The other day I picked Lyndsay up from her boyfriend's house to come and have dinner with the family. And in her huff, she sat down at the table and said, "'Family' is just you and Conor." And it really hurt my heart.
Because that's kind of true. Right then, at least. Aiden was still in Arizona with his Dad. And of course, Dylan is there too, so it was Conor and me, sitting across from each other, and I'd gone to pick Lyndsay up because I wanted just one more chair filled.
"That's right," I huffed back. "Whomever is sitting at this table is your family. And just because there's only one parent here doesn't mean I don't count and it doesn't mean that my family isn't real or worthy. And if I want you here, then you should be here. We're your family."
But it made me think even more about issues in my life.
Like what in the world has happened to my family. The only stinking dream I ever had about my life was about marriage and family. I try to picture life in the future. How can I even have a family reunion? We can't even call it the Consolo Family Reunion, because most of my kids aren't Consolos, and I might only be because that's where I was left standing. I can't call it a Staley Family Reunion, because I'm not a Staley. I guess I could get married again, but good grief, then whose name do we use?
I can't ever have that cute vinyl sign in my house that says, "Johnsons, Est. 1992" or whatever. We don't even have a name that unites us. Man, the craziest families at least have that.
I could just live alone for the rest of my life. I could get some house on a lake with a canoe tied to a dock. I could read and sew and garden, and work as a nurse (if I ever get a job), and write in moments of quietude, or sip hot chocolate on my deck and watch the sun set. My children might come and visit me because they feel obligated, or because their children want to play in the lake. But then, they also have to visit that other family they belong to. And then there are the in-laws.
Or I could, as I mentioned, get married again. Again. Oh my gosh. Well, you can see how the dynamics of that are less than ideal.
I have so many what-ifs running through my mind, all the ways I could have done my life better, but I know there's no point to that kind of thinking.
For months he's been saying he loves me. He's sorry. He realizes. Please.
And I've been saying, I'm sorry too, but no. No way. Just can't do it. I can only go forward now. I'm 40, for heaven's sake.
But he's very sorry. He sees now. He really, really loves me. Please. And he respects my feelings and gives me my space. Accepts the devastating loss in his life with as much humility and strength as he can muster.
And my heart goes out to him, but doesn't soften towards the idea, because frankly, I blame him. I was strong. I got out. I said, "Enough." How can I turn around? I'm going forward.
But I can see the changes. They might be real. They seem sincere. They seem independent of me.
And then there's a little boy named Conor, who sometimes asks through tears if he can call his dad. And who loves to call for a Group Hug whenever we're all together. I've been down this road before. I can picture his life unfolding. Him missing his father. Me missing him when he's with his father. New men and new women coming in and out of his life. The worries. The sadness. The wishes.
And completely uninvited, unsolicited, and almost unwelcomed, I begin to think in terms of him again. I try to block it out, but it's there, and it beckons me. Just see. Just explore. What if going back is not the same as going backwards?
Explorations don't always end with exciting discoveries. Sometimes they're dismal and disappointing. We're both allowing for that possibility.
But it's that noun: possibility, that leads me to that verb: explore.
Maybe we're still family.
For now, that's all I can say.