Tag Archive for: abandonment

(Alternately titled “The Fourth, Part Two). Here is part one of this story.

After a year, Cameron is taken away. All of the new clothes my parents have bought him are packed away in the small suitcase he came with and he walks solemnly behind some woman out the front door of our house. His smile is gone, but it hasn’t been around as much lately, anyway. His head is down, looking at the orange shag carpet in the living room and he doesn’t turn around to say good-bye. I can’t say anything. I can’t breathe. I follow them onto the grey cement steps of our porch and hold on to the black iron rail so I won’t sit down hard.

I watch the door of the white van shut and the lady get in the front seat. The van sat in our driveway, engine chugging the entire time. Someone knew he would be packed already. Someone knew he would be ready to go when they got here. I can see Cameron’s one cloudy eye watching me. I can feel the thick ball in my throat as the van backs up into the street. I watch the smoke from the back of the van curl up past his window and make it hard to see him anymore. I can’t look. I have to close my eyes. I can’t go inside. I’m just standing here in the springtime sunshine feeling cold and little.

Finally someone tells me to come inside.

“Can I write him letters?” I ask my mother and my voice sounds high and whiny. She shakes her head and her eyes are full of tears.

I don’t understand. My big brother shrugs his shoulders to say he doesn’t know anything, either. My sister is too little to know anything. All I know is that Dad didn’t like Cameron very much and now he’s gone. Dad doesn’t like my little sister very much, either. And he is trying all the time to make my brother tougher. He was really pissed that Cameron could play soccer better than my brother could. Dad’s the coach and his own son ought to be the star player.

It takes a while but the cold ball in my throat finally settles in my stomach. I’d better be really good from now on.


This was the “scene” from my perspective as an eight-year old girl who knew that something was wrong. I knew that my parents were fighting a lot and things were not easy at home. Mom was unhappy and the kids were all walking on eggshells. This incident proved to me that it wouldn’t take much for our family to simply disintegrate. Indeed, it was shortly after this that my father moved out and they announced they were getting a divorce, although I don’t recall any of the specifics. Within six months, my father had accepted a job transfer in another state and I was even more certain that, one by one, we would all be picked off, our ties as family members dissolving as easily as the translucent rice paper wrapper on that Chinese candy we got at the store sometimes. From that moment on, I made it my mission to keep my brother and sister as close to me as possible and never do anything wrong. I didn’t want to be next.

“All this time believing love meant someone’s leaving…” Edie Carey in Easy Now from her album Bring the Sea

I have abandonment issues. Not the ones you might think, though. I would actually prefer to be abandoned a hundred times over than think that I might be the one responsible for leaving someone else high and dry. The truth is, while the notion of being left behind is sad and a little lonely, I’ve been there before and I know I can handle it. There is a strong sense of power and control and core competency that shows itself when I imagine being abandoned. Almost a righteousness – “See? I don’t need you. You weren’t smart enough to recognize how much I add to your life and how much you ought to be here with me. Your loss.”
No, I am afraid of being the abandoner. From the day my dear Eva was born and I realized the magnitude of my responsibility for her, I have been plagued with occasional moments of panic when I thought I might not be able to rise to the occasion. When Lola came along and Bubba started getting sick, I insulated the ties with my girls by adding layers of steel. Something might happen to him, but I would be damned if I was leaving my girls all alone. No way! I wasn’t going to go away and let them grow up thinking I had abandoned them.
Even in the midst of my greatest depression, it was the stark reality of caring for the girls that kept me going day after day. The knowledge of what a sudden loss can do to a child. How they internalize the reasons, rational or not, and come to believe that they somehow caused this person to leave.
Two days ago Bubba and I drove the girls two hours away to a sleepover camp where they will stay for a week. They were excited, if a little nervous since this marks the first time either of them has been away from home for that long. Each of them invited a close friend to join them, and I know that Eve and Lola will take comfort in knowing that the other is there (although not sharing the same cabin, “Thank goodness!”) and our good-byes were blessedly free of tears or clinging.
Three months ago when I signed the girls up for this camp I was thrilled. The notion of having both girls away in a safe place for a week in the summertime left me with all sorts of possibilities for ways Bubba and I could enjoy time alone together. I threatened him with a thorough neck-wringing if he scheduled a business trip during this one, precious week.
He did.
In his defense, it is a very necessary trip to visit a very important client.
In his defense, it is only for two nights and he invited me to come along.
So I am.
And I sailed over the first hurdle quite cleanly, thank you. When Bubba asked me what our contingency plan was should the camp call with news that someone is sick or Lola has broken a(nother) bone, I replied that we would have their aunt go pick them up and I would immediately fly home and everything would be fine.
This second hurdle is a bitch. Last night it occurred to me that it was possible that something might happen to Bubba and I. I chose not to tell the girls that we would be away for two nights while they were gone because I knew it would only stress them out. (Who will take care of the animals? What if I need you?) So, whether it is that karma coming back to bite me in the ass, or simply the imaginings of an over-enmeshed mother, I don’t know, but images of plane crashes and earthquakes kept slicing through my thoughts last night.
I grabbed Bubba and made him promise to call his sister this morning and tell her to get the kids and bring them home if something happened to us. I contemplated writing them long letters full of love and hope and promise “just in case.” I began envisioning their utter confusion giving way to hurt as they realized we had lied to them and left home.
And the friendly angel on my other shoulder keeps whispering in my ear that I am no more likely to get hurt away from home than I am at home. She strokes my head and says that there is no law or moral code that says I have to stay home alone and hold down the fort just because they are away. It is really no different than them being at school all day or on an overnight at a friend’s house. Why should I have to stay here?
Logically, that makes sense and I love this little sweetie for telling me. But what I keep bumping up against is this: I was okay when the girls left because I don’t mind being left, but the thought that I might be the one doing the leaving is nearly unbearable. If I stay home, I’m not “leaving” anyone behind. If I go with Bubba, especially without telling the girls, I’m the one doing the leaving. And if I don’t come back for some reason, it’s my fault. I have abandoned them. And if there is anything I have ever been more frightened of in my life, I can’t name it. I cannot abide the thought that I might be responsible for abandoning someone who needs me. Period.
Clearly, I have more work to do here. And, fortunately or unfortunately, I think the first step is to pack my stuff, get on that airplane and head out with Bubba, if only to prove to myself that my fears are mere clouds of black smoke. There is some small kernel inside that truly believes everything will be fine and I will arrive home well before the girls, relaxed and happy to have had this time with my husband. ‘Scuse me while I go nurture that seed…