Woody Allen's said that a wife is only yours for the length of your marriage, but an ex-wife is forever. So I get to be the witness and the torchbearer, the dream lover, Madonna, and whore. But I am kicking ass with this one good leg: That's what it's like to succeed as a single mother. It feels great; as though you've overcome polio to dance Swan Lake.
Yet, the anniversary of the divorce is always difficult, and every year, I'm surprised at the submerged feelings that surface. At some point you just have to say to yourself, "How much blood can I shed for this one, random man who can't even run anymore?" There. I laughed out loud just now. Which is how I get through: See how she runs.... I look at my life, I cry, I laugh, I lean ahead just slightly into the infernal and welcome wind.
Yesterday, I realized that Pablo's now the perfect size and age to help mama clean out her closet, which kind of dips back into the bedroom wall. So he slaved away while I gave directions from my bed, pointing with a yardstick. We made a large pile of clothing for the less fortunate. (Pablo sometimes slips up and calls them "the fortunate" -- it's very Jesus of him, I'd say.) And a pile of shoes and such.
When all was done, and I was on the phone with my best friend, my son took a big wool coat out of a dress bag and brought it upstairs to me. I thought about how my ex had given me that coat; my first, real "East Coast" coat, ankle length and double-breasted, with a fur-lined hood. Without getting off the phone, I brought it back downstairs and flung it on the bed.
Hours later, when I entered the room again, I was shocked at how much the coat resembled a body, a large black feminine figure against the white sheets. The arms stretched out, the hood a head with hair around it, the long body inert. A dead woman with snow all around her.
That's who I was: The wife. And that woman is gone. Ripples of remembrance of our courtship, the early years, wash over me. But it's a small wave and I look at it from all sides now, without repression or analysis. There was much good in my marriage. Some happiness before we actually wed, before Pablo was born. Some from the wedding, and some after. Unquestionably, Pablo is the greatest good of all, and worth a hundred bad marriages. The next small wave gives me a moment's pause, and I ponder: It was five years ago that he left. The very next day was April Fools' day. That fact alone may have saved me.
But no, you and I both know what saved me: My son. A gorgeous Botticelli-in-diapers on the day his father left for good. The reason I am a single mother, Pablo, is that, over long swaths of time, there's a certain amount of grace in being a single mother. Something exquisite and beautiful, crammed with the experience of life and death itself.
Only last Sunday, one of Pablo's frogs died. Greenie.
He cried a bit, and we talked it over on a variety of spiritual and practical levels. Blame was not assigned. We buried the frog.
An hour later Pablo came to me and said, "Now that the Greenie's dead, can I dig him up and cut him open?"
"Oh yes," I said. "Yes, we can. But let's not. Let's just enjoy this crate of strawberries."
And that's what we did. Two people and one crate of strawberries. No one could stop us.