mad world (or, songs in the big chair)
My thoughts for this post have been germinating for awhile, so when I learned of Heather’s separation yesterday, it seemed time to tell the story (or at least, part of it)…
The four of us sat around the kitchen table sharing peppermint tea and scones, like we had so many times before. Of course this felt both familiar and odd because it was the middle of the day and both Mom and Dad were home from work. John sat at one end of the table, me on the other, and the kids on opposite sides between us. At some point John told us that he had something to share and we all reached for each others’ hands to sit in silence as he prepared himself for what he had to say.
How funny, I remember thinking in that moment, that our family was so close and so functional that it made even a horrible discussion a thing of beauty. There was no yelling and no anger, just him explaining to the kids that he’d made some choices that meant that he was leaving our marriage. Watching the shock pass across the kids’ faces is something I won’t forget, and even thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes.
After his explanation and some questions from the children, I told him that it was time for him to leave our home. I saw him to the door. I think I might have hugged him, but I don’t remember for sure if I did then, or even when we last touched.
Something beautiful and holy happened in those moments after he walked out the door. The kids and I formed a circle of arms and held on and cried, and I remember thinking that now….finally…my family could be what I wanted it to be, because for so long I’d just given up on things because I was so tired of the silence and closed doors.
We didn’t do much at all for the next few hours, just curled up in the huge oversized chair in our living room and held on. Gameboy went to his room to be alone for a bit and Catgirl stayed with me there. I stroked her hair, as I had so many times when she was little. Neither of us could talk much so I shared with her the playlist of songs that I’d made to get me through the days leading up to telling them about the divorce. First up was Alex Parks’ version “Mad World,” and we ended up listening to that song over and over again that day.
Back in the mid-80s when I was diagnosed with cancer and the world seemed so arbitrary and cruel, I would listen to the Tears for Fears version of “Mad World” and it helped me to remember that awful things just happened sometimes and that it wasn’t my fault. And I knew that if I kept listening, kept singing…I didn’t have to make sense of what was happening to me. I could just know that life was just that…mad and painful and tough-as-nails.
For long after that day, the kids and I had tea when I walked in the door from work in the early evening–to share stories from our days and to reconnect with each other. Occasionally I would set out four teacups instead of three, but I made that mistake less and less over time.