Dear Mom: I'm Getting Divorced and I Wish You Were Still Alive To Help Me Through This
I wanted to send you this before we talked because I’m not sure I’d be able to get it all out without bursting into tears. God, I think I was in camp the last time I wrote you a letter, and I bet you still have those in the back of a closet somewhere.
Mom. Mommy. Mom. I’m doing it. We’re doing it. I’m getting divorced.
Deep breath. I need to say it again: I’m getting divorced. I’m getting divorced. I’m getting divorced. Ha! Did I really just say that? Is this really me?
It feels like me. And it also doesn’t. I like the way it feels. And I don’t. I’m so confused. And I’ve never had such clarity. This is so stupid, but you know what this whole thing reminds me of? It reminds me of skydiving. Don’t get mad at me, Mom. I went last year and I didn’t tell you because I knew you’d freak out worrying and then I’d have never been able to go through with it. I was so nervous when we went up in the plane, my whole body was shaking, and even though you’re attached to a professional skydiver, I never felt so alone in my life. He asked me if I was ready and I mouthed “Not really” and then I screamed and then we jumped. And that feeling of free falling, like you’re flying — it was just the most amazing sensation I’ve ever felt in my life. I can’t really put it into words. It just felt like being alive.
I want to have that feeling again, Mom. I need to feel alive. We’ve both been the living dead for such a long time, just like you and Daddy were. And here I am, all these years later, living the same so-called life as you lived. When did your little girl get so old?
We told the kids a few weeks ago, and as you can imagine, that was lots of fun. They’re both these big smelly men now, but when they started to cry, they looked like my babies and that made me cry harder and I think that was the first time we ever cried together. They get it, they’re such good boys, they said all the right things, but I could see that they were scared and they could see that I was scared, and I told them it was OK for all of us to be scared together.
And yes, he’s scared too, thank you for asking. You know we’ve had our problems for many years, but don’t hate him, Mom. That’s my job. And you don’t have to love him either, because that’s also my job. We still love each other. And we still hate each other. We just can’t live with each other anymore.
Wasn’t that the same way with you and Daddy? I still remember the night you told me that you guys were splitting up. I had just finished studying for a math test and I came down to the kitchen and you and daddy were sitting there looking so serious, and in that instant, I knew. You didn’t even have to say the words. Both of you tried hard not to cry and the thing that killed me the most was when Daddy took off his glasses, and I saw the tears racing down his cheeks. Now I have those same tears. And the same glasses. It freaks me out how much I look like both of you.
We’re selling the house, just the way you guys did, and he’s moving back into the city while I stay out here in the suburbs. It’s been so lonely living together, I can’t imagine living alone being any worse. To be honest, I’m excited about it. I feel like I’ll finally be able to breathe again. I can’t breathe in our house. There’s no air. It’s like being trapped underwater and having to hold my breath forever. God, I’d just like to wake up one morning, walk into the kitchen, pour myself a cup of coffee and exhale.
I’m just so tired of always being “on,” and I know you know what I mean because I learned it from you. I’m tired of trying to make everyone else happy. It doesn’t feel real. I don’t feel real. The last time I felt like myself was when I had my affair and that was five years ago, and even those memories have begun to fade. Sometimes I question if it ever really happened, or if it was just something that I saw on TV.
At least you married the man you cheated on Dad with.
I don’t know if I’ll ever marry again. Who really knows anything, right? Like you have all these ideas in your head about what you want and who you want to be with and how you want to live your life, and when it doesn’t turn out that way, you almost forget that you ever had these ideas, except for that feeling of floating disappointment that doesn’t quite allow you to let go.
Right now, I know I just need to be by myself. Do you know that I haven’t been alone since I moved out of our house? I moved in with boyfriend after boyfriend until the last boyfriend became my husband and now I’m older than you were when you divorced Daddy and I’ve never known what it’s like to be independent. I’m scared that I won’t be able to make it on my own. I’m scared that I’ll be alone. I’m scared that no one will ever love me again. I’m scared that I’ll never love anyone again. I’m scared that I made the wrong decision. I’m scared that I’ll regret this decision for the rest of my life.
But then I hear your voice. I hear you calling me “little girl” and telling me that everything is going to be all right, that I will have such a happy life, just the way you told me such a long time ago when I really was a little girl. What I hear the most is "I can’t do this anymore." You said it that night at the kitchen table and I’ve been saying it for so many years at my own.
Mom, I tried, we really tried. We went along for a while, trying to make the best of it, trying to make each other happy, then someone (me) would inevitably become disappointed and someone (him) would become resentful and we’d both become angry at each other and ourselves — and that’s when I’d say, "I can’t do this anymore."
I’d ask him what he wanted to do instead and he’d say he didn’t know, and we’d both get quiet for a moment and then we’d talk about splitting up and talk about the kids and we’d try to convince ourselves that it would be for the best, and we’d talk and we’d talk and all the talk had the opposite effect, scaring us straight back to square one, where we robotically continued going through the motions, and the only thing that ever changed was we stopped talking about it. That lasted for five years. Five years!
So now we’re not doing this anymore — for real. And more than anything, I wish you were still alive, Mommy, because I need you more than I’ve ever needed you before. But I feel you inside me and that gives me strength and hope and I know that everything will be all right. And that I will have such a happy life.
Your little girl
Originally published at Purple Clover