My dad and I have a 30 year age difference, which is kinda cool. During this particular year of my life I turned 30 and he turned 60. His birthday is in December and he had planned (along with my mother and baby sister) to come to New York for his 60th birthday. We had already discussed and thought out all the cool, classic New York holiday adventures we were going to have as a family. One of the attributes I got from my father is his ability to truly live life to the fullest. We are both expert planners of any kind of vacation, outting, or day off. We can pack 48 hours into a 24 hour day. Some might say we overdo it, but I think it’s a gift. That being said, the fact that my marriage was falling apart at the seams wasn’t going to deter the Hill Family from taking New York by storm. Knowing my father, he probably hoped his presence alone would make my ex-husband so uncomfortable that he’d flee the country. Unfortunately, this did not happen.
Obviously my family didn’t stay with us in our tiny apartment. They wouldn’t have fit, but I also fear that it would have given my father the perfect opportunity to fling my ex-husband out of our five story walk up. Nobody needs that kind of added drama during the holiday season. They flew in during the day when I was at work. Once they got settled in their hotel room, they walked over to visit me and see my office. Looking back, I think we all knew I was leaving soon. I thought that eventually I would come back…they knew I wouldn’t. So they took this time as a chance to see and better understand my New York lifestyle. They knew this unique chapter of my life would soon be coming to a close, and they wanted to experience as much as they could with me. When you are doggie paddling through life and doing your best just to stay above water and suddenly your family arrives…let me tell you, it’s like someone has just thrown you a tank of oxygen. They walked in and I could breathe again. I could smile again. I could laugh and joke and skip and sing and most importantly, I could feel a tiny bit of joy and start to dance through life again.
That evening we went to one of my favorite restaurants near Lincoln Center. I love Lincoln Center. It epitomizes the essence of what I always dreamed New York would be like. I loved living near Lincoln Center. Some days I would get off the subway a stop early just to walk by it. Just to gaze at the fountain, to stand amoung the tourists, to feel the art happening all around me. The energy fueled my soul. Gave me strength. It’s funny how a place can do that for you. How standing still can give you life. After dinner we took pictures by Lincoln Center. We marveled at the glamorous decorations already set out for Christmas. And then we started walking uptown. We were walking uptown towards my apartment, because once again, in my naïveté I had planned (forced) a gathering. In all honesty, I wanted my family to see my little apartment all decorated for Christmas. I took great pride in how I had expertly managed to throw cheer into such a small space. Maybe I knew deep down this would be my last holiday in my home. Maybe I knew this would be their last chance to see this piece of me. Maybe they knew it too.
I had bought a cake and ice cream. My plan was that we would all have dessert together to celebrate my father’s birthday, they would see the apartment, we’d have a couple of laughs, and years from now when this whole messy ordeal was behind us everyone would be thankful that I was able to make family memories during such a sad occasion in our lives. Yes, my ex-husband was there. This might be the moment in the story when you stop and ask yourselves, “Why in the hell did my ex-husband stick around to hang out with my family?” I don’t have an answer for you. But I will tell you this, the man felt no shame. None. He sat there and ate cake and acted as if nothing was wrong. If you hadn’t known we was an adulterer who didn’t love or respect his wife, then you would have thought we were the most normal married couple in all of Manhattan. God bless my family. They oooed and aaahed over my tree, my nativity scene, the stockings, etc. They were polite. They made conversation. They were respectful. And then they left. I walked them down to the subway to make sure they were headed in the right direction. We made plans for the next day. We hugged. And that was the last time they saw my ex-husband.
I’ve had many conversations with my father since that day…and he knew. I didn’t know. I didn’t know it would be my last Christmas in my tiny home. I didn’t know I was going to leave this city I had grown to love. I didn’t know that there would never truly be a proper goodbye. I didn’t know that I would have to re-create a life for myself because the original life I had chosen was stolen from me. But maybe it’s a good thing that I didn’t know. Maybe it would have been harder. Maybe I would have resisted. Maybe I would have given into fear. And then I’d never have gotten to meet the new me. The real me. The strong me. The me who still plans every occasion to the fullest, the me who still constantly likes to be prepared, the me who is still always at the ready with a birthday cake if needed, but also the me who has the knowledge that no storm can knock her down. The me who fully understands what it means to rely on God in all situations. The me that will always grasp the importance of being able to brush off the dust and dance on.
Psalm 30:11 “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.”