I’ve been looking forward to October 1st for a few weeks now, and it’s not for the reason you’re thinking.
A few weeks ago, I headed into my closest to retrieve something from my file. In my closet I have not one, but two huge filing cabinets that each have four drawers. Perfect for my family of eight, right? Each drawer is for a different member. In each drawer there is the basics, like birth certificate, and social security card, but also fun stuff. Special drawings from the kids they’ve done in school. Touching cards, they’ve wanted to hold onto. I have love letters from my husband. But I also have important papers like our marriage certificate, degrees, old taxes and mortgages. Included in these important papers happen to be 19 years of parenting plans, child support calculations, and a divorce decree.
Nineteen years ago, I separated from my ex-husband and filed for divorce. Two weeks later I discovered I was pregnant with my third child. It still took TWO and a half years to finally get divorced. We both tied for having the World’s Worst Divorce Lawyers. Although, mine only cost me the cost to file the papers, so who got the better deal? Side note, you get what you paid for, so trust me when I say, I paid more than the cost of filing…my attorney just didn’t profit from it.
Anyway, back to the filing cabinet. While searching and searching for something that should be relatively easy to find, I found myself overwhelmed from sifting through years and years of documents I’ve collected, including the 19 years of divorce stuff.
I was suddenly struck with a brilliant idea!
My third “child” is now 18 and has just graduated (BARELY!) from high school this past spring. There is legally no reason I need to continue to hold onto these documents. None that I can think of anyway…
So I thought…
I AM SO GOING TO BURN THESE!!!!!!!!!!
Yes, I have been divorced from my sons’ father for over 17 years, but now I am FINALLY FREE from him! Really, the only reason I would NEED to see him would probably be for weddings and births. I can live with that…just as long I look better…just kidding…or am I? 😊
But the problem was I live in Arizona, and we have No Burn days. In fact, the entire summer is a NO Burn Day, which makes sense, I guess with as dry it is here and as many forest fires we have. I’m not sure when the summer No Burn Day starts, but I learned September 30th is when it ends. Which was perfect, considering it was only a couple weeks away!
Well, TODAY WAS THE DAY!!!! I almost forgot about it, because honestly, my divorce, and my ex-husband doesn’t cross my mind very much at all now days. However, the big box of crap I no longer need from my file drawer, sat on the ottoman in my living room to help me remember this is something I want to do.
It was during dinner, at a restaurant, that I remembered today was not only October 1st, but it was no longer a No Burn Day!
We hurried home. I dug out our small firepit from the garage, moved one of the cars a little farther away from where I set things up, grabbed the huge box from the ottoman, lighter from the kitchen and eventually lighter fluid from the garage, because you know as flammable as paper is, it’s still pretty difficult to keep burning.
And there I began lighting everything up…well slowly. I learned fire was much harder to make than I was anticipating. I honestly thought I would have more success accidentally burning the house down. I would not have been surprised if my husband was inside the house, watching me on the cameras just to make sure that didn’t happen. But seriously, I found myself thinking, what’s a girl got to do to light something on fire????
I figured it out. Finally.
So, I sat far enough away, with papers in hand, slowly feeding them to the firepit, poking the ashes from time to time, watching the flames and thinking…
I am so sad.
Why am I so sad?
I was thinking I would be excited, liberated, ecstatic… I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks. Yet, when I wasn’t frustrated with the dang flames, I was feeling really sad.
My daughter eventually came out as the ashes were cooling off, and white smoke was billowing up into the sky.
I told her as I watched the flames and the documents burned, I started thinking about the person I was when I was filling out and receiving those papers. It was a tough time in my life. Life was hard and scary.
I told her we went out and saw her grandfather earlier in the day whose wife has recently passed away. He’s been concerned about making ends meet. After all the bills are paid, he said he should have $400. I remember my mom concerned she only had $100 left after paying her bills. And I told my daughter, I remember for many years after my divorce I was surviving with only $10 left at the end of the month, while taking care of four little ones. (Remember the World’s Worst Lawyer?)
I don’t ever want to have to live like that again. Always wondering if we had enough. Always wondering where I’m going to get their clothes and shoes, and food.
I had one kiddo who lost his jacket, several times one winter. The boys went to The Boys and Girls Club after school, and as luck would have it, the Boys and Girls Club were getting ready to donate their Lost and Found to some place by the end of the week if the items were not picked up. I told them the jackets weren’t ours but asked if I could take a couple anyway. My kids were embarrassed. I was ashamed. I lived in fear that one day a parent would recognize their coat on my kid and confront them.
The kids’ school would have food drives to feed the needy and they would always beg me to let them take extra food to class so they could participate. I had to keep reminding them, WE were the needy people. We didn’t have enough to give away.
But I told my daughter, this wasn’t even the sad part. The sad part was my kiddos aren’t those little kids anymore. Those little kids grew up and are struggling so hard at life. Well, not all of them, but two of them for sure. After all the work, all that fear, all that worry, I made it! And yet, did they?
One of them is paralyzed with anxiety, and the other wrestles daily with depression.
Did I help them at all? Did anything I do make a difference? Is this how it was supposed to end? We were all supposed to make it out of their childhood victorious! But this just sucks. I know their lives just sucks. What the hell?
I feel I could have done better. I should have done better. What could I have done better? This wasn’t supposed to end this way.
So, I’m sad.
And my daughter…she’s so frickin’ sweet. She sat there with me watching the ashes turn from red to white. She said a lot of stuff that made sense. That made me smiled and made me cry.
After digging into her brothers for a minute, just because she could and she’s the little sister, she reminded me they all know life can be hard, and when it is, and when they can’t do anymore, they all know I’m still here. Some of them must live their own way, and it might not be easy to watch. But they all remember what life was like, what I pulled them through, and life will never be like that again.
So I’m going to try to be less sad, because I hope she’s right.
I have one left, and I can’t let her down.