Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Now It's Quiet

Inara is asleep right now.

Earlier this evening, as usual, I fed her a warm dinner then handed her over to her grandmother, who bathed her in the sink. We wrapped her in a soft white towel and laid her out on the bed in the guest room (my bed at the moment). We dressed her in terrycloth pajamas with horizontal stripes of pink, brown and white (and little feet that look like ladybugs). Then I took her in my arms and carried her into the family room which has been made over into a nursery/playroom; I fed her a bottle and watched her eyes eventually flutter and close as she drifted off to sleep.

I continued holding her for a little while, then placed her gently in the fold-away crib -- the one that, like my own temporary bed, has been her nightly resting place for the past month or so.

This is the last night she'll sleep in it for -- well, I'm not sure for how long really.

Tomorrow, my mother and I spend the night with my aunt and uncle; they happen to live close to the airport, which will put me in a better position to board a plane with Inara early Friday morning -- a plane that will take us back to New York City. Two days after our arrival there, one of us will get on another plane and return to Miami alone.

I'm not angry about having to bring my baby girl back to New York for the summer. Jayne is Inara's mother and under no circumstances would I ever want to keep the two of them apart. Jayne and I may have the weight of the adult world on our shoulders right now -- what feels like a million-and-one daily crises borne from desperately trying to keep a sinking ship from taking the both of us down with it -- but our mutual love for Inara is constant and unwavering. We love her. Each of us wants her to have a father and a mother. On this we can agree. It may, in fact, be the only thing we can agree on anymore.

But while my head understands and collates this information -- that Inara needs to spend time with her mother, whether I'm physically present or not -- my heart aches at the daunting notion of what's about to happen: For the first time in her life, my child will be separated from her father. From me. For the first time, I won't be with my baby.

I've always been there with her. Circumstances are such that she's been in my care almost every day since Jayne went back to work months ago. This isn't meant to imply that my wife has been a bad or inattentive mother, since that's not the case at all. It simply means that I don't know what it's like to wake up without my daughter's smile. To not feed her. To not play with her and laugh with her and hold her when she cries and stare in wide-eyed awe when she does something completely new. I've never lived in a place that isn't warmed and brightened simply by her being in it.

I've never felt the agonizing emptiness of not having her near.

And I'm so scared to have to now.

In the middle of the night, I sometimes hear her crying -- but when I get out of bed and rush to the side of her crib, I realize that it's my imagination. That she's still quietly, soundly asleep. I've tried to fight back the implications of this phenomenon but I realize that as the time of our departure for New York approaches, I can't lie to myself anymore: When she's gone, I'm going to still hear her in this home. It will be like phantom limb pain. I'll hear her crying and run out to the family room and not only will she not be crying, she won't be there at all.

And I won't be able to stop myself from crying.

This place isn't really my home; neither is it Inara's (although we've both been welcomed as if it were). But during our time here, she's imbued it with so much life -- through her laughter and joy, her mere presence -- that I can't imagine what it's going to be like to return here and feel the void left behind by her absence. Some of her clothes will still be here. The food I used to feed her and some of the toys she used to play with. But she'll be gone.

Every afternoon, I strap Inara into her stroller and walk her up the street to a tiny nearby park that's completely shaded by a canopy of giant trees. We play on the jungle gym. I hold her on my end of a little spring see-saw and bounce her up and down. I put her into one of two kiddie swings, pull her back and let her go -- and watch the smile immediately appear on her face. I even hop on the big kid swings next to her once in a while.

Tomorrow, I'll do this one last time before we leave.

I know I'll be with her again someday soon. I know that I'll visit her while she's in New York. But right now none of this provides much consolation.

No amount of telling myself that everything's going to be okay will fill the deafening quiet that's to come.


Beth said...

Dammit, I couldn't even finish reading this before I started to cry.

Al said...

This is not a slight on non-parents out there, but I don't think those without kids can imagine what you're feeling. I'm sad if I get home from work too late to do the bath and bedtime routine.

That said, you're doing absolutely the right thing by making sure she spends time with her mother. Circumstances suck, but you both have your priorities straight - Inara comes first.

Take care man, use the time to find your path and be in a happier place for you AND her.

Anonymous said...

Your relationship with your beautiful daughter is your current love story, hands down.

I wish you & Jayne could live in a place where the 2 of you would only be an hour or so from your daughter. It might make this already devastating situation a little easier to swallow. Losing your wife is heart wrenching enough, but not seeing Inara on a continuous basis...Chez, it's too much.

