it happened, but because I love that you are relishing every moment with more awareness and reminding me to do the same. xoxo.

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    1. Thank you Jen! I need to get these kids in front of your camera before they're full blown adults :)

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  21. I am really not kidding, you deserve an award for this post. Absolute heart-shattering perfection.

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    1. Awww..would it be cheesy if I said these nice comments are reward enough??

      Thank you :)

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  22. This is really heartbreaking.

    My father missed out on a lot of my childhood. But I think he's trying to make up for it now. I think he's belatedly having to cope with the guilt of realizing how much he missed out on and how much was going wrong while he was gone. But I am grateful to have him more present in my life today. I guess late is better than never, at least in my case.

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    1. Mandy, I see some glimmers of life from their dad. For instance, he recently offered to help pay for part of my 16 year old's drivers ed. classes. Of course, the two older kids are like, "Wha???" but oh well. Something is better than nothing. I hope as they get older, and he gets older, he'll try harder to be a part of their lives.

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  23. My ex missed out on so much, as well. So sad for them :(

    But you made me think long and hard with this one, dear Jenny!!! I just wish I could remember :(

    http://onbeingblessed.blogspot.com/

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    1. You're a strong mama. Thank you for being a source of strength and inspiration to me over the years :)

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  24. thank you for writing what I couldn't exactly put into words...if I may add one last line:
    You idiot.

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    1. Ha! You may totally add that last line.

      Thank you for reading.

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  25. It took me awhile to be able to comment on this post, because every time I started, I got very emotional, and had to walk away.

    I've had to stop thinking in terms of what HE'S missing, because I don't think he cares. Actually, I know he doesn't. It's beyond him to be able to realize. And that is what it is. It's not a new thing. It's not like he had some traumatic brain injury and changed drastically. Maybe it's a result of his own childhood with an alcoholic father. Maybe he's just an asshat. Most days I go with the latter. I think a lot about what my boys are missing. And that's what tears me up. When you say, "B. has a concert next Thursday, and he's singing a solo", and the reply you get is, "I have stuff to do next Thursday", you can't remember why you ever loved him. I mean, I can glow with pride from the bleachers or folding chairs or whatever with the best of them, but I can't glow for two.

    Thank you for sharing your life, Jenny.

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    1. This is because it is all about him. I know. I was married to one of them also. Left me with a 7 and a 5 yr old. They are now almost 23 and just turned 21. I truly believe our lives were better without him. I believe my children are happier and better adjusted and more capable of being themselves. Yes, he used to take them on his weekends, but I truly think that was to hurt me. I don't think it had anything to do with spending time with them. What ever. The jerks get what they deserve. It is a very strange feeling to hear my son tell me things I have long thought but never shared. I always knew they would figure it out on their own one day. I tried hard to never let them know what a piece of work I thought he was. He is their dad. You don't get to pick em. I like to think they were as lucky to have me as I have been blessed to have them. They are my world and love them more than anything. A concept that is lost on the ex.

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    2. Augh...Katina! "I Can't Glow For Two". That has to be a title for something. So freaking perfect. I sometimes dwell on the asshole aspect of it: How can you purposely miss this stuff??? But we have to keep the good things up front. At the forefront of our lives. WE get this. WE aren't missing it. OUR KIDS WILL BE OKAY. They will be different than the kids who have had two loving, supportive parents all along. But not in a bad way :)

      Thank you for sharing yours along with me, Katina :)

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  26. This made me cry when I first read it on Huffington Post. While I am the one who left with my two children it wasn't for a lack of trying to stay. My ex cheated on me for 10+ years and me, none the wiser. When I found out and asked for a divorce he did everything in his power so that we'd have to leave. He was happy we left, too much work and responsibility. Didn't fit his "image" of being an urban guy living in a 1-bedroom apartment with his OW. My kids are the losers here, I hope they grow up and know how much I love them, but the hole in their heart is only going to grow because they have a father who is a superficial, un-remorseful narcissist.

    All of this to say... thank you for writing what you did. Thank you for putting words to all that I feel. Your kids are lucky to have you.

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    1. Thank you, anonymous. I'm so sorry for what you've been through.

      I think your kids will be okay. All of our kids (those with parents who walked away from it all) will have holes in their hearts, that's true. But we can love them and teach them that they are good and worthy people despite the fact that half of their DNA is too busy to join in the fun of raising them.

      Thank you for reading :)

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  27. It's unclear from your post how involved your ex actually is. Can you expand on that? Is he completely out of the kids' lives or does he see them? Was that something that evolved over time or was it instant? What was the marriage like before he left?

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    1. Hi Greta...I've written about this extensively, but I'll give you a Cliff notes version: It started out with the "standard" visitation stuff. They were with him every other weekend, and two nights a week for dinner time. Gradually, the time shortened. One or two of the kids would skip the weeknights (because they get busier as they get older), then one would skip a weekend. Then two. Then somehow it just ended up that there was NO "dad weekends". He has never, not ever, not once communicated with me about this. No emails, no calls, no texts asking, "Why aren't the kids coming over on my weekends?" or "What's up with the kids? I want to see them!". Nothing.

