And then, suddenly, it was October.
I honestly hadn’t noticed. Or, maybe I just hadn’t thought about it. School started again. The leaves up in the canyon turned so bright we couldn’t help but stare at them from the valley. And pumpkins suddenly appeared in fields beside the highway. It was almost General Conference weekend– something Mormons celebrate every April and October– one of my favorite weekends. As Naomi said about conference, “It feels like Christmas.”
I’m generally a cheerful person with an upbeat attitude about life. But for some reason I couldn’t understand, I was slipping. Snapping at my kids. Feeling like life was hard (which it is, but hey! I’m usually ok with that.) And I had no idea why.
On Friday afternoon Naomi’s therapist asked if she could talk to me alone. We do this most weeks– take a few minutes alone to talk about how things are going from my perspective, while I get a frank assessment of how things look from the therapist’s point of view. But this week she didn’t talk about Naomi. She talked about me.
She said she wanted me to know that she knew I’d been through a lot of really hard things, but that they were not my fault. She talked about high hopes on wedding and adoption days, and how confusing and hard it is to have those hopes shattered. Her kindness and sympathy toward me were so unexpected, on top of how hard things had felt recently, that I cried a bit. Then I cried a little more in the car on the way home, trying not to let my kids see, staring out the window at tail lights and pumpkin patches as the radio sang. At home, the kids and I had homework, and I tried to concentrate and hide the tears that kept slipping down my cheeks, but at some point I gave up and simply cried. And cried. And I had no idea why.
Peter and Naomi were so tenderhearted. Naomi brought me tissues and asked if she could do anything to help me feel better, which only made me cry harder. And Peter sat beside me and patted my back looking so concerned that I tried to tell him everything was fine, but for some reason he didn’t seem convinced. Eventually they finished their homework, gave me one last look of concern, and went to bed.
That night I lay in bed with soggy tissues and realized what was wrong. It’s October.
I got engaged in October several life times ago. It was homecoming weekend at BYU and the leaves and air were crisp. He proposed in my grandma’s carport. No ring. No prepared words, or permission from my father, or falling to one knee. Just a simple question and a simple response. “I would love to marry you.”
I found out he was abusing my children in October, the Monday after General Conference, just a couple of life times ago. Sitting on my front porch, one of my best friends in the world confirmed my feelings that something wasn’t right, and less than 24 hours later I had evidence. I called CPS in October– the single most difficult thing I have ever done because I thought they would take my children away from me forever. I was terrified but knew I had to keep my children safe. I thought I might die that day. Things moved quickly after that. He was removed from our home in October– told by police he had to leave. He tried to convince me to appeal the decision, to fight to get him back. I remember sitting at the kitchen table, trying to understand the implications of the paperwork the detectives were handing me, and failing miserably. He packed a couple of things and left with all the kids watching and moved into a hotel, apparently thinking this was temporary. He was arrested and put in jail in October, just before our traditional Harry Potter Halloween party. I don’t think my kids knew where he was, since he hadn’t been living with us when he was arrested, and I know no one else did. I put on a brave face and made butter beer and set out all-natural candies and opened the door when the doorbell rang, both to trick-or-treaters and to friends who came to party. I smiled all night and feared the moment someone would ask where he was. No one ever did. He hadn’t been home much for several years. I remember standing at the door, saying goodnight to the last guests who were in spectacular green and gold robes, thinking, “My husband is in jail, and no one knows.”
And now it is October again. My kids asked if we could have a big party like we used to, and I did’t now why the idea made me shake. I didn’t know why breathing in fall air and seeing pumpkins felt so…shaky, unpredictable, scary.
Once I put the pieces together and realized what was going on, once I could put a finger on the most tender spot and identify what had happened to make it hurt, I was ready to heal. Just acknowledging why I hurt made it so much more bearable, and I fell asleep peacefully that night.
The next day I knew I was going to be ok. I could have another party, decorate for Halloween, and even sing again while making dinner.
I made reservations a couple of days later to attend an LDS Singles Conference in Virginia and set up lunch dates with friends back home for while I was there. I finalized dates for our family Halloween party here at my house, and ran to Whole Foods in Salt Lake to get all-natural candies.
As is so often the case in my life, words from a Taylor Swift song kept running through my head.
“And for the first time, what’s past is… past.”