I don't know you personally, but I care. Stay close to your family and friends right now. Breathe. Be good to yourself.

timelady said...

The first time I left my children with my ex for a visit, i wept. I ached and sobbed and pined until they returned a few days later, happy and content, knowing both their parents loved and welcomed them. The weekends gradually got easier to bear, but the ache has never gone. The holiday larger visits drag on.

I go into their rooms each night until I finally shut the doors, the silent solidness of their never shut while children are home status rebukes me. I feel an odd guilt, lingering, I imagine I have accidentally left them somewhere, and wake up in a sweat, thinking I hear them calling.

I rejoice in their security and happiness, all these years later. It is easier to bear, but the ache never diminishes, just gets adapted to.

Stay busy, use the time to do things needful that you may find difficult when with her.

Talk to friends, family, us.

It will get easier. But it never stops, because you never stop being her dad. And that's how it works. Millions of military and other families endure the same ache. You share an ache with millions of parents globally. We know. We grok.

Be well.

B8ovin said...

I have written four comments to this post and erased them all. All of them concerned by 24 year old daughter who left for school and recently returned home, right about the time I grew use to the absence of her constant laughter. She left for a two week vacation to L.A. last week and I today was the first day I really noticed and lamented her not being around.
It never ends Chez. I have grand children now who visit and leave with the same effect. It is odd to have so much love and joy in your life and yet so much lonely sadness. For what it's worth, I empathize.

Smack, Cracker, and Punk said...

Chez I am sorry you are going through this right now. I can only hope that you and Jayne are on good enough terms to call each other and let Inara warm your heart through the phone as my child did while I was away from her. All the luck to you...

Anonymous said...

It hurts reading this Chez. As a father of two I can relate to the fears you describe. Fortunatley for me my wife and I are still very much in love with each other (8 year anniversary next monday yay!).

All I can say is hang in there. Give Inara all the love you have and try to not fall apart. Try to not fall apart.

Flagellum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Dude... stay in New York!!! You can do one week Jayne with Inara and one week you. It will benefit all of you. That's what my ex-wife and I did when we broke up. When she was taking care of our kid one week, I was living the single life and vice versa. It's less painful and your child will have each parent's undivided attention. You're writer, you can work anywhere plus you'll have every other week to take business trips.

Chez said...

Sorry, Pix. I'm not making a whole lot of money as a writer these days (although trying to change that) and New York's not the kind of place where you can live on next-to-nothing. If I could be there, believe me, I would. I hate to admit that things are beyond my control, but very little of what's happening to me these days is my choice.

aauais said...

Chez. Having known you now for the last 20 years I van honestly say that this is one of the most poignant things I have read/heard from you. As a father who travels sometimes a bit too much - I echo missing the laughter and warmth a child brings into a home. My parents have experienced an infusion of life since they became grandparents 2 years ago - so I can envision how Ralph and Micky feel.

Chez you have had your trials and tribulations as we all have but you have emerged a decent person and someone I am proud to call a friend. Hang in there.

The bar in Miramar has some small batch bourbons and single malt scotches if you desire to swing by. Stay classy.

dammitjanet said...

Chez, you sound so much like my fiance. He raised his boys alone for 15 years. He left a promising career in the military to be their father. They went to live with their mother for a year several years ago, and the loss of their constant presence nearly did him in. But, they came back, and he got thru it. You and Inara will, too. You are a wonderful father, and Jayne is a wonderful mother. You have a beautiful baby girl, who will forever be your bond. She is the most important thing right now. You both know that. But also know that all of your friends and supporters out here on the interwebs are holding you all in our hearts. Take care, Chez. Give her an extra big hug and a kiss. She will forever be yours, and forever be with you, even if not physically, you have a bond that will not be broken. Love to all.

Ally said...

Lucky for you technology is at the end of your fingertips. Maybe something could be worked out so that you could video conference with Inara at bedtime each night, or first thing in the a.m.? How cool would that be if you could wave and smile and talk to her, and vice versa, via the computer?

No words for the real stuff, the hard parts. Just know that you have a soft place to land among friends when the going gets really tough. Keep your chin up.

Tara Parker said...


I can't imagine what you are going through. I'd tear through walls if I were separated from my son for a month.

