Two things of note happened this weekend: I heard from two members of my family. And while that’s not unusual for most, for me, well, nothing’s ever simple.
My cousin Bette lives about a third of the way across the country. We used to see each other frequently as kids. Didn’t even take forty-five minutes to get to her parents’ house. But then they moved, our relationship shifted to reunions only, then not at all. It happens when life takes over. At my uncle’s funeral, I saw her again. We talked about this n’ that, but nothing really of substance. There were too many of us who ashamedly gather together at life events such as these. The afternoon became a game of catch-up with our many relatives.
Out of the blue, Bette texted me. Said she had a daughter that lived in New York City and she was coming to see her. Could we somehow find a way? Since I live about an hour away, I was hoping I could, but my second shot and its two-week immune-response time didn’t jive with her arrival.
“I have a three hour drive tomorrow. Want to talk then?” Bette offered.
“Sure,” I said. “Why not?”
So while Bette drove through a Midwestern forest, she called.
It occurred to me that her life remained a complete mystery. Apart from growing up, getting married and having two kids, I knew nothing of her life. Ditto for me. Yet somehow, we managed to weave our stories together, our pasts combining similarities. Seems we’ve both been cheated on, shifted our status from married to single, started over and thrived. We suffered the loss of parents, of friends, of homes, predictability, security, dreams. In the end, a better person emerged, wiser, confident.
COVID-19 robbed so many of us of normalcy. We agreed this cocooned existence led us both into a period of introspection. To realize what is important. What matters. What should be, instead of what could be.
Three hours later, we hung up, wth the promise that when Bette visits her daughter later in the summer, she’d stop by and spend quality time here with me. Daughter included. We’d made a good start on catching up on 40 years’ worth of news. Neither of us wanted to attend another funeral to chat over cakes and tea, saying what a shame it was we didn’t do this sooner.
That call lifted my spirits immensely. Yes, sure, talking with Bette was wonderful. It also was the kick I needed. Too often I drag myself down. Show myself no mercy. Am too, too hard on myself. Cut myself short. Think no one wants to hear from me. Or know me.
I’m wrong. Really, truly, honestly wrong.
My phone rings this afternoon. It’s my son, calling from the Middle East. The connection is rough, but I’m so glad to hear his voice. It’s been nearly two years since I’ve seen him. He tells me he’s pulling into his American base in June. There’s a big ceremony. Will I go? Oh, my ex already said he’d be there.
My heart sinks. Tears fall from my eyes. The Ex always gets there first, it seems. I blurt something out life I can’t afford it. Said the Ex always seems to make these events and I never can. The man that cursed out our son and was never there while our son grew up suddenly became the World’s Best Dad. Then I caught myself and said I didn’t want to talk about the Ex, I wanted my son to talk about him, not me being petty. I apologized.
Son described all the incredible things he’d seen, albeit from the deck of his ship. COVID-19 is a real killjoy, only allowing my son to see places without visiting them. It didn’t matter to him one bit. There’s much to experience in other ways. A soldier from a foreign land waving a gun in salute and smiling as Son’s ship traveled past. The Straits of Gibraltar flanking his ship. Another nation’s port welcoming their arrival. The different stars at night and the hot breeze blowing over the desert sand. All of this was new to time and just as exciting.
By the time we finished our conversation, I told him to forward whatever information he gets regarding that homecoming. I would try like hell to go. Immediately after we hung up, I checked out hotel availability. As soon as Son confirms the dates, I’m booking a room. F@#% it. Ex or no Ex, I’m going.
Up to this point, I’d shrink and just let Ex run all over me, letting him get his way and do what he will. I can’t explain why. Maybe it’s because I’m afraid, don’t want to see him, am still angry – any of these excuses and more.
And while it’s true I’m short on cash, life is even shorter.
I texted my ex and told him of my plans. Said the phone call was rough and wasn’t quite sure of the date. Did he know? Said I’d be coming down Friday night and leaving Sunday. He texted back. Said he thought the date I had was correct. He told Son he’d try to be there if he could. And yes, Son is having a blast.
This is a big step for me. Up until now, I never stood up to him. Now, I don’t care. I’m not going to make Son divide his time between us. We’re going to have to all be together because there isn’t much choice.
It’s time to stop wondering and worrying. Must start living. It’ll be hard. I’ll manage.