I’m going through another break up, one I’d hoped I wouldn’t ever go through. I held onto the until death do us part fantasy even as I knew marriage wasn’t on the table. One part of me still hopes the break up isn’t real, while another part is trying to accept the end. I’ve been here before, as some, or many, or most of us have been, though I live in a world of long-married couples, and no one I know right now is sorting this stuff out.

I’m working hard not to go down in the dumps, to hold onto what I’ve got. I have three kids I love a lot, all expected home for Thanksgiving, the first time we’ll be together in nearly a year. My sister is hosting Thanksgiving on the Cape, and my brother and nephew will be there, as well as my kids, my sister’s family, and my mom, the first time that most of our extended family will be together in a long time.

I still have a family, just not a partner. I’m no longer a pseudo stepmom to two adult kids. I’m no longer connected to the community of people and places my boyfriend and I shared the last four and a half years, no longer setting aside my weekends for fun with my guy, or sorting out how to spend time with him and time with my kids, no longer wondering how and when to shut down my business, sell my home, and move to Western Mass, no longer imagining early retirement and a life shared full time with my older guy.

I’m undoing it all, mostly in my imagination. Life for us was not so entangled as I might have hoped. We didn’t have a shared home, own almost nothing together, have never joined an organization as a couple, or formed new friendships where we weren’t before we met. The undoing is of a future I hoped we’d share, relationships I’d grown to count on growing into the next phase of life, a place I’ve loved and hoped would be my future home, favorite coffee and coffee shops, beloved walks, a writing desk and chair I had set up is his back bedroom in hopes of a future spent writing when day care was no longer a full time job, some empty drawers where I’d laid my clothes, rather than leaving them in my suitcase, a closet that had only recently been empty enough so that the last visit I was able to hang some clothes, a pile of black walnuts washed and spread on his basement table to dry I’d hoped we’d shell and eat together, though even that seemed far-fetched, recipes I’ve learned to cook from him, trips to the farmers markets together, farmers I’d come to know, the last of the garlic and cipollini onions on my counter from one of them I refused to put in today’s batch of his lentil soup, not ready to let them go.

The first two weeks I’ve kept myself so busy, out each night finding things to do to ward off the panic as the reality of the separation set in, that today I am at last in need of slowing down. All day I haven’t left the house. My daughter is here. My son stopped here midday. I cooked lentil soup, made two batches of chai tea, have one loaf of vegan chocolate chip banana bread cooling on the counter, one loaf of banana nut bread (with eggs and butter and milk) baking in the oven.

On my son’s way out to see a friend’s dance performance he knocked a huge aloe vera plant onto the dining room floor, where the pot smashed. My daughter and I divided and repotted it, using a collection of lovely pots I had gotten with my guy at a yard sale and kept on the porch all summer filled with basil and squash plants given to me by his friends in Western Mass when we spent time helping them in their garden for her birthday. One pot will go back to school with my daughter when she returns early in the morning, the first time we’ve had her return on Monday rather than Sunday, neither of us able to imagine driving back tonight. One pot will live in her bedroom, the other in our dining room.

My daughter is sitting in the kitchen, sewing, first attaching a charm to a ribbon on her daily planner, now patching a cashmere pillow cover our cat tore with a piece of a butterfly sock of mine which has forever lost it’s mate. There is little that makes me happier in a purely contented way than spending a day making and baking, eating, listening to music, and puttering at home, my kids doing their thing while I do mine. Even my son sleeping on the couch under the down comforter while I made soup and my daughter puttered in her room and set the table for lunch was a moment I noticed for the rarity and specialness of it in this current place in our lives.

Having one or more of my kids at home is not something I currently count on. They are sixteen, twenty, and twenty-two, all soon to have birthdays. The youngest is in boarding school, home some weekends, though often out with friends even when she’s in town. The middle guy divides his time according to his preferences between his dad’s house and mine, is out most evenings and much of every weekend living the life of a performer and a worker in Improv theater. The oldest lives and works in Manhattan and hasn’t been home since New Year’s, except for a quick dinner here and overnight at his dad’s the week of his dad’s bike accident in March. Life is like that. First they are sleeping on your chest, then before we know it they may be coming home only rarely.

All week long I take care of children and their parents. The parents wonder how to get a good night’s sleep, how to get a moment to themselves, while most evenings I’m thinking about how to spend my time without my kids, and if I’ll sleep well, not due to children waking me, but due to thoughts of all the life changes I’m negotiating keeping me up at night.

Life shifts, life shifts, life shifts.

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