The holidays are starting again--and during the holidays I am acutely aware of my children's absence. I am aware all the time. So I guess that is a gross misunderstatement.
Now it has been nearly three and a half years without them. During this time I have been trying to survive.
I don't go around telling people I don't have my kids. I do find myself saying, "When I used to have kids-". This is a blunder I quickly try to cover up, that I hope others don't notice. I feel my face redden, and inside I feel a hole opening. Sometimes I see the other person's expression change to one of bafflement and judgement. The judgement part could be me, judging myself.
People always ask, "Do you have kids?" I want to tell them the truth. I want to say, "I used to." What I say is, "Yes." They ask, "How many?" I say, "Three. Two boys and a girl." They ask, "How old?"
I have to stop and think about it. How old are they now? I hope people don't notice this pause. Especially when your children are younger you can rattle off their ages to the day, practically.
To me, my children haven't aged at all. They are still the ages they were when I saw them last. I have not seen them in person since that time, three and a half years ago. This was the last time they went, each, individually, for a 'visit' with their father.
Keegan was short and stocky still, fourteen, he left with his backpack and his skateboard. Tanith, too, left with a backpack. When Keegan left he was mad at me, in a fit, and he called his dad to come get him. Tanith, same thing. I don't believe they made up their minds to leave. Levi, on the other hand, had. He decided when I told him I had a boyfriend. I think the next day he told me, "Mom, on the last day of school, I am going to live with dad." He said this very calmly.
School was over in about two weeks, out for the summer. I didn't believe him, I thought maybe he was angry and saying something he didn't mean. Without emotion of course, because he never really expressed emotion. He has Asperger's syndrome. And he did say things he didn't mean, or that were majorly skewed in some way, very black and white. But when the last day of school came, and by then I had mostly forgotten about his pledge to move in with his dad, Levi calmly packed up two back packs, (as far as I could tell just with video games,) and his dad came to pick him up. My mother-in-law came back in the house with Levi just a few minutes after he'd gone out the door, to hurriedly gather some clothes. (My ex was living at his mother's.) She scarcely looked at me and did not smile. It was awkward, scary, uncomfortable. I did not think Levi would really leave. He seemed composed and deliberate. Levi and his grandma went out the door, their arms ladden with his things, and got in the suburban with his dad. That was June 21, 2007. I haven't seen my son since.
I feel like I'm lying when people ask me if I have children and I say,"Yes."
I want to tell the truth. I want to say, "No. I used to have children." Or, "I was a mom. But I lost my job." Something like that. And when they ask me how old my kids are and I tell them, I feel like I should say, "At least I think that's how old they are. I haven't seen them in over three years, so I don't really know."
And then they ask me what grade they are in, and again, I feel like I need a giant disclaimer: "All characters and names in this story are fictious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental."