Saturday, January 3, 2015

three years

On Sunday night, almost a week ago, Bobby suggested we carpool on Monday. He said he needed to talk to me. I thought it was a little strange, we were standing face-to-face in a WalMart parking lot, after all, so why not talk then? But Derek was goofing off in my arms and Bobby was eager to get to dance so I let it go.

I racked my brain that night wondering what I'd done wrong.

The next morning he texted that he wasn't feeling well and he didn't think he'd work a full day so the carpool was off. I responded with the standard "feel better" platitudes and reminded him that he said he wanted to talk. He asked if we could do lunch. I agreed. Thirty minutes into my workday, he pinged me and asked what time I go on break. I let him choose a time. He was standing at my desk before 10 o'clock. 

We walked outside and he started talking.

He first told me that he's okay, he's in good health, and just has a cold.

Then he rounded into a string of nicieties--you will always be important to me ... we have a smart and wonderful son and, no matter what, we will always be connected--that sounded like a break-up speech and totally fit with Bobby's standard method of delivering bad news. He likes to start with something nice (but what nice things does he have to say to me? Thank you for giving me a son, I'll love him forever, and for that you're kind of important to me?), to try to make the listener feel good before he delivers life-altering bad news. I tried to interrupt him, to skip past the nonsense and jump to the point, but he asked me to listen. So I listened to the impersonal compliments and then he hemmed and hawed and finally told me that he's in a "very very very complicated relationship."

I asked if he's getting married. 

"It's leading that way," he admitted.

She's in the Air Force. She's been accepted to a prestigious school in Washington. She'll be there for three years and then she'll be stationed somewhere else--it could be anywhere in the world. And he reminded me that he's in "very poor health" (he often gets dry eyes, after all, and his knees at 45 aren't what they were twenty years ago). He could be a stay-at-home dad. I asked if he's moving to Washington. He said he'll follow in three years. He invited me to come too. I told him I won't follow him and his wife. He asked what was holding me in Arizona.

I got mad at that last question.

I'd been walking next to him, tight-faced, feeling my life slip away and then he asked what was holding me here. "You!" I barked. I reminded him that I could have taken a job in Georgia two years ago, that I'd talked to him about it, that there'd been an opportunity for him to move too, and he'd told me he would never leave Arizona, he would die here, and I had decided not to go--because I didn't want to take my son away from his father. Bobby didn't remember any of that. He agreed that it sounded like something he would say, but he didn't remember it. 

My life and the sacrifices I've made, don't register to him at all.

He tried a different tactic. He said it could be somewhere cool, like England or Germany. 

I said no again.

He said a lot can change in three years. I agreed. I remembered three years ago, thinking he and I could have a family together, that Derek might even have siblings, never imagining the life I live now. But I didn't say anything. He answered a call on his work phone and said he had to go inside. He reiterated that a lot could change, that I could change my mind, he just wanted to give me a heads up, but he wasn't going anywhere yet--not for another three years, anyway.

I asked if Derek's met her. He said yes. It was the only question I asked about her. 

I cried at my desk, tossed and turned that night, and wrote and deleted a handful of angry texts and emails accusing him of taking me for granted. I reopened all my old wounds and wrote out all my grievances, reminding him that I'm not a nanny or a puppy dog who will follow him and another woman around the world, that Derek is my son and that I am Derek's only mom. I didn't hit send. I deleted everything. I texted and asked how Derek was on Monday night. I sent updates and pictures of Derek on Tuesday. I fell asleep in Derek's bed before 9 o'clock on New Years Eve on Wednesday night. It was the best sleep I got all week. And I finally started to eat again on Thursday. I had tried before then, but even the thought of food made me sick.

I make it so easy to take me for granted.

I'm better than I was. It took a few days, but I realized that Derek and I will be okay. The world isn't falling apart. It still feels a little surreal when I think about that conversation--the unchangeable Bobby, the man who didn't spend a single night with his newborn because he needed to rest and who preferred to be separated from his only son rather than risk letting horrible old me into his pristine life, is going to uproot everything and follow a woman to England or Germany? How long has he known her? Would he follow her to North Dakota or Alaska, I wonder, or is he only along for the ride if she's going somewhere cool? He won't go to Washington, after all, and he'll be 48 in three more years....

Having a baby with Bobby was a terrible mistake that resulted in the greatest joy of my life. I love Derek more than anything. It sounds like a cliche, but he makes everything else worthwhile. Even Bobby. And now I have three years to prepare for whatever is coming.

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