Our bodies lay together on the high and surprisingly comfortable air mattress. We had just tucked the boys into bed after a very full day and late night. As I kissed their sweet and small foreheads I couldn’t believe the day was upon us. I watched the tears fall from my mom’s cheeks as she stroked their soft hair and tell them how much she loved them and would miss them, for the entirety of their short lives we had lived just two miles from Grandpa and Grandma’s doorstep. Their eyes were sleepy, but aware of the grand change facing our lives. Our two weeks of time at my parent’s house had come to a quick close.
I rolled toward him and looked in his face.
“It’s here.” I whispered, hearing the fear and excitement in my voice.
He smiled and pulled me into the curve of him. I heard his soft snore begin and lay there listening to the sounds of the house, feeling the air blow on my face, wondering if I would sleep at all.
The summer had been full of trips to Lagoon, where Patrick learned he loved roller coasters, and Henry decided he wasn’t as daring as his big brother. The summer was full of packing and prioritizing and getting rid of. The summer was full of travel, a trip to his hometown, ten days in Santo Domingo picking out our new home. The summer was full of goodbyes and sorrow. I didn’t know how to process it. I couldn’t believe the lifelong dream was happening. I didn’t know how to pack. I didn’t know how to say goodbye. I didn’t know how to walk my boys through it. Even though it took so long to finally get to this point, it also happened so fast.
I lay there in the dark, listening to my husband’s breathing, and thinking about the path that brought us here. I remembered our trips to Mexico, I thought about all the people we had met there.
I thought of our two months in Argentina and remembered with a smile on my face the cold apartment we lived in, the late nights, the many pizza dinners, the endless games of cards, hearing the city roar to life with each World Cup game, the fear and excitement of buying a pregnancy test and the utter joy at seeing that even in a place so foreign to us, that we were going to become a family of three. I remember exactly where he was standing and the look on his face when we saw the window on that test turn positive. I didn’t think I had ever seen such joy. His smile will forever be etched in my memory.
I remembered our trip to Uganda, with our four year old and one year old in tow. I remember the feeling of finally arriving home as we left the dark airport that night. I remember the thrill I felt as smelling my Africa again and hearing it again. I remember the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we ate at 2AM after arriving there. I remember watching him come alive as we saw more and more opportunities for him there. I remember watching his face as he discovered the place the captured my heart so many years ago.
I remembered our sorrow when those dreams fell apart. I never thought my heart would feel as cold and betrayed as it did the day we were told we were no longer to include ourselves on the dreams we found in Uganda. I remember laying in bed and sobbing together and repeating over and over to him as I watched him break, “God has a plan! God has a plan!” I remember lying together in our bed holding each other and crying…
“If I lay here, if I just lay here, would you lie with me and just forget the world?”
That night in the dark it seemed as if all the joy and sorrow mingled into one another. It was happening. Despite all odds the dream was here.
The next morning we woke our bleary eyed children and dressed them for the long day ahead. Our eighteen suitcases came out of the cars way easier than they had gone in. I sat in the bright airport that early morning watching as they searched through those suitcases and prayed they would all make it. I felt numb and weird and sad and excited.
Too soon we were saying our final goodbyes and heading through security. Our day was spent hustling through airports and managing the kids. We arrived, a mere twelve hours later, in the large city of Santo Domingo. Our new home. Our new life.
Just six weeks later I sat in the apartment scared and uneasy. I realized these feelings were going to stay for a long time. For a few weeks now he was missing time. I couldn’t figure out this new life and I felt like I was doing it on my own. Where was he? Why was he always missing time? Why didn’t it make sense to me? I explained it away. It was culture shock and loneliness and boredom. It was me, not him. Missing time, making excuses, never being where we said he would be when he said he would be there became a normal for him that I never quite adjusted to.
He started talking about the friends he was meeting. He was always late coming home. He stopped texting me. He stopped calling me. He was always in touch. What was happening? When he was home he was distant and cold. He never wanted to spend time together. He made fun of my language learning and my attempts to use it. He was often angry at my fear and inability to merge with this new culture.
Even later still, family voicing concern over his actions and behavior. Feeling sick. Feeling scared. The facetime from a loved one that revealed he was not where he was saying he was, or with who he said he was with. The revelation from him, the new people he claimed to love. My shattered and broken heart. Not knowing how to fix it. The words and never having the right words to respond with,
“I stopped loving you a long time ago.”
“Just leave me.”
“If you leave me, I’ll divorce you.”
Watching as money disappeared like water, wondering if I would have enough food to get the kids through the next few days. Being unable to eat. Being unable to sleep. Feeling physically sick all the time. Hating him. Loving him. Hating him. Loving him. Crying. Every single night sitting in the hollow bathroom and sobbing silently into my hands. Where was he? He was always gone. The fights. My desperate attempts to get him to see me and love me and need me again.
Watching as he walked out that final day. Exactly six months later, to the very day, that we had arrived on foreign soil with a dream we had dreamed together for so long, he was gone and I was leaving.
An entire year later. I’m sitting here in the same house I was in last year. Last year this night was full of laughter and tears and fun, and dreams, oh the dreams we had. Last year it was a final goodbye to a life I had always known. Last year this night was full of grief, but also of excitement and joy.
This year, it’s a Tuesday night. We had a quiet dinner. I tucked the boys into bed by myself, my husband far far away. I spent the afternoon discussing terms of the divorce with him. There was no, “I love you.” at the end of that call. He is a stranger, in so many ways, I never knew him. There were no tears of goodbye tonight. Tomorrow, Patrick will wake up and join the rest of his class in reciting the pledge and eating lunch and running at recess. Tomorrow I will begin looking for a job.
Tomorrow marks a year, an anniversary. It doesn’t mark the day we left for the Dominican Republic with our dreams intact, for me, what it marks is the beginning of the end. Tonight, I don’t know how to breathe through it. Tomorrow also marks six months to the day that my entire life fell apart, the day I said enough and he didn’t stay to fight. Six months ago I stood in that apartment with only one thought in my head, “Get us out of here. Please God help me do this.”
I’ve now been back here as long as we lived there. My life here has gone so quickly. Each day is full and as I go to sleep each night, I know the next day will be equally full. It is how I have survived. My time in Santo Domingo did not feel like six months, it felt like twenty years. Each day moved slower than the previous, each day, my own private hell.
Tomorrow I will be surrounded by love. Today, I am surrounded by love.
But, tonight, remembering a year ago, I miss him. I miss my hopes and dreams with him. I miss the moments that wove together to make days and weeks and months and years. New dreams will come. But tonight I miss what I had.