I leave you lighter than when I started, one husband, two children, a uterus, and about 60 pounds gone but not forgotten, especially the children, who are still around, thank god, but I don’t have to drive them anywhere.
No more Aikido or tutor or drama or Spanish lessons. No more art class, pottery class, driver’s training, me waiting out front of yet another building listening to a book-on-tape. I’m not at the store buying the food I would prepare and serve every night, meals on time, and so beneficial those family gatherings, the experts said, and I tried to remember that when the older son came home stoned or floating in an LSD hallucination.
No more rehab or meetings with the school counselor, and that was for both of them. No more college applications. No more therapy, and that was for me. And me again, especially when I decided that enough was enough in terms of my marriage to my college sweetheart, a man I loved but didn’t want to live with anymore. The formerly drugged son in college, the other soon to be, and then I was in a succession of cottages, duplexes, small houses on the corner of some busy street, inside reading my Match.com email and trying to not to weep, but not succeeding. Pity was like a nice witchy cloak I put on at night. It looked great on me, in the dark, quiet nights, just me and my new TV and all that angst.
There were the years of trying to leave, leaving, changing my mind and moving home and then leaving again. How my mother wanted my husband in the divorce settlement instead of me. How sometimes holidays were Inferno-type celebrations of regret and despair, celebrated with people I don’t even know anymore. How I screamed into the phone, my wretched voice reflecting the abuse inflicted by lawyers. How my sons, throughout, stayed calm.
Always, teaching and writing, teaching feeling harder, the writing. too. One agent quit out of existential despair, another fired me because I didn’t produce the mega mega hit he kept exhorting me toward. “A big book,” he’d say as he treated me to shitty instant coffee in the steel, glass, granite edifice in midtown Manhattan. “A really big book.”
One editor passed on a book, another passed away. I tried not to take it all personally, but, of course, kept imagining it was all about me.
Back home at the ranch, lots of freshman comp essays, so often so bad I wanted to burn them in the fireplace my cottage didn’t have.
There was lots of exercise and a sweet spot of physical life, somewhere between 44-46, when I was a total MILF—or so I was told—but as I slid into 47, no matter how long I was on the elliptical, my skin decided to go south and take some fat with it.
Oh, lest I forget, in my forties I got two new breasts, the ones I should have grown immaculately at 14, and unlike everything else about me, they are high and firm and looking, oh, about 27, maybe 28, wishing they were in some bikini somewhere, the sun shining on their perfect roundness.
The whole skin and face thing aside, the MILF days behind me, I got happy. On that dating site I met my now husband, and we got to act about 18 for two years. Or maybe we were more like starving people given big gift baskets or people who worked a long time in a cubicle finally allowed into the executive conference room. Maybe exactly like people who finally said yes to the thing they’d been thinking about for a very long time. Now we are 49 and 56, acting pretty much like we should, having our combined four children over for family dinners in our house. Cooking again, but this is fun now, no more slapped together spaghetti pizza fish sticks tacos casserole tuna sandwich at the end of a too long day. Seriously, in my pantry, truffle oil.
I couldn’t have afforded any of this life in any decade but you, this decade of not being young but not being old, either. This decade of making choices and not just sliding into situations because they happened.
I press 50 into the elliptical machine at the gym when it asks me how old I am.
50. I gave in months ago, saying okay to leaving you and then to the next decade, this beginning of something else, this place after the middle, the time after everything cracked opened and changed, ready for the rest of whatever is left.