On Redemption

Rain is pouring on to the skylights of my house. My loft office overlooks those skylights, and it’s where I’m writing now.

I told someone recently, “I don’t ever want to live somewhere again where I don’t have a loft office.”

Her reply was, “Good luck with that.”

Recently, I was having an energy audit done on my house (because my power bill was so high), and the auditor kept saying, “I see why you stay in this house. This house has character. It has a good energy to it.” The auditor was a man about ten years older than me. He was physically fit. He had a mullet.

By the end of the visit, he was sitting on the floor with Teddy, my rescue dog, in his lap, and telling me about his first marriage to an emotionally abusive woman.

People share their stories with me. They share their stories with me because I share mine with them. While this auditor was tapping the walls of my office and looking for an entrance into the attic, he said, “So, what’s your book about?”

It has been a long winter, but not as long of a winter as last winter, or the winter before.

The snow didn’t tunnel me in this year.

I started a group with a few friends titled “Goals, Goals, Goals.” This week, one of my goals was to “find beauty,” which is the most basic, yet lofty goal of all. And still, one afternoon, when I had some peace, I went down for a nap, and as I was falling into sleep, but still awake, the colors behind my eyelids began to dance in a beautiful fashion. It was almost psychedelic, and rather than falling asleep, I allowed myself to watch those colors happening behind my closed eyes, and I thought to myself, “I have found beauty.”

I have found beauty.

I have found beauty in this town.

Reed and I first moved into a sterile apartment that was surrounded by college students. I carried my groceries up six flights of metal stairs. I carried Teddy down the stairs to potty when the steps were too cold for his paws.

I wept on the couch when Reed was gone.

On Thanksgiving Day that year–the first year out of my marriage–when Reed was with Caleb, I called Caleb and cried because I felt sorry for myself, and Caleb screamed “Find a new husband to deal with your problems” before hanging up on me.

Caleb used to record all of our phone calls, but it took me a long time to figure out what he was doing.

The other night, I had to talk to Caleb about an issue with Reed being bullied at his after school program. Caleb and I talk on the phone–at most–once or twice a year. When this conversation started, it sounded like Caleb had put me on speaker phone, and I assumed that was so his wife could hear. I did not care. She, too, is one of Reed’s caregivers.

The conversation was one of the most productive conversations we’ve had in a while. It was all very reminiscent of when we were a family, and I would run interference for Reed. I am still good at running interference for him, but it is not as easy.

Reed was relieved at the end of the conversation because it had gone well (and it doesn’t usually go well when I have to talk to Caleb), but I later realized that it wasn’t a speaker phone I had heard, that Caleb had probably been taping us (he knows that we’re going to have to go back to family court soon). Still, I am no longer worried about Caleb trying to get custody of Reed–the straight-A kid–who can speak for himself now, and who explicitly prefers being with me.

I am also okay with Caleb taping our phone conversations if that means he will be nice to our kid (because Caleb often isn’t nice to our kid).

I’ll take Caleb’s posturing over my child’s distress any day.

We had a situation recently where Reed wanted something, and he asked Caleb for it, and Caleb said, “But that wouldn’t make things harder for your mom.”

When I picked Reed up that weekend, the first thing he said in the car was, “Did you know that my dad sometimes makes decisions just to make things harder for you?”

This all sounds like I’m complaining, but I’m not. I’m not complaining because, when we moved into that tiny apartment, Reed and I found a cute, little blue table that fit into that apartment, and Reed and I fit at that table perfectly together.

The first essay I workshopped as a PhD student was “It Will Look Like a Sunset,”  and Dinty W. Moore closed the door, and asked, “Are you okay?”

And I was.

I was okay.

We want traumatic stories to end in redemption, and I rail against this. I rail against redemption.

But I still have that little blue table in the new home, and I have a loft office, and a hammock in the back where Reed once swung next to me and said, “Everything is better now, isn’t it?”

Spring in the new home is beautiful. The hum of the bugs. The moan of the toads.

The rain on the skylights.

I love where we are, and I wouldn’t change it. I’d stay here forever if I could.

And as much as I hate redemptive endings, I feel redeemed.