The note said, I’m sorry if I left a mess.
It didn’t say, I’m sorry I left a mess. That single word, IF, left me fuming.
(Today’s emotions are brought to you by the Second Stage of Grief: ANGER, and by my First Night of Real Sleep in ten days.)
Of course you left a mess, you bastard. You left people confused and hurting and picking up the pieces of a life you chose to leave behind. You made a choice for yourself, and in doing so, took away the choice of every single person who cared about you, loved you, disliked you, or even hated you.
You have no idea what you have done to your children.
But I do. I got to say the words, over and over, to beautiful faces who only ever wanted their father to be okay. To be happy. To be healthy. To be present.
I have to tell you something. It’s very bad, I said.
Your dad died last night.
The look of horror on my child’s angelic face was one of the most raw moments I have ever lived through. I still cannot think of it without feeling a mixture of bile and hot tears in the back of my throat. One of my others, in his moment, sucked in a breath of air so sharply, that the silence of his exhale left me wondering if he had simply ceased breathing all together.
This is the mess you left behind.
He killed himself.
I had to say it. They had to know. And I had to tell them.
You left this mess, but I get to clean it up. And I rejoice, you fucking bastard. I rejoice in the glorious children who remain, not because of you, but in spite of you. Do you hear me? These kids are wonderful and smart and funny and bright and shiny and WILL move forward, IN SPITE OF YOU.
I got to sit at the funeral, my arms around my children, helpless to fix what you’ve done.
Our daughter cried tiny tears, which she wiped quickly away with the single tissue crammed in her small hand. She didn’t want me to see. When I reached over to brush the hair out of her face, she pushed my hand away, and moved her body so that the space between us was larger. She’s only eight. It’s too much, it’s too big, and I hate you for doing this to her.
This is the mess you left. This is my mess.
They are not your legacy. I won’t let you have them. They are not monuments to who you were. They are a testament unto themselves, and to the beauty and resilience of human beings who are able to survive ugly and difficult pasts. The mess you’ve left? That’s now part of their history, their story. And this is the worst thing you could have ever done to them.
And I am sorry. Tomorrow, or next week, or maybe next year, I will feel something different. This is what the books say. This is what my therapist assures me.
But today I get to be angry.