Time, the constant traveler, walks with the Moon and rides with the Sun. Days and nights crumble and blow away. Months slide slowly by. It has been almost two years since that fateful night when Dan first told us he was leaving and Max and I first faced that he was done with us. It has been over a year since the day the dreadful divorce went down. And, it has been a full year and a half since the last time I saw Dan.
That was on a night just before he flew to Australia to join the woman he had met online, the woman he was leaving us for. I had not expected to see him. I knew that Max had spent the day helping him move his things from his apartment into a storage container in his parents’ backyard. But Max had gone on to see friends. I was alone when Dan messaged that he was bringing by a shelf unit that he wanted me to have.
A few minutes later, he was at the door. I was shaky and nervous as I fumbled to turn the lock. We said “Hello.” Dan looked tired from all the moving he had done that day. We stepped off the porch and over to his rental truck. Together we moved the shelf cabinet into the house. It was replacing an older, rickety shelf which he carried out to the garage for me.
Once his shelf was in place, and I had thanked him for it, Dan said, “Well, I guess this is goodbye.” I asked, “How long will you be gone?” He said that he did not know, maybe a year. I shook my head and said, “It’s very strange.” He said, “Yes, I never expected anything like this.”
He reached to hug me. His manner, maybe because he was tired, lacked the happy-go-lucky style that he had shown in so many of our encounters since the Crack-up. We hugged, and when we pulled apart, I reached down and held his hand for a moment. He looked at me, more directly than he had in months, maybe years, and said, “Forgive me.”
That caught at my heart. I began to cry. “Oh, I do forgive you,” I said. “It’s just that I am so sad.” He nodded as if he understood, then he turned, and I watched him walk out the front door and out of my life.
A long and lonely hour followed. I was listening to music in the den when I heard Max’s car pull in. He sat on the couch and talked of his day helping his dad move. He said Dan tried to talk to him about the Stages of Grief. Max said, “I told him I reached ‘Acceptance’ the first week. I see there is nothing I can do about the situation, so I accept it. It does not mean that I like it or think it’s a good thing, especially for the family, but I accept it.”
Max told me about the container that Dan had bought and placed in his parents’ back yard to store all his possessions. He said that Papa, Dan’s eighty-year-old dad, was out there helping them that day. Max could see the strain and grief on Papa. He later talked to Dan about it, but he was oblivious.
Max said once again how selfish he thinks Dan is. He said that day Dan was going on and on about how bad it is for him that he could not sublet his apartment. Max said his dad has no idea of how more than bad everything has been for us. He only thinks of himself. He later said he doesn’t think Dan cares about us at all. He’s going to spend $5,000 on dual citizenship and more on a lawyer. Max said, “The $100 I got for helping him move today is probably the last money I’ll ever see from him.”
* * * *
Forgiveness came easy for me that night when Dan asked for it. I forgave him for what he had done to me. I bore him no anger or ill will, only a great sadness as I told him at the time. Max, too, on his last day with his dad, was able to speak of acceptance, which is his version of forgiveness.
I am a spiritual, loving person; I understand the importance of forgiveness. To live well we must be free of anger and negative thinking. But though I forgave Dan for his betrayal of me, I found I could not live in peace with his treatment of Max. It did not seem right or fair. I felt passionate about it. I felt unforgiving.
The night Dan announced the Crack-up, he walked out without leaving so much as a twenty dollar bill for Max. In the year and a half since Dan left us, college tuition for Max has come due six times. He has gone to the dentist and the doctor. The car he drives back and forth to school has needed gas, tires, service, and insurance. His health insurance sends bills regularly. Max has worked some part-time jobs and has usually been able to pay for gas and car expenses and his own spending money. But the rest I paid. Once he left us, Dan paid nothing to help Max with expenses as he completes college.
Two months after Dan left for Australia, Christmas came. He sent Max nothing. The next Christmas, again nothing. Birthday, also, nothing. No gifts. No contributions to help Max with school. Dan sent email greetings, but nothing else.
Dan’s disregard of Max seemed especially unfair considering how much help he was still–at his age–getting from his parents while Max is only in his early twenties and just beginning to make his way in the world.
It was as if Dan had turned his back on Max and disowned him. This was what held back my complete forgiveness. I felt that for Dan to cease altogether in providing for Max as a father was unforgiveable.
When I began this final chapter, I entitled it “Unforgiveable.” My heart was still breaking over the fact that Max does not have a father in any real sense of the word. But over the course of writing and struggling to get at the truth of how I feel today, of how I want to feel today, I find I have come to a new place. As I was writing about that day a year and a half ago, the last time we saw Dan, it began to seem like a long, long time ago. Dan has drifted into the distance now.
Max and I have gone on with our lives. Though we haven’t had Dan’s help, we have made progress with our goals. Max’s self-esteem was greatly damaged by what his father did, but he accepted it, and when I see him now, see how well he is doing, see his smile, I know that he is on his way. He is intelligent, hardworking, dependable, funny, loving, and loyal. He will make a success of his life.
As for me, I have been finding my own way, as well. I live now completely alone. Max took a job and moved into the city. It is strange and very quiet here sometimes. The nights are long and lonely. But I soldier on. I think of other women who have been in my position for a time in their lives, my mother, my Aunt Rene, even me in my younger years.
I am a hard worker, just as they were, and that helps. I work two part-time jobs and always have a renovation project going on here at my home. I love to garden and commune with nature. Inspiration flows into my writing and creative sewing and painting projects. And my friends are many and such fun and interesting people.
My life has not turned out as I would have liked. I wish Dan had loved me. I wish we could have spent this time of our lives helping Max find his place in the world and laughing, playing, and doing good work with all our friends and family.
But, as Max was so quick to see, Dan did what he did. It is done. It is over. Our only choice is to accept it. And as I close this Crack-up story, I am guided by my better angel to take the final step. This chapter began with “Unforgiveable,” but it will end very differently. The writing has cleared my mind. I am still sad and sorry for what Max and I had to suffer, and yet I feel at peace with what remains behind and what he and I can build anew. I breathe in a sweetness, a strength, a purpose, and a sense of being fully alive.