My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week
By Diane Stark
On Tuesday my husband of 10 years told me – over the phone, mind you – that he was no longer in love with me and he wanted out of our marriage; a marriage that had produced two children who were just three and six at that time.
On Wednesday, I watched silently as he told our children that he would be moving out, that he would not be living with us anymore. He promised them that things would be different from then on, but still great. After my husband left the house to go to work, I held my children as they cried. And I cried too.
On Thursday, I took the children to McDonald’s for lunch while my husband packed his clothes and other belongings. I managed to choke down seven French fries before running to the restroom to be sick. Oh, and I also explained to my six-year-old son why Daddy’s side of the closet was now empty.
On Friday, I called my husband at the co-worker’s house where he had told me he would be staying. The co-worker knew nothing of our break-up and hadn’t seen my husband outside of the office all week long. He even commented that my husband had seemed rather chipper that week, and wasn’t that odd given the circumstances.
On Saturday, I attended my son’s hockey game, cheering in the stands as though my entire life hadn’t fallen apart four days ago. My husband arrived late to the game and sat with me in the bleachers. You know, to keep up appearances to the other parents.
After the game, my husband, children and I walked toward the parking lot. Jordan’s team had won the game, and he was in high spirits. “Dad, we’re going to go for pancakes now, right? Just like we always do?” The hopeful look on his face was heart breaking.
My husband glanced my way and said, “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Don’t you think it would be…awkward?”
“We were married for 10 years and we’ve been separated for four days. I think we can handle eating breakfast together,” I said.
He looked down at Jordan and patted his head. “I’m sorry, Buddy, but I can’t this time. I really need to get home.”
Home. Wherever that was for him these days.
“But you have to go,” Jordan insisted. “We always go out for pancakes if my team wins. It’s a family tradition.”
Then light dawned in his eyes. Of course his father wouldn’t go with us for pancakes. That was a family tradition, and he no longer wanted to be part of our family.
“Sorry, Bud,” my husband repeated before walking off toward his truck. Jordan began to follow him.
“Jordan, Honey, our car is this way,” I called, pointing in the opposite direction.
He turned around and gave me a what-was-I-thinking look. “Sorry, Mom,” he said. “I’m just so used to following Dad.”
The words hit me like a sucker punch in the gut. I’m so used to following Dad. I realized that I was too. I had been following this man around for more than a decade, since I’d been a teenager. I’d been working so hard to please him, to make him happy, to do whatever he said was the right thing. I’d been doing that for so long that I no longer trusted my own instincts. And why should I, when I’d been so terribly wrong about the person I’d chosen to follow? And even more importantly, what on earth was I supposed to do now?
I looked at Jordan and whispered, “I know how you feel, Baby. I really do.”
We got to the car, and I told the kids that we, just the three of us, were going to go stuff ourselves with pancakes. Both kids cheered.
Jordan, his eyes bright, said, “Does that mean we’re still a family, Mom?”
“You bet it does, Sweetheart,” I answered, choking back tears. I buckled my daughter into her car seat, started the engine and turned the radio up loud. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could stave off my tears, and I didn’t want the kids to hear me crying – again.
The song “Bad Day,” by Daniel Powter, was playing. I heard Jordan in the backseat singing, “You had a bad day, you’re taking one down, you sing a sad song…”
He stopped singing suddenly and said, “Hey, Mom, this song reminds me of us right now. But we’re not having a bad day. We’re having a bad week.” I looked in the rear view mirror, expecting to see tears in his eyes, but instead, he had the sweetest smile on his face.
“You’re right, Honey. It definitely hasn’t been the greatest week for any of us.”
He shook his head, and the smile grew into a goofy grin. “We might even have a bad month.”
I smiled back at him in the mirror, incredibly grateful for this kindness, however unintentional it was on his part.
“Heck, maybe it will even be a bad year,” he said and began singing the song with his new lyrics. “We had a bad year…” Both he and my daughter laughed as though everything in our world hadn’t turned upside down.
And I couldn’t help it. It was crazy, but I laughed too. The three of us drove toward the pancake house yelling insanely about the rotten year we were about to have. And it was the happiest I’d felt since my Tuesday morning phone call.
Twenty minutes later, we were seated at a booth at IHOP with stacks of sticky, sweet pancakes in front of us. Jordan lifted a bite of the gooey mess toward his mouth and said, “Hey, Mom? I think our bad week just got a little bit better.”
I blinked the tears from my eyes and smiled at him. “I do believe you’re right, Honey.”
And in that moment, I learned that sometimes in life we are put in situations when we have to laugh to keep from crying. And that, crazy or not, laughter is almost always infinitely better than tears.
About this writer
- Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.
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