Day 55: A test of Patience, Flip the Perfect Pancake!
Today’s challenge is called a “test of patience” and invites you to learn to flip the perfect pancake. Well, I can’t. And it is not for lack of trying. In fact, I can’t even cook the perfect pancake. And I think it is largely because I lack patience. When MQD and I first started dating and he first started hanging out with Em and me he would make pancakes pretty frequently on the weekends. I didn’t realize that I had managed to do this, (and it was not my intent) but one morning Em asked for pancakes and specifically asked MQD to make them. I thought she just liked his better than mine. Until she pointed out that she didn’t think I knew how to make pancakes. Only Mike and Daddy. Perfect. Em thought I didn’t even know HOW. I was off the hook permanently.
And truthfully? I don’t think I have made pancakes since. I make waffles. And they’re tasty. But they don’t require patience. Don’t open the waffle iron until it beeps. Done.
Several weekends ago we had a weekend guest. A guest that can flip the perfect pancake and I thought about asking him to teach me. But in thinking about that I realized that he has already taught me patience. It’s funny that I am sitting down to bang out my feelings on this today of all days, the day before Thanksgiving.
Three years ago I had a turkey sandwich from the Kangaroo in Newport News on Thanksgiving day. I had just dropped off Emily with Jer and my in-laws for Thanksgiving. I was invited to stay but elected to get on the road so there’d “be less traffic.” Truth be told I couldn’t keep myself from crying and would rather just rip the band-aid off. It was the first holiday I’d spend away from her. I drove all day towards Chapel Hill. I pulled in Amy’s driveway in Hillsborough at about six that evening, stopping for another gas station turkey sandwich. She wasn’t home yet and I called her parent’s house to see if she was on her way. I had my laptop and I could get on her wi-fi from my car. I double-checked my email, again. It was still there. The email from a landlord that was happy to show me an apartment the following day. A landlord that didn’t care to check my credit. A landlord that would walk through the apartment I’d later rent and turn his face while I weeped, pretending he didn’t see me.
That weekend was messy, full of tears and wine and laughs and new friends. On Monday I went back to the beach. And I moved the following weekend. I might be the only woman in the history of the world that ever separated from her husband and enlisted him to help her pack and help her unpack, but I did. When he left my apartment the day I moved in my family was still there, and a few of my friends. He gave me a hug and he said I was “gonna be okay.” A question I asked him often for years, always “is it gonna be okay?’
That day I thought we were starting over. That our friendship would begin anew that day and somehow we’d be this unstoppable force, parents, ex-spouses, friends. The following year brought many arguments and ugly phone calls. We were “friendly” in front of Emily but the ease we’d always had with each other was gone. As my life moved forward and his did, too, we didn’t share the day-to-day. We didn’t know each other anymore in the familiar way we had and nothing had moved in to take its place. There was just an empty spot where our marriage had been.
A couple years later when MQD and I got more serious and I could see the future I was building I felt like it was important to try to extend my hand in friendship, again. Jer came to visit, to get our Christmas tree. It was awkward. We were polite. I invited MQD over that evening so that Jer could meet him. And then I beat feet outta there as fast as I could. I spent the night out with MQD that night and argued with Jeremy when I got home in the morning. I was ready. Ready for us to talk about my relationship with MQD and about the future and about how we’d work it all out. He didn’t want to. Worse than that he wouldn’t even really argue with me. He was just gone. Christmas passed with more polite conversation.
In February of 2009 I sent him an email.
I know you’ll likely not reply to this email but I wanted to talk to you. I think it is really important for us to be able to maintain a dialogue about Emily in order for us to be the best parents we can be. And I think we’re doing a great job with this. But …. I also think it is important for us to be able to have a dialogue about well…. us. Not about you and me, but about you and about me. No one has known us, either of us like we know each other and I hadn’t bargained on this. Losing our friendship all together. Maybe I’m naive, but I thought we could do this, and still have each other.
It was about twenty months later that he called and said “Hey, can you call me back when you have a minute? I need to run a few things by you, figure out what I am gonna do.” It was my friend Jeremy. Calling me to ask for advice. Because no one has known him longer.
The following week the house guest, the one that can flip a perfect pancake, came to stay the weekend. We all stayed up late, laughing, talking about music and telling stories, playing games. We made Chicken Penne. We took Em out to run around downtown. We all went for pizza. And ice cream. And beers at He’s Not Here. We watched the SweetWater Brewing Co painter paint a new logo on the wall. We talked about Jer’s plans to move off the beach soon. Maybe to Colorado, maybe someday settling closer to his little lady. MQD and I talked excitedly about wedding plans and the band that we hired. We all talked about the future. Not the past.
He left a day later than we’d planned. At MQD’s suggestion that he stay another night so he could go by Em’s school on Monday morning.
So… three years. It took three years. My old friend, Jeremy, came to visit. He came to visit my home, my amazing fiancée and our, all of our’s, beautiful daughter. It was worth the wait. And pancakes are over-rated. Friendships are never perfect, anyway. I’ll take friendship over a perfect pancake.
This post is for you, Mike. Oddly. Your patience with me has given me the strength and the capability to heal. I know it has not been easy. I know it has been maddening at times. I do not know how you have held my hand through the last two years. I hope that you did it because you knew this day would come, and that it was worth it. Because while my friendship with my ex-husband will benefit Emily, and it will benefit me, surely, it stands to strengthen you and me and our marriage more than I ever knew. I have moved on. I have let go. I can love you with all of my heart, with everything I am and not look back. And I have only you to thank for this. Your understand and your encouragement and more than anything your love and your commitment. You made me see a future where I’d never thought there’d be one. And god damn… it looks good, babe. That future looks really good. I love you, babe.