Today the sky is hanging dark and low. It’s spitting and whirling a steady downpour of rain for the third or fourth day in a row. I’ve lost track. Winter has arrived in Southern California. A week ago we were complaining of 85 degree weather but we are now water-logged and huddling near our fireplaces holding our coffee, snuggled under our throw blankets.
My eyes survey the dark room as I sit here avoiding a project for work, they see familiar objects. The piano – the buffet – the Christmas tree – the carpet. For a year, no, almost two years now, I have been adding little things to my home. A vase we picked up in Mexico. New pictures with Martin and the kids. My coffee table books I’ve published as memories from my trips to Europe. But mostly my home is as it was when he left.
I remember picking out the piano and being so excited because it had a karaoke feature. The buffet arrived as a thank you gift from a client and we immediately dubbed it “the coffin” because to us that is what it looked like. The tree we picked out at Walmart after a debacle the previous year when we cut off a limb from the bottom and ended up making an 8 ft tree 4 ft by accident. The carpet replaced ugly blue berber when we moved in. I remember standing at the top of the stairs as it was installed looking down at my husband telling him how much I liked it.
If I choose to forget the last three years I could take myself back in time. Almost everything in this house has his fingerprints on it. Realizing that feels like a knife in my gut.
I wanted to keep things as normal as possible for the kids. I didn’t want them to have to move, or miss the familiar because it is home to them. But home to me was shattered the day he left. Instead of warming my heart and bringing me comfort, the familiar items and the stories that accompany them sometimes leave me feeling like a detective surveying a crime scene. I see the fingerprints of the killer everywhere. It makes me hard on the inside in order to keep myself from being sad at the death of a family. I’ve gotten tough and I’ve moved forward but still mourn for the family that once was that can never be again. Maybe it still hurts because I wanted it so much. I fought hard to save it. I lost. The one who killed it still lurks. I can’t get rid of him. No matter how much I would like never to see him again. He is everywhere.
He is spending Christmas Eve with the kids and coming by to pick me up for church that night. We will come back to the house for a meal and watch the kids open up their presents from us together. I don’t want the kids to be sad thinking that one parent is off somewhere alone missing them on Christmas Eve. So I’ll do what I have to do to make it nice for them. They’ve already thanked me for it. It will be like going to church with my family’s killer and then coming back to the home he destroyed.
It annoys me that he has access to the house. He doesn’t come in unless he’s invited but because the kids are a part of my life he knows every move I make. Yet I haven’t the faintest idea about his life or surroundings. I’ve never been to his house, I don’t know how it’s decorated, where he is or what he does 80 to 90% of the time. It’s as if he got away with murder. For now, he’s free, living the life he’s chosen. Free from the constraints of responsibility and obligation to being a husband and full-time dad. He goes and does what he wants when he wants. And I watch him leave time and time again. When he does, I turn around and walk back into the life he left. Same scene, same smells, same memories.
I yearn for change. I desperately want for myself completely new surroundings. New furniture, new rooms, new memories. I want to leave the home whose foundations have been cracked and pieced back together after the earthquake. But I can’t. Financially it makes no sense. And for my children’s sake, it is not wise. Instead I care for it and maintain it and try to live in the present only. Focusing on making new memories.
This weekend I made a token gesture toward freeing myself. While it may seem trivial, to me, it holds great significance. I replaced the god forsaken reclining chair and sofa with a new sectional in our family room. The chair was “his chair”. I bought it for him for his birthday hoping to make his feel loved and appreciated. He ended up not liking it. Said it wasn’t tall enough and the stuffing poked his back. When he moved out he left it behind like everything else. I never wanted a recliner. So this weekend my son and I decided we would do something about it. And that we did.
When it stops raining we will move it in from the garage and we will put “Dad’s chair” and it’s matching sofa out on the street with a free sign displayed.
The new couch was the right shape and size. I love the fabric, and most of all I love the 70% off price. But because it was on clearance I had to accept its color. Cream. My son and I talked at length about ways we could keep the couch clean. If we forget and the dogs go out in the mud, there will be tracks all over the couch. Like the area of the walls near every light switch and doorway, there will be dirty fingerprints to clean away. As we discussed this reality, my son said something rather profound. He said, “Mom think of it this way…at least with the new couch we will be able to tell we are sitting in dirt. The ones we have now hide it so well we have no idea the filth we are sitting in.”
It was a fitting comment for our old lives as well. I never knew what my ex felt or thought. I had no idea of the darkness that had entered my home. It was hidden from my children and from me by him. At least now we know what we need to clean up. Instead of letting the dirt build up. Now, at the first notice of a spot we will be up washing it away. It will be more work, it will take more diligence but it is right and proper for us to do so in order to take care of and keep clean what we have.
I hope we will do that with our lives too. No more dirty fingerprints lingering unattended until it’s so gross you just want to throw it in the dumpster and leave it behind.
Psalm 139:23 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
I don’t want to bury or hide the dirt. I want God to reveal it so I can do something to fix it.
Even with how much I want to be perfect I know I am not. I know I fail at times. I know I have room for improvement. So I ask God nearly every day to wash me clean and show me the spots. Show me the fingerprints so I can experience the joy of my salvation.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a rightb spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.