A few weeks ago, or was it months? my ex offered, or did I ask? to take Benjamin two nights a week instead of one.
For several weeks he upheld his new commitment, enjoying every extra moment with his son until on week four he told me he was tired. I understood. It’s hard. This kid thing, this three-year-old thing.
But while adjusting to two nights a week with your son after three years of one is tough, adjusting to two nights of freedom, I found, is much easier.
I have been using the extra nights to catch up with long neglected friends and to make appointments for long neglected things, like my teeth.
Last night I got a text, “I will bring Benjamin back tomorrow, I have a meeting on Thursday.”
This morning another text comes, “I need to be done by 5:30. No later. I have my Wednesday night order to fill at work.”
“I have a dentist appointment but it should be done by then,” I tell him later on the phone.
The dentist’s office is remarkable.
They’ve squeezed me in on short notice knowing my insurance expires on Friday.
Just after the needles and just before the numbness creeps into my mouth I start chatting with the assistant. She tells me she was a single mom once too – for three years – and now she’s happily re-married. You can see it in her face – she is happy, completely content.
“It’s funny, isn’t it? How much easier it is to find a good man when you already have the child,” I tell her.
“Oh, definitely,” she says, “Because it’s not for you, it’s for your kid, you know?”
“And for you and for him and for the kid – for the entire family. It just gives you a clearer perspective on what matters. Kind of a perk.”
“Yeah, when before it was just about how hot they were or whatever.”
“Or if they took you out on a nice date. Like, who has time for dates when you have kids?”
We are now practically completing each other’s sentences. And then my mouth goes completely numb.
After the dentist delicately carves five holes in my mouth I realize it’s 5:00.
They tell me it will be at least an hour until we’re finished.
An hour? What about my ex and his deadline? What about Benjamin?
Who can I call?
I can’t leave. He can’t come here. I have holes in my teeth. Holes. And I can’t even talk.
I text Mia desperately.
She’s probably working.
I am under the lights. My head is pounding. They’re all being so nice, the dental people – these wonderful, awesome people – so patient with this frantic texting girl who has stuff propping her mouth open and wild eyes.
I have no one else to call.
The bitter reality, the non-perk of my single motherhood hits hard. These “I have no one” moments come to all of us and always at the worst times, the times – of course – when you wish you weren’t alone.
You may be on the side of the road with a flat tire, stuck in a rain storm on the street, on an airplane with a stranger in the third seat or at the dentist’s office. Wherever you are the reality of that moment always makes you want to sink, to cry, to completely deflate.
But you can’t, so you don’t – you have no choice but to find a solution, for your child’s sake.
I text the Bear.
“Can you do me a huge favor and go to my place and hang with Benjamin until I am out of the dentist’s. Stuck.”
Not even one minute later a new text zips over.
“I’m on my way.”
The two have met a few times before.
There was the time when he dropped off Benjamin’s pink eye prescription… we were outside when he pulled up and he had dinner in his hands. Dinner. Because I’d had a long day and Benjamin had a fever.
And on Mother’s Day weekend the Bear joined me on my first Fiesta Mission. Benjamin, although sleeping most of the time, was in the car for the first leg before we dropped him off at grandma’s so we could continue on.
The fillings were nearly finished. At some point I’d read a text from my ex who was furious at me for introducing Benjamin to another man.
“I am pissed,” he wrote, “call me later.”
I feel like I may choke on my numb tongue and I kind of want to… I would rather be having these fillings than walking out of this office to see the face of my new man who has just met my ex without me even there.
When I get home the Bear and Benjamin are sitting on the front porch playing.
Benjamin is jumping up and down – ecstatic to see me, the Bear is laughing. It’s a beautiful and frightening sight.
I’m also still a bit queasy.
“What can I do?” he asks.
“Nothing, but you should go,” I say this even though I want him to stay because I feel like hell and my mouth, although numb, is still uncomfortable. I just want to lie down – to rest.
“I should stay,” he says.
“No, you should go, even though I want you to stay.”
After a big hug and good-bye to Benjamin the Bear heads out.
I went through the motions of the night in my exhausted body. And at some point I forgave myself. Because even though meeting the Bear may put Benjamin on a therapy couch in 20 years – this is my reality, this is our reality.
He is the son of a single mom.
This is his life and the only thing I can do is make sure we both make it out alive, well and hopefully as happy as we are now. Hopefully, unless I mess it up… or overthink us both to death.
Whichever comes first. Believe it or not, I’m avoiding them both at all costs.
You’ll all be meeting the Bear very shortly… my mission video should be posted soon.