Friday, September 28, 2012

the solitude and the longing

Alexi and Cal are out of town for the weekend. A couple of times a year, they go on a YMCA sponsored father-son weekend with a group of other dads and sons from our school. Alexi and Abbott used to go together, too, but the program stops at third grade. The weekend is always a mixture of sadness and ease for me. Only one kid to worry about. I have all of the adult say in how we spend our time. There is a net gain in the relationship we each have with the child we’re with for those days. And there is something to be said for the missing. But we are a couple who really likes being together; we’re hardly ever apart for good reason. It isn’t the early romance kind of attachment. Now, what lies between us is so much more powerful and complex, involving love, attachment, habit, and the roots we’ve put down together.

In the early days of our relationship, separation was intolerable. When Alexi was on call overnight at the hospital, I’d visit him when he got caught up on his work, sometimes not until late in the evening. We got our first cell phones in 2000, when we were married, primarily for the use of the unlimited minutes between the two phones.

The first couple of years of our marriage, as part of his residency, Alexi ate dinner at the hospital on weeknights. I’d eat something simple, alone, like a fried egg and some vegetables, or a bowl of cereal, or I’d eat from a pot of something I made early in the week, all week. The arrangement worked well, as I simultaneously held down a job and was a full-time graduate student. I caught up on my studying and worked on my thesis in those hours I was alone after work or class. There is a certain pleasure in the solitude and in the longing. Alexi liked to wake up at 4:00 to study for his radiology board examination before work; he feels fresher in the mornings. He’d light a candle at his desk, make a pot of coffee, and get to work while I slept. Sometimes I’d try to join him. I would sit huddled on the floor next to the baseboard heater in the freezing cold apartment. I often slept in a floor length cream-colored flannel nightgown – not very sexy for a newlywed, I know – and I’d curl my legs up in it as I sat and tried to keep warm and study. But generally, I slept, and the morning was his solitude; the evening, mine.

I let Abbott choose what he wanted to do for dinner tonight. As in other times when we've been alone, he wanted to go to Delancey. We sat at a small table at the back of the restaurant.  He brought a book, as he usually does, wherever he goes, as I always do. I wondered about the social acceptability of reading at a table with my son. We are part of the 5pm, opening crowd. The other inhabitants of the restaurant at this time of night have toddlers and young children, and they are generally interacting with them. I amused myself by taking a couple of pictures – one with my camera, one with my phone – and browsing around Instagram, then surreptitiously pulled out my own book and began to read. We stopped to eat our pizzas. I always get the special - tonight, padron peppers! - and Abbott always gets the Brooklyn - cheese pizza with a red sauce - and a glass of milk. We both had dessert, a plum galette and a chocolate chip cookie, switching halfway.

On these weekends when we’re apart, I allow Abbott to sleep with me. He gets scared without Cal nearby. When I come to bed he’s curled up on my side of the bed, leaving me with Alexi’s spot, just where I want to be when he’s away.


Sarah said...

That is beautiful. You express it so well - thank you.

Diane said...

This is so poignant. I can feel the missing and the solitude in your beautiful descriptions. I was especially pulled in by how you described your relationships with your husband and your complex feelings for each other. Lovely!

country girl said...

Lecia, you share so much of your history and your present here, and I can't help but feel that this blog is actually a long, long letter for your sons. I always feel so honored to be able to read it, too.
I know exactly what you mean about the attachment to your husband. Ramon and I have been together for almost 14 years now and as much as we lead our own individual lives, we are so intertwined. The best days are the ones where everything goes in their natural rhythm, and where

Katherine said...

"Now, what lies between us is so much more powerful and complex, involving love, attachment, habit, and the roots we’ve put down together."

This is so beautiful!

betsy said...

Lecia, this is so beautiful. You have such a gift in your writing. xo

KPiep said...

I'm really enjoying your longer stories in your posts!

We've started to have more one on one time with the girls as my parents have started taking them for solo trips to the farm. It's been a great thing for all of us.

Purple Flowers said...

I so look forward to your posts. I feel as if I am ready your journal to your husband and sons. It's beautiful, as are your photographs.

gia said...

I love this. I forwarded it to my boyfriend to try and explain that I want that type of closeness with someone. I'm not sure if that is what he wants or not. But I appreciate reading this. xo

Francesca said...

These days, I'm back to finding separation (from travel, distance, and time, different time zones) intolerable.