I was texting with my friend Shane recently, and the subject of Caleb and his new job came up. I mentioned that Reed had told me that Caleb is commuting from his parents’ place, and the new wife is home alone with the baby during the week.
I mentioned that I had found Caleb’s schedule, and he is still teaching 5 classes, but now teaching at a pretty anonymous community college.
I mentioned that I couldn’t see how the new job was an upgrade at all, and in fact, appears to be a downgrade.
I mentioned how a friend had commented that it seemed as though Caleb had “just fled” WVU (there was definitely pressure being exerted to get rid of him there).
I mentioned how awful it must be for Caleb’s wife to be home alone with a new baby while he works at a job that surely can’t be gratifying in the way that he desires.
But then, I texted, “I’m just grateful that’s not my life.”
And Shane texted back, “#notmylife.”
So, that’s my new motto: #notmylife.
It was once my life, but is no more.
Do you want to know what my life is now?
Grace and Frankie marathons on my couch.
Jimmy John’s delivery three times in one week because I don’t want to cook.
Afternoon naps whenever I want (if I’m not teaching).
Beer at the nearby brewpub with my neighbor on a weeknight.
Travel to writer’s residencies in Belgium, Vermont, and Washington.
So many friendships, both new and old.
A PhD, a Best American Essay, and a book with HarperCollins.
The other night, in the car on the way to see his father, Reed said, “Do you think that my dad believes everything he says about you?”
I said, “I don’t know. He was married to me for almost a decade, so I feel like he’d know me by now.”
“Wait, I thought you were only married for 5 years,” Reed said.
Reed was 7 when I left his father, yet he thought that we had only been married for 5 years. I have no doubt that this is due to his father trying to recreate the narrative of his “first family.”
The first family must surely be downplayed as inconsequential.
We never really existed.
When did you get married?” Reed asked.
I told him the date.
“So, [dad’s baby] was born on the day of your wedding anniversary?” Reed asked. “I guess that means he’s probably extra happy about that day?”
I said, “Well, wedding anniversaries are sad after a divorce, so he’s probably happy to have something to replace that memory with.”
Reed said, “If [my stepmom] ever divorces my dad and he loses [my sister] like he lost me, then he’s probably going to be really sad on that day.”
But then he said, “But if [my stepmom] divorces my dad, then I’m going to lose my sister too.”
I said, “If [your stepmom] divorces your dad, I’ll make sure that you still have a relationship with your stepmom, your sister, and your step-grandparents. I promise.”
But Reed’s stepmom is not going to divorce his dad. Caleb is smarter and harder. He knows what he’s doing now. And the stepmom, according to Reed, wants to be a stay-at-home mom.
This is not an indictment of stay-at-home motherhood, but in this particular instance, I cannot think of a better way in which Caleb could have trapped his new wife. How could she ever leave him if he’s the sole provider?
Tonight, in the car on the way home from his father’s house, Reed told me that his English teacher had asked them to write about a moment that had changed their life. He said, “I wanted to write about when my dad broke your foot, and I came home, and you were in a cast and on crutches, but then, I thought, ‘No, that’s way too dark for the other sixth graders.'”
He didn’t say that with sadness. He said it with humor.
Dark, dark, humor.
I raised this kid. I get him. I giggled. “Yeah, probably too dark,” I said.
He giggled harder, “Definitely too dark,” he said.
Then we ranked our household in order of weirdness, and Reed ranked it as the following:
- Teddy the dog (weirdest)
- Me (next weirdest)
- Bob the cat (kinda weird)
- Reed (not weird at all)
Though I shouldn’t admit it, I actually agreed with Reed’s ranking.
I love this kiddo, and I love my life. I have pangs when Reed sends me things like pictures of his dad with his baby sister, but they’re just that–pangs.
I was full-on suicidal when I was with Caleb. I’ll take “pangs” over that any day.
But it’s not my life anymore. It’s her life now. Hopefully, she’ll read this. Hopefully, she’ll learn sooner than I did.