Yesterday should have been my 13th wedding anniversary.
Instead I spent the day remembering that happy Friday in February when we tied the knot at the local Town Hall. It was a sunny day, the weather was mild and we were joined by family and friends to celebrate our day. We were full of hopes for our marriage and plans for the future and very much in love.
Seven years later, almost to the day, my husband packed his bags and left our home. Our girls were just 3 and 6 and they just didn't understand where Daddy was going and why he wouldn't be tucking them up in bed that night, or any other night. They cried themselves to sleep for weeks afterwards and I encouraged the tears. They needed to cry, as did I, and let the emotion out instead of letting it stagnate and fester for years to come.
I spent hours over consecutive nights massaging my eldest daughter's feet because it relaxed her. As I massaged the warm fragrant oil into her feet she sobbed almost non-stop. Then she would start to yawn and I knew I could carry her to bed because sleep might be a little closer for her. My youngest daughter reverted to a babylike state, which a psychologist friend informed me was her way of feeling safe, but all the same was heartbreaking to witness.
The three of us spent many nights all squashed together in my bed. One after the other they would find their way into my room in the middle of the night and slide between the covers. They needed to know I was still there.
Slowly, slowly our lives took on a new routine. New rules, new dynamics, a new normality.
Somehow I managed to deal with most of it with a smile and a joke. "I was happily married for 4 years....unfortunately the marriage lasted for 7." Boom boom! Most people would never have guessed how low I got, or how isolated I felt. Admitting that you are lonely or scared or afraid gets harder as you get older, and the fear of being judged or - worse - pitied was enough to make me put a brave face on everything.
I had planned to celebrate my decree absolute with champagne, a toast to freedom and a new life. But when I opened the buff envelope containing the papers I was overwhelmed by the feelings of sadness and loss. A future I had planned as part of a couple had been lost, and there was a tangible feeling of failure. Failure to make my marriage work. Failure to live the life I had planned as part of our family.
So, here I am. Instead of celebrating 13 years old marriage I am marking 6 years of being a single parent. I can hardly believe it's that many years since he left, and yet it seems to have passed so quickly. I wonder what the next 6 years will bring?