      I pushed it as far as I could with them. I have begged them at points, to go see him, spend time with him. For two reasons: They need to know their dad, and I need a freaking break. But it's not happening.

      Luckily they are all old enough now that I can leave to do fun things like work, shop, take one or two or three of them to work or sports or whatever. But it's a lot for one person.

      As far as what the marriage was like before, I'll just say it was fine until he started screwing a coworker. Well, obviously it wasn't fine with him. He didn't really talk about his "feelings", he stayed out late, did a lot of drinking, and kept himself busy with golf. I was busy with the kids.

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  28. Beautiful. My ex has been gone a year and a half and although he is very much involved with the kids, it is always at his convenience. He takes my daughter on weekend trips to amusement parks, out to dinner, on vacation. I'm thankful for all that, for her sake, but he isn't there for the day to day moments you describe. The real life stuff, which to me is far more precious.

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    1. Thank you. Yes, the "real life" stuff is so much more important. It's sad that some people don't understand this.

      Thank you for reading :)

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  29. reading this makes me very, very heartbroken for you, and even myself as I take myself back to my childhood. My stepdad was always too busy with work to do anything with my brother and I. My real dad died when I was 8, so I basically have never had a father figure in my life. After I graduated HS and left home, I lost all contact with my stepdad. He quit calling and/or returning calls, so I finally gave up- and so did my brother. I just don't get it.
    As a mother to a 4 yr old with a great, hands-on husband, I often wonder if I'll ever be in this situation down the road. My husband has made comments about me 'putting our son first' over him, so I wonder if so many fathers are jealous of our relationships with our kids? I told my husband "well, I carried him inside me for 41 weeks, so yeah, he comes first". I often wonder if roles were reversed and men carried babies, that we as women would be inclined to just walk away from a marriage and the kids as easily?
    Just food for thought.
    It kills me when I hear of so many dads walking away from their kid(s). I hope and pray my husband never does that, but if he does, I'll be there to pick up the pieces for my son.

    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I've often thought that about fathers, too. And my ex did sometimes mention that I put more time and effort into my relationships with the kids than I did into ours. Sometimes I wonder if I messed up.

      Good question you raise, if fathers carried the babies, if they did the majority of the child-rearing, would they leave with such frequency? I'd like to think they wouldn't. We hardly ever hear of moms just walking out.

      Thank you so much for reading!

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  30. I just wanted to thank you for sharing this. I could have written so much on your blog from my own very similar heartbreak. Your words have come at just the right time for me to hear. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you jcat :) I'm sorry that you've had heartbreak. It's not fun....but it is nice to know you're not alone.

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  31. Your blog is inspiring. This post gives me hope. Thank you.

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  32. Thank you for this. While it can sometimes be a crappy club to be a part of, I'm proud to stand tall next to women like you. :) Lara

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    1. Thank you Lara...welcome to the crappy club :) We are never alone in this.

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  33. This is beautifully said; the first part unfortunately mirrors the experience I'm currently living through, "If only." I hope I can someday get to the state of equanimity you describe.

    Our marriage of 21 years was getting stale and creaky, but the kids didn't need so much care now that one was in college and the other in high school. I thought, "Finally, we can work on us again." That was when she dropped the bomb. There was an OM, they were in love, and it had been going on for half a year. She didn't love me and wanted a divorce. No warning, no effort to reconcile, just counseling for what to tell the kids. Do not pass "Go," and do not collect $200. I was the stay at home dad, she is the executive that paid the bills. But now I'm the out-of-work suburban dad with the kids, and the house, and no real idea of how to handle the finances and the other details of married life that she took care of that a man is typically supposed to know.

    This all happened recently, and I'm just beginning to reach for a lawyer and grow a support network of friends to help me cope. I came across your blog from the quinoa post, and stayed for the writing and humor. Thank you so much for making it clear that life without my spouse doesn't have to mean misery forever. It feels like that now, but maybe someday I'll be able to say, "Oh yeah. That happened."

    PS: You ex sounds like the biggest fool. Maybe he should meet my not-too-soon-enough-for-me-ex.

    -A

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    1. A- Thank you so much for sharing your story. I'm truly sorry that you're going through this. Big non-creepy internet hugs to you, my friend.

      The misery only lasts so long, and then there is relief. I promise :)

      I really hope that you are doing as well as you can be doing right now, and that you are getting the love and help and support that you need.

      My 20th anniversary would have been Nov. 25th...the day had almost passed when I found myself writing down the date with my preschoolers in their little journals. I noticed the date, said, "Huh. What do you know." and went on with my job. It was nice to not feel anything other than a mild nudge of recognition.

      You will get through this! Please keep me posted. I'll be rooting for you.

      Jenny

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  34. Hopefully this isn't a double post...If I were near you, I would give you a medal and a huge hug! This will have to do ((((( <3 )))))) Thanks for being such a dedicated Mom and being willing to open up and share it with us.

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