Chalk Drawings in the Rain

Standing there alone, at the precipice of nightfall, the air turns cooler, daylight appearing a little dimmer and the shadows begin to fade away slowly. One moment his silhouette is beside him, it draws longer before simply dissipating in the pale, late afternoon ambient light, along with all the other shadows. It used to be so clear; his relationship with his kids, the expectations’, the experiences. But now they seem to be dissolving like a child’s chalk drawings in the rain.

It’s strange when you get older and your children do too, it’s not the same for you both. For one the days run by like a fast moving bus leaving one to yearn for what they may have missed and for the other they seem to draw on forever, full of opportunity, excitement for what may come, adventure and anticipation. For the parent there is a sense of loss, for the child freedom.

You knew it was coming, all the older folks say it’s so, that the time you have with them passes by so quickly and we take it for granted. That time passes by like a mid-winters day, and soon you’re wondering what happened, where did it all go, why do you feel as though they’ve forgotten you. You forget what it is like to be a teenager, cruising around with your pal’s, the freedom, no one looking over your shoulder.

Your daughter has a boyfriend, he gets more time than you now, she looks at him with that same lost essence in her eyes that she once had for you…when she was like five. It hurts, you feel betrayed, left behind, alone. They all grow older; your son leaps out the front door in his letterman jacket and the keys to his future, and his little tender hands not in yours, tugging you along. Finally the youngest glances back at you as she runs off to join her team mates on the field, it’s not fair you think, you used to throw her in the air and now her fellow ball players celebrate with her, they chant and cheer her on and they are louder than you and the sound of your voice diminishes as it gets carried away in the fall air.

Breakfast is lonely now; it feels unnecessary, like an old outdated custom. Like an old book you once loved to read over and over but it just seems like the words aren’t quite as bright as they used to be, the pages are more fragile and worn and the cover has seen its day in the sun, it eventually finds its way onto a shelf higher than the rest, it may be pulled out now and again but the air between its pages will grow stale and it’s binding dusty. Like all great books, once celebrated its now simply remembered.

You taught them, aimed them in the right direction, and gave them the tools they’ll rely on when they are all on their own. You are happy for them, and are yourself excited to see them flourish, grow and become adults. But somewhere along the way you forgot to prepare yourself, I suppose that’s what happens though, you love them, cherish them, teach them and watch them step away.

So this is it

So this is it, I sit nervously speaking directly into the small microphone on the desk in front me, to the judge poised above me and behind his big oak dais. To my left is my attorney, she is older, appears frail to a point with short, dark crimson hair but doesn’t hesitate to speak up. To her left, my soon to be ex-wife, she is dressed for success in a sleeveless blouse and nice pants. She has a look that seems to say she is somewhere far away. She never looks at me, even when we met in the hallway before hand, when she spoke to me she looked out the fourth floor window or at the floor. Now we all face the judge, it’s a very quiet room and we wait as he flips through the divorce decree page by page. He takes a sip of water from a clear glass and the folds his hands together and leans forward, in a deep and pudgy voice he says “You two have been very respectful and mature during this process, I don’t often deal with a couple like you whom manage to get through this with sensibility.” I respect that about you two and applaud you for it.

I don’t know how to feel just then, I am proud of us, my ex-wife and me. I am beginning to falter also, I look over at Angie and I see that her eyes are full of clouds; she uses the middle part of her index finger to check her eyes in an attempt at keeping the tears at bay. This has been a long process and I have been impatient at times but mostly I have felt great sadness as I do now. I feel a sense of loss for something that has lasted twenty two years.  When she and I met she was 16 and I was 20, we married in 1992 and moved far away from her parents. We have had four children, the first one is Aspergers, extremely high functioning; she is 21 and is in college studying to be a prosthetics engineer, the other ones are also all very educated and intelligent, kind and wonderful. We must have done something right, together. I think for many years our marriage was amazing, and I think for years we struggled, especially after my tours in the military overseas in South West Asia, and we both grew apart emotionally, trying to nurture and develop our own selves through-out strain and emotional neglect.

