Old Grief

November 24, 2008 | 1 Comment

Category: Auto-Biography

Three evenings I played with Elia on the floor of his bedroom.  He had recently turned five.  The marriage to his mother had slipped into the abyss a while back.  What was left was for me to leave.  Somehow I had to explain it to my son.  I was unable to tell his mother until I was gone.

Three evenings we played on his bedroom floor.  With “guys,” I acted out the two homes he would be having in the future.  I acted out with toys his Daddy moving to another nearby apartment.  My son seemed confused.  Devastation had been stalking me day and night.  Those three nights, I could see that darkness creeping into Elia’s eyes.

The morning after the third evening, I took Elia to kindergarten.  Climbing out of the car, I opened the back door and leaned in to unbuckle him from the seat.  I explained that I wouldn’t be home when he got home from school, but I would see him frequently.  As I said it, I saw in his eyes that his life had changed.  I could see that my lifelong distress was appearing in the psyche of my son.  My worst fears were being realized.  That which was most beautiful in my life was appearing broken.  I could feel that I was breaking Elia’s heart.

I carried him into his classroom.  I explained to his teacher, a friend of his mother, what was happening and to attend to him closely.  I hugged Elia.  I drove back to the apartment and told his mother I was leaving.

Until I was almost thirty, I could not even imagine having a son or daughter.  To voluntarily bring into the world a precious being and then abuse him with what followed seemed cruel and unloving.  My life felt characterized by unfathomable shame and terror.  No way did I want to expose a child to such pain.

But I loved this woman.  So I took a risk.

When Elia was born, I loved him, nurtured him and guarded him with a vigilance that was both neurotic and heroic.  I provided his mother all the support to protect him that was possible for a husband to provide.  I struggled to keep our arguments from his ears.  His personality featured joy, curiosity, courage and sensitivity.  He behaved like he was happy and secure.

And then I left.

My 24-year old son has the soul of an artist.  As a young adult, he too has unfathomable feelings.  But he seems less stalked than either of his parents.  He is tender with both his mom and dad.  Elia has an open heart.

My son has become my teacher and my guide.


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This entry was posted on Monday, November 24th, 2008 at 8:07 am and is filed under Auto-Biography. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
1 Comment so far

  1. Rosalie Riegle on December 2, 2008 8:30 am

    A beautiful essay, Andrew. It brought back my old grief at leaving my husband, and that’s good as I tend to Pollyanna everything in my life and to forget that my decision to leave Ed hurt my daughters, even though they were all grown and out of the house. Thank you.

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