His daddy died in March. Spring in Eastern Colorado isn’t the dainty season featured on picture postcards. It is a season of wet snow and mud that threatens to suck the overshoes off of tired feet and the tires off trucks. The water and wind suck the life out of calves and it becomes obvious to folks why there are abandoned homesteads out here.
I heard the truck in front of the house and saw the awkward silhouette of a round bale perched on the flat bed. I was still in my clothes from the funeral, barefoot on the kitchen floor. I walked to the window again and still he was parked. He looked at me and motioned for me to come to him.
The insides of my coveys were cold on my bare legs, but I jerked the straps over my shoulders, shoved my bare feet into boots and walked to the truck.
Neither of us said anything and the heater in the truck burned my eyes. He put the truck in gear, and we rolled out toward the winter pastures above Bijou Creek. We drove to where the heavies lay in wait of their calves and where a few pairs were hunkered down against the wind.
I opened gates and he drove. He parked the truck on a gulch overlooking the home place and the engine purred and the wind rocked the cab.
“I never thought he would get old,” he said finally.
“I know,” I murmured. “I’m sorry.”
We sat in silence watching the snow and mud-caked fields dotted with black cattle and water tanks. He sighed and put the truck in gear again and we rolled back toward the house and took up life where we had left off.
Grady MacNamara had been taking care of business long before I met him. He has carried feed sacks, hay bales, his mother during his father’s decline and my sleeping son at one time or another. He carried me out of my pit to a place of mutual protection. In a country where the wind blows with nothing to stop it, he shelters me from the wind so I don’t blow away.
In the years before Grady loved me, I had, as my grandmother who was steeped in the sweet Louisiana traditions would have said, dropped my basket and nearly let the voodoo queens take me away.
A teacher new to a small town school cannot glide into town unnoticed, especially with license plates from two states away. I sat on the bleachers that first winter watching good, solid, down home men coach my son on the finer points of defensive stance, dribbling, rebounding and being a man. My son was enamored, I was thankful and sinking into feeling comfortable even on ancient, creaking bleachers.
Mothers made conversation with me and told me about their children. They asked enough questions to satisfy their curiosity regarding whether or not I was married. When they were satisfied that I am indeed unmarried, they would nonchalantly ask, “So, have you met Coach Robinson?” or say, “So you would have been in 4-H with Grady MacLennan, right? He bought a place in Agate…he’s not married either you know.”
When the basketball court cleared and the sounds of kids and the round ball died down, I sat, alone, in the bleachers for a few minutes.
This is not what my life was supposed to look like at 30. I’m supposed to be on solid ground not scrambling to gain ground while facing down giants.
For months after I finally found the strength to leave my husband, I would hear the growl of a diesel engine, and my heart would plummet, thinking it was him and he was here to strip our child away from me.
I thought the hard part would be the actual leaving, the rubber hitting the road. But it wasn’t. Hard was sitting on my porch waiting to see his headlights bringing my son home and the light never coming. He’s left the state and he has a six hour head start. I’ll never see my son again, I would think. That was hard.
Hard was getting a glimpse of my new life in the same zip code as my parents. It was feeling safe and hopeful and a part of a community. It was getting my hopes up and then hearing the Sheriff pound on my door to serve me with papers. Seeing first hand that a father who fails to meet his obligations can still file objections and other scary court documents to try to dash my plans. That was hard.
Being the mom of the only boy on the football field who doesn’t have his dad there, rubbing shoulders with the other dads and dreaming big gridiron dreams; watching my son look out at the bleachers, at all the moms and him knowing full well that I was on the fifty yard line with snacks at the ready, trying my hardest to be both mom and dad and not getting it done; playing catch with my son and knowing he’s embarrassed that his dad isn’t around to teach him to throw a spiral. That was hard.
Wearing heels and trying to teach my son how to be a man, that was hard. Sitting by myself and feeling so tired and so used up that no man would ever want me again is hard. Feeling that there is no possible way that I have one more ounce of strength left before I curl up and refuse to face my hand is hard.
So, no, walking out the door was easy and I’ve not regretted that decision for even a moment, but life afterwards isn’t what I thought.
I went home to lay low, to be in the same time zone as my family and at almost 31, it might have been just what I needed. I was out here trying to fix my dreams. The dreams I had at 22 had blown away somewhere along the trip. I saw it coming but I couldn’t get out of the way.