Just over a week ago, one of the former step kids called. I’d just shared our spring break itinerary via email, so I figured the call was about plans. Boy, was I wrong! My ex’s dead body had been found in his apartment.
Let me backtrack a bit… I’d known this moment was coming since around a year ago, when I’d had a bizarre exchange with my ex that left me questioning his sanity. I remember wondering if he had early-onset dementia. Since then, his health has declined steadily; my daughter once had to call 911 after a fall and the last time the children had spent a weekend with him, he was emaciated, weak and visibly unwell. He suffered ulcers, internal bleeding and dangerously low hemoglobin.
For as long as this moment was anticipated and for as long as we’d been apart, I was completely shattered. I had to gather, tell and comfort my children, and then start telling others. I think I thought the worst would be supporting my children through their grief. Wave after wave of staggering grief washed over me. I reached out to friends, allies and colleagues, and lashed out at Brad, who responded (like everyone else) with grace, compassion and concern.
Those first days of taking the children to school late, checking them in at the office, talking to the counselor, answering the door for flower and food deliveries, telling colleagues I was unavailable… are a blur. Breathing was a struggle. For mothers who’ve just given birth, it’s like those first days of feeling completely upside down — my body felt as though it had been hit by a train, I was extraordinarily exhausted but couldn’t get enough sleep, time stretched out and compressed like an accordion, and could be measured only in “before” and “after.” For surfers, it’s like being pearled — underwater, disoriented, finally figuring out which way is up but not being able to reach the surface or catch your breath.
After a day and a half of weeping, I woke up, vomited up the previous night’s dinner and discovered I’d gotten my period. At that point, I knew things could only get better.
I have never been so grateful for the outpouring of support and love from friends, family members, co-workers, colleagues, my boss, neighbors, ex-boyfriends and, yes, even new beaus. Mr. Meltsmyheart checked in every single day. Brad has been kind, too. In the past, when others I know have lost loved ones, I’ve always felt my words, hugs, cards were feeble expressions — they never seemed enough somehow. But now I understand how much those small expressions of sympathy can mean.
I am now really, truly a full-time single parent. Full stop. This is certain to further complicate my future relationship prospects.
What’s next? Well, there are school trips to plan for, shots and doctors appointments with which to carry on, orthodontia, sports… good heavens! When am I going to schedule counseling sessions for these little ones? And how do I ensure the story they tell about their father serves them?
All this and more are yet to come. But for now, I’m still reeling.