I am having a coffee in a corner cafe in DC while my teenagers sleep in. I notice a father gently sweep his toddler into his arms and kiss the top of her head, then replace her little feet onto the floor. As he zips her coat she throws her arms around him and he hugs her as he once again kisses her still baby fine brown hair. I can’t look away. The scene stirs a dormant melancholy from the pit of my stomach.
I want desperately to remember holding my toddlers so lovingly. Instead the image that comes is that of sitting in a chair recording a video message of love to my small children, to be played in the event of my death. To acknowledge that I knew, or had some sense of what was to come when I set about with determination to be sure my children would remember me, disturbs me.
I didn’t want to believe the words, threats. I didn’t want to know, didn’t want my view of the world tarnished. I wanted to believe all people are good. I insisted on believing the man I married was good and that was all just a bad dream and he would one day sweep us up in his loving arms. Yet somewhere inside I knew. As it simmered in the background, waiting to consume us, I could not give my children that father, nor be the cheery happy girl I once was.
For that my sweet children, who I love more than anyone or thing in life, I am sorry. You deserved so much more than you received from both your parents, together and separately. I didn’t risk leaving because I wanted you to know me and know how much I loved you before I died. I wanted to impart the beauty of life and the completeness of a mother’s love. I wanted to watch you grow up and be who you are destined to be. I wanted to be your mother and I wrongly believed all the nastiness and threats would just go away if I ignored it.
Who I became was not who I set out to be and in the constant maneuvering to accommodate peace there was no peace at all. I only managed to leave two beautiful souls to fend for themselves.
As I look at that dad and his daughter walk out hand in hand I know my chance to do it the way I’d hoped has passed, and with that comes the mourning of a mountain of mistakes I’ve made that can never be undone.