No matter how hard I try, I've realized that I'll never erase the damage that J left from my life.
I foolishly convinced myself a few months ago that I was over thinking about what J put us through. Fat chance. Whether I like it or not, I will live with the hurt that he caused for as far into the future as I can see. Sure, the pain has dulled and sometimes I completely forget about him, but every now and again it pops back up the way your finger stings when you get nail polish remover in a hangnail you'd forgotten you had. Ouch.
I've undeniably been the happiest I've ever been since Red came into our lives. F adores him, and I have to admit that I'm pretty smitten myself. We have fun, and we laugh and my heart nearly bursts when I watch F and Red playing together, or listen to them talking about the solar system, trucks or what they did while I was at work. Maybe it's because I'm so happy with Red that I find my mind wandering back to how unhappy I was a year ago, but it's a place I often find myself revisiting: the place I never want to go back to.
When J and I split up, I selfishly shut down. I won't lie and give you the "I did the best I could" line, because I didn't. I spent my days on the couch or in bed, I spent hours on the phone crying to my Mom or my friends, and I left F to play with his toys while his Mommy felt sorry for herself. When I finally got my shit together, people would offer up their condolences - hoping that they could ease my pain with "better now than later" or "at least you're still young".
When I decided to come back to school, I heard the same lines: "do it now while F is still small, he won't notice as much", or "it'll only get harder from here on out, girl". Just like the day I admitted that one of my biggest fears what that F would be damaged by J's leaving and then my own, I'm bombarded with "F's too young to understand" or "F doesn't even notice that you're gone".
F is three-years-old. He's not stupid. He's not unaware. He knows damn well that his Mommy is away most of the time, and that shocking reality crashed into me this week.
We were wrapping up a fun time at the pool. F had been laughing and splashing, "swimming" and learning his own limitations while Red and I looked on. In anticipation of a toddler meltdown (leaving the pool is, afterall, a tragedy), I decided to dry off and get dressed to make it easier. I went back into the pool area armed with towels and a Kinder Surprise, and watched as F and Red swam around for a few more minutes. Then Red started walking up the ramp to leave the pool.
"I don't want to go!" F cried, though he slowly followed Red up the ramp.
"Well, I'm going to go," Red told him. "I need to go and get dressed."
F stopped and Red kept walking along the side of the pool, until F started to cry.
"Everyone leaves me. Every body just leaves me."
Earlier in the evening, as we were getting our swimsuits on, a young family with two small children was drying off to leave the pool. F pointed out that the man was a Daddy. Two hours later, he's announcing that everyone leaves him.
F's never really had a Daddy, and while it's not my fault I find myself riddled with guilt over it. Hearing him say "Every body just leaves me" rips the heart right out of my chest. This is what I was afraid of. This is what makes being away from him the hardest.
I tell him all the time how much I love him, and explain the whys and the hows of Mommy going away for school. I promise him that I'll never leave him, and assure him that no matter where we are, he can always find me in his heart. But the fact is that I leave him almost every week, and it's taking a toll on him.
In the last couple of months, Red and F have formed quite a little relationship. F really needed that. He talks about Red all the time, and I couldn't be happier that F finally has that special relationship with a guy. But Red is leaving soon. I haven't quite decided how I'm going to approach that bombshell, or when or even if I want to.
Maybe we'll just have to go along for the ride.