Best Laid Plans

I could never have imagined myself here a few years back. At the start of my married life I just kind of thought my path was to unfold in Evanston, in my beloved mid century home by the lake. I will admit however, that even then a dim idea existed in the recesses of my mind that the path immediately before me seemed potentially a rather dull life. A pretty one – beautiful house, lovely neighborhood and all the aesthetic details in place – but if mom to two, if no more gigs, if wife of touring musician, then it would certainly be fairly domestic. And I’d readied myself for that. I remember fall, six years ago, when I was pregnant. I remember Fareed and me taking our young old son trick or treating in our lovely neighborhood under a cathedral of elm trees. I can remember the voices of the families echoing between the houses, I can remember the secret my husband and I carried with us that night. It was a moment full of hope, of wonder that we too were pregnant again, we too would be a family like all the others we passed that night. I remember it feeling all very surreal, truly like I was walking through a dream. As Elihu and Fareed walked up the steps and rang doorbells I watched the other young mothers and fathers who passed us on the sidewalk. I remember feeling like they all belonged to this strange club that I was somehow joining despite the fact that I felt I had nothing in common with them. Nothing except having young children. Even so, I was excited in a deep, mysterious way about this new life growing inside of me. It felt unreal. I could not imagine myself the mother of two children. Seriously, me, mom of two? Was I ready? I needn’t have worried. Shortly after Thanksgiving I miscarried.

Fast forward a bit and I’m living in Dekalb, running a nightclub. This too felt surreal – like a life meant for someone else, but not for me. As much as I could make it look fairly satisfying on paper, it just wasn’t satisfying in my heart. I’d so hoped that somehow our move to the rural outskirts of metro Chicago would help us to slow down and merge more intimately as a family. After two years of what I then considered a waste of my precious life (and clock) we ended our role as nightclub owners. ‘Finally’, I thought. Now we can get back to our life. Now we’re finally ready. Now we’ll have that second child. I thought I knew what I wanted, but apparently the universe knew what I needed and shortly thereafter proceeded to give it to me.

Fast forward a couple more years and here I am. In my cozy, tidy home in he country. After a good meal and a glass of wine I retire to the piano to play some Bach, the fireplace glowing and the house warm with the feeling of family. Fareed is in Elihu’s room going over homework with him. It is the three of us again. It’s a short visit, as it usually is, and it will go too fast. For tonight our son is the kind of happy he only gets when we three are together. Finally he has his mother and his father at the same time, in the same place. There are many who wonder why I allow Fareed to stay here with us if he’s treated us so poorly; why don’t I just make him stay at a hotel? In part, it’s because of this. Because in these brief windows of time we are some kind of family. I wasn’t always able to enjoy it as I am now; in the beginning of our life here I felt a queer mixture of comfort and heartbreak when he visited. And when he’d drive off, my eyes would cloud with tears, my heart still unable to understand. Thankfully, time does diminish the pain and it transforms your perspective. Time, plus the stink of man pee in your toilet. (Boy pee I can deal with – somehow it’s not as offensive. Messy and off-target perhaps, but somehow more endearing – well, maybe that’s not quite the right word – and forgivable.  Sisters, can I get a witness?) So. That also makes his leaving a little easier.

Another nice thing about having Daddy here is that having a third person in the house really does add an extra energy, it adds life to the place for sure. I do wish he could visit longer than a day here and there, spread months apart. Elihu began to cry this morning when he realized that his father would be gone again tomorrow. “Why can’t I have a Daddy who lives with us like a real family?” he sobbed to me. Not a thing I can say. I can just remember what a good life we have here, and indeed how different and how much less full it would have been had we stayed in the midwest. All I have to do is just picture it for a minute, and I’m able to stay the course.

Just what would our life have looked like had we stayed in Chicago? A garden apartment in Rogers Park, no piano playing in the evenings, no drum set to practice at home, no animals, no money, no car, no grandparents next door… lots of ‘no‘. I would have been full of resentment had I stayed there. Quality of life is everything, and it’s easier to have a good quality of life on far less money out here. Knowing this as surely as I do now, I can offer my compassion for his sorrow and help him ride it out til his heart recovers. I understand the feeling well.

In spite of the crap that my almost ex has caused us, in spite of the Lordly way in which he continues to deny his responsibility, I cannot help myself; I relish those cozy moments with all three of us tidily tucked into our corners of the house. Tonight will be the second and final night of this visit. I still have mixed feelings; strangely, this role of father has become normal in some way. And I’m better with it now. I guess three years of having the bed all to myself has helped convince me. That and the man pee thing. And the blackberry to the ear all the time thing. And the calls to his girlfriend in front of me thing. You know. Those little reminders that say ‘hey, Elizabeth, remember that? Don’t worry, you’ll have the place all to yourselves again tomorrow”…

Poverty or not, father in the house or not, we still have a nice life here in our corner of the world. Yes, if we had our druthers things might not be as they are, yet I humble myself to the path the universe has put before me. Clearly I wasn’t headed in the right direction. What have I learned on this new course? Humility is probably the biggest lesson, and I’m always working on it. Self-reliance, self-respect and self-love are also on the list. The self-effacing thing might work well in a stand-up routine but it aint quite as effective in real life. And I might want to roll up my sleeves and begin to face this poverty-consciousness demon head on one of these days. But not today. Maybe tomorrow.

For now, I’m just going to go outside and watch my son and his father play in the fall leaves. I’m going to sink as fully into the moment as I can, and offer my gratitude for the opportunity to do so.

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