Our marriage was already failing when this picture was taken. We went on a road trip to northern Michigan, stopping at the special spots marked on the map, unpacking ourselves from the car and from our long uncomfortableness. Every mile was futile.
Some couples can come back from the edge but we couldn’t. Or we wouldn’t. Or I wouldn’t. It depends on one’s perspective.
I titled this essay “The First Baby” thinking I would write an essay every day for the next four about each of my children but the picture made me remember the stones on the beach that day, the stones in my throat, all the unutterables piled up. There was no way to make sense of all the stones and we were too weak to throw them.
This darling child had to travel with such misery.
Then the trip was over. We went home and then after a short while started to divvy up our stuff. He left me the stereo and most of the furniture and he moved to Chicago. One night on the phone he told me that he’d seen a little girl on the bus wearing the same shoes as our little girl and it made him sadder than he had ever been.
I wept at that, the cruelty of the situation, and blamed myself for making such a good man so sad. And I gave up my plan to claim our girl as my own, to be a single parent of a single child. I was one of two parents, later, after I remarried, one of three.
We never fought about our girl, not a single time. We gave way to each other about her in a way we never could about ourselves. We were generous and kind. Patient and steady. We left the misery at the beach.
This week I saw pictures of him reading a story to our twin grandsons. He is an old man now. I never see or talk to him. We have no need of that now that our girl is grown. Our lives don’t intersect. Our work is done.
Looking at the photo and remembering that sad trip, I think this: we may have done wrong by each other but we did right by her. We should be proud of that.
Collaboration: The Daily Post