I knew it would not be easy; nothing ever is. But there was a moment, a single moment, when fear overwhelmed me. What was I about to do to my children, to my own life? How could I walk away from the man with whom I shared three sons? What could I promise them except uncertainty? Would it be better to stick it out and make sure our boys had two parents?
While Dave and I sat on the couch talking about splitting our belongings, the words were on the tip of my tongue: “Let’s think this over. Maybe there’s another way.” But I couldn’t say the words. Something held me back.
“You can have the furniture. I can’t take it with me,” I said.
“What about the piano? I can always send it to you.”
“It’s not practical. Sell it and send the money to me in Ohio.”
He didn’t put up a fight. After all, he really hadn’t wanted the piano in the first place. He couldn’t play it, and I would not be here long to play it. Or I could sell the piano and use the money to pay for the divorce.
It was all so cut and dried, so easy to divide up seven years worth of furnishings and mementos—and to leave behind seven years worth of travel and holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, love and companionship. The reason why suddenly didn’t seem so important. I had to think of the boys. None of us was happy, and no matter what we did, things were becoming increasingly more unstable.
Eddie’s screams startled us both.
Dave looked up. “I thought I told those boys to go to sleep.”
I raced to the boys’ bedroom. Eddie sat in the middle of his bed, his eyes closed and his head thrown back, screaming. I sat down and pulled him into my arms. He fought me. “It’s all right, honey. It was just a nightmare. Momma’s here.” He snuffled and calmed in my arms, sobs wracking his body. His shoulders shook. I pulled him onto my lap, his head against my chest, and rocked him slowly as I hummed. Eddie, the oldest of my sons, was getting too big for me to hold him. He was growing so quickly. So were his two brothers.
“I heard voices. Shouting,” he said.
It was the same dream over and over: a larger-than-life replay of the arguments between his father and I. Dave and I fought often in the middle of the night, whenever he finally came home, our voices barely hushed and intent on ripping each other apart. I thought we had been so quiet, but Eddie was a light sleeper.
“It’s all right, sweetie. No one’s shouting. It was all a dream,” I reassured Eddie now as I tucked him into bed. Then, I lay down next to him and began singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” the boys’ favorite lullaby. He curled up against my side and sang some of the words before he fell back to sleep. The song had the same effect on my sons that it had on my baby sister when she was little.
David Scott stirred in the upper bunk. “It’s all right, Eddie. It’s all right.”
I slipped carefully out of the bed and checked on David Scott. He patted the pillow, murmuring in his sleep. “Shhh, Eddie. It’s all right.” I kissed his cheek and tucked the covers around him. I don’t know how the boys did it, talking in their sleep to each other as though they were awake. It must be some family quirk, because, according to my mother, my sisters and I carried on whole conversations in our sleep. David Scott stopped patting his pillow and was silent, his breathing even and deep.
No, I couldn’t back out now. My boys needed to be able to sleep without nightmares and terrors. I had to go.
Over the last two years, Dave and I had gone to three marriage counselors. We did everything they told us to do, but we couldn’t recapture the spark that had brought us together, and Dave didn’t seem to want to stop seeing other women. He didn’t want to change, and I couldn’t change enough. I could no longer ignore the truth. Counseling hadn’t worked. Talking hadn’t worked. Shouting certainly didn’t work. And lullabies didn’t soothe whatever it was that made my husband unsettled and uneasy. There was no way to sing my marriage better. The only choice was to leave and take the boys with me. We’d all be better off.
I picked the covers up off the floor and covered A.J. He slept through just about everything, but he was still young. It was only a matter of time before the tension between his father and I began to disturb his sleep, too. It was time for us to leave. I looked sadly but resignedly at my three young sons, then closed the door quietly behind me.
A few months later, I sat on the edge of the bed that Eddie, David Scott, and A.J. now shared, singing “Over the Rainbow” to ease them into sleep. The bed was unfamiliar, but they wouldn’t have to sleep there for long. We would move out of my parents’ house and into our own apartment at the end of the month. Thank goodness, they were still small enough to fit in one bed together.
“I can’t believe you still sing that song.” My youngest sister, Tracy, stood in the doorway. “You almost had me ready to fall asleep.”
“It’s their favorite song,” I said as I turned off the lamp and slipped out of the room.
“Mine, too,” she said.
Together, Tracy and I folded the laundry and talked over old times while the night wore on. Finally, finished with all the chores, I climbed the stairs and checked on the boys before turning in myself. A dim ray of light fell across their sleeping faces. A.J. kicked at the covers and turned over, one pudgy little hand dangling over the edge. Eddie mumbled something about rainbows and wishes, a smile tugging at his lips. David Scott patted Eddie’s shoulder, murmuring a trickle of words—“… over the rainbow.”
At times I regret the divorce … but not in the middle of the night. There are no more nightmares of fighting and angry voices, no more crying and screams in the night. Now, the only sounds that drift through the night are of my boys talking, and sometimes even giggling] in their sleep about little boy things and rainbow wishes. That’s when I know that, no matter how hard it is being a single parent, it is all worth it.
I still sing my sons to sleep every night, after the hard days of school and play. But I no longer sing to chase away their nightmares and calm their fears. Instead, I sing a wistful lullaby about hope and better times, grateful we’ve finally found them.