Yesterday would have been my wedding anniversary and to my surprise I've been up all night. It surprises me because most of the day I was indifferent to the date and I think indifference is the surest sign of healing. Last year's was the first anniversary we weren't together and it didn't keep me up so I wasn't prepared for this year's to do it either.
There are differences between last year and this year. Last year we were still technically married. This year the divorce is final. Last year I was in another relationship. This year I'm not far removed from a breakup. Last year was about new beginnings. This year has been about endings.
I don't think any of these are the differences that account for my different reactions, though. It's not missing her either. The divorce wasn't a nice one and the complications killed any chance of me missing her again. It's not even missing being married. I'm enjoying the single life. It's really just missing being a family or more accurately missing my son.
I have custody of him through the schoolyear. She has him for June and July. It's not quite that simple but it's close enough to explain myself. It's common after a divorce to feel a sense of unmooring, to be unsure of who you are and what your life is going to become, and I felt that somewhat and still do. I don't know where I'll be living next month or next year. I don't know who I'll be with next month or next year or if I'll be with anyone. I'm not sure what this blog is going to be about or if it will be anything more than this one post, what gets me through the summer without him, or just become part of my life. I don't have much of a clue what my life is going to become.
I've never become completely unmoored though, like so many do after a divorce, because I have an anchor to keep me in place and keep me from floating away. My friends and family have been tremendous and I'm more thankful than they know but they haven't been my anchor. I've had the same job throughout it all and I'm pretty sure I'll have it for awhile but I've never let any job truly become part of my self identity. It hasn't been my anchor. My anchor has been my son.
I was my ex-wife's man before I was even really a man. I had been the Paul in Paul and Sherri for almost half my life when we split. At the time I'd been Brad's Dad for almost 7 years but that was the role that was much more important to me. Some might say that was part of the cause of the split but I reject that notion or, at least, think that if it was that's her problem. I think that's the way things are supposed to be.
Brad is 8 now and like any other 8 year old he's sometimes 8 going on 4. He's also 8 going on 24. Last year when a counselor asked him if he was angry at Mom and Dad for getting divorced he answered, "A little but I know there's nothing they can do about it." This year he insisted, without any prompting, on giving some of his birthday money to charity. I told him before he left for his mom's this summer that I was going to miss him and I wouldn't like him being gone that long. He replied, "I'll miss you too Dad but don't you think it's fair that Mom gets me for a little while because you get me a lot." A few Christmases ago a friend of mine, who always buys Brad the best gifts, hadn't been working and didn't have the money to buy presents. He told Brad this and Brad said, "I don't care about presents. I just want to see you." I tell these tidbits so everyone will know it's not just any boy I'm missing but an exceptional boy. I suppose every parent thinks that way about their children, and that too is the way things should be, but it's not just Brad's parents that think that way about him.
It's obvious that pride is part of being a father but it's not the only part. I could state the contrasting cliches, joy and terror and elation and frustration, and they would be true too. I think Stephen King was most right, however, when he wrote "A father is not necessary unless he is a good father. Then he is essential." That's how being a father makes me feel. All those good things I just bragged about, and many more I had to stop myself from bragging about, don't happen without me. I am essential.
Even while he's been with his mother he's needed me . I'm the man he called late at night when he needed to be comforted about something. I'm the friend he wanted to tell about beating a video game. I'm the guy that keeps him up to date on pro wrestling. I'm the cook he had to assure that someone else's barbeque was good but not as good as the Murray's. I'm the wise one that he had to discuss an online shopping choice with. This all might seem trivial but it's vitally important to him and I'm who he wants and needs to talk to about it. I'm the voice and the I love you he needs to hear. I guess I wrote all of this to remind myself of that.
I'll be able to sleep now because I remembered. I've never become unmoored or lost in life because I know. No matter how many women tempt me too question myself because they find me unworthy of their love, I'll know who I am. I am essential. I am Dad.