I've sat down to write this blog 5 different times, and haven't managed to type out a single word. Now that it's been a week since we got together, and I've had a little time to breathe, it's much easier.
My ex came up for another visit, this time without his new wife and baby. His dad invited him up to go on a horse camping trip for a few days, but he still had one day of free time before he headed back to the Lone Star state and his family. The last visit (a mere three weeks prior) led to some significant emotional damage to my oldest, and we talked about whether or not to schedule a visit. I decided it would be best to ask Will if he wanted to see his dad or not, to which he insisted that he get to see him. If I were Will, and I only got two chances a year to see the father I once idolized, I'd want to see him, too.
How we were going to go about this visit was also a concern. To shield Will from any further emotional hurt, I felt I needed to be there. Even though it was going to be difficult for me, I knew that this was right for my son. If he became overwhelmed, I could take him home. If he needed a hug, I was there. So, my ex and I agreed to meet at a park near my house with all three of the kiddos in tow and see how things went. We arrived and started playing. It took about 15 minutes for the ex to arrive, and we were so distracted we didn't even notice him until he walked right up to us. He greeted us all with a hug, except Will, who ran away when he was approached by his Dad. It was a painful moment for all of us, I'm sure.
As the kids played on the Razor scooters I had purchased for them that day (for just 5 dollars each at a garage sale - score!), they put some distance between themselves and us by racing around the park, leaving the opportunity for the ex and I to talk.
All he could keep saying was, "I'm sorry, Erin. I'm sorry." The tears in his eyes said it all. For the first time, I saw a sincere apology from him, and something I NEVER thought I'd see.... jealousy. He had lots of questions for me about how I was doing, what I'd accomplished, how the kids were faring, and what I had planned for the year to come. You'd think he'd know these things, but he never checks his emails, and we don't *ever* talk when he's back home with the little lady. I could physically see the waves of regret crashing in his heart as he saw how calm and peaceful I was, and the joy in my eyes when I hugged our sons. It was a relationship he would never know, all because he decided that other things, worthless things, were far more important than the family we'd struggled for 8 years to create and support.
At this point, the kids were getting hungry and he offered to take us all to dinner - wherever I wanted. I decided on a low key Burger King meal with the best playplace in town, so the kids could be safely entertained. This also gave them an escape to be able to come and see their dad when they felt like it, or hide high above us in the various cubbies in the structure. Of course, they mostly picked the latter. Again, we were left to talk amongst ourselves. The pain continued to well up for him, but now, for both of us. It was nice to pretend to be a normal family for once, even if it were just for a few short hours. (For those of you who have a "normal" family - TREASURE those moments! You are very blessed!!!) I knew that it would all go back to the way it was that very next morning when he boarded a flight bound for home. But, for the time being, I would get to look in the eyes of the person who betrayed me... betrayed us all... and find some answers there.
He said he wished he could take it all back. That the mistakes he made were not worth the cost. He told me that any man who could call me "his" was very lucky. He praised my strengths, and soothed my heart about my faults, explaining that he felt badly for not having been the husband I needed. He admitted things I had known to be true for years, and we both laughed when I grinned an "I told you so" smile. We chose to laugh instead of cry. We'd both done enough of that at this point. He told me things about his current life that I felt in my heart would be true, and that gave me the peace to know that I am right where I'm supposed to be.
The kids finally made their way down the play equipment, rubbing their eyes at 8:00, and I knew it was time to head home. We gave him a ride back to the park where he left his truck, and the kids all said a nonchalant goodbye to the dad they have never known as "Daddy".
After it was all over, I stepped outside of my car while the kids waited inside. He asked if I would ever consider trying to be together again (if he were no longer married), and the most painful yet freeing part of our encounter was telling him that I wouldn't. I couldn't. Being friends now was so much simpler and better for the kids in light of the circumstances. We hugged, I cried, and we parted ways. Again.
Will weathered the visit better than the last time, though he was not without scars. I could see his little broken heart as if it were being held in his hands, yet he seemed stronger and more confident. It was a strange trade-off. A far cry from the broken little boy he was when we moved up here - he took a new found interest in "taking care" of me and his little brothers. His loving heart warmed mine as I pushed the memories of that day aside and worked again toward the goals I have set for myself without taking time to indulge in any self pity.
Normally, after a visit like this, Will would talk for the entire drive home, the next day, and the following weeks all about his Daddy.
This time, when he woke up he said to me, "Mommy, can I marry you? I want to take care of you. I love you."