Tough situation, but it looks like you and Jayne are doing everything you can to ensure that she has both of you in her life.

Hang in there and know that you'll see her soon. Keep busy, keep writing.

Snath said...

I can't even imagine what my life would be like if my kids were suddenly gone. It's breaking my heart just thinking about. I am so, so sorry that you have to go through this, but I know you will be okay.

cgwalt said...

There, there. You'll be fine.

Now don't you feel better?

I kid. Your child will always know you love her, but being a parent? this shit ain't easy. Soon, sooner than you have any way of knowing, she will be a lovely young adult and will count on your council and love.

You have rewards and delights in your future.

There, there.

ntx said...

You're a good dad, Chez.

zoe said...

Chez, I don't have kids so I can't imagine what you're going through right now. I don't pray, but I'll be keeping you in my thoughts. And as someone who suffers from depression etc, try to be with people you love in this time. It helps, it really does.

nancy said...

my heart hurts for you. take care.

Christine said...

Guess I really put my foot in my mouth with that FB comment, huh? I don't have kids, but I have friends in similar situations... they don't talk about the way they miss their kids when they're not around, but I know it's there, in the back of their eyes when they think I'm not looking.

And in the meantime, go soak up some sunlight to take the edge off the loneliness and indulge in the company of good friends and family. It won't take away the ache or the pain, but every little bit helps.

Anonymous said...

Your daughter is very lucky to have you for a father. Of the 500 ways I screwed up my life before I turned 25, 495 of them could have been avoided by a close, loving relationship with my father, had such been available.

Do whatever you have to do to stay close to her. Steal videoconferencing equipment. Take a boring job so you can afford to live closer. Background-check any potential stepfathers.

And take care of yourself, for her sake. She needs you.

L. said...

I'm genuinely sorry because no part of this will be even remotely easy, at least not for awhile.

If you need some funds for some video chat equipment you can always post some more ridiculously adorable pictures/video and appeal to the readers.

R said...

This is really amazing. You know. reading this, I thought how one day Inara will get to read this. Am it's heartwarming, really, to think of how proud and how loved she will feel when she can see the beautiful words her father writes about her on a daily basis. You are very brave to bare yourself to your readers in times like these.

Loving her is the greatest gift you can give her. I know this seperation is going to be hard, but I'm sure that time will help you adjust. Until then, surround yourself with your family and friends, and people who care about you in general. You'd be suprised to know just how many people care.

Jen said...

hang in there. the summer will be hard, but inara will be happier for it. when she gets older, she'll be able to appreciate it. my step daughter lives across the country from us, so i definitely understand. we look forward to her visits, though it's never for enough time, it seems.

Barbara said...

Oh, god, agony! What about the older daughter? Could she spend a bit of time with the ole dad during the summer? Might help a bit, although when my (20 year old) baby girl was a BABY girl, nothing could have comforted me. I send comforting hugs anyway!

Anonymous said...

I know what you're about to go through, Chez. That's how I've felt over the past month and a half. I cried when I saw the door to her room closed knowing she wasn't behind it, and I cried when it was open because it was so empty in there. And I woke up countless times thinking I heard her cry. as always, your writing captures the emotions perfectly.

thank you for bringing her back to me tomorrow. I promise to always do the same as we agree. you know you're always welcome to see her. and I promise to take care of her while you're gone.


MAK said...

Your readers in Auburn, AL, are thinking of you guys and wishing you the best.

Chez said...

All this pain and longing and separation from what we love. And for what?

Anonymous said...

And this - is why I stay.

Shana said...

Hi, Chez--
I've read your blog for awhile now and have never commented, but my heart bled while reading this post. I have no children of my own at this time, but my parents have been divorced since I was five years old. My mother had custody of my brother and myself at first, since she didn't work nearly as many hours as my dad. Even so, most of my early childhood memories revolve around my father, who bent over backwards, racked up countless miles on his car, and sacrificed much sleep and a social life to visit as often as possible with us. He called all the time, checked in about everything: friends, grades, how I was feeling. He never missed a concert, a softball game, a play, an awards presentation throughout my entire adolescence. And when I was 12 and my mother fell spectacularly apart, he swept in and saved us. He took me bra shopping, visited colleges with me, introduced me to all of my favorite music. He is the best man I know, and I am a better person just by virtue of being his daughter.
In your words I hear a sound I know better, I feel, than most people: a father's love. Inara is a lucky girl. No daughter who hears that sound ever feels unsafe or unloved. It will enrich her whole world. Someday she will be a wonderful woman, smart and kind and loving and wise. And with that wisdom, she will know how much she gained just by virtue of being your daughter. It is small comfort in these hard moments, alone in Miami (or in a tiny closet-sized apartment in Woburn, in my dad's case), but believe me when I tell you that you can't even know just how much love and gratitude will be coming your way as she grows.

anama said...

