One of my sons is thinking about his biological dad. I have an idea of the scope of the castles being built in his head because just once he breathed to me, "I wonder. What would it be like if he hadn't left? I bet we would...wrestle."
And he said that, wrestle, and it is not big enough of a word to hold all the ache and longing that surges in the heart of a boy who was left behind.
I say I would do anything for my sons. I say that their needs come before mine. But I remember the first night I spent without my ex husband. I was shattered, my eyes burned from crying, and I could not bring myself to imagine how we would all get through tomorrow.
I couldn't figure out how to do my bedtime routine, in a house that looked like it had been ransacked. Half of the things that were "ours" had suddenly become "his" and were gone. But when I finally went to bed, when I turned out the light and lay down in the dark, it hit me: this is what peace feels like.
I could close my eyes and go to sleep without anxiety or fear about when he would be back. It did not matter to me, to the boys, what mood he was in.
I was scared and alone and battered, but I had peace, like a thin gold chain puddled in my palm.
And now tonight, here next to me, there is my husband. I think of him as my real husband, in the same way that Max once called Clay his real dad. He and I are something even beyond this family we've built around us. And no matter what, I have never been afraid - either that he wouldn't come home, or that he would.
I say I would do anything for my sons, but even if I could give my boy the longing of his heart, even if I could somehow put all the pieces together again, I wouldn't do it.
I would not give him what he wants the most.
And although it breaks my heart to watch him hurt, I'm not even sorry.