My Son’s Other House

Sometimes, the unexpected makes me happy.

Sometimes, the unexpected makes me happy.

The drive took one and a half songs.

My five-year-old sang along with both because he has good taste like me.

From my door to hers.

I didn’t check the mileage.

I didn’t check the time.

Which are two things I would have done four or five months ago. I would have paid attention to those little details.

My ex-wife texted me the address about 20 minutes before I left the house. She had asked me if I could bring over the lawnmower and a rake.

This is who we are now.

People who swap lawn tools.

I didn’t have any trouble finding the place. It’s a cute little house in a quaint little neighborhood not much different than mine. I suppose some people might say we live in the same neighborhood.

I pulled in the driveway. I was more curious than I was nervous about walking in there.

But I didn’t hurry. I sent our son Owen to the door without me as I pulled the lawnmower out of my Jeep and reattached the upper part of the handle for her, tightening it into place and giving the pull starter a yank to make sure it would turn over easy enough for her.

Old habits, you know.

I rolled it to the corner of her new house, propping one of our old rakes next to it.

Had I given my son a proper goodbye, I might have just left at that point. But I didn’t. So, I knocked on the door. She waved me in.

The place looked nice. Smaller than my house. And far from put together. The telltale signs of moving in were everywhere. Stacks of boxes. Bare walls.

But nice. I was happy for my son.

You enter into the living room. There were my couches.

This might have upset me had I not ordered my new ones yesterday.

One of my flat-screen televisions was sitting atop a cedar chest my grandfather had handcrafted for her as a wedding present a little more than nine years ago.

My ex-wife had painted our son’s new bedroom the day before.

Blue. It’s his favorite.

It was the only room in the house she had painted so far, putting him first. I was happy to see her doing that again.

His bed was made with a cool dinosaur comforter she must have just bought him. He loves dinosaurs.

I wanted to avoid seeing her bedroom, wondering how many men might be in there with her in the coming months. I still don’t like thinking about that.

Old habits, you know.

A mattress had been hastily tossed on the floor with some familiar sheets.

She didn’t have a bedroom set.

Shoe, meet other foot.

I told her the place looked nice and that I was happy for them.

It was sincere.

I was making my way toward the door when she mentioned she was having cable and Internet connectivity issues. The service had just been installed the day before.

Electronic gadgetry and technical troubleshooting was always my job.

“Do you want me to have a look at it?” I asked.

“Yes, please.”

“Do you have the password?”

She handed me a sheet of paper.

I looked down at a long handwritten alphanumeric sequence.

“You have any idea what these little giblet characters are supposed to be?”

There were two strange ones.

“I think the first one’s a lowercase ‘g’ and the second one is a lowercase ‘q.’”

“No way. This first one’s an ‘a.’ The guy just sucks at writing. Do you mind if I plug this into my phone and see if it connects so I can come steal free Wi-Fi?”

“Please. Go ahead.”

She said something lighthearted about the thought of me camped out on the street hacking her wireless signal.

We haven’t shared many laughs since late March. I’m still not sure how to feel about it.

I got the password plugged into my phone, replacing her ‘g’ with the correct, albeit poorly scribbled ‘a.’

It connected instantly.

“Yes. It’s an ‘a.’ If you plug it in using that ‘a,’ you’ll be happy with the results,” I said.

She thanked me.

“My pleasure. You still have my Netflix password so you guys can watch that, too, right?”

“I do.”

“Good.”

I kissed my son. Gave him a fist bump. Told him to be extra good for mom and to do a great job in school tomorrow.

“Have a good night, please. Talk to you soon.”

And out the door I went.

No lump in the throat.

No wishing I could stay.

No dreading coming home to my empty house.

Huh. That’s not what I expected. At all.

Delivered our son.

Brought rake and lawnmower.

Solved her wireless Internet problem.

And did so with kindness, to boot.

Old habits, you know.

But maybe some new ones, too.

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16 thoughts on “My Son’s Other House

  1. jessiesgirl says:

    Sounds like you are making significant progress. I’m proud of you. I know it’s still not easy, but I’m happy that things are a little less difficult. I can relate to a lot of this. It’s weird to go from husband and wife who live together and know almost everything about the other person’s life, to separate people living separate lives in separate houses. It’s awkward and familiar all at the same time. Old habits do die hard. We still find ourselves playing similar roles, but the play has turned in a completely different direction in this unexpected next act. It’s a bittersweet thing to move on and let go. Again, I’m proud of you and thank you for sharing this small victory with us.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you. This seems to be the theme of people who’ve been through this, and then read this post. It’s a strange new world. And I don’t love it.

      But I’m not miserable. I don’t know what I am. But I know I can handle it.

      Appreciate you, lady. Thank you for this note.

      Like

  2. Hell yes! Good for you.

    Like

  3. I’m so glad! <3 You keep those habits. That next girl will be super lucky if you do.

    Like

  4. seattlegraphix says:

    funny how the concept of what’s normal changes… We have a new routine in our house. Every sunday – the ex comes over with his son and we all get together for dinner, just like we used to. Only it’s a little different now that we’re 2 houses coming together as 1 for one night a week. There’s only one rule. Everyone is to have fun, if any of the kids start fighting or tensions are up between me and the ex – then we cancel or end early. The first time was a bit awkward, but now suddenly, we’re all having a bit of fun with it. And I hope that I’m teaching my children that even tho Mom and Dad aren’t together, doesn’t mean we’re not a family unit. Who knows – I feel like I’m in uncharted territory, but somehow, it’s all working. So I’ll take it.

    Good to see your progress Matt. Keep on Swimming!

    Like

    • Matt says:

      That makes my chest feel uneasy. The idea of us all being thrown together in a family like setting.

      Maybe I’ll be a big-enough person to do that someday. For now? I am not. I’m just not.

      It’s awesome of you to put your children first in that way. Thank you for reading, for sharing your stories, and your constant support.

      I appreciate it very much.

      Like

      • seattlegraphix says:

        Hey, I’m not saying that my approach would work for everyone. My marriage ended on a different note than yours. Don’t think I’d stomach it well if we’d ended differently.

        Like

  5. Oh good grief. Get over here and get my lawnmower started! :) Remember, you teach people how to treat you. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be nice to her– you should– but bringing over the mower is a bit much. She’ll only get more demanding and naggy from here.

    Like

  6. sinecostan says:

    You rock, dude! Not sure that I would have been as magnanimous as you are. What a wonderful father. My hat is off to you, sir.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you very much.

      I strive hard for kindness. Fail a lot. But try really hard.

      It’s the action I value most.

      Appreciate you taking the time to read and write very much.

      Like

  7. I never ever regret re-reading these old posts. It’s so interesting to look back with different eyes. I know you always say you probably won’t go back and read them again but I’d keep that option open still.

    Like

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