Though I don't have kids, your post really spoke to me, because it reminds me of how I felt every time I had to leave my dad. I adore him and nobody understands me better - we're two peas in a pod. My parents divorced when I was six, and I was incredibly lucky that a) they were completely mature about it and never, ever spoke ill of each other and b) my dad was able to stay in the immediate vicinity. For a while, he picked me up from daycare and cooked dinner for me every night, and we spent every other weekend together. When my mom and I moved to a town about 30 minutes away, every day visits weren't realistic, but I could always count on weekends - this didn't do anything to alleviate the anxiety and sadness I felt when I had to leave him, which is why your post breaks my heart.
I have a feeling that your little girl will feel the same way about you. And she's so lucky to have you both in her life, agonizing over how to make everything easier and sweeter for her. Trust me, she'll appreciate so much how you've handled everything and how much you love each other, even if you're not together as a couple. You'll always be together as her parents and hopefully as friends, and she'll know it.
I'm so hoping you'll be able to find your way back to NY soon so you can see her every day, every other day, every weekend, whatever works for you both. Sending you good vibes from Seattle, and as always, I look forward to reading you again. :)

blackbird said...

That was beautiful. Your dad should read it.

Nicole said...

You already know that this breaks my heart, and I won't bullshit you with a pat on the back and a "Keep your chin up!" It's going to hurt like fucking hell. Just know you've got people who love and support you, and maybe that will make it a little easier to bear.

It's going to work out. The getting through it is just going to blow.

Flagellum said...

Damn Shana, now I have a lump in my throat and I'm at work so I have to appear normal.

em said...

I'm sorry, Chez. I'm not a mother (don't know if I'll ever be one) so I can't understand completely, but when you put it like this, I at least get a bit of what you're going through. Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't Jayne move to Miami?

Anonymous said...

I ache for Inara. If you have been her only constant - she will not understand why you have left her.

You are an amazing father. The depth of your love is palpable.

hugs and tears,

Deacon Blue said...

Chez, I don't know what it feels to be separated from a child, but I do understand the depth of the affection, so I feel for you in that regard, at least.

I am particularly sympethetic to you because with my almost 4-year-old girl, the wife stayed home the first year of her life, and I work as a freelance writer/editor from home, so we've always had her close. Shit, for the first three years of her life, she wouldn't sleep through the night without having the wife or I right next to her...and with me having the better back, that meant most of those three years I was the giant sized teddy bear for her.

Nothing's going to make you feel better now in any meaningful way, I'm guessing. The best you can do I suspect is to keep your head together (and your heart) until she cycles back around to your neck of the woods.

Wish you and Jayne could be closer geographically. I pray that it can come to pass somehow. Best to all of you in a bad time...

Anonymous said...

My brother killed himself 2 days before Xmas because his fucking bitch of a soon to be X wouldn't let him see his daughter and she convinced him the break up was his fault as he was a terrible father and husband (she wanted out to party). Now me and my mom (gramma) aren't allowed to see my Bumble because the same bitch has decided we are not good for the 6 year old. Long story, more I could say but Chez just remember you can still see her. Don't do anything stupid.

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

The pain is unbearable. I would trade places with him if I could.

celery said...

so sorry. inara is lucky to have a cool and awesome dad. that fact will shape her entire life in a positive way, regardless of the temporary distance. one day, that fact will hit her like a ton of love-filled bricks.

Elessa said...

i have been checking this comment thread daily since you posted, chez. some of the comments have brought me to tears, thanks a lot shana.

hang in there. you have many friends out here in the blogosphere who give a damn and care greatly about you, inara and the situation with jayne.

Anonymous said...

This is just too sad and too common a situation Chez.

Inara will miss you as much as you will miss her, I hope you guys can work out something that will be practical for the long term.

Who will look after Inara when Jayne is at work?

Best wishes for you all, Sara

Anonymous said...

i came back to check this thread because i am wondering how you and Inara are doing. if you get a moment - I'd love an update.