I’ve needed to write this for almost a year now. For whatever reason, today is the day. Sometimes, waiting or putting things off for the “right” time simply isn’t an option.
When I was in elementary school, my uncle, my father, and I used to go fishing in different parts of Central Texas: Braunig, Choke Canyon, Pedernales Falls, Canyon Lake, Medina Lake, and some big, wide, deep “creeks.”
My uncle would drive all of us to one of these places each weekend in his classic, candy apple red, 1967 Thunderbird. He bought it from an elderly woman in Tacoma while he was in the military. She rarely drove. She kept the car in the garage. It was in nearly mint condition.
That car had black, leather, bucket seats, a V-8, an enormous back seat and a trunk large enough for a boy band. It was a thing of beauty. It also had a legit Blaupunkt system. Granted, it played cassette tapes only, but the amp and speakers he installed somehow made the music just right. He Goldilocks-ed the shit out of that thing.
He had several tapes in his cassette tape briefcase, but one album played endlessly: Play Deep by The Outfield. You would think it was stuck in the deck.
Now, as an adult, The Outfield’s song, “Every Time You Cry,” automatically plays in my head every other Friday morning and every other Sunday night;sometimes Monday morning, too. The chorus plays over and over and over and over.
Every time you cry, I cry just a little bit, cry just a little bit
When you say good bye I die just a little bit
Cry just a little bit more
Healthcare professionals will say that addicts and compulsives need to learn to recognize the beginnings of that “song,” that habit and “stop the tape” in order to live a healthier life. It’s a good metaphor. It makes sense for me, too, if you know one thing: my visitation schedule with my son.
I pick him up from school every Thursday night. On alternating weeks, he stays overnight with me and I take him to school the next morning. On those weeks, I see him that one time: from after school at 5 PM on Thursday through Friday morning at 8 AM when I drop him off at school. On those weeks, I see him for about 5 hours after factoring in 8-9 hours of sleep on Thursday night. Five hours. One week. That’s it. Every other Thursday, I know it will be an entire week before I see him again after visiting with him for just one night.Those are the weeks with a different sort of black Friday for me.
On the other weeks, I pick him up from school on Thursday at 5 PM and have him until Monday morning when I drop him off at school.
I know it is common for children to not want their mommy or daddy to leave when they are dropped off at daycare. It’s the “hard drop.” Every parent has either lived it or seen it.
“Daddy, who is going to pick me up today?”
I respond. He does, too:
“Nooo.” He does this little shimmy with bent elbows almost like he’s carrying tinder and he twists at the waist from side to side indicating he doesn’t like something: lawn mowers, brain breaks, loss of a privilege, the end of a visit with his dad.
“I want you to pick me up.”
“It’s okay, big boy,” I say. “I’ll see you in a couple of days.” One week is not a couple of days, but he doesn’t know that yet. Yet.
The “hard drop” is reversed for me. He doesn’t have them at school in the classroom. Instead, I drop; and I drop hard in my car every other Friday morning and every other Monday morning.
On long weekends, we go through our normal routine. We eat breakfast together and video chat with my parents. We go to the library or the museum. We come home for lunch. He takes a nap. Then, we go to the park or do something else outdoors while the weather still permits. We come home. We have dinner. Then, it’s shower, jammies, books, and bed. Simple things. Consistent things. Structured things.
On Sunday nights, though, I know what is coming. I push all of the library books on his floor to one side of his room. I need to make a clear path from his bed to mine in case he needs to get up in the middle of the night for some reason: bathroom assistance, thirst, the need for a hug or a more comfortable bed. I move his rocking chair away from the coffee table where he watches some Netflix on my computer before dinner. I pick up that chair and I move it to the corner of the dining room so that he doesn’t trip over it on his way to my room in the middle of the night. I pick up that chair knowing it will sit there, empty, and unused for the next several days. That’s when I go into my bedroom, close my door, and sit on the floor.
When you say good bye I die just a little bit
Cry just a little bit more
If April is the cruelest month, then Friday and Sunday are the cruelest days for me.
It has gotten better over the past year, sort of. The first time this happened to me was last September. I was enjoying my first visit with my son since his mother and I split. I was on my way back home after dropping him off with his mother.
I’m not sure exactly what switched on or off. All I know is that I lost it. I just lost it all: faith, dignity, 15 pounds. I gained one million gray hairs, ulcers, and an unhealthy tolerance for vices. That doesn’t quite balance out.
I called my mother that evening. She said she knew that day was going to be hard for me. I had no idea. I was surprised to hear her say that. I hadn’t even thought about it before then, but she knew ahead of time that the dropoff was going to have an effect on me. Maybe she knew because she lived through it herself with me, my sister, and her ex-husband. Maybe it’s not father, but mother who knows best. There wasn’t much she could say, though, other than, “I know, son. I know. All I can say is that it’ll get better. It’ll take awhile, but it’ll get better.”
Well, I can say this: it may not get better, but it is definitely less devastating. There are still tears and sobs and running noses and, yes, sometimes, wailings four days a month; but they don’t last as long. There is that.
Much later at night on these days, a different song repeats in my head. A different tape starts playing: “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea” by The Cure. It’s off the album, Wish, which debuted in 1992. People know it because of “Friday I’m In Love.” Fuck that. That’s The Cure’s worst song ever and it is The Cure’s version of Van Halen’s “Jump.” It’s right in all of the wrong ways. I can’t even.
“From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea” is about the love two people have for one another. It’s a tormented love; a vain love. It’s full of wistfulness, heartbreak, and yearning; and, of course, tears. It’s aimed at the love for a woman, but the sentiments are gender neutral. I excerpted the relevant lyrics and embedded a live version of the full song after them.
Every time we do this I fall…
…as long as I know that you know
That today I belong
Right here with you
Right here with you…
we’ll be here forever
and we’ll never say goodbye…
And all I want is to keep it like this…
…And don’t go home
don’t go away
don’t let this end
not just for today
Never never never never never let me go…
…hold me like this for a hundred thousand million days…
…Why do you cry? what did i say?
but it’s just rain i smile
brushing my tears away…I wish I could just stop
“And so it goes.
Sometimes life is like that.”¹
But sometimes…life is like this, and I’ll take it. I’ll take it.
¹Dubuc, Marianne.The Lion and The Bird. Brooklyn: Enchanted Lion, 2014.
Illustrations from Marianne Dubuc’s The Lion and The Bird.