Ten years ago I walked two little boys up a tree-lined block in Brooklyn, one on either side of me, holding each of their hands. We turned into the small courtyard that led to a garden apartment. I pulled out the keys and said, "Guys, this is your new home." They were 8 and 6 at the time. Whatever they were feeling, they did a great job of hiding it. Me? I could barely tamp down the fear! Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to end up divorced and I didn't have a clue how I was going to raise two children on my own.
Of course they have a mother, but what went on behind those closed doors after I dropped off every other Sunday was as murky to me as the reasons I ended up there in the first place. I used to call drop-off "The Walk of Divorce." In my neighborhood, at the end of each weekend you'd see a veritable parade of kids clinging to one parent or the other with an over-freighted backpack drooping off their skinny shoulders. I used to get back to my apartment, sit down on the stoop and cry.
A hapless (rhymes with helpless) single dad seems a pretty rare sight these days. I know plenty of divorced fathers, but their marriages imploded when the kids were older and more self-sufficient. When the boys and I started our new life my learning curve was steep. Helping with homework and doing laundry seemed an insurmountable challenge. Sitting down to dinner at 10 p.m. was not unusual. The guys still have bunk beds and animal sheets and they're both over six feet tall. I tried. Not everything got done.
This week my firstborn not only graduated high school, but he has a full-time job as a counselor at his beloved summer camp on Cape Cod and that keeps him occupied until three days before college. Translation? He's gone!
I've choked back tears more than a few times anticipating the moment of departure, but typical of me, packing him up and out was so chaotic I barely had time to reflect on much more than whether he had toothpaste and enough contact solution. Father's Day fell on the day after Ben left. His brother came up the stairs and greeted me with a hug. I read my Times. Matty ate a bagel and cued up a rerun of Law & Order. The house was a mess. We went on with our lives. Same as we did 10 years ago. Only not so daunting this time.