The next day was the day we’d agreed that E would get his stuff from the house. I’d booked the kids and I into our favourite restaurant for lunch. I’d told them what was happening and none of them wanted to see him, so off we all went.
Whilst we were having lunch, I had one of those ‘if it’s not on Facebook it’s not happening’ moments and asked Oldest Daughter to take a picture of all of us. I wasn’t saying anything about what was happening on any of my social media accounts, and it was one of the unhappiest days of my life, but I still wanted to mark the day – it felt like a milestone moment. I wanted to believe that in a year’s time I’d be able to look back on that picture and see how far I’d come.
I’m so glad we took that picture – although not because of how I look. The minute the photograph was taken I thought I looked old, unattractive, middle aged and boring – to me I looked like everything that E had rejected. To be honest, even if I try to apply a bit of retrospective body positivity and self-loving kindess to it today, I still don’t think I look great. I look like how I felt at the time – dazed, confused, desperately sad and unsure of myself, but, oh my goodness, my kids look amazing. They look defiant, proud and utterly magnificent. Looking at the photograph now, all I can see is how much love I’m surrounded by. My kids have made me proud so many times over the last year or so, and that photo sums them up beautifully. And yes – I did look back on it a year later and realise how far I had come.
Completely unaware of what was happening, my sister-in-law commented on Facebook – asking where E was (we’d been pictured as a family of six in this restaurant so many times, it was a perfectly reasonable question). I realised that E would soon have tell her and her parents what had happened and felt another lurch of uncertainty about the future.
Despite my best efforts it was a strange couple of hours. Apart from anything else, the kids were being polite and nice to each other – obviously, this was for my sake, but it was downright disturbing not having Oldest Son wind up Youngest Daughter, or not have Oldest Daughter tell Youngest Son off for being cheeky – I would have been almost grateful for some low-level bickering. It was also odd being somewhere that we usually went as a family to celebrate birthdays and other family occasions. I thought perhaps I should have booked somewhere else, then realised that wherever I’d booked it would still have been a weird afternoon.
On top of that E was (as ever) late arriving at the house, so we had to delay going home. I felt that the only thing worse for the kids than knowing their Dad was moving out, would be seeing him leave the house for the last time. I wanted to protect them from that. So I had to wait for a text from him saying he’d finished (texting would fast become our main method of communication – something which Drunk Me would occasionally cease on with alacrity – but more of that later).
After we’d finished our meal we bought treats for when we got home (mine were alcoholic) and, having had the all clear (by text, naturally) we headed home.
I don’t know what I was expecting when I got home, but I still got a shock. First of all he’d taken the car. He was living and working in London. It might sound petty, but I don’t think a car is essential in London. I’m not sure why I was expecting him to leave it – I absolutely hate driving, and avoid it like the plague, but I had four kids to look after, if he’d have left it, I’d have forced myself to drive it.
Downstairs the house looked perfectly normal, the family photos were dotted around, the cats were asleep on the sofas, the kids’ bits and pieces were scattered everywhere. Apart from the space in the dining room where his laptop had been, nothing seemed to have changed. But when I went up to E and my bedroom, it was like being slapped in the face.
I knew he was ‘collecting his stuff’ but I assumed this meant he’d take maybe a couple of suitcases so that he had enough to keep him going until he found somewhere permanent to live (he’d told me he was staying with a friend in London). Maybe I also hoped that, once the shock had worn off, he would still at least want to come back to the house to talk to me. But he had literally cleared his whole life out of our home. There wasn’t a trace of him left. He had removed everything from every cupboard. There was literally nothing left. Every drawer, every cupboard, every shelf, of his was empty, there was nothing left in the bathroom, not even an old razor, there was nothing left. It was like he was trying to completely erase himself from our life and our home.