Saturday, December 29, 2007


December 28th is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the day set aside to honor the memory of those children whose parents were not warned in a dream to get them out of Bethlehem after the visit of the Magi.

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all the region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more."
[Matthew 2: 16-18]

Well, I celebrated myself yesterday, but not in any particularly fruitful way. And before the 28th, I celebrated the Feast of the Not-so-Holy Not-no-Innocent; my second son had bailed out after less than 24 hours, and as I drove him up to meet his mother, he started telling me everything that had gone wrong in his life in the last year, when we all felt that things had gone from good to great. Some of the woe was debt, and before I knew what I was doing, I had forgiven him what he owed me -- a tidy sum -- and written him a check for the rest of his debt. Money, needless to say, that I did not really have. But who would not give a child mere money to save him eight months of all work and no chance to save up for anything that he hoped to do? In retrospect, it was probably not wise, and it resonated weirdly with the fact that it was doubtless his unwillingness which had kept Christmas with children from happening at my house, which for me meant being sentenced to Christmas at my mother's, with everyone else's children, and everyone's thoughtless comments about marriage and failure and... and... and...

OK. I survived that. Then followed a really nice day with the other two kids, then another trek up to my mother's, and at her urging I suddenly realized that I didn't know why they had to leave the following day, but they did. The two-day schedule was originally arranged for the #2 Son, and there had even been talk about the other two staying longer or coming back before they left the Frozen North... Now there was no talk of that at all, just a steady sticking to the schedule arranged for the guy who can't bear to spend time with me. The more I thought about it, the more it bothered me that they wouldn't stay even just one more day...

At dinner, the Lord of Lesbian Lane completely monopolized the conversation, and afterwards, he proceeded to buttonhole my #1 Son, and not let go, and not let me get a word in edgewise. I was down to my last hour with my son before packing him into the car to go back to his mother's. I don't know why I didn't just tell his Lordship as politely as possible to shove off, that I got to see my son for two days every six or seven months, and I was not interested in sharing any more of him than I had to.

During the drive to meet their mother, it began to sink in that I had not only had the children for no more than two and a half days out of the two weeks they were in the area, but I had had to share that time with my mother [which I could only agree was right] and every other family member who wanted to barge in and take over my time with them. The pain of it was like a great big, growing balloon in my chest, and I was so afraid it would burst that I leapt into the silence in the car with a series of fairly simple-minded questions just to make clear that it wasn't me being silent out of hurt feelings...

Things went pretty well until their mother arrived -- the children even let me take their pictures. Isis, for her part, would not even get out of the car to say hello. My son gave me a big hug and reminded me that he would be moving back to the East Coast soon, and we would be able to see each other more. And that is when I lost it. He hadn't said anything wrong; my pain really had little to do with him and everything to do with my hopes of having the children with me for Christmas; but in fact I opened my mouth and in reply to his rather sweet goodbye said, "Yes, more than two days a year would be nice." That wasn't fair, especially to him, who had put me up for a whole week in August, and had been willing to come for Christmas in the beginning. I forget what I added, but it was more in the same line, and I could see in his falling face the hug he had just given me going up in smoke.

I had plenty of time to reflect on my stupidity on the drive home, and immediately sent off an e-mail saying how sorry I was. There was really no way to apologize correctly without putting his sibling[s] who had been unwilling to come for Christmas in the cross-hairs, but I think I found a way to blame my disappointment without pointing any fingers.

But I was crazy to talk to the Goat, who had just called in a day or two before to give me a cell-phone number at his retreat. And today I called him, and poured out my heart, if quickly -- calling a cell-phone in a foreign country can get really pricy really fast. His response was sweet, and after a moment of commiseration he added,
"You do know I love you, don't you?"
And I had to admit that I guessed I did.

And it's a good thing, as otherwise I might be tempted to drown my sorrows in more drink than I can handle. As it is, he talked me into driving out to the Big Woods as soon as he gets back, which is going to involve more finesse in arranging to take more time off from work -- which I had already had to do once my kids arrived just as my official time off came to an end... And as some of you may remember, finesse is not my strong suit.

Ah, whatcha gonna do?
Life, whatever it is like, is good.
You just have to find a way to see it that way.

As the Goat says, I don't have AIDS and I don't live in Baghdad -- what's my problem? I don't really have one, of course. I have three kids, who love me in their own ways, and whom I adore. And I have the Goat, ditto. And I had twenty-seven wonderful years with Isis. That's over, but most of my friends are still talking to me. I think I will find a way to see things "that way."

Hang in there, all.
What else can we do?

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