Have I Failed You Yet?

by Shandra Love

"Mommy, what do we do now? Isn't it going to be hard for you to make it now that you and daddy are divorced?" I smiled at my youngest daughter and tapped her nose with my finger. "No silly. You know I'm not about to let you miss out on anything that you need because your dad and I are no longer together. I'll have to do what I have to do. I saw my mom do it, she saw her mom do it, and I'm sure that it goes on, and on, and on, but I'm ready to do it because I have them standing by me as I do it."

She got quiet and I knew that was a sign of her mind at work. I said nothing yet I waited patiently. I knew the questions would start. I sneaked a quick peek over at her and laughed inside as I saw the pursed lips and the naturally arched eyebrows coming together as she frowned...obviously lost in thought.

"Mommy, am I too young to get a job?" I exploded with laughter. I absolutely lost it at this point and laughed a good laugh. She looked at me in amazement and I didn't dare let her know that the laughter on the outside was drowning out the tears on the inside.

I wasn't crying on the inside because of any real or immediate pain. It was more or less fear. How would we make it now? How would I be able to keep them in a decent neighborhood and used to a life of everything they needed?

I had been with my husband for eleven years and married to him nine of those years. He was a good man and did take care of home for many years before the trouble started.

I can't even recall when the trouble started, but when it did I remember going into a mode that I had never experienced before. Nothing seemed to matter and I was virtually without emotion. I don't remember crying or being upset about a lot of things.

No matter what happened, I always tried to speak of their dad in a decent manner. He wasn't my oldest daughter's biological father, but you couldn't tell. He came in and certainly filled the shoes as her "father."

I remember times when I was extremely jealous because she had become so close to him and seemed to place me on the back burner. He'd take her to basketball games and other little outings, which left me feeling trapped and unable to break free of my "housewife" role.

We'd laugh to ourselves when people would say that she must have gotten her height from him or some other characteristic that they were imagining. I learned to love it, as he had been a wonderful father and the best husband he knew to be.

In fact, as I sit back and recall the number of uncles, cousins, and friends of his who were "layin' 'em and playin' 'em" is it any wonder that he thought this was the norm? Nonetheless, that's a guilty man's argument and little or no room is left for negotiating.

When you come from a broken home you do all that you can to make your own marriage work. Unfortunately, that's not always feasible. My heart and mind are clear though as I believe that I did do all that I could have to make it work.

The trouble...hmmm, when did that begin? I shuffle through my mind's recall and shift and turn as I try to rattle it loose. I'd have to say the trouble began when he started hanging with his single friends.

I allowed him his freedom and didn't have a lot to say to him, but damn, enough is enough. I got tired of him dragging in at all hours of the night and having little or no remorse at my being up most of the night wondering if his butt was OK.

I was sick and tired of the nonsense and my threats of leaving fell upon deaf ears. Brother was so sure that I wouldn't be willing to leave, to fend for myself and our daughters alone. Yeah OK.

He was right on that count, but trust me when I say that the strength creeps up on you. We separated twice for an extended period of time and I was wearing out a pair of kneecaps asking God for endurance.

Finally, the day came when my marriage would be dissolved and I'd be sitting in the dark crying. I don't know if I was crying tears of joy, sorrow, or all of the above. I was scared and didn't know what to expect. I would also raise two children alone now.

Motherhood itself didn't scare me, but the thought of keeping adequate employment, decent living conditions, and a firm hold on the girls was suddenly beginning to terrify me.

One thing I did know for sure was that I wasn't going to let loneliness and desperation find its way into my otherwise wholesome existence. I hadn't been alone for many years and visions of waking up and reaching for "him" often times played in my head.

"Girl, you have too much going for you to believe that you have to jump up in a relationship with a man, you can do bad by yourself" I let this repeat itself in my head like my girlfriend had just said it or something. I knew she was right and I knew that for the sake of my girls I had to live a life that was good for them

The older one would come to me many times after the divorce and say, "Mommy, don't get married again until I am grown and out of the house. I don't want to do this again." I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at her remark, as neither of them seemed appropriate.

Sure I'd come to date and things but it didn't do much good because I'd always manage to push a man away when I thought he was getting too serious. It didn't help if I thought I liked him too much either, I'd cleverly start a fight and see him on his way...for good.

The killing thing is that I never really knew I was doing this until my sister pointed it out. "You're going to be old and miserable because every good man who comes along and expresses an interest in you, you find a way to run him off."

What the hell did she know? She wasn't one to deal with men too long either so her telling me that was like a pimp telling a drug dealer not to peddle his wares. You know what I mean?

Nonetheless, life goes on and I have to take it one day at a time. Do I want to do it alone? Not necessarily but if it means peace of mind, a sense of security, and a time of nurturing and bonding for me and my girls...so be it.

I take my little one in my arms and I try to play the words back and forth in my head before I use them on her, "Baby girl, you know when I told you that just because daddy and I aren't married anymore that you'd still be OK and able to have both of us in your life?"

She began to squirm, as the thought still wasn't a pleasant one for her. "Yes mommy I do." I took her face in my hands and had her look at me, "Then know that you're going to be fine. Dad and I have moved away from each other, but you and your sister will ALWAYS be the center of our world, do you understand that?"

The puzzled look on her face said it all, but I know her, so I knew that she was going to respond in a way that she thought I needed to hear. "Yes mommy I do." I smiled at her and kissed her on the nose, "Good, then also know that whatever it takes for you and your sister to be safe, and able to handle things, I'm willing to do. If you ever have a time or two when you're left wondering what's going on just ask me and I'll be happy to explain why things might seem different."

She jumped up out of my arms before I knew it, "OK mommy, can I go watch TV now? My favorite cartoon is coming on." I winked at her and waved my hand, as to dismiss her. She blew me a kiss and started out of the room. "Baby girl?" I called out to her and waited as she peeked back around the door into the den, "Yes mommy?"

I hesitated for a moment, not knowing whether she would be able to comprehend that which I was about to say, but I wanted to say it just the same, "Have I failed you yet?" She giggled and said, "Oh mommy now you're being silly." At this she turned and ran down the hallway. I closed my eyes and smiled to myself because THAT let me know that we'd be fine.

Have I Failed You Yet? by Shandra Love

© Copyright 2003. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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