It’s at those times that a person must reach inside and rely on their skills at surviving and adapting, and neither of us ever had those lessons as we grew up kids in the homes in which we lived. For very different reasons, both homes were very dysfunctional and I am afraid we both learned inappropriate ways of dealing with emotional struggles. That didn’t serve us well later on in our lives, in our marriage. Eventually we looked for different things to make us happy and help us go on. We concentrated on the children, they were always our main focus, albeit with different ideas and styles but still it was about the kids.

Two people can only go on so long in that way, they become less of a couple and more of a team, and when that team begins to fade and fall apart, so too does the communication and support and success of that team. And that becomes obvious to the children and that becomes hurtful and neglectful to them as well. We practiced good front stage behavior for a while, but more and more time was spent in separate dressing rooms off stage. We tried counseling and tried a few different avenues and means of treatment both as a couple and as individuals.

Finally, in the end all we had left of each other in our hearts were echoes of past times when things were good, but even those have been muddied, covered over with a thin but rank layer of regret, anger, disappointment and misery. I still love her and I always will, I think she is responsible for saving me more than a few times, I am broken and always was and from the start she knew it but saw something then that she wanted, that had value, that she was attracted to. I guess that only lasts so long until its only shadows in the fog, drifting in and out around us until we don’t even recognize it any longer and then it melts into history.

So this is it, as the judge signs off on the twentieth page of a document that legally terminates our marriage I am conflicted, feel torn apart and opened up like a gutted fish. As we walk out the front door of the Family Justice Center in the middle of downtown, surrounded by cranes and jackhammers, cars and busses and trucks, I watch as she quickly, steadily and forever walks away from me, never looking back. Lost in the crowded streets, a friend, a wife, and a consort. I have lost someone I have loved for more than twenty two years. Regardless of the circumstances, the hurt, the deception, the anger, the heart still bleeds; even whilst it runs dry it will desperately continue to beat until there is nothing left to beat for. Then standing there, empty and alone, looking for a spark, for shelter from the approaching cold and waits.

Part Time

He paused just outside the door to his apartment, key in hand. He could hear the sweet sounds of his children inside, their laughter and banter. It was like crisp, cool water running across the dusty shelves in his soul. He smiled, and he listened. Since leaving their home and their mother he has missed the daily sounds of his kids, only getting to experience it on a part time basis. In short spurts he sees them in the morning and gets to tuck them in at night. He’s grown to hate the look of their bags lying about waiting to be repacked and carried away with their hugs and their kisses; he wishes they would never have to leave.

He stays up just a little too late each night not wanting it to end, and when he comes home from his second job at night on the weekends at 3am, he stands in the doorway to their bedroom, watching them as they sleep, their tender little chests rising and falling, he tucks back in their toes sticking out from the end of the blankets and pulls the covers up as kisses them. Then he silently says a prayer begging his god to keep them safe when they are away. That night he sleeps restlessly because he can’t wait for morning so he can make them breakfast and sit around the table they built together planning their day.

On their last day with him he has to work, so when he comes home at the end of the day and he pauses at the door its silent, no laughter, no giggling, there are no voices. He doesn’t want to open the door; he checks the number on the door and finally goes in, sets down his lunch box, removes his shoes and stands in the doorway of their bedroom. Their beds are made and their bags are gone and his heart begins to ache terribly, he tries to catch his breath but it shallows and he finds it hard to swallow. As the night goes on the color from the sun seems to fade, the air grows stale and he misses them and he wonders just how long his heart can take it.

Dragonwyck Lost

The armor is rusty,
the shield is cracked;

the helmet creaks,
the horse swaybacked.
But I am mounted,
my quivering lance
thrust forth.

We meet at noon
in the courts,
our battleground,
jousting, flailing,
dividing up the castle,
estate, the grounds,
the chattel.

I, once the flaxen-haired
buxom, favored wench,
now like so much
cattle,
seen beyond the fence.

Even Merlin
with his magic
cannot help us now.
No spells, no fairy dust,
no incantations left.

One last time
I cross the moat;
the drawbridge pulled,
the gates behind
shut tight.

No round table
reconciliations.
Camelot’s dream,
long gone, but
not forgot.

So much for
flashing steeds of white
and shining armored
knights.

No rescue here,
no respite, no reprieve.
King Arthur’s dead;
I’m not Queen Guinevere,
and you’re not
Sir Lancelot.

— Elaine Pedersen ©