Underneath the Quiet Waters

Our household had become strangely silent after the decision that the only solution was to sell our home and divorce. I finally did what I should have done a long time before and one day, when Kevin was not home, I looked in the drawers which held our finances. My head was spinning and when I saw several checks written to “cash: which could not be justified and I didn’t know they existed, why they existed, who gave them to him and why did he deposit them to immediately cash them back… It made no sense. Nothing made sense anymore and again, that same little girl who ran away from home at the age of five, the one who had the guts to leave communism, took over the suburban comfortable mother and wife I had become in recent years. Even more, now I didn’t have only the responsibility of my own person, but that of my teen daughters and oh… how many helpless pets?

I spoke with my friends, Cass and Nick and as how many times in my life, they were the only ones who truly helped me through this nightmare. I filed for divorce and contacted a real estate agent. She assessed the house and decided she could get us a price good enough to pay all our debts and left some over. Of course, there was one condition, we had to declutter the house in which we lived and raised our children for almost 19 years. No problem, I thought, until I started doing the actual job.

Kevin was stunned at the price the realtor thought she’d get for our home, and declared we were both crazy. He completely withdrew himself from the operation clean.

Several of my friends came to help, but the more we cleaned, the more appeared out of nowhere, from all the closets, corners and basement of the house.

The girls were still in shock. They had known for a long time a storm was pending, but none of us expected it to come out of the blue. Eva, almost 17, was in her entering her last senior year of high school. Natalie, was not 16 years-old yet, and for her, the move was going to be even more significant. We felt like people when they expect the death of a sick 100-year old grandfather who suffers, but when the death comes, we still acted shocked, surprised, as if what was wrong with what was happening? Once one gets in the custom of “pretend,” pretend takes over and it  becomes one’s reality.

Statistics showed that moving was one of the most stressful experiences, but when to that divorce, the turmoil of teenage years, and the responsibility of paying the IRS are added…  that makes for feelings which could not be described. 

I took the girls to a psychiatrist, not a therapist, to help and assess our situation. She spoke with each girl for a long time, in private, and at the end she had a joint meeting with all of us. What she told us, was one of the simplest explanations as to why we may not compare people’s emotional resources to one another. She told us, at birth we are given a bucket and in the bucket there is a certain quantity of resilience, but the quantity is not the same in all of us.  In other words, the same event which I, who have been blessed with a lot of resilience in my bucket, could endure and learn from it and come out stronger,  someone else, who was not as lucky, and started out with little resilience in their God-given bucket, might be devastated by the same event which made me stronger.  She also said that every time a traumatic event occurred in one’s life, some of the resilience was consumed.

That’s where medications came in place, to help people when they ran out of their natural “resilience, and no one could have general rules for when that was going to happen, because we were so different from one another.

How full of resilience were my daughters’ buckets? They smiled… it meant nothing, they went to school, had good grades… the surface of the life of perfection was maintained, but I knew, I knew, the storms underneath the calm waters!

Cleaning the house in which we lived in Heavenly lies for  so long was a nightmarish task…

Those big, black plastic bags and throwing away toys and things which at the time we either bought them, or the kids received them as, seemed so important, so essential to the wellbeing of our lives. Now, they were a pile of rusted toys, dirty, broken plastic, which I imagined thrown somewhere, on top of other mountains of plastic appliances to suffocate our Earth forever!

The township had to make several special trips, and the night before the trash pick up, I looked one more time at the sea of  plastic black bags filled with the broken memories of our lives, our dreams, our hopes.

I didn’t need to take a picture of that horrid image,  and to this day, when I am tempted to buy something which is not really, really essential, all I have to do, is close my eyes and the sea of black trash bags filled with illusions of happiness suddenly appears in my mind. It is an instant recall, which at the beginning made me vomit, but as time went on, it left me with a feeling of sadness and guilt that for som many years I accumulated all those things in an attempt to buy my children’s happiness with things!

To Kevin’s surprise, the house sold in one day. When we told him, he said we probably didn’t ask enough, although initially, when we all discussed the price he said we were asking too much, it would never sell.  Too late, the amount was going to pay the IRS some other debts and the rest we were to split to help us get two smaller separate places, although the amount left wasn’t enough.  The girls wanted to live with me, and their father was going to visit. With 60% of marriages ending in divorce and many of their friends coming from divorced families, they didn’t seem as affected by the divorce, as they were by the fear of homelessness.

“Where are we going to move, Mom?”

A  couple from the Main Line, offered to let us stay in a part of their mansion. We visited the idyllic place on top of a hill. I even gave the couple massages and facials, oh yes, and I was a good cook too!

I was eager to show them that I’d be  useful  and left my 

massage  equipment there, that’s how sure we were we would move in.

 Of all our pets, we were in the process of finding homes for all of them, except a small 8 pound dog whom my daughters adored. He was a shitzu, a non-alergenic dog. At the beginning, the lady of the house where we were about to move was okay with the dog, but suddenly she changed her mind.  Not directly, but through a mutual friend she informed me it was not okay to bring the dog, so we couldn’t move in any longer.

Just like the image of the tens of plastic black bags filled with our life-long  broken illusions would always follow me, this second image, of me, in my bedroom,

surrounded by boxes of books and clothing, after finding out we had just lost our place, and my children, coming from school, smiling, and I, unable to pretend everything was alright.

 I should have compose myself, tell them the truth slowly, have tact… but my resilience was wearing off and when they asked: “What’s wrong, Mom,?”

I blurted out:”We can’t move there, she doesn’t want the dog!.”

Tears, tears and more tears. Desperation and fear because it was the first time when Mom was not coming up with plan B at the snap of the fingers…

I knew it in my gut,  in that moment of confusion over our future, something broke in my daughters’ hearts. That something was the trust that they will never be homeless. The same fear I had at 16, when my father chased us out of our apartment on New Eear’s Eve, enveloped my children’s lives. That which I tried so much to protect them from, was happening, and I was powerless! The fear of homelessness seeped into our already scared souls.

The shock didn’t last long in chronological time, the time, we humans assigned to our lives to keep track of our doings. In my children’s time, I believe it was an eternity.  When my friends, Cass and Nick called and assured us they will help us get a house, that we would not be homeless, their generosity and love overwhelmed us and we would forever remain grateful for all they did and continue to do for us.

Unfortunately,  the girls’ fear and shock that in a second one could lose it all, is still in them, distorted, eating at their self-confidence together with the fear of being ignored by men, as their father ignored them, or that they are not worthy enough, when the truth is they are beautiful, smart, extraorddinary! There is not a day that goes by without me thinking: Could I have offered my children something else, to make them see just how amazing they are! Perhaps, but at the time I did the best I could with what I knew and had available as a resource. Probably years of therapy to understand their own worthiness  would take away the hurts from a childhood which was far from perfect and an ending which was  so shocking because it was the first time they realized Mom didn’t have a Plan B!

In that moment of the greatest need and despair, there were my friends, Cass and Nick again, who picked me off the floor, just like I did with the convict fish so many times, and put us back into the water, so that we may live!

The waters became calm and hopeful again!

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