Chilly, rainy. And the Leaver gathered things to take them to her new home. Pathetic fallacy, is what we called it in high school English class.
Well it was pathetic fallacy for the Leaver and the Leavee. The kids went to check out the Leaver’s new place and help move things. Our ten-year old daughter was at first reluctant but then went without much coaxing. My seven-year old son was positively ebullient at the prospect. They carried some things, then came bounding back with characteristic silliness.
“Want to help some more? I’m going back?” asked the Leaver.
Back to the screens (an aside; honestly my children are not hard-wired into TV and computer. It just seems like the rare times that they enter directly in this blog they’re being pixellated. This is an unfortunate coincidence, only). Then my daughter comes up the stairs and says “what are all these suitcases doing here?” peevishly.
A look from me.
“Oh yeah…. Right.”
Then back to everything else in a sub-teen boy and girl’s life along with characteristic facetiousness.
So is it a relief that they are dealing with this so well? Or spectacularly frustrating that they are so oblivious to the emotional heft of the situation?
I took it one way. She another. And after a brief conversation between mother and daughter, daughter was in bewildered tears. “I just don’t know what she wants from me. She wants me to talk but I have nothing to talk about.”
They’re not even tweens yet and Leaver and Leavee are middle-aged – for all their precociousness, (especially my daughter who suddenly in the past month looks like she’s ready to start making university selections. For those of you who don’t have kids this is why they call it growth “spurts.”) here is an ocean of difference in how we experience this event. So how do you play parent without playing psychologist and reconcile that distance. Maybe one should just not even try to just be parent and really start to grasp what the “unequivocal” in “unequivocal love” might really mean? What is the correct way of dealing with this situation? What precisely is an “appropriate” reaction?
I don’t think there is one. Because I don’t think anything would be satisfying. I envied my kids their… what? Not obliviousness, they certainly know what’s happening. And they haven’t shied from meeting it head-on. It’s just that it’s the head of a 10-year-old and an 8-year-old. I envy their heads. Their reaction from the impact. I tried to emulate it – a bit silly humour, more of the here and now — and then the 40-year-old took over and I felt bad that I even tried.
And as to the Leaver, of course she just felt bad. Horrible is probably a safe summation.
The front-room was a mishmash of suitcases, milk crates, a few boxes, and small appliances. She could’ve done this last week and the week before. But friends have told me who’ve gone through this that the delay is characteristic of the Leaver. Doesn’t matter who or what prompted the leaving, the Leaver will stall.
It’s all a bit of a mess, of course. It’s been almost two decades of being together. How do you pack that? How do you organize that?
Not like a regular house to house move. No newspaper wrappings and sealed and labeled boxes. It’s all refugee-like, fleeing just steps ahead of an emotional shit storm. Fabric mixed with books. Bits hanging loosely out the top of containers. Suitcases dusty and scuffed, now pulled from corners of closets, filled to the brim with keepsakes and clothes. Containers borrowed, promised to be returned when emptied at the other end. Dust of years, finally released to sully and tangle every corner and surface.
And then there’s the attempt to pack up the emotional stuff. Much like trying to clean up the house in a middle of aforementioned shit storm but with all the windows and doors left wide open.
There are tearful, remorseful conversations alluding to hidden truths and forgotten lies. And a lot of “I understand that you can’t possibly understand;” and “but if you only knew the truth but of course you can’t know.”
So where’s the truth?
The “the” in the last rhetorical question is the problem. It’s in those bags. It’s in the act of leaving itself of course. That’s the only thing that is certain that is inarguably relevant.
The truth is inexpressible directly but we know it is terribly sad, infinitely confusing and absurd, embarrassingly laughable in many ways.
The kids have got it right.