Ghosts of 9 years past

Some things have happened in the last week that have shown me just how raw we all still are. I have come to realize that I might have set aside my anger and resentment against my ex, but I have far from forgiven him. And the walls came down when his wife got bent because I took her off my friends list on Facebook, as if Facebook were real life.

My reasons are my own. She has insinuated herself between my son and I by continuing to make comments about our living situation. I’ll leave it there, because I don’t want to make things worse than they are. If I’ve learned anything in the last 9 years, it is to censor my mouth — so hard for me to do. All of it has driven a wedge between my ex and I, and now all this anger I have toward him about the things that happened in the weeks prior to Stephanie’s death have come back to the surface.

I refuse to lay it all out there to him, because I’m sure he has beaten himself up enough. I know that I have done so. I have almost died from guilt and suffering since that fateful day, but as I recently told a friend, “I am starting to see glimpses of joy again, and that’s worth getting out of bed for.”

You just never know how that phone call, that knock, that ringing of the doorbell will affect you. You don’t know what it will do to your life — your health, your relationships, your faith. Trust me on this. I had already lived that day a thousand times by the time it actually happened. Not unlike parents whose children have cancer or whose fetuses are at risk, I had gone through all the potentialities in my mind. I had heard the ringing of the doorbell. I had gone through the shock and grief. I thought I knew what I would do, but then the actual day came, and it was more decimating than I ever could have imagined.

Not long before she died, Stephanie asked me, “Mom, what would you do if I died?”

I responded, “I’d want to die, too.” And I really did want to.

You might wonder why she asked me such a question, but you would have to understand something about borderline personality disorder to get it. She always needed to know that she was valued and loved, because her sense of self wasn’t stable enough to hold onto that knowledge. And she loved to shock me with such things.

I’ll never get the image out of my head of how we all looked that day in the dining room, when we were absorbing the news. My ex’s face, a deep shade of red, veins bulging in his forehead and neck, as he squatted next to our bulldog to keep him from going after the detective and the sheriff. Bodhi had gone at them when the door opened, like he knew that had nothing good for us. I don’t know what I looked like, but I felt like I was outside my body, like someone else was speaking and asking questions.

And Sean. My poor son…

He had started a new job at a call center down the street. We had no phone number for him, because he wasn’t allowed to get personal calls anyway. And he had to turn off his phone during his shift. I asked the detective to go and ask Sean to come home.

Imagine you are 21 years old, working in a rather secure banking call center, and the police come to the front desk asking for you. I’m sure that was rattling enough. And it’s for a family emergency.

I know that when Sean came upstairs to the dining room, he was relieved to see me sitting there. First his face drained of color and then burned red. He let out a sigh. I know now that he thought something had happened to me (because of the serious medical emergencies I’d had in the previous 3 years). We asked him to sit down. And then we delivered the news.

In the hours that followed, we made a few phone calls, and then we did what we always did when faced with heavy emotions — we retreated to our rooms. Sean picked up his cat and closed his door. We didn’t see him again until dinner, when we all sat quietly and pushed our food around the plates.

My ex and I laid in bed and spoke very little. I don’t know what he was thinking. Was he thinking of that moment in the kitchen, weeks before? Was he thinking about the little girl who used to come running to him when he came home from a long week in the field with the Marines?

I remember saying, “At least we don’t have to worry about her anymore. We know where she is.”

Yes. She was at the coroner’s office in Baltimore, and truly, I wouldn’t believe she was actually dead until we saw her at the funeral home the following Monday.

The ex might think he has handled it, grieved her, settled into a new life. But I know that it never goes away. You never get over it. You just learn to incorporate the new reality into the old, holding onto the memories and trying to forgive yourself for your human frailty.

I’m determined that my son will know – every day – that he is loved, supported, and valued. Today he is performing with two of the bands he’s in at the Frederick Rock School, and I’ll be there, as always, rooting for him and enjoying the fact that he is enjoying his life. No one will come between us. I know that we won’t always be able to be this close. Someday he’ll find the right person to start a new life with, and she will be his number one. But for now we are each other’s best support system.

And maybe things needed to fall apart a little between me and the ex. I need to focus on my path now. Thanks for being a part of it.

Peace, Jude ❤

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