If You’ll Forgive Me For This Moment…

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Last night, something unexpected happened.

On my way to bed, I went to check on the twins, as I always do, and as I brushed the hair away from Xavier’s face, in the dim light, there was a glimpse of his father in his profile.  It certainly wasn’t the first time I’ve noticed the similarity in the jawline, but for some reason, for the first time, it gave me pause and made me unspeakably sad.

I thought…Do you see this perfect boy?  He is kind and affectionate and honest and generous and loving and horribly sweet.  He gives his allowance to homeless people and sneaks cat food out of the house to feed the strays behind the baseball field. He speaks up for social justice and civil rights, and has gone toe-to-toe with bullies to protect others.  His heart bleeds so much that I am both unspeakably proud of him, and I worry about the effect it will have on him that he cares so deeply. He is so damn smart and funny, and he works so hard. He’s respectful to both authority and peers.  He loves his family with a crazy fervor, and he has no shame in showing it. He is a million wonderful things.

And he’s nothing like you.  He might look a little like you, but he’s nothing like you.

And for the first time, I was struck that instead of being grateful that my son was nothing like his father, I was struck with sadness, because his father could have been all those things…but he wasn’t.

In that moment, I realized that my ex-husband was once a little boy, just like my little boy.  He was healthy and handsome, and probably looked just like this when he slept, with his face still and his hair mussed.  He had things my son will never have; he had a reserve of family money and societal advantages.  He was never told they couldn’t afford something.  He had educational opportunities, vacations, and social connections that boggle the mind.

But, what he didn’t have, was a sober parent.  He didn’t get hugged or kissed or cuddled.  He never had to struggle to earn something, or work very hard.  He was never appropriately disciplined or told “no”.  He was never bathed, fed, or tucked in by someone who wasn’t paid to put up with him.  He never spent a night, on the couch with his mother and siblings, all under one blanket, watching movies, penniless but feeling like the luckiest, richest people alive, because they were together and warm.

Yes, this man has done terrible, terrible things to me and my children, but in that one quiet moment in the dark, my heart broke for him, because he could have been so much more than he became.  He could have been like his son.

40 thoughts on “If You’ll Forgive Me For This Moment…

  1. Hyperion

    Perhaps the only beautiful thing he did was gift the world with your son through the love you offered. When I mourn the passing of our humanity, I am suddenly reminded of the chance there are a thousand shining lights waiting for their chance to turn on and guide us to what we all could strive to become. I know you will ensure his chance is realized.

  2. Doug in Oakland

    Wonderful perspective and beautiful writing. I remember being mortified the first time I saw my father’s face in my own in the mirror (it didn’t help that I was on mushrooms at the time…) I told my mother about it and her reaction was “No. You can’t be him.” It took me many years to come to grips with the fact that he was actually a pretty good parent. Perhaps not the parent I wanted him to be at the time, but in retrospect, his good qualities were undeniable.
    Economic class boundaries are incredibly difficult to successfully transcend in America, mostly for the reasons you listed.

    • So very true. It’s very hard to outgrow your upbringing.

      And just be happy your mushroom moment didn’t involve the whole world dissolving into claymation while you tried to navigate a train system in a foreign country. Total bummer. 🙂

  3. God damn you for making me cry first thing in the morning. This was beautifully written and you are a beautiful person. I read this we lived near each other because you be the very best kind of friend. Thank you for this.

  4. Well Meggy, as someone who writes serious stuff that no one really reads, and who counts on you for genuine humour, I have to say that I would give you and your kid a big hug right now if I could. This was beautiful and went straight to the heart – and I’m pretty happy to see this side of you. Always thought you were cool, but now I know it.

  5. What an amazing thought! I know exactly what you mean…my brother looks and sounds so much like my dad it can be eerie. However, my brother is open-minded and loving. If only more people weren’t too proud to learn from children.
    All the best to you and your awesomely witty family 🙂

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