At the Stahlbaum House
Ultimately... we are responsible for our own experience

Ribbons in time

In the end it just wound itself together like strands of DNA as inseparable as each is distinct in its own right; part of a whole that became entirely indistinguishable from the sum of its parts when all was finally said (or finally left unsaid) and done.

I don't really know what caused him to snap so close to the end although I could certainly guess but there's never been any point in that; I'd only come up holding an empty bag with the bottom dropped out with my head turned in circles all dizzy from trying to find the right answers when really there aren't any or never could be. As my boss's boss's boss said last April when the poo was hitting the fan, you never could win, could you? Nope. Not with those rules at that game and I made myself crazy all turned inside out believing if I just tried hard enough I really could work it out. Somehow.

Well I can't. So I stopped. And that was that. Meanwhile the process continued and on Wednesday I received an email informing me that my loan was approved and I could close on Saturday. Today. Just like that. And the bottom dropped out.

In December, Elizabeth received an invitation to a Bat Mitzvah on January 12. That would be today. Bat Mitzvahs and Bar Mitzvahs are a huge deal and they take a really hard knock, especially around here because so much of the process gets lost in the party and we lose sight of what's really occurring as someone outdoes someone else in terms of money spent on what and who wears what dress with what shoes and the right of passage is just as much for the girls and boys attending the event as it is, it seems sometimes, for the girls and boys who are called to the Torah as Bat or Bar Mitzvah.

Etiquette. The door was already firmly shut. There was no going back to ask the right questions and avoid any mistakes in terms of sending my very clearly Paganish WASP daughter into the Temple alone so as to avoid whatever faux pas might be avoided and anyway, who's to say he could possibly have answered the questions appropriately in the first place? I asked somebody at work. Demographically speaking, it was a safer bet.

She took the first hit during the Nutcracker weekend when he didn't show or write or call or anything at all. We all knew it was coming especially in light of the conversation she had when she called to give him the dates in the first place. Doesn't make it any easier. She did ask me though... it's a hard thing to let go. She took the second hit when she turned 12 on December 11. We watched her email and her Facebook page very carefully for any signs of a dramatic farewell gesture and breathed a great sigh of relief when it didn't happen. And yes,yes he would. She took the third hit at Christmas and barely blinked. The rest of us breathed out a collective sigh of relief.

As the year end close approached the new boss walked in the door. On December 17 he took the frontal assault in stride, lived through his first week, returned the following Monday and a month later we find he's still with us. We consider that a good sign. In the chaos I forgot to take my daughter dress and shoe shopping until the very last minute.

This is SUCH a big deal. I'm not going to tell you how big a deal a Bat Mitzvah is. You either know or you do not. I'm just going to tell you it is and whether or not anyone else is paying attention during the service or giving the event the reverence it deserves, Elizabeth WILL be. Or she did. It's over now and she's gone home with her dad to rest until the party. I will be gone by then.

I cried in the fitting room as she tried dress after dress, pulling them up over her head, fly away winter hair charging enough electricity to light a 15 watt bulb. There was one party dress she'd pulled off the rack and given the one of a kind custom made sort of shop we were in, this one was a little off and so it was a no go and I was thankful. We have two opinions, she and I and I was working hard at somewhere in the middle. In the end she surprised me and walked right into the left end of conservative, abandoning  the black spaghetti strap thing with the cute little shrug to cover her shoulders during the service. She would have required heels and that would have thrown me over the edge I think...

She floats sometimes serenely and sometimes not so much in the middle of the adolescent river of change where 12 - 14 year olds might be wearing full face makeup or might still look like 10 year old boys depending on where they've got themselves in the social strata or where their mothers have put them, I suppose. Elizabeth built herself a life raft early on and she's stayed on that thing for a year and a half now and as I zipped up that dress and helped her into her hose I hoped she'd stay comfortable in her fresh clean face and long, straight hair pinned back with a small, simple clip. Period. That was the extent of it.


There is some pale lipstick and mascara, I think. I wasn't watching. I don't need to see it all.

And she left with her father.

When we were waiting for her to come out of the bathroom I told him I was so scared that my fingers had gone numb. I could still feel them tingling but that was about it. I needed to get in the shower as soon as they left and be out of the house by 11:45 at the very latest for a 12 PM refi closing.

On Thursday night I posted a status update that read Just Breathe and watched the feedback come in. It was unexpected. I posted just those words because I had to say something and that was all I could think to say without saying much of anything else and each time somebody touched that post I cried harder; silently, but without breath like I'd turn blue eventually and my eyes might swell shut and I might never stop.

And then it was over.

One of my sky diver friends from way back posted exactly this:

Cause you can't jump the track,
we're like cars on a cable,
And life's like an hourglass,
glued to the table.
No one can find the rewind button, girl
So cradle your head in your hands,
And breathe... just breathe....

And I've been listening to that song for two years now, maybe more and as trite and over played as it was or is or might have been, well that's exactly it. And when I was done crying I laid in my bed with my hands on my stomach and breathed. I just breathed and decided I was done crying.

Now maybe I'm right and maybe I'm wrong but that's what I decided.

I arranged the closing so that the closer would arrive at 11:45 and he would arrive at 11:45 and start the process and I would arrive at noon and complete. I didn't expect her to have managed to have sent him away by the time I got there but she did just exactly that having heard the fear in my voice when we'd talked about the timing. When I walked toward the entrance there was a man walking away who looked a lot like him, his build and gait but didn't have enough hair and didn't get into a 7 series Mercedes so it couldn't have been, but I was hoping he was driving away and when I entered the bank she waved me over and said, he's gone. It's just us now.

So it's over and done and the land and everything that comes with that, in as much as it can be, is mine and mine alone.

And that beautiful tender hearted young woman up there in the sapphire blue dress with the heart shaped face and the ballarina limbs; well, he isn't ever going to see her again.

As an addendum to yesterday, that last sentence sounded like a punishment and I guess in a way in was condeming the man or casting him out once and for all but this touches us too and in leaving just that once sentence, I have covered our own vulnerability which is wrong and a lie and not true and all that and it isn't even for fear of experiencing it, more so that it's a private sort of thing, that we hide our pain and vulnerability from the rest of the world. That we should be so angry and all that or everything else that goes with it; so here's the rest of that paragraph if I'm going to be honest, which I am.

And she isn't ever going to see him again and I'm probably not going to either and whether it's better that way or not, that doesn't make it any less painful or difficult or hard to breathe sometimes or anything. I can ask myself over and over again all the questions in the world about the hows and whys of this and still come up empty handed. I can make the right decisions and then catch myself being punishing (even if indirectly because I certainly haven't communicated any of that) but that isn't who or what I want to be. I want to be able to walk away clean and on my own terms. I've seen the damage first hand of what happens when you don't get or aren't able to do that.