March 25, 2010

Getting my husband back, a work widow no more

I know, work widow, sounds so dramatic. But these last few months I've really felt that way-- left alone and abandoned to a life without my husband. The caveat is, he's not deployed or away on business or, thank God, dead. He's just been GONE.

Since before Christmas, and really reaching back into the past year and a half at least, my dear husband has been suffering a death by nibbling predators. By the end of last year, the small bites became more painful mouthfuls. In the past three months, he's been nearly completely eaten alive by this scavenger called a "job". He's worked non-stop, 90 hour weeks, through weekends, sleeping 4 or 5 hour nights that are haunted by dreams of the work yet to be done. He wakes downtrodden and vaguely hopeless, exuding nothing more than a wave of exhaustion. The few days he has insisted on simply walking away and trying to breathe have been full of depressive episodes and fits of temper. He looks ill. He IS ill.

On the other side of the coin, the girls and I have been on our own. At first they cried a lot when he wasn't here and spent a long couple months behaving miserably for me, pushing me to my last nerve. Then they moved on to baiting him and fighting for attention with their best whining, tantrums and sibling antics for the times he was here. Then there came the night when, at bedtime, Anna leaked slow tears and held tight to my arms, sighing, "He forgot me, Mama. He usually remembers, but tonight he forgot me."

Now, they don't question his absence, they just delight at the treat for the moments he's here. Last night he came home right around their bedtime, threw himself down on the couch and closed his eyes. Silvia copied his every move from the opposite couch and Anna walked up, gently feeling his forehead.

"You're hot, daddy, you must be sick." She patted him on the arm and then gently covered him up with a blanket. I put them to bed after that. He opened his laptop and went back to work.

And every day for the last month at least has been the last day.

Today, though... today may actually BE the last day. He told me this morning that the tests and simulations on his chip (he's an engineer, is that too much information?) have all finally, finally, (Is it possible? Could it be?) run clean and flawless. Today the chip could go out and be done. When, if, this magical moment occurs, my husband will walk out of that office for two weeks without looking back.

He will rediscover sunshine and his children and sleep and smiling and exercise. He may even do the dishes. We will take walks and hold hands and stare at each other until our kids run up and throw stuffed animals at us, demanding attention and chocolate milk.

My first reaction this morning at the mere possible reality of all this was to choke back a massive scream of hysteria. Happy, disbelieving hysteria, but disconcerting nonetheless. The core principle of our family has always been to work in order to support our lives, never to live in order to support the work. Putting that to the test, and now seeing a glimpse of the chance to set it right again, is enough to send anyone into a tailspin.

So if this really is it and my husband comes back to life today then... I expect we will both have a good cry. And then go for a walk in the freezing air while the kids jump willy-nilly into frozen snow drifts. We'll all turn red from the cold, our nerves waking up.

Our family coming alive again. Let's hope.


Alison said...

So I take it you're not a cruise right now?

I seriously hope and pray for your family that Daddy will be around a lot more and work a lot less from now on.

Lea said...

I know these last several months have been a nightmare for you. I really hope you can all truly enjoy yourselves for two weeks and come away from it feeling refreshed and renewed! And I'll cross my fingers that the insanity at work somehow miraculously dies down!